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Losing the love that binds on a horrible night


Filed: Sunday, 8th January 2017
By: Paul Walker


Shocked, hurt, embarrassed, shattered, isolatedÖjust some of the emotions that flooded through me and many more folk I bet, during the disaster of Fridayís FA Cup mauling by Manchester City.

Yes, they can do that to any team, they have beaten Barcelona this season, and can be among the best sides in the world when the mood is right. But for the Irons, in front of a massive world wide TV audience, it was a horrendous night. As West Ham disasters go, and we have all seen a few, it was the very worst night I can remember.

This team has no character, no fight, no spirit, limited talent and little leadership. Anyone who thinks we are safe from relegation is living in la la land, or Sullivan towers, whatever takes your fancy.

For me, and many more, the rot set in during that amazing last week of the 2015-16 season, yes, the victory over Manchester United will live in all our memories, but needing two wins from three games to get into a Champions League qualifying position, we blew it with two defeats.

So including that week, we have won just seven of our last 22 league matches. If you include cup ties since then, it is 11 wins in 30 matches, and an alarming 56 goals conceded. At our new home this season we have won just seven if 16 games in all competitions.




Itís nothing to do with the stadium, nothing to do with the pitch measurements, itís all about the strength and depth of our squad. The pitch is the same size as the one we train on at Rush Green. It is virtually, give or take a metre, the same size as Arsenal, Manchester United and Wembley. It is the standard size the Premier League are now insisting on, where it is physically possible. The Boleyn pitch was a few metres shorter for that reason, and the same width.

Yes, it looks wider and longer because of the acres of ground between the fans and the touchline, so as Slaven Bilic said recently, and Pep Guardiola eluded to on Friday, there is a perception of a greater playing surface because players cannot judge where the touchlines are from distance.

I can think of one way round that already. Recently I wanderer around the ground (I know you shouldnít be able to do that, but hey ho) and judged the view from various points, in particular the half-way line front row seats in the east stand, the furthest from the action.

Itís not the Boleyn, but it was not as bad as it looks from my seat in the BML. Not much worse than the old East Stand at Upton Park. And on that side of the ground, and behind both goals, there are advertising hoardings much closer the pitch.

If we could put a similar barrier say half way from the dug outs to the touch line in front of the West Stand, it would give the pitch and players a more enclosed aspect. I recall us putting such barriers up at the Boleyn in front of the east stand to stop opponentsí long throws, so it can be done.

What cannot be done, it seems, is the find last seasonís form. That verve, SlavĎs famous intensity, and a passionate will to win.

Slav sometimes looks a lost soul out there, nowhere to hide, marooned in acres of green plastic as his team fumble and tumble to defeat after defeat. The shocking transfer mistakes and judgements of the summer are now haunting us.

And what is blatantly obvious now is that we are selling anything that anyone wants, that is not nailed down, to reduce the wage bill with us clearly maxed to the limit of FFP.

We hear that the club will pay off players like Alvaro Arbeloa, Gokhan Tore, the soon-to-be gone, we hope, Simone Zaza plus Jonathan Calleri. And Andre Ayew could go if we can get our cash back, while Sofiane Feghouli seems on his way, loan to buy, to Roma. Michail Antonio seemingly only has to say the word and we would struggle to hold off Chelsea, while Adrian has been told his time is up here.




Lewis Page has been shifted on to Charlton, three other lads are back out on loan, and for some reason we seem to want to get rid of Ashley Fletcher for £1.5m. Heís a kid with promise, why, unless we need every penny, are we considering letting him go?

We surely cannot be that broke again, with all the TV money, the cash from the sale of the Boleyn, and of course we never spent the £20m ear-marked for Zaza.
 
And Dimitri PayetÖwell..this seems to have only one ending, doesnít it. How many meetings does he need to have with Slav for the penny to drop. His people are saying one thing to the French media, and another to us.

I donít understand why he was rested on Friday, eight days before our next match against Crystal Palace, he may be tired but not that tired. The FA Cup was our last chance of a trophy, why not go for it, heíll have all next week to relax and twitter his mates back home.

Who to blame for all this? Well the usual suspects are all lining up. The Brady Bunch are being told they should go, but as much as I dislike their motives and approach to the ground move, how do you get rid of folk who own the place? It will take more than social media campaigns and banners outside the ground.

