West Ham: Lord of the Rings

The 'Big Six' mock West Ham’s self-declared, semi-ironic “massive” moniker at their own peril. After beating Liverpool and Chelsea in the Premier League and dispatching both Manchesters on the road to the FA Cup Semi Final, the path to silverware rambles on through West Ham.

Middle Eastern monarchies, Russian Oligarchs, American Tycoons, and a plethora of corporate entities masquerading under nom de plumes such as “The National Investment Fund Association” dominate English football. So when West Ham, a historical underdog, imposes themselves upon a story fit for kings, the drama unfurls like an emotional roller coaster set in Middle Earth.


As someone who commutes via car through Washington D.C. I already possess an unhealthy disdain for cyclists’ ability to get in the way. Neal Maupay only made that rage burn brighter with his 89th minute bicycle which was as impressive as it was painful to watch.

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The frustrating result meant West Ham earned just one point from the previous three Premier League games. My split personalities bicker between themselves much the same way a CGI character from Lord of the Rings would.

The irrational side, an erratic, sun-starved, bug-eyed golem, exclaimed through gritted teeth and cascading spittle, “We let precious slip through our fingers! Three points from the top with only 27 weeks to go! The nasty little hobbitses Gündogan and Maupay tooks it from us.”

“This run of form used to be familiar.” rationalised Smeagol. Smeagol was fighting a war that was already lost but still had battles worth giving voice to. “We should be happy that recent results are more aberration than expectation.” (I’m not sure Smeagol’s vocabulary includes the word “aberration,” but the human desire for rhymes is more important than staying in character.)

Golem prepares a witty repartee that is interrupted by a coughing fit. The moment lost, he mutters curses under his breath, places a $50 bet on Chelsea to win straight up, and slithers away into the darkness… for now.

Then the Chelsea game kicked off. Antonio decides to utilise the corner kick’s break in open play to search the stands for a cardboard cut out of himself, leaving Thiago Silva wide open for an uncontested header in the process. Golem glares gleefully towards Smeagol, displaying a Cheshire grin with more gaps than a Manuel Pellegrini defense. No words are necessary to express how much of a fool Smeagol takes him for.

But West Ham’s press forces Jorginho into an imperfect back pass that Kepa makes a meal out of. Bowen jumps on the ball, and the £71million goalie brings down Jarrod for a penalty. Lanzini converts a confident spot kick, exchanges pleasantries with Reece James, Thomas Tuchel greets a floating bubble with more misery than I could ever imagine, and it's game on. Just need to close out this half and...

Hope is lost. I blame Fabianski for failing to stop a Mason Mount one-timer that was struck so pure it could wear white on its wedding day. I blame Diop for losing track of Mason Mount. I blame Declan for carelessly losing possession in the middle of the park. I blame Ben Johnson for deciding now is the time to pick up an injury. Surely, he could have waited until the Burnley game next week, which we will probably also lose.

In the States, former Everton goalie Tim Howard joins NBC’s halftime coverage and recounts what it's like to be on the receiving end of a David Moyes half time adjustment.

Maybe tirade is a better word for it. Objects are tossed about in disgust. Players are called out. Blame is placed, but unlike my useless shouts into the void, they are accompanied by structural context meant to provide improvements moving forward.

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As the two sides exit the tunnel for the second half, Rebecca Lowe reminds me that you can get West Ham at +1500 to win. I take a $5 flier not because I enjoy gambling, but because it would be financial mismanagement akin to “Doing a Leeds” to pass down on such great value.

West Ham change shape, and it's game on. Jarrod Bowen scores yet again. I am a bit nervous that it will be difficult to keep a hold of the 24-year-old fan favourite if he keeps this up. However, I take solace in doubts that TV personality Dani Dyer, whose relationship with Jarrod Bowen became Instagram official within hours of the match, wants to leave London.

All tied up at 2-2, this was anyone’s game. In the 87th minute the ball traveled out of play in Chelsea’s third. A ball boy rises to the occasion, gathers the ball like he has a date with destiny and swiftly dispatches it to Arthur Masuaku before Chelsea can regroup. It is fitting that in the battle for Middle Earth, King Arthur’s totally intentional shot and not an errant cross proved to be the decisive blow.

My reaction was similar to Charlie Walsh, a streamer whose live reaction was a delightful, uncontrollable giggle. Because of course this is how West Ham scores its third goal against the best team in the league after scoring once against Brighton and Wolverhampton.

This season West Ham has won - not a tie posing as a moral victory, but won - against five of the 'Top Six'.

Victory at the O2 on December 15th would give West Ham a chance at toppling all of the 'Top Six' for the first time since… Ever! (Disclaimer: Due to pandemic-induced revenue declines I could not muster the resources necessary to validate such a claim. But I am looking at bringing in a research assistant during the transfer window on a loan with an option to buy.)

Although I did find that there are only six squads in Premier League history that have beaten every team in a season, and each of those is themselves a member of the 'Top Six'.

Looking Ahead

On paper, the road ahead is a busy one. Akin to driving around Washington D.C. in America, taking the Blackwell Tunnel in London, or taking the Black Gate to Mordor. But after mentally going through massive wins against the big clubs, I took a look at our remaining fixture list’s strength of schedule compared to the other 19 teams. Lo and behold, West Ham’s is the third easiest.

While West Ham have no say in the One Ring to Rule Them All this season, 2021/22 could act as a prequel for the opera-theme-songed spectacle that is the Champions League.

Two paths - a top four finish in the Premier League or, dare I say it, four more Europa League wins to be crowned champions - would take West Ham (Yes, West Ham!) to stadiums such as the Santiago Bernabeu, San Siro, or Allianz Arena.

I see no end to my personal struggle between delusions of grandeur and rational expectations. If it's anything like Smeagol’s descent into madness, at least Golem ends up dying happy in the end, holding the One Ring to Rule Them All.

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