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“Where do we go from here?” Who cares if the journey’s this much fun…

Filed: Wednesday, 3rd October 2012
By: Rob Paul Chapman

A response to John Rolls' recent article for KUMB.com, which may be found here.

There’s a famous story about the late Brian Clough: When a journalist asked the legendarily acerbic manager how he dealt with errant players who disagreed with him he replied “Well, it’s like this. I’d invite him into my office, I’d allow him to put forward his point of view, then I’d put forward mine, and together we’d agree that I was right”.

As fans, disagreement is to be expected in football. It’s a game based on passionately held beliefs and unswayable convictions, put forward with vim and vigour and an unshakable certainty that we are, when all is said and done, absolutely right. All the time. Until we’re wrong that is, by which time we’ve forgotten what our original position was anyway.

You don’t get Brian Cloughs along very often these days. But perhaps Big Sam is the last of that old school. Last year our forthright manager may have implied that our fans have a tendency to sway towards delusion.

Well guess what? He was 100% correct. You are ALL deluded. Every single one of you. And before you start throwing things at the screen, so am I. We’re all deluded. And not just West Ham fans. Every football fan in the land. That is, in fact, part of the fun.

We convince ourselves that 22 millionaires chasing an inflated pig’s bladder around some grass is the single most important thing in the world. Many of us have, at some point, made what would rationally seem like completely inexplicable sacrifices in order to accommodate our great love. This is not the behaviour of a sentient balanced individual. These are the actions of the deluded. And I for one love it. Embrace the delusion. We live in a joyless world of recession and misery and genuinely catastrophic things happening around the world. If we can’t take some solace out of our terminal delusion, then frankly what’s the point?

But not all delusion is born equal. It comes I many splendored forms. I acknowledge that my own deluded tendency is to place absolute unfathomable and utterly unrealistic faith in my club, its management, players and owners. However I feel that as a self-aware delusional I’m equally capable of spotting the exact mirror image opposite of my brand of delusion in others (lets call them Type B delusionals). I refer to those unable to acknowledge the successes, strengths and triumphs of our club and those who run it. They see the negatives, the apparent failings and will undoubtedly be able to put a pessimistic spin on any given event. They are the kind of people who could win the lottery and then complain about the walk to the post office to cash the cheque.

There are a lot of these Type B delusionals in a football ground. We probably sit or stand near at least one at a game. And these people have their fortes for sure. Whilst my Type A brand of delusion may make me completely blind to impending catastrophe (I’ll readily admit I thought Avram Grant and Glenn Roeder would turn out just fine in the long run…), these Type B delusionals are wise before the event.

However, whilst there are (ironically) positives to these Type B delusionals, I can’t help feeling that they don’t have anywhere near as much fun as us Type A delusionals. And I would like to take these people for a pint, as part of the same universal West Ham family, and try to convince them of the inherent beauty of every given situation; whilst they would do their best to explain why everything was, inherently, when you get to the nub of the matter, actually a bit shit.

I strongly suspect John Rolls, features writer of this parish, to be a Type B delusional. He recently wrote an article for KUMB entitled Where Do We Go From Here? It has been much discussed on the internet and in podcasts, and so as a fellow fan and delusional, I would like to extend a hand across the ocean. I’d like to go for a drink with Mr. Rolls, he would put forward his point of view, then I’d put forward mine, and together we’d agree that I was right.

I imagine it would go something like this:

JR: “My question now is where do we go from here? It was great to get back into the Premier League - but I want more.”

RPC: It’s one thing to want something, even to know what it is that you want. The ability and/or resources to achieve it are quite another. Football clubs are transient beings. Unless you’re one of the tiny minority with the clout to set the pace, the best you can hope for is to be dynamic, reactive and responsible. Adapt to your surroundings and make the best of your situation. This might sound negative, but it’s just pragmatic, and arguably more fun than – say – chucking £500m of Middle Eastern oil money into a bottomless pit of unsustainable, foundation-less profligacy dressed-up as ambition

JR: “Being honest, I cannot see us winning the league unless some mega-rich masochist buys the club and I suppose I should just be grateful for survival. “

RPC: This is not so much honesty as realism.