And yes, I wouldnít mind the king of Saudi Arabia if he could do for us what the Abu Dhabi people have done for Manchester City.

David Sullivanís claims that he and the clubís hierarchy are going to start taking notice of their fans. I must admit to being reasonably impressed with those quotes until I realised they were just an early release of his programmer notes. And Sullivan is usually never a man for two words when two hundred will do.

Itís probably coincidence, or maybe not. But our beloved major shareholder went on record with this sort of stuff at roughly the same time that KUMB published our ten-point plan to help smooth over the fractured relationship between our powers that be and the Irons fan base, and just a week after THAT video became such a talking point.

But what Sullivan will find is he has to reunite the fan base, fine that love that binds us all together, because that is what the West Ham family is. People who love their club, their old community, the East End, all that.




My own group of fans I drink and travel with are a mixed bunch, two or three multi-millionaires (well one guy owns a bit of Surrey and half a mountain in France these days and was introduced to the number 25 bus on the Mile End Road recently. Priceless.) Thereís a landscape gardeners, an executive plumber (donít ask) and a lad that does things with old peoplesí money and drives a BMW.

All very different. Some who like the new ground (as I keep being told by a lady who reads my stuff here and comments frequently). Some who hate the whole migrations, move, thing. Somehow Sullivan, if he means it, must re-establish that love that binds.

On the clubís site he did annoyingly suggest it was only a Ďsmall numberí who are struggling to adapt. He echoed co-chairman David Goldís comments on TV recently that there would always be a small minority who would resist change. From where I sit, the problem gentlemen is not a small one, but a very fundamental one of how we should be treated, and after Friday, what we are watching..

And now we are getting the lady herself rattling off answers to tweets ten to the dozen, maybe she has stepped in to take control and not allow the sort of Trump Tower twitter frenzy that seems to emanate from the terrible teens at Sullivanís pad.

But it still comes back to the dreadful last transfer window. Put it this way. You are working for a mid-range City firm who decided on a major overhaul of itís staff, wanting a few new big hitters, some mid-range folk to handle the extra workload of moving into the European market and a few kids to push onto the shop floor to learn their trade.

You put a senior board member in charge of the operation and a couple of senior middle management to do the headhunting. Then come Christmas you find that the people employed on big money are not good enough to work in a backstreet porn shop. If that was any firm I have worked for, a few people would be seen carrying their worldly possessions in a box towards Canary Wharf station.

But no, they have been given another crack at it in the next recruitment window. But itís so much harder now. You have to shift out the rubbish, end a few contracts and bring in another group aiming to do what was originally required. But by now the competitors have seen you coming and itís getting an awful lot harder to find the right people at the right price. Seems like thatís what we are facing now.

And now back to Friday, where thousands of people were heading for the exits when Cityís third goal went in. And the resentful atmosphere is now encroaching on my own group. Young lads who, when I retired seven years ago, were happy to let me tag along with their group. Sometimes I have felt ten years younger, sometimes ten years older, but I have loved it all.




But Friday was even too much for them and they were off down the pub, hence my isolation. All around there were vast empty spaces, and I ended talking to a ítouristí, a guy who had come all the way from Istanbul to see his team.

Not really a tourist because he had been a fan since `1960 and was over to see his family for the holidays. I have also enjoyed working in Istanbul and we had a nice chat about Besiktas, Galatasarayís old Ali Sami Yen stadium and the sad state of political unrest in Turkey.

I donít blame my lads from walking out, they are bright, level headed(well sometimes) and good company. But even they had seen enough and blame the current regime for all the problems. But itís not how I want to support my team.

My previous job meant that I rarely took my lads to football because I was working on Saturdays. Now I am retired the wife has told me to go and play golf and get a season ticket. ('For God's sake', was her expression).

I donít know how many active years I have left now to make the long haul from the north west for every game. Itís expensive and these lads, when I first met them, were only bothered about rock and roll, booze, girlfriends and football. Not always in that order.

Now they have mortgages, young wives and even younger children. Responsibilities. So now I can see my little dream of retirement fracturing, and I know who to blame. All this may sound a bit too personal, even emotional blackmail, but sometimes you need to get something off your chest before it is all too late. Maybe it already is.


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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