Talking Point

For me Brexit isn’t good news. I always was in favour of Remain and of a second people’s vote, but the answer was “We already had one”, and Boris would “get Brexit done”.

Now as of 1st of February, the UK really is no longer part of the EU. Will Britain now get great again? Sorry, it will not. But the EU will also struggle, and maybe the block should have been more flexible to better accommodate the diversity of the continent and keep the UK on board. So for me, the only good news from London last Friday was the signing of an other new player for West Ham United.

In the brilliant book “Rule Britannia. Brexit and the End of Empire” the authors argue that the vote to leave the EU was the last gasp of the old empire working its way out of the British psyche, fuelled by an unrealistic vision of Britain’s future. I wish the UK well in the upcoming negotiations with the EU, but I fear it will be a tough match and in the end the outcome will not be satisfactory. Well, that reminds me of how things panned out at football club West Ham United after leaving the Boleyn (which by the way happened at the same time as the referendum whether to leave the EU).

With the move from Upton Park to the Olympic Stadium the West Ham faithful were promised golden days ahead, the Board was even talking of Champions League football within some years. But we’ve got the second relegation battle within three years instead of.

Even when the owners decided, after fan protests inside and outside the unloved new stadium, to invest a notable amount of money into the squad and hire a decent manager in 2018, it seems we were deluded in some way.

It was not only me who thought that with Manuel Pellegrini, a very successful manager with his former clubs, who was the highest paid gaffer in West Ham’s history, a “revolution” would start and bring success to a club where fortune’s had been hiding for much too long.

Pellegrini’s first season wasn’t bad. After a slow start with four defeats the players seemed to understand the new way of attacking play the Chilean tried to instil, there were glimpses of a fine style of play dubbed the “West Ham way” in former times, and a number of good results with lots of goals scored were achieved. Sometimes it seemed the squad had developed a formerly unknown “winning mentality”, and they accumulated more wins in a single month than ever before in Premier League history (in December 2018). Last season on my travels from Austria to the London Stadium I was lucky enough to attend four consecutive wins (Burnley 4-2, Crystal Palace 3-2, Arsenal 1-0 and Southampton 3-0). Unbelievable!

And when the Irons started very well this season, things looked bright and again it wasn’t just me who thought that West Ham had one of the strongest squads in recent years, and that they would go on to finally win something after many, many years without silverware. This year it is forty years that the Hammers have won the FA Cup, it’s “time to be great again” this season, isn’t it? That’s what we thought after the 2018/19 “transitional season”, which now would surely be followed by one more step forward for the Club.

But then our seemingly talismanic goalkeeper, Lukasz Fabianski, the fabulous shotstopper and Hammer of the Year 2019, got injured, and West Ham suddenly found itself in a downward spiral with Manuel Pellegrini unable to stop the decline. His substitute goalie Roberto who had been brought to West Ham by Pellegrini and his director of sports Husillos, instead of former fans favourite Adrian, proved completely unable to cope with the task of playing in the Premier League. Being a factor of highest uncertainty he unsettled the defenders in front of him, West Ham’s defence was (and unfortunately still is, though Roberto now has left the club) a complete shambles, and the Hammers ship goals after goals! Our exit from the League Cup was followed by a dismal run of seven league games with Roberto in goal without a win, until Pellegrini decided to hand the club’s third keeper his Premier League debut.

It was the best moment of this season so far, when 33 year old David Martin found himself between the sticks against Chelsea and made a dream start by keeping a clean sheet at Stamford Bridge. He helped West Ham win 1-0 away against the Blues and, breaking into tears after the final whistle, he then sprinted up the stairs of the stand to celebrate the win with his father, West Ham legend Alvin Martin, who was a member of West Ham’s Cup winning team of 1980.

But these heroics are long gone, and were a short-lived upturn in West Ham’s fortunes, followed by just one win within the next five games. Pellegrini seemed utterly clueless, he looked an old man in the dugout who had completely lost the dressing room, being unable to coach his team, and making strange substitutions which nobody could understand…

Instead of a step forward the Club now made one back, fired MP after an other defeat to Leicester City by the end of December, and reappointed David Moyes who had saved the Hammers from relegation in 2018, but then had not been found good enough to remain the Club’s manager.

After an all but perfect start into his second reign at the London Stadium with that 4-0 home win over Bournemouth, things haven’t went so well for David Moyes so far, as the shape of the squad he inherited is simply not good enough to restart a season which really has been a desaster so far. We’re out of the FA Cup, eliminated by former Hammers coach Slaven Bilic’s West Brom, and the disastrous home record this season could really turn out to be West Ham’s most lethal problem: the Hammers have won only three games out of fourteen at the London Stadium so far this season.

Therefore it was good news from London last Friday that West Ham had signed another player on transfer deadline day (which coincided with Brexit Day), bringing in versatile attacker Jarrod Bowen from Hull City where he had scored 54 goals and added 14 assists in 131 matches.

After having already welcomed Czech midfielder Tomas Soucek (24) from Slavia Prague on loan within this window, David Moyes hailed the 23-year-old Bowen: “I think he could be a big success. When you score goals like he does, and in the numbers he does, in the Championship, it will give you a great chance of scoring goals in the Premier League.”

That seemed to be good news from London on Brexit Day at last, albeit quickly followed by a severe setback when West Ham slipped into the relegation zone on the Saturday. Well, this season won’t get great again – let’s hope David Moyes and his squad at least will achieve the only aim that’s left: to turn the corner and succeed in the relegation dogfight ahead of us.

As half of the clubs of the Premier League may be involved in the relegation battle this year, there are still plenty of other clubs that could go down. But it will get tough and could really go down to the wire. And well, I’m sure that will also be the case with the upcoming negotiations to get a free-trade deal with the EU. Let’s hope the outcome of both of these battles will be a good one!

Come on you Irons!