Filed: Sunday, 3rd June 2012
By: Ben Willoughby
Cast your minds back 12 months and look at the difference now. We were staring down the barrel of impending doom and preparing to watch a majority of our best players flee back to the Premier League...
In truth, the transfer market wasn’t that painful besides the crippling fact that Parker joined Spurs. Demba Ba left for less than peanuts which was totally understandable but equally gutting. However the biggest offload was definitely that of the manager. Have we ever endured a longer or more embarrassing season?
To say Avram left us in a pickle would be an understatement. The owners had, in my opinion, wrongly sacked Zola in summer 2010 after keeping us afloat with very little resources, and importantly, had the players playing for him. Something that was evidently missing for the main part in 2010/11.
Grant’s sacking paved the way for Big Sam to come in and steady the ship, and then face the daunting task of winning promotion back to the Promised Land. It was a hard slog, and despite our decent points tally (86), we had still come up short for automatic promotion. In the end, all was rosy, we smashed Cardiff home and away and we cashed in on the wealthiest game in world football. Everyone’s a winner then?
Wrong. This season the fans were spoon-fed drab football and excuse after excuse in games that we should have been winning at a canter. Never mind the immensely frustrating inability to win at home.
On the face of it, we’re promoted. I am not underestimating the league; statistics prove it is a difficult one to bounce back from and the football is highly competitive and alarmingly unpredictable. Only two others have won promotion at the first attempt back to the Premier League in the last three years.
I promised myself I would cut Sam some slack if he guaranteed promotion. After all, it’s not his fault that he came into a club with desperate disappointment overhanging it from the previous season. I wasn’t particularly in favour of his appointment but I was willing to compromise my views if he delivered the results regardless of his tactical approach.
His public demeanour angered me at great length this season though, he continually shot the fans down and patronised those in the stands by calling us ‘deluded’. The fans were well entitled to their opinion, we usually left Upton Park with one point, a neck ache and a mouthful of disregard.
I was also disappointed that Gold and Sullivan didn’t pressure the club into the automatic promotion places despite providing plenty of financial ammunition to Sam. The money provided should have been enough to ensure promotion, and had Blackpool taken their chances at Wembley we might be looking at a different proposition next season. Allardyce was guaranteed to keep his job regardless of promotion in the end, despite the start of season orders which basically stated: promote us or be fired.
For me, the top two was the minimum expectation this season.
That’s just my opinion though. On the flip-side he’s picked up Matty Taylor, Ricardo Vaz Te and Nicky Maynard who I’m interested in seeing play PL football next season. What Taylor was doing out of the top flight in the first place surprises me.
He also tightened up the defence and gave us plenty to twist and shout about on the road. This was the Championship though, and despite our huge financial resources, we were made to sweat right until the last competitive game of the Championship season.
I wasn’t sure what to make of Gold’s comments at full time on the Wembley pitch when he said that it was all part of the master plan to qualify via the playoffs. It came across cocky and arrogant, the attitude that has been a sour undertone to our season. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it and it was just a throwaway comment in an abyss of collective relief.
Whilst Southampton and Reading dashed past us to the automatic spots, we were left to face the play-off merry-go-round as we failed to win bread and butter fixtures at Upton Park. I’ll hold my tongue for the rest of the piece, the biggest counter-argument to my grumbling is West Ham are back in the Premier League sticker books next season. And that’s all that matters.
The remnants of people saying ‘you’re too good to go down’ still ring in my ears from 2003 and remaining in the PL is absolutely paramount next season. We’ve been relegated twice in my lifetime and with the Premier League looking significantly stronger each season, Big Sam and co. are going to have to pull something out to ensure this is not an unwanted hat trick next season.
I like the fact that we’ve got a good nucleus of English players in the team now, although it looks like Green will leave, we have still got some quality longstanding players which will now hopefully have the appetite for success in the Premier League second time around. Big Sam always had the ability to pull something out at Bolton; Djorkaeff, Okocha, Stelios and Hierro were all recruited under Big Sam’s golden Bolton era.
How we could do with a couple of names like that to add some magic for next season.
Personally I think we need another centre back to play alongside Tomkins, we could do a lot worse than sign Jonas Olsson if he decides to leave West Brom. We need a wide player and if Matty Jarvis is available from Wolves then I would be in favour of a move. Steven Fletcher is surely looking for a move back to the PL and I would take both him and Jarvis, probably costing around £15m for the pair.
McCartney looks like he’ll join and there’s been plenty spouted about Keiran Richardson who would add some more balance to the left hand side. I just hope Big Sam plays Taylor wide left, and not left back next year.
