Reasons to be cheerful

Pretty good, that feeling when we were third in the Premier League. It may have lasted only for about 30 hours, but it was special all the same.

From the end of our match with Swansea on Sunday, to the finish of Manchester United's very fortunate win at Southampton the following evening only Chelsea and champions Manchester City were higher than us in the table.

And all the back of a remarkable run of 27 points from our first 15 games. We already know it is the best start in the Premier League era, frankly a record that does not really impress me very much.

It means since the 1992-93 season, records that were invented only for Sky's benefit so they could market their newly branded tournament, as if the rest of football history doesn't matter.

But 27 from 15 games is also better than our best-ever season of 85-86, when we finished third. So it's getting better. That campaign saw us make a poor start, winning only one of the first seven before winning 12 of the next 14.

So how good is this current run? Now I have too much time on my hands, I know, so I started to look back season by season, and for the sake of a level playing field, worked on a three points for a win system.

And the outcome is amazing. On only three occasions since West Ham were formed in the 1900-01 season, have we had a better start to a campaign. I know there are better, more organised, stats men out there than me working on West Ham's behalf, so I hope there is not a mistake here.

But the point is clear. This is some opening record. I have only taken into account seasons we have spent in the Premier League or the top flight of either the Football league or Southern League, for obvious reason, which does rule out some impress stuff under Billy Bonds in the old second division.

Back in the 1910-11 season of the Southern League we compiled a 31 point start. We never got anywhere near close to that in our opening campaigns in the Football League after the First World War, until we were relegated in 1931-32. There was then a 26 year gap before Ted Fenton's side won promotion back to the top flight in 57-58.

They call them the elite years ever since (really great book that, and I wish there was an updated version).

In those first two seasons after promotion in the late '50s, when Bobby Moore was starting his career, we managed 25 and 27 point starts, finishing sixth and 14th.

But right through the golden era under Ron Greenwood, nothing got close, even though we were winning the FA Cup and the European Cup Winners' Cup. Those of us who were around then known only too well that league form was a lottery.

Not until the 75-76 season, when we reached our second European final did we manage a 31 point start in 15 games. Mind you, we finished 18th and didn't win a league game in the last 16, that Cup Winners' Cup run to a losing final in Brussels clearly the priority.

Since then only a 30 point start in the 83-84 season tops the current campaign. The 85-86 season produced 26 points and a third placed finish. One other stat from the season was that our average home gate was just 21,992. Times have certainly changed. I really do hope I have not made a mistake in all this, I'm sure someone will tell me.

But the point is that what Big Sam and our team have managed this term is pretty special. Of course we all know this is only a start, there is a long way to go, and we will have to win our next six on the trot to keep up with the much-acclaimed boys of '86.

Frankly I am just grateful for what we have seen so far. The last week of three wins has been memorable. This time last season, again there were three games in a week, and we beat Fulham, lost badly at Crystal Palace and then were trounced at Liverpool, 4-1, with Kevin Nolan sent-off.

Things certainly have turned around in 12 months. And the side has changed dramatically. For that game at Liverpool, only Stewart Downing, Nolan and James Tomkins started last Sunday's win over Swansea.

For the Palace game we were seeing the beginning of the end of the Ravel Morrison experiment. He was kicked about, lost his cool and was lucky not to be sent-off at the end of the Selhurst Park match.

What we have now is a fitter, stronger, faster, more adaptable squad. It has cost money, sure, but we have to praise Sam and the Board for what they did in the summer. Gambles have paid off, but you need some luck along the way.

And the best has been the recovery of Andy Carroll and the great potential of a partnership with Diafra Sakho, plus the outstanding form and match control of Alex Song.

Carroll's display was a joy to watch. There was plenty of long ball, 36 crosses and a constant aerial threat. Play like that last season got plenty of abuse. But now were are seeing debates about the high technical ability needed, especially from Carroll, to make that system work.

Gary Neville on the box is full of praise, Sam Wallace--a very good young writer on the Indy, has written a profound piece saying there is nothing wrong with this method of attack.

Certainly we are more adaptable and there is greater possession and thought from the back. But nobody can say they were not entertained last weekend by seeing Carroll scare the life out of Swansea's defence, with Sakho's pace and desire an outstanding contribution.

And, of course, Sam is now media darling again. There he was on Saturday doing his knowing grandfather bit alongside Jamie Redknapp on Sky's coverage of the Manchester City-Everton game. Then there was a decent interview, again on Sky, from a posh restaurant somewhere in the City ahead of the Swansea match. He admitted that if this season's first ten games had gone wrong, he would have been on his way.

And then he was even on Breakfast TV helping Ben Shephard celebrate his birthday. This time last year TV would have run a mile when given the chance to have a supposed old dinosaur on the box.

Sam's re-birth is almost complete. Our team is being praised by all, and the usual relegation fight has long been replaced by serious discussion about flights to Europe. Just keep it going lads, you have got a lot to live up to now.

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