The GoatyGav Column
Reading Saturday’s match programme this morning (Monday) set me to thinking about West Ham’s true intentions to grow the squad and challenge in the League. Selling our best players is, and always has been, the main reason the club has never kicked on with a sustained strategy in my opinion. There is more to it than just that as new signings help to convince our top, existing, players to stick around. You’re probably going to struggle to keep hold of your most talented playing assets without that second aspect of investment however it’s all about keeping what you’ve got and building upon it in my view.
Tim Crane’s “for the record” in this week’s programme included details of the sale of Danny Shea who was sold to Blackburn Rovers, for a record fee of two thousand pounds in 1913. Blackburn won the league the year Shea joined them as existing champions. Shea was in the programme because of being the record goalscorer against Southampton with eight goals in total – six of which were at the Dell, a record in itself. The inside forward, from Wapping, wasn’t the first top player to be sold however he’s much further from being the last. Like Shea many of the top players have gone on to win honours with clubs they’ve moved on to. The promise of bigger and better things have often proven too hard to resist so how can this trend of being a selling club be changed? With this view in mind I see a huge crossroads for West Ham this Summer.
Should the club return to type then bigger clubs will be filling their boots during the next transfer window. The rich pickings of the likes of Declan Rice, Felipe Anderson and Issa Diop are receiving high profile in the Football media at present but how much growth and progress would those players make at a top six Premier League, or top-tier European League, team make? Ok, you could argue that’s a question that’s always faced players who are being tempted away from the Claret and Blue, so why would anything be any different, to convince them to stay, now? Well – quite a few variables now exist that may sway the scales in our favour.
Manuel Pellegrini is a respected manager in world football. The former Chilean central defender has been managing for over thirty years, in six countries, winning league championships, taking the helm of such illustrious clubs as River Plate and Real Madrid, taking Malaga to a Champion’s League quarter final and Villareal to a quarter and a semi-final, both of who were also selling clubs as well as winning the Premier League with Manchester City. At West Ham Pellegrini has got the team playing ‘The West Ham Way’ which has, in turn, started to create a positive response from the fifty seven thousand strong home crowds while getting the best out of many of the playing staff. There’s a clear identity to the team and home form has delivered thirty one points this term. There’s progress being made and those, coveted, players know it.
When the club’s owners have been determined they’ve shown that, with the exception of a certain French international from the island of Reunion, they have often managed to hang on to their top players. The quality of the squad is improving all of the time and it’s morale is directly proportional to that quality.
When you put it all together I’m hopeful that, all things considered, our high performers can be convinced to stick around and be part of something special. Manuel Pellegrini plays a big part of the attraction of staying at our club. West Ham’s owners need to begin succession planning for when MP finally moves on so that progress can continue beyond his departure.
Away from the first team the West Ham ladies’ season reached a crescendo at Wembley on Saturday. The girls ‘done us proud’ shouted on by several thousand Hammers fans. The progress that the women have made this season is tremendous. In the semi-final at Adams Park they gave me one of, if not the, most memorable games I’ve attended this season (which included a fantastic ‘big’ birthday corporate hospitality gig with family and friends). I’ve resolved to attend more West Ham ladies matches next season when I expect they’ll have another great campaign to make us all proud once again.
The bittersweet combination of victory, against Southampton at the London Stadium, and loss, at Wembley, was added to by the brave, but sadly unsuccessful, effort of the PL2 team to avoid relegation last week. Despite beating league champions, Everton, 2-1 in a superb performance the lads couldn’t escape the drop. Not many teams are relegated whilst being second top scorers in a league but our boys were really unlucky to go down with that record. At Under eighteen level further progress has been made with some extremely encouraging signs from many of squad. Once again this May West Ham fans can continue their fix of, post-season, football with the youth team appearing at the Hong Kong 7 a side tournament which will be streamed on-line. I really enjoyed watching all the West Ham games last year and look forward to watching again from 17th to 19th May.
Have a good week all. Let’s hope we can finish the season off with a good win against Watford next weekend.