Filed: Wednesday, 28th December 2005
By: Graeme Howlett
2005, a year of highs and lows ... join KUMB as we take a look back at the best - and worst - of the last 12 months.
All the talk over Christmas was of Alan Pardew's future - now deemed to be hanging in the balance after a string of poor results that had left West Ham outside of the play-off zone. But a glimpse of what was to come was offered on New Years Day when the Hammers won 2-0 at Ipswich with their best performance of the season to date, thanks to goals from Marlon Harewood and Matty Etherington.
However league form continued to stutter despite a good showing in the FA Cup against then-Premier League outfit Norwich (Harewood's late winner at the Boleyn securing passage to the fourth round). Consecutive defeats against Sheffield United, Wolves and Derby led to rumours that Pardew was on the verge of the tin tack - and a cacophony of calls for the Spanish archer from a fair percentage of the Hammers faithful ensued. Pardew himself appeared relatively unphased - 'I've been under pressure since day one and it's no different now' was his response.
Pards tried to strengthen his defence by re-signing Calum Davenport on loan, but the Tottenham defender chose Southampton instead - who were eventually relegated. Serves him right. Another deal failed to materialise when Pardew sent promising Greek striker Vaggelis Mantzios home after a two week trial despite having impressed (the striker later claimed uncertainties over Pardew's future scuppered his move to England).
Meanwhile Nigel Reo-Coker and Bobby Zamora were linked with moves elsewhere as the January transfer window kicked in for the first time at Football League level, and a £3m bid for Marlon Harewood by 'an unnamed Premiership club' was rejected.
The month ended with another disappointing performance - a 1-1 draw at home to Sheffield United in the FA Cup fourth round. At least that was some improvement on the league fixture earlier in the month.
Oh, and KUMB revealed how the 05/06 home and away shirts would look, before being promptly ordered to withdraw the story by Reebok's lawyers ...
Fixtures: P6 W2 D1 L3 F7 A9
Position: 9th (Championship)
Having lost three on the bounce, the under-fire Pardew was no doubt relieved by three consecutive Championship wins in February (against Cardiff, Plymouth and Gillingham) that put the Hammers right back in the mix. The mood was somewhat spoiled however by a penalty shoot-out defeat against Sheffield United in the FA Cup fourth round replay (and Paddy Kenny's 'gamesmanship') and defeat at Leeds at the end of the month.
It was another quiet month where transfer news was concerned; the somewhat knackered Andy Melville was the only mover either way as he was sent packing to Nottingham for a month. Pardew had tried to tempt yet another Spur to the East with a bid for England under-21 Michael Dawson - but the short-term loan deal was knocked back by the player himself (Pardew meanwhile denied any enquiries had been made).
A bit of a siege mentality crept in amongst the players as they sought to defend their boss during the early stage of the month; veteran loanee Chris Powell being one of the most vocal in defence of Pardew. 'The boys are still behind Alan 100 per cent' he triumphantly announced - whilst quietly adding 'we can understand why some of the fans are unhappy'.
But by the end of February, West Ham's position was looking far better than it had four weeks previously, although automatic promotion - most supporters' minimum requirement this season - was all but gone; a remote possibility at best. If the Hammers were going to make it back to the Premiership this season, it was looking very much like the play-offs - as was the case the season before - would be our only hope.
Fixtures: P5 W3 D1 L1 F9 A3
Position: 6th (Championship)
Transfers: Out - Andy Melville (loan - Nottingham Forest)
It's said that to fully appreciate real highs you first have to have experienced the lowest of the lows. And things couldn't have got much worse for Alan Pardew in March as consecutive defeats against Preston (h) and Reading (a) saw the Hammers drop outside of the play-off zone once again - whilst further calls for his head became commonplace.
But that defeat against Reading - a 3-1 battering - is now seen by many as the turning point of our season. Whilst the team were being soundly beaten on the pitch the travelling fans conjured up the spirit of '91 (Villa Park, Forest, Hackett etc) on the 'terraces' - and from that moment on, the Hammers never look back. Ok, it took a while for that new found resilience and optimism to sink in - draws against Crewe and Leicester meant we went the entire month without a win - but as the crowd eventually began to get behind the players, the players responded (with one or two bumps along the way, those we will get to soon).
Again there was very little movement in the playing staff although Pardew went out on a limb and signed experienced winger Shaun Newton from Wolves for 10 grand (and thus a nickname was born). A bid for Cardiff's James Collins was knocked back whilst a loan deal with young 'Boro full back Andrew Davies failed to clear the first hurdle. Man City's Mikkel Bischoff - who Pardew wanted on loan - wouldn't come as he wanted a permanent deal, and Arsenal's Jeremie Aliadiere just didn't want to come full stop. Only one departure this month - young Aussie full back Trent Mac went to MK Dons for a month.
