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Donít look back in anger, look to the resurrection


Filed: Monday, 1st October 2018
By: Paul Walker


If Manuel Pellegrini starts whistling ĎI am the ResurrectionĎ around Rush Green this week, you will know he picked up more than just his love for attacking football from his time in Manchester.

The West Ham boss may never have even heard of the Stone Roses, Manchesterís greatest modern rock band in my view, but he should be aware that he has given this club the one, massive bolt from the blue they craved. The beginning, maybe of a new identity.

The former Manchester City chief has resurrected a club that has been spinning in a downward spiral ever since we left the Boleyn just over two years ago. That wondrous victory in May 2016 over Manchester United being the last of a long line of legendary great moments at the old stadium to be treasured.

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Since then? Nothing. The grand old ground had all the history, the memories, the legend. The London Stadium had the Olympics and Mo, Jessie and Greg, but nothing of a football heritage. Nothing of anything, really.

Performances on the field had been shocking, off the pitch there had been a perception of a fan base being taken for granted, even lied to in some eyes.

West Ham needed a boost, a big kick up the backside to launch us into the future, like it or not. There is no point in the spin from the clubís party line that things are OK, you canít wipe away the negativity and mistrust from a fan base that knows different, that felt they were being conned.

There seemed to be too many people backstage that didnít really understand this club. If you donít know your Billy Dare from your Brian Dear, you should not be telling people how to think about this club.

In the two-and-a-bit years since we left Upton Park, fans have shuffled into the Olympic, now London Stadium, some with reluctance, some havenít come at all. I donít go along with that bit, we are West Ham, this is our club for life, for many the family heritage goes back 100 years. My granddad was at Wembley in Ď23, wasnít everyoneís?

I have long believed that if the product on the pitch is first class, worthy of our support and faith, then there will be momentum to move forward, nobody wants to be miserable and moaning, looking back in anger (thereís another Manc band for you).

We actually love our club and want to be proud of it, but it needs more than being told what to believe, how to think, what to write. And that is a mistake from inside our club thatís counter productive.

Then along comes a manager with a belief in how we should play, how the game should be played. And then, ironically, Manchester United come to town again and get another belting. And donít we love that.

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West Ham has been desperate for something special to hang their hat on, for the London Stadium to start having some sort of football history of itís own. A reason to be cheerful(no, thatís not a Manc band).

Everybody has hung onto the old memories, the ground where our fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers watched their football and lived their lives. So it has needed something magical, something magnificent to help people not just move on, but at least have something new and positive to enjoy.

You may not like the place, you may long for the old days, and I respect all that. But we are lumbered with it for all our lifetimes. If we are to have anything worthy of the name of West Ham United, any meaning, then it has to come from the players, the fans, some sort of unity and desire.

It had to be something big. Something you could say, Ď I was thereí. Up until now a couple of wins over Spurs and Chelsea and Bubbles and his flag are about it. We have been rattling around in an athletics stadium with no soul, and no heating I keep being told by the lads who stand frozen in that open-air concourse trying to sink a beer or two.

We have been moaning about everything, the club engaged in some sort of legal roulette, a different day, a different number, and different legal action to force the owners to adhere to the contract that was so glibly agree to by Boris Johnson and the previous London Tory administration. Sorry to bring politics into this, but itís their flaminí fault.

Itís a contract that is so flawed, itís never going to work, we can all surely see that now and no manner of wriggling by owners, is going to make the thing any better. If nothing else, our litigious board know that, and know they have the LLDC in a legal arm lock.

But along comes Pelle, and Saturday was manna from heaven for the club. What we witnessed was so special, so uplifting, so bloody brilliant, none of us there will ever forget it.

How Manchester United must hate us. Fergie always said he disliked going to Upton Park for a day of ritual abuse and frequent defeats. I made the mistake once of just smiling in one of his press conferences when he said that. He wasnít best pleased, but to his credit, he could see why I reacted momentarily, that way. Maybe the accent gave it away.

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Louis Van Gaal got his marching orders by a phone call in the main stand after that 3-2 defeat in 2016, our last day at the old office. I have been reliably informed of that by a source pretty close to the United hierarchy, who discovered that the clubís American owners had watched the game from across the pond on TV and decided a new manager was needed.

And then there is Jose Mourinho. Youíre not special anymore, pal, are you? But even he has previous with us. He virtually lost his job at Chelsea after his side were defeated at UP, you must remember him having to stand at the back of the directorsí box after being sent from the dug-out.

And now Saturday, when his feud with one upstart player was there for all the see, for us lot to gleefully watch and gloat as Man United fell apart.

