Sunday, 26th May 2019
Letís not brush things under the carpet
Filed: Saturday, 11th May 2019
Author: Paul Walker
West Ham are easy meat for the comedians now, arenít we? With England having all four finalists in Europeís top competitions... three from London.
And here we are, three seasons into the big move to Stratford from homely old Upton Park and, as a friend put it, we are the highest placed London club not in a European final.
All that ínew levelí talk, which is now being talked of as avoiding relegation battles each season when we all know our board meant Europe and Champions League. In that first summer after we left Upton Park they never stopped banging on about it.
To be fair, itís not been a good week. Liverpool, a club that does not endear itself much to our supporters, manage to destroy Barcelona and reach the Champions League final. It gets worse.
A day later Tottenham, yes the Spuds of all people, do the same to Ajax. It took me hours to string a coherent sentence together, and I hadnĎt even been on the sauce...
It took me all of 24 hours to start behaving like a grown up and to ring my Spurs supporting mate to magnanimously congratulate him, wish him well in the final and then make it clear I didnít want to hear another flaminí word from him on the subject. Ever.
And then On Thursday, Arsenal and Chelsea book themselves a Europa League final spot just down the road in Baku.
So that leaves our goodselves with an amazing new claret carpet to show for our season. See, itís too easy to take the Michael. You have to laugh, otherwise the suicide rate amongst our tribe would go sky-high.
Four English clubs in the finals will do nothing to lessen UEFAís barely suppressed anger at the horrendous financial imbalance that now exists between the Sky League and the rest of Europe.
As we speak they are trying to put a stop to all that, by having a closed shop Champions League that allow the impoverished old legends to compete without all that messy business involving qualifying and winning matches.
You could sense the general unrest across the channel by the remark from the Ajax coach, Erik ten Hag, when he was told Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino had been moaning it was unfair that the Dutch club had the weekend off to prepare for the CL second leg, and Spurs had to play a match.
Hag just hit back with: "We get £10m a season from our TV deal, Spurs get £120m. Thatís what I call really unfair." That just about sums up Europeís attitude to us, and it is only going to get worse. I think they are more bothered about that than Brexit.
But for us, the club who were looking to reach the next level after moving to the then Olympic Stadium, we have got a pre-season tournament in China to look forward to. Thatís about it.
You can see how easy it is now to be the butt of jokes. Maybe, for a start, it would be a good idea to stop trying to take the piss out of Spurs. You know the form, empty trophy cabinet, bottlers, embarrassing sense of entitlement, renting Wembley (where they seem to have made an extra £150m to spend on players), two transfer windows without buying a player, new stadium months behind schedule, West Ham scarves buried in the concrete.
I sense, folks, they are not listening to us at the moment.
It hasnít been helped by our board snipping at them at seemingly every opportunity. How often has Lady Brady commented about the cost of their new stadium, the expensive season tickets and the massive debt? And then there was that time when David Levy asked to rent Upton Park while their new gaff was being built. How we all revelled in the "over our dead body" reaction from the board.
Somehow, I donít think Levy cares a jot about all that now. His club have been in Europe for a decade, they are established top six, and their new stadium is pretty special and bigger than our rented number in Stratford.
Plus they have also shown with their much-ridiculed prudence, how to build a young, vibrant squad by buying from the lower divisions. Maybe we should start trying to copy their blueprint rather them hurl abuse their way. It's a bit embarrassing now, donít you think?
Letís just concentrate on ourselves and how we can improve and progress. And look to the positives (I know, not my style but I am still shocked to the core by what Spurs did in Amsterdam).
If only that kid goalkeeper, Andre Onana hadnít tried all that obvious time wasting deep into injury time. (So obvious the referee booked him and wasnít having any of it.) He put on another minute. Need I say more. A bit of rolling around, getting the ball in the corners and faking a bit of injury would not have gone amiss.
You can tell it has affected me badly...
I recall Scottish international Denis Law, when England were playing in the World Cup Final in 1966 deciding to go and play golf instead. I know just how he feels about this Champions League final.
Ok, the positives. This has been a better season than the last one. The football has been more entertaining and new players such as Lukasz Fabianski, Fabian Balbuena, Felipe Anderson, Issa Diop and Ryan Fredericks have been successes.
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Anderson, for all the complaints about him not liking a tackle, has still scored ten goals from the wing and produced some lovely control, inventive play and pace. By comparison, I noticed recently that Dimitri Payet, in that marvellous last season at the Boleyn , was top scorer with 12.
We do keep making the mistake, I feel, in comparing everything that has gone on this season with that last campaign at Upton Park. A seventh place finish, the best in the past 13 seasons and the highest points tally - 62 - ever achieved in our Premier League history (thatís since 93-94.)
It may be a bit unfair to keep throwing that in everyoneís face. Best to say that, since the move and a very turbulent three seasons, this is our highest points tally and best home record.
Today (Friday) was the third anniversary of Sir Bobby turning out the Boleyn lights and many still harp back to the good old days. Without denigrating all that, it has become a bit boring and with no solution.
We are where we are, itís not going to change much and the stadium is becoming more user friendly, tarted up a bit like a football ground. We have all settled in, so to speak. We have found new watering holes, our own way in and out of the stadium and Olympic Park (basically you are mad to go anywhere near Stratford tube).
Itís not going to get much better, apart from the fans zones and a much improved outside concourse - the inside one is still bloody freezing if you hadnít noticed, thereís even a wine bar now just outside my entrance.
The prices? Well everyone moans, but all arenas like ours around the country has high prices, you either pay up or use a local pub (and there are plenty on the Mile End Road).
So you can see I am getting used to the new 'home', itís not the old place where my grand father, my dad, uncles, my brother and then me and the lad gathered for many years. If you want to argue about why we are here, who has made the money and why, you are wasting brain cells because no amount of moaning now will change things.
I suppose we have all made the most of it, best we can.
As for the football, we shouldnít allow for the on-and-off field problems we have to be brushed under the carpet (boom, boom).But with a bit of luck, basically beating Watford and hoping Liverpool beat Wolves, we are going to miss out on European qualification by about five points and finish ninth.
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The injury problems have, again, been horrendous and a string of shocking refereeing decisions no better. We can all see where we could, should, have picked up another three or four wins, without the alarming swings of consistency. And then everyone would be looking forward to Europe.
So letís all close our ears and eyes to the possible arrival in London of both major European trophies and just hope Manuel Pellegrini has got his summer transfer targets all nicely lined up and we get rid of some of the deadwood.
Yeah, I know - chance would be a fine thing.