March was the month in which Tony Cottee revealed that he was involved in a consortium that would attempt to buy the Club from Terry Brown (of which nothing has been heard since; Cottee was repaid for his insolence with the sack from his position as match day host). Julian Dicks meanwhile decided to stick the boot in on Pardew (and not for the first time) when he told the papers 'they haven't got good enough players, and they haven't got a good enough manager'. Gordon Strachan and Co Adriaanse distanced themselves from the whole debacle whilst Pardew came out fighting again; 'I believe in my ability ... we still have a chance of getting promoted and my focus is firmly on that'.
Fixtures: P4 W0 D2 L2 F5 A8
Position: 8th (Championship)
Transfers: In - Shaun Newton (£10k - Wolves); Out - Trent McClenehan (loan - MK Dons)
Cardiff or bust ... a busy month for the Hammers started in the best possible fashion with two massive wins in the North West against Wigan and Burnley in the space of four days - absolutely vital in the circumstances. The heat on Pardew diminished after those successes were followed by wins against Coventry and Stoke and a (disappointing) draw against Millwall - our new bogey team much to the chagrin of Hammers fans everywhere.
But as teams around us continued to pick up points it was becoming clear that if we were to make the play-offs at all it would be by the skin of our teeth; our cause wasn't helped by a televised Friday night home defeat against runaway leaders Sunderland at the end of the month which confirmed their Premiership status for next season. How the mighty fall.
Fortunately Reading's propensity to shoot themselves in the foot meant that the Sunderland defeat changed nothing. An unlikely home defeat for the Royals - our only meaningful rivals for the final available play-off spot - against Wolves the following lunch-time meant that we would go into our final game of the season needing only to better Reading's result in order to claim 6th place - and a stab at the play-offs.
Immersed amongst that series of games was the infamous trip to Brighton which saw the home side snatch a last minute point in a 2-2 draw; as the players left the pitch, full-back Tomas Repka became embroiled in an angry bust up with travelling fans which led to the appearance of a rather unsavoury video that did credit to neither the fans involved or the player.
Further signs of unrest amongst supporters manifested in a sit down protest following the 3-0 win against Coventry which caused further problems after ensuing comments by Alan Pardew regarding the protesters were misconstrued by the press. On a positive front, Teddy Sheringham announced his decision to defer his retirement for another season.
The obligatory KUMB April Fool had the more gullible believing that Green Street was about to be renamed 'Brown Street' by Newham Council in honour of Chairman Terence - whilst plans to introduce canned crowd noise left a few bewildered for a brief moment.
Fixtures: P7 W4 D2 L1 F11 A6
Position: 7th (Championship)
Cometh the hour ... the Hammers travelled to Watford for their final league game of a tumultuous season - whilst Reading went to automatic promotion hopefuls Wigan. We needn't have worried; a 2-1 win at Vicarage Road proved academic as Reading were soundly beaten 3-1 at the JJB. To the play-offs - and Ipswich again in the semis.
Two up inside 13 minutes at the Boleyn in the first leg, six days later, and it was plain sailing. 2-2 at 90 minutes meant Pardew's boys had it all to do in the second leg. But do it they did - and in style - and thanks to Bobby Zamora who hit the brace that would take the Hammers to Cardiff for the second successive year.
A different mood prevailed for different opponents - Preston, as opposed to Crystal Palace (who had managed to get themselves instantly relegated from the top flight) would be standing between Pardew and a Premiership berth. A more professional approach helped the Hammers run out 1-0 winners as Zamora's 76th goal - a mishit 'shinner' into the bottom corner - duly took its place in claret and blue folklore. All of a sudden the uncertainly surrounding a vindicated Alan Pardew was gone - the new messiah happily taking his place atop the victory bus that paraded the streets of East London some days later amid joyous scenes the likes of which had not been witnessed for many a year.
Fixtures: P4 W3 D1 L0 F7 A3
Final Position: 6th (Championship) - Play-Off Champions
June took on added excitement now that our Premiership status had been confirmed as rumour and speculation concerning potential signings was rife. But in the end, Alan Pardew confirmed just one new signing by the end of the month - goalkeeper Roy Carroll who had rejected a new deal from his former employers Manchester United in order to become a free agent.
However the massive improvement in club finances allowed Pardew to extend the contracts on several existing players such as Tomas Repka, Teddy Sheringham, Christian Dailly and Shaun '£(1)10k' Newton (the extra 100 large being due to former club Wolves upon promotion).
As those were being signed Sergei Rebrov - hailed by the club as '£12m Rebrov' upon signing a year earlier - was quietly ushered out of the back door at Chadwell Heath, never to return. As was Rufus Brevett who left for Plymouth, thereby ending an eventful spell at the Boleyn.
