The GoatyGav Column
I generally don’t do match reports – leaving that to others. Following this weekend’s game (I won’t say ‘match’ as that might suggest West Ham competed) I still find myself more than a little annoyed and so am going to change tack and have a good old gripe.
Saturday was a challenge in more ways than one. Before the game I got to take my youngest out in Westfield to spend some of his birthday money he’s been hanging on to. With ankle and knee issues arising from that morning’s training session I’d just put on for his team the trip to Stratford held a sense of foreboding. So we ended up doing almost two entire laps of the ‘big as a village’ shopping centre before the boy finally parted with some cash in JD Sports and we moved on to the stadium.
We must have been going through security when the team-sheet went public as it seemed like the atmosphere had suddenly become edgy and nervous – in some areas even glum. It wasn’t until after I got a beer for me and a chicken burger for the lad, when we took up our usual pre-seat taking spot by the shelves behind the pic’n’mix area of entrance ‘C’, that we saw the team selection. All of a sudden the ‘glum’ and ‘edgy’ atmosphere that we felt made sense. Comments around us included “perhaps he’s showing Pellegrini something in training,” when the subject of Lucas Pérez’s inclusion was being discussed. I thought to myself that, apart from his home brace against Cardiff, I’ve not seen anything that would warrant a start ahead of Chicha so it must have been something pretty special. I suggested that an on form Pedro Obiang might be a good option. My youngest didn’t look too impressed. Then I noticed that there was no sign of Anderson in the starting 11, or on the bench, which I subsequently learned from the WHTID match thread was down to a minor ankle knock. Ahead of moving on to our seats I attempted a joke about a pick-axe in response to the minor knock comment – moving on was definitely the best course thereafter.
From the first whistle it became obvious that Everton’s push for a fast start was succeeding. Not so sure it was down to them getting off to a flyer as much as West Ham starting badly again. Notwithstanding the sluggish beginning none of us expected to be witnessing Everton taking the lead as early as the fifth minute. The goal was greeted with murmurs of “Here we go again,” as we all braced ourselves for the next eighty-five plus minutes.
We should have known we were in for a tough afternoon when one of the regulars in our section, who we’ve affectionately come to know as “HIT HIM!”, was absent for the match. Over the course of this season a few of us have taken to playing ‘guess the minute’ that he’s going to yell his favourite phrase. He’s become something of a good luck charm, whilst being a great character, so the feeling of foreboding increased through his non-attendance.
My son and I held on to the vain hope that something was going to change until the eighty-ninth minute when we finally edged (well – limped in my case) our way towards the exit.
Through the debacle of a ‘contest’ there were only two players who can hold their heads up. Unsurprisingly it’s the two players who, by now, must be astronomical units ahead of the rest of the pack in the ‘Hammer Of The Year’ stakes. Super Fabianski kept us in it while Declan competed as he always does. During the second half our twenty year old international cleverly beat three on our left touchline, before playing an effective five yarder infield to set up a promising attack, which isn’t something I’ve seen him do too often. His development appears to be continuing apace which is further cementing his fast growing reputation. For once an international break for England hasn’t destroyed one of our players in some way. The only other player to get any recognition for his efforts was Aaron Cresswell.
West Ham now face a very tough run of games. The season poses a serious threat of petering out altogether which is a shame. Before Saturday I’d have qualified our home form this campaign as a good one and was beginning to feel ‘at home’. I suppose a return to the ‘West Ham Way’ should have enhanced those feelings but when a performance is that poor, and completely disjointed, it simply leaves you feeling numb. The tragedy, for me, is that I’ve come to expect more from the team at home – despite playing poorly for some weeks now.
There are clear issues with Arnie. Those who suggested that it was the decision to take him off against Huddersfield that was being booed, at the time, have been shown to be woefully wide of the mark. With just six fixtures left this season I wonder how many more minutes of play we’ll see the Austrian ply his trade in the famous Claret & Blue.
All boiled down I’m disappointed in the supporter’s booing of the team – even Arnie. I get the levels of frustration being experienced by us, long suffering, Hammers but the counter-productive nature of booing means you won’t find me joining in. Simply don’t agree with it at all. We’re all WHTID so we should get behind the boys. If you’re feeling betrayed by Arnie then, I suggest, the best way to show it is to be silent when he enters or leaves the field. Applaud the player on when their name is announced but booing – not for this Hammer. You pay your money so I guess you’re entitled but I can’t see the sense in it as, frankly, I’m sure that it doesn’t even make you feel any better. I hope to see, and hear, us all get behind the lads for what’s left of 2018-19.