Filed: Monday, 26th January 2004
By: Anthony Allen
It's a hard life being a West Ham fan. After the dismal 02/03 season we thought we could romp this league, "good times ahead" we all thought. How very very wrong we were going be proved.
The season started with a blistering hot day in Preston (a 2-1 win which gave us a bit of confidence) which was rapidly followed up by a 0-0 bore draw at home to Sheffield Utd, then a very disappointing 1-0 defeat at Rotherham. Things looked grim to say the least.
Enter Trevor Brooking, temporary hero at the end of last season and a glimmer of hope for the fans whilst we searched for a new manager to take the helm of a rapidly sinking ship. However things still looked bleak after some fairly mediocre results (including a disappointing 2-0 defeat away to Gillingham).
A newly appointed manager by the name of Alan Pardew looked to be the answer, but given the size of the task we knew it wasn't going to be easy. Again a series of disappointing results came, with the overall thought that no matter what manager we employed it seemed to do nothing for the players that rolled over and died frequently after taking the lead. The question on everyone's lips was what was he going to do to change things, to actually get a place in the play-off's (at least)?
The sale of David James came as a shock to most people; we waved goodbye to England's number one goalkeeper for a reported £2m in Pardew's first major outward transfer, as opposed to the expected departure of the young Jermain Defoe. It was clear that we were looking to strengthen the squad - either that, or to pay off creditors who were due to be reimbursed around this time of year.
Suddenly things got mental. After rumours that David Connolly, Jermain Defoe and Ian Pearce were to be the next players walking away from Upton Park the announcement was made that we were going to make a swap with Ian Pearce for Fulham's Andy Melville plus cash - something that most, disappointed by Pearce's poor form this season would not believe, regardless of the six year age gap between the two.
Ian Pearce had had a largely poor campaign, unfortunately showing no signs of returning to his pre injury form - whereas an experienced Welsh international would be coming in (and who has shown to still be the stable and strong defender despite lack of pace and gain of age). But the surprises didn't stop there; enter Jon Harley. Predicted by many pundits to be the player to look out for whilst at Chelsea, he moved to Fulham for £3.5m in August 2001 where he played left back until being replaced by Rufus Brevett (another player to depart Fulham for the bright lights of East London).
The much journeyed left back was reportedly out of favour with manager Chris Coleman, allowing a quick loan move to allow him to play against Sheffield United the following day. Harley marked his debut with our Goal of the Season so far - a 25 yard swerving strike that even surprised Harley himself. With our new improved defence consisting of only Christian Dailly from the usual line up we played like a team possessed, a display we had been waiting all season for (and we were unlucky to take just a point from Bramall Lane).
Along comes Monday, 20th January. Rumours were rife that we were on the brink of signing the highly rated England under-21 midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker, plus striker turned midfielder Adam Nowland (rumours first reported on KUMB's forum the previous Thursday). Excitement brewed as Alan Pardew proved he really was clearing out the dead wood for a mixture of experience plus exciting young players, thereby affording himself the luxury of selection problems.
The new improved West Ham seems to be taking shape, the pain of seeing us play week after week without any desire or passion was working the Upton Park faithful into a frenzy - and it certainly wasn't a positive one. Everyone is remaining hopeful though of a good run in the FA Cup following the weekend's win against Wolves, with either Fulham or Everton away in the next round, but our priority this season remains promotion from the first division - something that looks a much more realistic prospect after a week of encouraging transfers and a good performance against Premiership opposition.
On top of the first squad we have got a lot of players soon to be breaking into the first team. Chris Cohen and Mark Noble, both exciting youngsters are already being tipped to break into the first team by Alan Pardew (the former already having had a run out in the great 3-2 comeback against Sunderland at home). Already this week West Ham reserves beat Arsenal Reserves 2-0 and the under-19's beat Spurs - away - 0-3. On top of this the under-17's are currently enjoying a record breaking spell of wins, and sitting atop of the league, having lost only 4 and drawing 3 of their 17 games.
All in all despite the deeply disappointing relegation and start to the current season, the general consensus is that there are a lot of good things to come.
The futures bright. The futures Pardew.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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