JR: “But being realistic, would I really be happy with West Ham being also-rans? Maybe flirting with the Cups and getting a route into Europe via that route. I am not going to say “yes” to that. “

RPC: This is not so much realism as nihilism, not to mention a fast-track to inevitable disappointment, and an unnecessary double-negative.

JR: “What I would like to know is why we haven't signed some of the bigger names available on free transfers to at least give us a chance of moving up?”

RPC: And this is where – to my Type A delusional mind – the argument just becomes baffling. We have had arguably our best ever transfer window. In the close season and opening couple of weeks of the new one we have signed the following: The current England Number 9 for whom Liverpool paid £35m, a club-record breaking winger, the Number 10 for the African Nations semi-finalists who Newcastle offered £7m for and no less than five current or former international captains. And that on the back of the previous transfer window which was arguably the second best (contextually) in the club’s history which brought in the players who enabled us to get promoted, some of whom are currently showing their true class in the Premiership. And all of this from the team who finished third in the second flight last season. If that doesn’t scream ambition I don’t know what does.

JR: “Look at Stoke - at best, a mid-table side - but they had the balls to go and sign Michael Owen. A front two pairing of Carroll and Owen sounds like it has goals in it, whereas at present we look toothless. “

RPC: Signing Michael Owen for West Ham would have demonstrated a depressing lack of imagination. Owen appears significantly more interested in his horses than playing football these days. When I’ve seen West Ham this season I’ve seen a team, united, with a single purpose, fighting to the death for each other. I cannot imagine a world in which Michael Owen would fit into this set-up. You want a frontline with goals in it? You currently have the England #9 and the 6th highest goalscorer from midfield in Premier League history. You also have Jarvis banging in one sumptuous gimmie cross after another. And Vaz Te with his guile and trickery. And besides, if Owen came it’d only be a matter of time before he mistakenly had Andy Carroll tethered to the nearest tree, feeding him a carrot and entering him into the 3.45 at Chepstow. And no one wants to see that.

JR: “Another name that has come up is Thomas Hitzlsperger, another free agent. I think he's a great player.”

RPC: So good in fact that the last time he was with us we got relegated. There may be a reason why he’s (still) a free agent…

JR: “The board and the manager must change the whole mentality surrounding the club by insisting we finish in the top six and backing the manager to get the right players in. At the moment we are carrying too many Championship-level players.”

RPC: It’s not about mentality. You can’t just will a team to 6th by positive thinking alone. Only a few months ago we were a championship squad. This may account for the championship players, as you can’t just change-up a squad wholesale over night. That’s what QPR have tried, and they currently sit bottom of the Premiership. But that aside, I actually don’t think we have too many Championship-level players at all. Our keeper currently has the best shots to saves ratio in the league, aside from the odd freak error our back-four has looked supremely solid in the main, our midfield oozes class, and our frontline is as exciting as could possibly be expected for a club on our budget.

JR: “We should have - and it hurts to say this - the mentality of Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy and back the manager to sign quality players. “

RPC: You appear to be confusing mentality with money. We tried that once. We bankrupted a Northern European island state. It didn’t go well. They’re still quite cross.

JR: “Here's an aside for you. Rob Green is, it seems, really p*ssed off at QPR. Let’s take him back on loan in January. In my eyes he should never have been let go. “

RPC: He wasn’t let go. He was out of contract and he walked. You can only lead a horse to water… [insert Michael Owen/Andy Carroll joke here]

JR: “West Ham have the most fervent supporters and we always get behind the team no matter what the situation. “

RPC: And I’ve never heard the fans boo the team at half time once, guv’nor…

JR: “Is it not now time for the Board and the manager to realise we deserve more than mid-table mediocrity?”

RPC: Define ‘deserve’ here? We may end up mid-table this season. I sincerely hope so in fact. But so far there’s been nothing remotely mediocre about our first few games. We’ve had glorious highs and some depressing lows; but we’ve been enthralled, and entertained, and always kept interested. It’ll probably be a rollercoaster this season, and I for one cannot wait.