The evergreen Teddy Sheringham capped an unexpectedly productive season by being voted KUMB Player of the Season; Mark 'he's better than Roy Keane' Noble grabbed the young player award after impressing during the latter half of the previous campaign.
Meanwhile a rejuvenated Alan Pardew wielded the axe behind the scenes, offloading several long-standing backroom staff in favour of more progressive coaches and physios such as Steve Allen and Paul Hunter in the latest stage of his master plan.
The next stage was to begin immediately after it was announced - to much delight - that Pardew's summer transfer budget was to be in the region of £20m.
Transfers: In - Roy Carroll (free - Manchester United); Out - Rufus Brevett (free- Plymouth), Sergei Rebrov (free - Dynamo Kiev)
July, July, July ... as speculation over potential targets continued Pardew finally confirmed some concrete deals. Six players joined the club in July including Paul Konchesky and Israeli Yossi Benayoun, whose 'will he won't he' saga bettered anything offered by Eastenders at the time.
As fast as they came, so they went ... the much-liked Chris Powell went back to Charlton after rejecting an extended contract, whilst Chris Cohen went South for a year - and Andy Melville finally left the club for good.
Almost as exciting as the constant comings and goings was the striker saga; slowly but surely one name after another was crossed off the list. Helguson went to Fulham, Crouch to Liverpool and Baros - finally - to Villa. Pardew responded by offering the unknown Petr Mikolanda a two week trial as the Hammers took to the road for a pre-season tour of Sweden.
A successful tour saw us win against Falkenbergs FF (3-1), Trollhattens IF (3-0) and Vastra Frolunda (3-0) before returning home to draw with Yeovil (2-2). The month ended with a spectacular 40th anniversary friendly in Munich (1-1) and a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace. Revenge is sweet.
Transfers: In - Clive Clarke (£275k - Stoke), Shaka Hislop (free - Portsmouth), Yossi Benayoun (£2.5m - Racing Santander), Paul Konchesky (£2m - Charlton), James Collins (£1m - Cardiff), Danny Gabbidon (£2m - Cardiff); Out - Chris Powell (free - Charlton), Andy Melville (free), Chris Cohen (loan - Bournemouth)
The club announced record season ticket sales as Alan Pardew continued to be linked with a string of strikers. Emmanuel Adebayor was a strong contender before he decided to remain in France, whilst Freddie Kanoute was a surprise target until Pardew was told in no uncertain terms by supporters at a fans forum what they thought of the the mardy one. Joseph Desire Job had signed for the Hammers at one stage, according to the Daily Mirror - fortunately that story was as accurate as one had come to expect from the ailing Mirror.
But as the end of the window approached it became clear that Pardew was to move for Porto's Benni McCarthy; a £6m figure apparently agreed by the two clubs. With the deal as good as done (McCarthy was in England taking a medical at the club) Porto pulled the plug on the deal and Pardew's last chance of signing a top striker before the close of the window had gone.
But happily that disappointment was soon proved inconsequential as the Hammers returned to the Premiership flying. Despite defeat in the final pre-season friendly against Osasuna (8-7 on pens) the Hammers - featuring four first team debutantes - opened their league campaign with a much deserved 3-1 win at home to Blackburn (and joint top spot in the fledgling Premier League table).
That result - which compounded the critics who had forecast an instant return to the Championship - was followed by a plucky draw at Newcastle before the Hammers ended the month with their first defeat of the campaign - a 2-1 reversal at home to Bolton.
August also saw the preview screening of a new film entitled 'Green Street' - a story about a fictional Hammers 'firm' called the GSE (Green Street Elite). Less than convincing accents - plus a starring role for Elijah 'Frodo' Wood - led to the film being panned for its lack of authenticity.
Fixtures: P3 W1 D1 L1 F4 A3
Position: 9th (Premier League)
Transfers: In - Jeremie Aliadiere (loan - Arsenal), David Bellion (loan - Manchester United), Petr Mikolanda (free); Out - Malky Mackay (free - Watford), Don Hutchison (free - Millwall), Luke Chadwick (loan - Stoke), Youssef Sofiane (free - Coventry), Steve Lomas (free - QPR), Steve Bywater (loan - Coventry), Darren Blewitt (loan - Hereford)
West Ham's solid start to the new campaign continued with wins against Aston Villa (4-0) and Fulham (2-1), whilst Arsenal were held to a goalless draw at the Boleyn. The Carling Cup campaign got off to a good start as the (mostly) reserve side picked up a handy 4-2 win at Hillsborough against Sheffield Wednesday. Pardew's side ended the month in an unlikely fifth spot - all the problems of the start of the year seemingly forgotten.