The goalkeeping solution is a tricky one because we have no ready-made replacement. I would advise against Jussi Jääskeläinen; he has fallen down the pecking order at Bolton and played second fiddle to Adam Bogdan for most of last season. I would like either Ali Al-Habsi from Wigan, although I don’t think he’d be cheap, or possibly the young Belgian, Thibaut Courtois from Chelsea, who had an impressive loan spell at Atletico Madrid last season.
These are just my suggestions, the only request I have of G&S and Sam is that they go and spend money because the team we have at the moment isn’t strong enough to compete week in-week out in the Premier League. I saw somewhere that he may be given around £30m, if he uses that money for three of four quality players then we’ll be ok.
Overall I am buzzing to be back in the big time and have a great sense of optimism for next season. Hopefully we can follow in the footsteps of Norwich and Swansea and nestle ourselves comfortably in mid-table next season.
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.
08:43PM 6th Jun 2012
''@Paul: Not sure where you got your idea of how to express an opinion if you publish it from but you are wrong. You have provided nothing as a counter argument/opinion to challange the author's or for him to consider to change his opinion.
Whilst I do disagree with some of the author's opinion - for example I think that G&S DID apply prerssure by continually refering to the fact the promotion was the number one target and virtually only target for the season, which, again in my opinion bought unwarranted pressure on the team which contributed to some of our bad performances.
My (and a fair few other fans I regulaly talk to) expectation WAS a play off place (4th or 5th) so to my mind we exceeded that by finishing 3rd and almost getting an automatic place - on the other hand I thought as a team, given the players we had, we would and did under-achieve. But this was because with the number of new faces and the evident confidence issues of those we kept from the relegation squad, it would take at least another season for them to fully gel and play to their potential - the last six games or so showed we were nealry there.
Regarding the play/tactics, some of the games I saw were very poor, particularly against teams in the bottom half where, on the evidence of previous games against better teams, we should have won but struggled to draw. On the other hand, I was pleasently surpised at some games with the way we played and dominated games to good wins.
In general, I don't think there is much wrong with the opinion express by the author or the way it was presented - one thing we all seem to agree on is that we need to invest in the right sort of players in the right positions to have some sort of half decent season back in the PL.
In regards to you using stats to support the sacking of Zola, that is just bogus. If you regularly use stats and base your decisions on them, you should at least have the forsight to investigate why stats are poor - just because the win ratio is poor does not make Zola a poor manager - There were a lot of other activities and interference going on behind the scenes that made his job very difficult and I doubt very much if any other manager (including Sam) would have faired much better. Also it was implied that if Zola kept us up (Sully said that was his only job when they took over), he would not be given his marching orders.''
12:18PM 6th Jun 2012
''Thanks for the reply gents.
To Paul - How can you say that I wanted the team to lose!? I wouldn't be much of a fan then would I? I'm just trying to look past the euphoria of Wembley because we all know the job is not done. It will be a hard season next year but at least with Sam's style we're guaranteed a team which will fight. With his PL experience I am actually confident he can keep our heads above water next year.
In relation to the Zola point, I was a big fan of his and although we scraped by that season we did stay up. Surely being an advocate of Sam you'd live and die by the philosophy of management being a results industry; and Zola delivered. Consider those percentages again now, 59% win ratio in the CHAMPIONSHIP is hardly pulling up any trees at West Ham and it wasn't enough for automatic promotion.
Can you honestly say you were satisfied as we watched the top two run away from us as Sam continued to bleat about being 'unbeaten' after that string of draws? I've said my piece, I didn't slaughter Sam, I actually provided plenty of counter-arguments to my own views, so to label by writing as not being 'logical' surprised me a bit.
Thanks for the comment though, Paul. Football is all about opinion...
To therock - I think Amos has potential in the snippets of cup football I've seen him play. Do you think he's ready for a full season as a PL number one though?
Agreed on the Clyne point though, he would be a decent signing, although he's not your typical Big Sam player.
I'm not sure about Corluka, he got found out a bit at Spurs, the fact he can't get in at left back ahead of Assou-Ekotto tells me how much Harry rates him. As you said about Turner, he is slow and has spent a lot of his time at Sunderland on the treatment table. I would take Collins back in a heartbeat.