JR: “Why is it we never seem to make the big signing? “We get linked with so many but they never seem to materialise; why? Are they put off by the lack of ambition from the board? “

RPC: Like I said: The current England Number 9 for whom Liverpool paid £35m, a club-record breaking winger, the Number 10 for the African Nations semi-finalists who Newcastle offered £7m for and no less than five international captains… etc etc

JR: “It can't be the fans, we get behind new players even if they don't do well.”

RPC: Mido says hi.

JR: “It raises questions as to whether the manager listens to the scouts. Or is he of the mind that it doesn't matter what they say, we don't sign them any way?”

RPC: The current England Number 9 for whom Liverpool paid £35m, a club-record breaking winger, the current… blah blah blah…. You get the idea.

JR: “In summary, would the board please show as much commitment to providing the fans with quality players so we can do something in the league - and would the scouting system find and insist the manager at least has a look at them. “

RPC: The current England Number 9 for whom Liverpool… yawn…

JR: “Finally can we, the supporters who spend our hard-earned cash watching the team and buying the merchandise and sometimes suffering numerous headaches and heartache as the Hammers cock it up again, get recognition from the board?”

RPC: Or how about this for the old switcheroo: The board get some recognition from us as the fans? They have come into a club ravaged by serial mismanagement, laden with crippling debts, have put their hands in their pockets, brought in a proven manager, recruited astutely and ambitiously and then stepped out of the limelight (thankfully) to let the manager take centre-stage. And that investment and faith is currently paying off in spades.

Yes, we’re not going to challenge for the title, or the Champions’ League, or probably Europe at all. Possibly ever. And it’s possible we only just stave off or even – heaven forbid – succumb to relegation. But personally I’m having an absolute whale of a time right now. As a lifelong fan I’ve never been more in love with my club. Who knows exactly what the future will bring? But who wants a Cassandra Complex anyway? Enjoy the journey, make sure the driver knows what he’s doing, and sit back and enjoy the view. The destination will take care of itself.

But then again, I’m a Type A delusional, so I would say that, wouldn’t I?

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.

Your Comments

by John Rolls
02:54PM 8th Oct 2012
''Yes I am deluded and as such I congratulate RPC on his perception, but is this the ranting of a mad man, or just desire to see my team be successful?

I would like to challenge RPC to point his perception at himself and honestly answer the question. Are you really willing to accept mid table mediocrity having to glance back over the shoulder worrying about being drawn into a relegation dogfight every season, or would you rather look upwards and aspire to obtain and sustain European football, along with the riches it holds. With the situation with the Olympic stadium still unclear and some way off, if the club was successful at the time of moving it would appear a more viable prospect for a future investor.

I cannot agree that the so call rich clubs have a divine right to be successful, but as a supporter i want my team to be the best it can and if it means there's some Russian oligarch out there with a few hundred million to invest or a far or middle eastern entrepreneur then I would welcome it. It would be the greatest thing ever to see West Ham utd Premier league champions and champions of Europe I ask what fan wouldn't like that.? How we get to that situation would be the adventure of a life time. See I can be upbeat occasionally.

In response to RPC and his upbeats on the signings and availability of Free agents, it would seem all we needed was England's number 9 well sorry to say that season 2010/11 we not only had an England striker we had England's number one and an England midfielder along with a host of African internationals home country internationals and the comment RPC made about Hitzlsperger being unable to find a club because of 2010/11 is not right just look at the list of the internationals that were in the squad and few have failed to find clubs, personally I think the Hitz would strengthen the squad.

He keeps telling me about an African international striker, if that is the case he hasn't yet shown it, he doesn't seem to fit in to Big Sam's plans at the moment or did we get him to start in cup matches.Again and I make no bones about I thought Owen would have been great at the club. One he's a goal scorer, two he could mentor the younger players, you cannot say oh he has a predilection for the horses, we have had players who have gambled, players who drank and enjoyed night clubs, players who were over weight the list goes on, so he owns a few horses, so does Mr Ferguson does it make him a bad manager, So did Mick Channon and he was a fair player, to say you shouldn't sign him because of his horses is not really fair.