The long-standing debate concerning a bid for the club by the MSI group was finally concluded with the news that the Kia Joorabchian-led consortium had ended their interest in purchasing the club amid claims of 'price-hiking' by chairman Terry Brown. Supporters who had been equally divided over the issue could concentrate on football once again.
The only personnel movement in September concerned Czech striker Petr Mikolanda who went on loan to Northampton.
Sad news also this month; former academy legend Noel Cantwell hung up his boots for the last time following a long illness.
Fixtures: P4 W3 D0 L1 F10 A3
Position: 5th (Premier League)
Transfers: Out - Petr Mikolanda (loan - Northampton)
The Hammers began October with a tricky fixture at Sunderland. Despite being pummeled for long periods the Hammers eked out a draw as signs of a new driven (and most uncharacteristic) West Ham side appeared for the first time. However that new found resolve failed to avoid defeat at Manchester City two weeks later after another disruptive international break.
The first (and only) win of the month came with a 2-1 victory over Middlesbrough at the Boleyn before a trip to Anfield extended West Ham's run without a win at Liverpool to 45 years. Meanwhile the Hammers went out of the Carling Cup after a 1-0 defeat at Bolton in the third round.
Summer signing Danny Gabbidon - so influential in West Ham's opening Premiership fixtures - was crowned Welsh Footballer of the Year whilst team-mate James Collins won the Young Player equivalent.
There were new deals for Nigel Reo-Coker and Hayden Mullins, whilst manager Alan Pardew confirmed his intentions to continue his good work by putting pen to paper on a new four-year contract.
At the club's AGM, Terry Brown - fresh from seeing off his latest challenger - was re-elected Chairman. He celebrated the news by announcing a 100% increase in directors renumeration (a return to pre-relegation salaries).
Fixtures: P5 W1 D1 L3 F4 A7
Position: 9th (Premier League)
Yet another international break meant that only three games were played during November, which proved to be a mixed bag for the Hammers. It started off well enough with victory over West Brom (1-0), before Anton Ferdinand's last gasp equaliser at Tottenham two weeks later ensured bragging rights returned across the City to East London. Just don't mention shoe-bombers...
But the month ended with defeat against another old adversary; less than 48 hours after George Best died Manchester United came to the Boleyn in a game that was always going to go the way of the visitors. A Wayne Rooney masterclass ensured the Reds took all three points home with them; meanwhile the minute's applause for Best was well respected by the home crowd - despite some concerns.
The month ended with news of interest in former Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane from Pardew; Hammers fans, on the whole, were not amused; Keane allayed any fears by signing for boyhood heroes Celtic.
Fixtures: P3 W1 D1 L1 F3 A3
Position: 9th (Premier League)
Transfers: Out - Elliott Ward (loan - Plymouth), Gavin Williams (Ipswich)
So to December, the final month in a year that saw more highs and lows than most do. In football terms it was to be a busy month with seven fixtures to be played, making a mockery of the programme which saw just three league fixtures played in September and November.
A good win at Birmingham (2-1) was followed by defeat at Blackburn (2-3) before the Hammers took all three points from Goodison Park for the first time in 11 years (2-1). That up and down form continued with defeat at home to Newcastle (2-4), a draw at Portsmouth (1-1) and defeat at home to Wigan (0-2) - the third successive home reversal.
As the January transfer window approached stories of possible targets began to re-appear; once again Porto's Benni McCarthy was the subject of much speculation, whilst a £5.5m bid for Crystal Palace's Andy Johnson was said to have been rejected after a tiff between Alan Pardew and Iain Dowie was played out in the tabloids.
One signing was confirmed however - that of Maccabi Haifa's Yaniv Katan, who had been linked with a move to East London since late summer. The Israeli international arrived on a free transfer after protracted negotiation between the two clubs although was unavailable for selection until the new year.
West Ham's small squad was stretched for the first time with injuries to several key players; Danny Gabbidon, Tomas Repka, Yossi Benayoun, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker and Teddy Sheringham all missed action with various ailments. For Alan Pardew the opening of the transfer window could not happen quickly enough.
Tomas Repka - now one of the club's longest serving players -announced his intention to leave West Ham at the earliest possible convenience after his family returned to the Czech Republic. Meanwhile the first signs of unrest appeared when on-loan striker Jeremie Aliadiere accused Pardew of overlooking him in team selection.
So the Hammers ended the year where they began it - in ninth position. The fact that it was in a different league is testament to manager Alan Pardew and his small, but defiant squad.
Fixtures: P6 W2 D1 L3 F9 A12
Position: 9th (Premier League)
Transfers: In - Yaniv Katan (free - Maccabi Haifa)
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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