Pace is our main concern all over the pitch. Even though Taylor isn't quick I think his delivery makes up for it, he's wasted at left-back in my opinion. Collison was made a bit of a scapegoat up until the last few months of the season. Sam tried to accommodate Noble, Nolan, Collison and O'Neill in a 4-3-3 and it wasn't working with Jack forced wide right. Is £7m for Zaha a worthwhile investment? I'm not sure.''
by hammer hanna
02:08AM 5th Jun 2012
''Sorry Ben, I have to agree with much of what Paul has to say. Zola was simply awful and his tactics of playing right sided players on the left and vice versa was bizzare, to say the least. You have also completely missed the humour from David Gold with his remarks of the "Master Plan". In no way were they intended to be cockey or arrogant and I have not met one person yet who thinks they were.
West Ham players, manager and owners all gave Blackpool credit in their interviews directly after the game and for me WHU came through this game with great honour despite not playing at their best.
If you have only seen West Ham relegated twice in your lifetime then you are obviously quite young, so congratulations on writing your views for all to see. Some of us that have seen our "Ammers relegated five times should be more critical of the current regime than you are. I was ever present at UP in the years of Moore, Hurst and Peters and yes, the football was excellent many times for some seasons but the downside was we were always an easy touch for some of the tougher sides in the League.
I love West Ham as I am sure all on this site do too, but we are deluded if we think we could attract a more proficient manager than Big Sam at this current time. In my view the one thing that wrecked our automatic promotion chances this year was the negativity by some of the fans in home games, that created an atmosphere that the away teams thrived on.
I have always maintained, if you are a paying "audience" then you have the right to complain. If you are a "supporter" then that is what you have elected to do - support. Some fans have to decide which of the two they want to be?''
by g portugal
07:24PM 4th Jun 2012
''I don't agree that Allardyce had "vast financial resources" to work with. On the contrary, signings were only made as and when we sold players or let contracts expire. If anything the money spent in the window prior to September wasn't much at all.''
01:20PM 4th Jun 2012
''You've only seen relegation twice in your lifetime? You've been spoilt mate!
As Paul says, expect a few seasons of grind and establishment. We are still massively in debt and our owners still don't seem to get any credit for saving us from oblivion.
Sam did what he was employed to do and sometimes it wasn't pretty and I guess it will be more of the same over the next few years. I just hope the fans can get behind the team instead of constantly whining like a large minority currently do. Sometimes UP is nothing more than a load of know-it-all "fans" telling the players and the coaching staff where they're going wrong.
It's easy to do that from the stands but let's not forget the state our club was in when G&S took over and the lack of team morale when FS was appointed. We've moved on massively since then and I for one am optimistic we are going in the right direction, even it it will take some time.
02:38AM 4th Jun 2012
''In your article you come across, almost, as one of those fans who was perhaps disappointed that Blackpool were beaten at Wembley: the result didn't fit your desire to see Allardyce axed. His public demeanour is one that mirrors his personality: arrogant with a strong sense of self belief - and it's just what a shambolic, underconfident and defeated West Ham needed to get back up first time. You can't have one without the other. You can't have your cake and eat it.
And here's another chestnut for you: DO expect that our first season back in the PL will be a tough, gritty affair where results (we call that substance) are, for the short term, more important than style. Without the resources of the big teams, West Ham are going to have to graft for a few seasons to pay down debts, garner some stability, and a modicum, perhaps, of success. With that might come credibility and perhaps then some players of quality will be attracted to the club. None of this will come instantly, in the short term most of it will be ugly, but, if you're a fan, you'll hold your nose and swallow. If not, then you will complain somewhat disingenuously about success not being good enough, which, frankly, is churlish.
Finally, how you can imagine that Gold and Sullivan should have stuck with Zola is beyond rational thought: have you actually bothered to look at Zola's win percentage? At 28.75% it is the lowest of any manager West Ham have EVER had: lower even than Roeder! Lower than Grant! And Sam Allardyce? 53%, second only to Trevor Brooking's (you've heard of him?) 69% (albeit for a very short spell.)
Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but if you're publishing yours then make it logical, realistic and open-minded as possible.''
07:12PM 3rd Jun 2012
''Ben Amos from Man Utd would be a nice replacement for Greeno - on loan initially. Nathanial Clyne, we should be going all out for him. Chris Gunter £2m - can play left or right back. I'd prefer him at 22 over McCartney.
Centre back is a tricky one but we definitely need at least one. I like Corluka and think he could move from right back to centre back and excel. I hear Turner at Sunderland is up for grabs for £3m but he is a tad slow, bring Ginge back?
I really think the team needs some pace, instead of playing Collison and Taylor out wide I want to see some guys with speed breaking and carrying the ball. Let's be honest, we are going to spend a lot of time under the cosh and defending for our lives, so if we can get a a good couple of wide men to break at pace then it'll really be an advantage.''
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