Agreed RPC just willing a team into the top six won't work, but encouragement from the board down along with good financial backing will provide Sam with the players he needs to turn the club into one with European aspirations, the whole ethos of the club should be about success about taking us on to the next level and beyond, not being complacent " well we survived so all is well in the garden"
RPC talks about Green walking do we know the real reason? was it money because money was found to pay Mr Carrolls extremely high wages, I'm sure there must have been another reason I cannot believe he was allowed to go for that reason alone.

I don't know if RPC has a thing about England's number nine we had a team with England's number six number eight and number ten and never should we forget the others who represented their countries. I hope I';m wrong but Africa's number ten is doing a good job as West Hams number thirteen as I said earlier if he's that good he should be starting.

RPC and my self are total opposites but reading his response has made me think again o what I want from my team and I want success I want to be up there with the Mancs and the Chelseas and Gooners, I just wish that the club showed some ambition and not talk about survival but talking about Europe and RPC my friend I wish you well if your ever in Cardiff well go and watch a game just for a laugh I'll by you a pint of Brains and we can discuss West Ham.''

by Ant Donaldson
11:47AM 5th Oct 2012
''To be fair, I'm another Type A delusional, with a Type B as a regular travelling companion, but I couldn't agree more.

By my reckoning we have the 10th to 12th biggest fan-base in English football, so our 'natural' level is mid-table in the top tier. Relegation has happened too often in my lifetime but I:

- love and will always love the club
- think the current owners and management have done a great job
- don't think we play long ball football but mix it up and are more tactical astute than we have been for a long while
- think the current squad are as good as we've seen for quite some time
- am excited about the new season and
- am hopeful that the move to the Olympic stadium may help the club push on a bit

When are we going to start singing "We are Big Sam's claret and blue army"?''

by Desmond Ruyten
04:05PM 4th Oct 2012
''West Ham United are and always will be a family club, they are not the type of club who need top name international players costing mega bucks. It's about building a strong, well-gelled unit who can compete and play the type of football supporters for generations have watched and admired.

The current batch of players are not the names on everyone's lips but week in, week out they have produced results without having to go through the gears. Best to be getting on with the job and not make the teams about start taking notice to much. This season WBA and Everton have done exactly that and the opposition have not coped.

Good to see also the younger players making impressions and inroads to the first team and the faith the boss has in them to give them the option, the arrival of the loan players and new blood has been successful and the attacking system adopted has profited goals.

I hope Andy Carroll does stay but if not, the big strikers who have impressed me are Connor Wickham and Nicklas "Helenius" Jensen, the same type of player should he return to Liverpool in January. ''

by badgermax
02:49PM 4th Oct 2012
''Great article.''

by Jean Gray
02:39PM 4th Oct 2012
'''We live in a joyless world of recession and misery and genuinely catastrophic things happening around the world.'

Too many newspapers mate :)

by Oxford Fred
12:41PM 4th Oct 2012
''Like your attitude. It is true that there are very different ways for us fans/supporters to do what we do. I am liking the idea that maybe KUMB could now produce new t-shirts to give clues to the wearer's views. 'Deluded Type A' or 'Deluded Type B'...

by Nelly the hammer
08:50PM 3rd Oct 2012
''Absolutely spot on.''

by Nick
07:58PM 3rd Oct 2012
''Brilliant. Well written, concise and fun article to read. Had a few chuckles. Well done Rob.''

06:09PM 3rd Oct 2012
''Couldn't agree more. Let's be positive.

I didn't realise to finish in the top six you just had to 'insist' that the manager did it - genius. Furthermore any West Ham fan that wasn't satisfied with signing Carroll, Jarvis and Diame but was disappointed we didn't get Hitzlsperger, Owen or Green has clearly been at Grandpa's cough medicine!

by Gary Rutland
03:11PM 3rd Oct 2012
''Excellent article, couldn't agree more.

by Swampy
02:11PM 3rd Oct 2012
''Excellent response, after 40 years of support, through the highs and lows, this seems like a pretty bright time in the team's history to me. No, we aren't challenging for titles or winning cups or even qualifying for Europe, but the feel of the club and direction is positive and the expectations of modern football over the pre-Premiership era are completely different. Good stuff!''

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