Filed: Tuesday, 21st August 2012
By: Tom Kilbey
With usual hyperbole, the media are talking about our club being at a crucial crossroad. That our next year or two could determine our future, and we are in transition into a big club to challenge the best clubs in Europe (wince here).
Our Chairmen are talking as if the announcement of an imminent move to a new stadium will automatically transform us into a club that can target the upper echelons of the league (wince again). History has shown that saying rash things like that can prove very foolish (look at Blackburn’s five-year plan). In fact, lets looks closer to home. Anyone else remember Eggert Magnusson boldly claiming we’ll be a European force within two (yes, two) years?
I know I do, and now I find its easier to laugh off such claims. Indeed, David Gold’s suggestion that we are currently a top half team was enough for me to smile wryly. But amongst the ridiculous exaggeration and apparent complacent over-confidence, I genuinely believe there is reason to be optimistic about both our short, and long term future.
Anyone who read my very first article on KUMB.com will know that I had some concerns about our squad. Certainly, these have not disintegrated after one game, but Saturday’s performance gave reason to be optimistic.
Aston Villa were awful, lacking penetration, width and creativity, but take nothing away from the performance of our defenders. James Collins showed early signs of the dominance that made me believe his departure from the club was an extremely poor decision. Winston Reid was also excellent, making several timely interceptions. Compare his performance on Saturday, to the opening game of the 2010/11 season, his debut, and its hard to believe you are watching the same player.
Even at full back, the position where I expressed my biggest concern, we looked more than comfortable. Guy Demel looked fitter and stronger and showed he wasn’t afraid to get forward to support Ricardo Vaz Te. George McCartney ran himself into the ground and put in a performance which made me appreciate why so many members here at KUMB hold him in high regard.
Further forward, our midfield looked good. We were dominated in possession for large parts, but still looked comfortable. The usual suspects performed and Diame looked superb. I’ve heard great things about him, but his technical ability surprised me. He showed that he can pass the ball and has great feet as well as his physical attributes that he is more known for.
We still look a bit short up top, but it’s encouraging to see our attentions focussed solely on this position now. The names of the moment are Moussa Konate and, more recently, Rennes winger Razak Boukari who impressed on trial.
The brief cameo performance from Modibo Maiga was also promising. He looks physical, with an extra yard of pace over our other strikers and looked composed when presented with the one-on-one chance that was cleared off the line.
But more than this, Saturday proved that we have what it takes to compete with the Premier League clubs. The desire was back and it was clear that every player on that pitch worked incredibly hard. The fans were fantastic and drove the players on late in the game. It was a mature performance; one highlighting the fact we have pedigree and top flight experience in the squad.
Maybe top half is still over-optimistic – I’m sure every fan will breathe a sigh of relief when we reach 40 points – but we showed that we can hold our own in the top division, especially in the capable hands of Sam Allardyce.
Although I don’t like to speculate too much, I think we can make a few predictions. Firstly, although the saga regarding our Olympic Stadium bid rambles on, most people associated with the club are either excited – or resigned, depending on your opinion – that the stadium will eventually be ours. I’ve changed my mind more times than Robbie Keane has changed his childhood club.
With David Gold’s strange cryptic tweets (which seem to get weirder on a daily basis), I get the impression that we will include retractable seating in the stadium which is enough for me to support the bid. There’s not one important person in the media who thinks anyone else is a suitable tenant. I included the word 'important' so I didn’t have to talk about that comical waste of space who is still kicking up a fuss. You know exactly who I mean.
Gold has also talked about potential investment that will come as a result of this. Not for a second am I suggesting that we could become as big as Manchester City, but there’s no reason that moving to a bigger stadium couldn’t provide some form of cash injection, just as they received four years ago. But even in the likely case that this doesn’t happen, Gold and Sullivan aren’t too afraid to splash the cash themselves.
I never believed that Andy Carroll, Adam Johnson or Kaka were realistic transfer targets, but the fact the board are showing ambition and coughing up the money is promising in itself. Gold and Sullivan are hardly the most popular people in football, but they certainly have the club in their best interests and with Karren Brady working behind the scenes, we have a good set up which is something we have lacked for a few years.
Also, unlike some of the teams around us, we seem to be looking to the future. We have a great blend of youngsters and experience, and have added a mix of fresh talent and seasoned campaigners. Looking into the slightly longer term, players like Collison, Maiga, Reid and Tomkins will only continue to improve as they move into their mid twenties.
Younger still, we have the likes of Morrison who will hopefully begin to mature given the responsibility of first team football and academy graduates such as Rob Hall and Dan Potts, who will hope to capitalise on chances in the inaugural Under-21 Premier League.
Of course, our main target this season is to ensure our Premier League status is maintained. With an excellent first win in the bag and hopes of signing players in areas we are still lacking will only strengthen our push for a respectable league position.
Looking past this season, who know what will happen? It’s terribly clichéd, but we’ve had our fair share of false dawns in the past ten years. But maybe, just maybe, we are turning the corner on our awful last three years and can begin to look towards a brighter future for our great club.
Tom Kilbey may also be found on Twitter at twitter.com/tom29whu.
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.
01:46AM 22nd Aug 2012
''Diame not a suprise to me, saw him play many times for Wigan and wished West Ham could get him and never thinking it could happen. With Diarra we have antidote to Fellaini...''
by Ollie hart
11:28PM 21st Aug 2012
''I loved your article and as a 16-year-old Hammer, I do not remember the glorified past of West Ham of which I have heard so much about and only know of the 'typical West Ham' phrase. I hope that what you have said in your article will come true, we will once again be a strong force in the best league in the world!''
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