What has happened to the Manchester United I love to hate? I have lived in the Manchester area for almost 40 years, and witnessed all Unitedís success , their arrogance and regimented assembling of wealth. I am allowed, I think, to dislike the Old Trafford empire.

But Fergie would never have set up a side like Jose did. Five at the back, became four - and then his defence forgot to mark Arnie. Sometimes you cannot make it up. And all Jose could do was moan about an offside goal, a deflection and a supposed refereeing mistake.

That just about made up for the string of shocking decisions that have befallen us at Old Trafford over the years (remember Kevin Nolan not being offside) when referees were so frightened of the wrath of Fergie, they would let anything go. Tough luck mate, what goes around comes around.

United used to stand for something in English football, glamour, quality, attacking style and flair. Cut away our tribalism for a moment and you have to see that they have a responsibility right back from Matt Busbyís era, a legacy to play the game the right way. Not any more; anti-football Jose has thrown all that away.

While he popped across London after the game to spend the weekend with his family in west London - Mourinho lives in the Lowry Hotel in Salford the rest of the time - his team and officials were discussing his potential sacking on the train ride back north from Euston.

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Me and the lad were indulging in a bottle of wine on the rattler trying not to smirk. No, we did smirk, quite a lot as a matter of fact.

But enough of Man Unitedís woes, what about us? Our best performance in years, Pelle has stuck to his style and vision of how the game should be played, and it fits pretty closely to what I understand as the West Ham way.

And it all came together in a shock wave to give the club the one massive boost it has needed to take that giant step forward. Itís not the next level and all that nonsense, itís a boost to morale and a resurrection of the spirit of West Ham.

It will take more of the same, I accept that. Try not to go overboard people, I am doing enough of that here. There is a long way to go yet.

But you can see what Pelle is trying to do. You can see the plan and the pattern. The system works because Pelle has been brave enough to stick with a rookie central defence in Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena who have learned on the hoof and look an outstanding partnership now.

He has stuck with our Polish íkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, and what a player he clearly is. Assured in the air, quick and alert with some sensational saves and spreading confidence all around him. There were some who resented Adrianís demise, I really canít see that.

Fabianski has over 60 caps for Poland, a decade of European football at Arsenal and has appeared in several major international finals, World Cup and European. Adrian has none of that, and the difference is clear for all to see.

And then there are the two wide attackers, Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko. They have both got themselves fit and in tune with the Premier League and their new surroundings, and look the real deal. They have jobs to do and work hard at them. They track back, they defend the space in front of their full-backs - in particular Yarmolenko, who stops opponents running at Pablo Zabaleta to expose his ageing legs.

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And then there is our skipper, Mark Noble. Everybodyís favourite for the knackers yard, or so it seemed. Canít hear the synchronised abuse from social media anymore, can you? Sure there is still a long way to go. Letís not get ahead of ourselves. But the movement, pace, pressing, quick-fire passing and obvious team spirit is there for all to see.

For some, this London Stadium will never be our home. But it has to be, surely, to give us any sort of purpose. When we produce displays like Saturdayís, and everybody is enjoying the day out, the stadiumís deficiencies are put to one side. Not forgotten, because they are there, but maybe we should see that only so much can be done while we are tenants.

Keep winning like this and the place will be bearable for some, and just fine for others. The distance from the pitch will always be an open sore. But in any big ground of 60,000 seats worldwide, some people are always a long way from the pitch.

And there is something else that Pelle has instilled in this club, as much as the records and the goals from the mauling of Macclesfield.

How many times over the years have we struggled in games like that? Big clubs routinely field a second string, put the game to bed and then send on a couple of kids from the bench for experience. I have watched Liverpool, Manchester United, City, Leeds in their heyday and the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal do this sort of thing without a flinch.

Well, that is what happened last week while the eight goals were going in. No more depending on a miracle free kick in injury time, to save us. There was no scrambling around trying to overcome a lesser clubís toil and effort.

So in a week or so, we have produced an away win on the front foot, a sound defensive display against a top side and now a victory at home that nobody will forget. Oh, and a glut of goals against a minnow.

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David Gold once said that when the side on the pitch canít remember the Boleyn and did not play there for us, things would change a bit. Only two players in the starting line-up on Saturday had played at the Boleyn for the Irons. People like Anderson and Yarmolenko have played in big stadiums like ours in Rome and Kiev all their careers in Europe. They know no different.

Finally this stadium rocked; it felt like a football ground, despite the tarpaulin. It felt a bit, just a little bit, like home.


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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