The Blame Game

Composing one’s thoughts after the Brighton debacle is no mean feat. Several days on and my mind is still only in marginally less disarray than those wearing claret and blue were on Saturday.

I toyed with an article on Ben Johnson, culpable for goals against the Seagulls and that other United, yet also a leading graduate from the hallowed Academy that everyone seems to think should be feeding more players into the first team.

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Similarly, I started something on Benrahma, about whom opinion oscillates between skilful superstar and spineless show pony but for me is just a bit… meh. In the end, I discarded individual appraisals on the tenet of 'win as a team, lose as a team', which brought me round to thinking, well, who then do we blame for the current predicament?

Let’s begin with the players’ representative, club captain Declan Rice. I’m not blaming Declan for team performances. That would be daft. But there are many who are of the opinion that he’s not captaincy material. Stepping into the shoes of club legend Mark Noble would prove difficult for anyone, let alone a lad just turned 24 whose side are on an alarming slump.

On the pitch though, Rice has effectively been captain for the past two years. His leadership qualities were extolled when we were winning! Those same qualities don’t just evaporate, although they are being severely tested. And is there another obvious captain waiting in the wings?

Well, there needs to be, on the assumption that Rice is off in the summer, and therein lies half the problem – it’s easy to question the commitment of someone who won’t commit to you, but based on individual performance it would be unfair to doubt the dedication of someone who’s our best player practically every game.

The recrimination over the post-match media, largely taken out of context, was a bit like a lovers’ tiff – Dec’s passion was evident in how pissed off, and perhaps unguarded, he was while certain supporters wilfully misinterpreted his words to weaponise them against someone they know is soon to jilt them.

If Dec took a few of the supporters’ blows at the weekend, the biggest punchbag remains Mr Moyes. Like Benrahma, the player he supposedly victimises yet picks nearly every week, judgement has swung wildly between Moyesiah and dinosaur. Naturally the fanbase is leaning much more towards the latter right now, but the truth no doubt lies somewhere in between.

Ironically, reaction to his set-up against Brighton was more favourable than I’ve seen in quite some time. And then look what happened!

Many wanted him gone before the World Cup. Patient sections of support were willing to give him more time but no-one would have been surprised or desperately upset if he had been sacked after the Brentford, Wolves or Tottenham matches. Which brings us to those who do the hiring and firing...

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Surely David Sullivan would have been stewing over Saturday’s result. Even if we were to take at face value the common belief that he’s in it for the money and will be counting his cash come May, relegation would hit him hard in the pocket. Is a man who sanctioned spending nearly £10m on Jordan Hugill really going to baulk at the reported £7m it would cost to get rid of Moyes if he thought it would dramatically improve the chances of staving off relegation?

The echoes of Avram Grant count against him, although in the quickfire culture of modern-day football I have a grudging respect for his refusal to push Moyes through a revolving door of managers. On the day that Slaven Bilić became the seventh Watford manager sacked since Moyes began his second stint, some online influencers (sarcastically?) suggested the club turn to someone we’ve already hounded out. It may be a circus but at least the big top is semi-stable!

Does Daniel Křetínský escape blame? He’s had his feet under the table long enough now without affecting any discernible change. How long will he be given if/when he becomes majority shareholder?

The one constant, of course, is us: the fans. We wear that as a badge of honour, and rightly so, the fans are a club’s DNA. But perhaps it ought to prompt a degree of soul searching too. Regardless of players, manager or owner, why is it the West Ham way to constantly balls things up?!

Paying fans deserve a lot better than what’s been dished up so far this season and are perfectly entitled to demand better. Where, though, does supporter influence start and finish? Do our demands add to a toxic atmosphere? Should we show support no matter what? Win as a team, lose as a team?

Where does the buck stop? We can make our feelings known and can go a long way to getting a manager the sack without having to actually issue the P45. The owner can make that change but exerts scant influence over the playing staff. The manager picks the team but can’t physically put the ball in the back of the net or mark the man at the back post.

Which ultimately brings us back to the players... Maybe I should have stuck with the original article ideas!

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