Sunday, 26th May 2019
The decade ahead
Filed: Wednesday, 8th May 2019
Author: Rob Barlow

West Ham’s golden years; the 2020s? Unlikely.

For equally lengthy spells in the 2018/19 season it has felt like one that has been as progressive as it has been regressive. This won’t come as a great surprise to many, not just at West Ham, but at clubs suffering from similarly inconsistent weekly showings.

The difference is that our supposed summer transfer kitty of just £25million, plus any income through sales, looks quite likely to leave us falling behind our closer, more wealthy competitors.

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It is understandable that the SuGo hierarchy don’t have infinite resources. The club is one of the best-run football businesses in Europe without having a billionaire owner pumping tens of thousands into it year in year out.

But this is exactly where a season of spending upwards of £100million and seeing little more than a half pace forward sets us back.

Where Wolverhampton Wanderers, Everton and Leicester City appear to have that added financial clout provided by a foreign tycoon I think the Premier League is going to experience wholesale change at the top end, if not immediately, in the next five years or so.

The cliched 'top six' is set to be disrupted, I for one envisage it growing into a regular distinguished top eight. Particularly with the recent struggles Manchester United and Arsenal have experienced. Failing to qualify for Champions League football, and boasting defences strictly worse than some of those in mid-table.

I expect, with the continued stability of the financial structure at a club like Wolves or Leicester and what with the quality of players they have at their disposal already, they will be seeing a much higher standard of football much more often.

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Whether they breach the top four is not clear, but it wouldn’t come as any surprise for me to see them become staple clubs in the Europa League over the next decade or so.

What remains to be seen is whether West Ham will find themselves in and amongst these top sides, or stranded in the mid-table slots we’ve stumbled into for the last few years.

And whilst I’d always like to remain optimistic there isn’t much at the moment suggesting we will reach that level before these teams do.

I have been the greatest advocate for Manuel Pellegrini’s appointment during what really is a transitional stage in the club’s history. I personally don’t feel there is a better manager out there to build the foundations of a club that can compete at the biggest stage.

Both Pellegrini and Mario Husillos have their biggest career challenges off the pitch awaiting them this summer.

Our saving grace and what separates us from the Leicesters and Evertons of this world comes in the shape of our home.

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We similarly have a very capable squad in the works already, that have now had a year of experience playing alongside each other in the Premier League. This is only set to improve, with Pellegrini already monitoring personnel that could bolster our defence.

But with the added appeal of being based in London and with one of the biggest stadiums in the capital, there is room to attract players to our project.

Under the current regime I think we can expect a few more years of mid-table football in the top flight.

But while a few more years of consolidation may not be the music to Hammers fans' ears that we’d hoped for in the build up to Pellegrini’s reign or even when we departed the Boleyn, it could be far worse for the club as we endeavour to improve the match day experience in what still should be regarded our "new" home.

What it really means is that Cup competitions now have a far greater effect on the success of our season as a whole.

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My backing of Pellegrini and my overall opinion of his work since he joined the club has been wholly positive.

If where we go from here does leave us behind the wealthier trio mentioned before, the Chilean should be looking to the Cup competitions as an alternative avenue into European football and also as a way to kickstart the success promised when we left Upton Park.

After almost forty years without silverware and the ironic celebration of our 1980 FA Cup Anniversary set to be the theme of 2019/20, ending the trophy drought should be at the forefront of the minds of everyone associated with the club.

It has to happen sometime, anytime soon would be greatly received Manuel..

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