That’s entertainment - well, almost

This ‘next level’. Has David Moyes taken us there, and how much further can he take West Ham under the current regime? Billionaires all in a row but desperately looking to sell shares, make a killing and drag in new investment.

Whether he goes or stays is still undecided, but he’s still done exactly what owner David Sullivan has wanted and secured the Premier League cashflow regardless of what a new Government imposed regulator may decide. Sullivan’s sceptical views on that have been aired once again.

He doesn’t believe a government, who cannot run a bath properly should be involved in trying to influence the running of football. He may have a point.

Meanwhile, we’ve lost one of our last six, reached the Europa League quarter finals, lost just seven of our last 26 matches, including five defeats in our last 18 league games and are clinging onto seventh spot in the Premier League with nine games left.

For what it’s worth, looking at our final league games which include Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Spurs and Newcastle, I fear we may end up in tenth spot. But then, what do I know.

And also now we’ve got two Euro quarter final games with Bayer Leverkusen, arguably the best form team in Europe this season and maybe, just maybe a semi final with AC Milan or Roma and a final in Dublin - we’re coming for you, Liverpool - to climax a season which should have seen Moyes sacked months ago in many eyes.

Now I know I’m asking for dog's abuse here, but back in November 2017 when the Scot arrived in Stratford, with West Ham heading for relegation, could any of us dare to have dreamed we would be where we are now with three successive European campaign and a trophy?

Oh, and just a point about Europe, we now have a coefficient ranking by UEFA of 23. The 5-0 win over Freiburg was our seventh home last 16 European win in our history. Sparta Prague (1965), Olympiacos (1966), Yerevan (1976), Timisoara (1981), Seville (2022), Larnaca (2023) and now Freiburg.

Those of us, like me, who have seen all of those games, know just how much they should be treasured. And, we’ve lost only seven of 42 home European games in our history, and Moyes has won 26 of 35 European ties, a 74 per cent success rate.

Now I know the Moyes Out gang don’t like statistics, because they can’t argue against them., We just drift into yet another long, boring debate about football ideology.

And that’s where we start making ourselves a laughing stock. The football industry, pundits - paid, not surprisingly, to have controversial views - and football fans in general are baffled by what’s going on. We’ve actually been voted into the top four of most entitled fans recently, and that used to be the domain of Liverpool, Manchester United and Spurs.

I spent some 50 years in and around footballers and managers when I was working for a living, and never once heard anyone talk in terms of entertaining. Winning and points is the currency of the industry and that’s what Moyes has done, like it or not. That’s entertainment, he might say.

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Of course everything is not perfect. Why on earth should it be, but the constant tsunami of abuse from GammonFM and the YouTubers - and that’s not even a good name for a rock band - would have you think otherwise.

I’ve taken something of a back seat recently, family illness has meant a lot of quality time with the latest granddaughter, two-and-a-half and as cute as they come. She’s introduced me to a lot of her little friends from kid’s TV. To be honest, they possess more brain cells that some of the Moyes Out contributors.

In fact, I don’t even believe there’s a Moyes In body, it just seems the bulk of our support have given up arguing the points. They are rational, pragmatic, know what we are up against and don’t have any hang-ups about style of play and footballing ideology.

I’ve even noticed more than a few biting back at the shouty, annoying, moaning, whinnying one - a shoe-in for Bing - even if he doesn’t have floppy ears. Then there’s the Twirlywoos,who seem to managed the odd repetitive word and struggle to put sentences together. There’s a few of them out there in ‘angry West Ham land.’

And when one of the usual suspects starts moaning about Moyes not coaching "perfect" goals, rather than "chaos" football, my patience wears thin. Over 30 per cent of goals are from set pieces or corner, and by far the best exponents are Manchester City and Liverpool, so I’m struggling to get the point. Basically their lives revolve around finding something, anything, to blame Moyes for.

But back to entertainment. Sometimes it‘s worth waiting a bit before jumping into the usual criticism. Burnley was a dreadful first half, but a cracking second period. Described by one mate as the most exciting 45 minutes he’d seen in ages, and we could have scored ten.

Then there was the cracker against Freiburg and Mohammed Kudus’ fantastic goal. Were you not entertained? The Aston Villa game was also exciting, we were outstanding in the first-half and in the end did well to take a point from a side who have been in the top four most of the season.

But all you heard afterwards was that Moyes should have brought on Danny Ings for Michail Antonio, on the strength of a decent half hour against Burnley. Now Jarrod Bowen is clear second choice front man now, and Ings doesn’t have the pace and power to do Antonio’s job.

Losing Antonio, Emerson and Lucas Paqueta in that second period was as much the cause of Villa taking a point as anything else. Villa had better players off the bench than we had in Lucas Digne, Moussa Diaby, Matty Cash and Nicolo Zaniolo who, incidentally, should have been sent off for two yellows.

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And then there’s the VAR nonsense again. Twice against Sheffield United, twice against Burnley, once against Freiburg and now twice against Villa. The one I question is that last one, five minutes and 34 seconds of deliberation.

Antonio was partly right in his view that a hand ball deflected to a scorer is not a black and white case. Dermot Gallagher on Sky confirmed that VAR threw it back to Aussie referee Jared Gillett and asked him to decide whether Tomas Soucek’s handball was deliberate, because that decision becomes subjective.

So, in effect, he was asked to guess. And at that point, VAR becomes pointless.

I wanted its introduction, to end the belief that referees favoured the big clubs. We now have technology that works and officials on the pitch and at Stockley Park who still make errors. It takes far too long, it destroys the atmosphere to the point when fans no longer celebrate goals until VAR has decided. There needs to be a time limit at the very least, or just bin the whole thing.

As for us and entertainment, this past week we have swung from acrimony to delirium and back to more acrimony. It’s wearing, it is strangling the enjoyment for our fans. But if you can’t find entertainment in the situation we are in, at a higher level because we are no longer in relegation battles, then I’m concerned for you.

Like it or not, Moyes has done what this board want and that’s stability while they are figuring out ways to sell their shares and find new sources of income.

The Qatar interest, first revealed by Martyn Ziegler in The Times back in October/November has never gone away and is once against being touted. But I find it hard to believe that that sort of ‘new money’ will be happy with a deal that does not give them overall control.

Sharing equally with David Sullivan and Danny Kretinsky, with the Gold shares likely to support Sullivan does not seem to be the best way to bring new funds into the club.

But at least we are not involved in the FFP problems that have hit Everton and Nottingham Forest, with Leicester, Everton (again), Villa and Newcastle under scrutiny. And having sold players during the last window and not replaced them seems just the sort of thinking that Sullivan is known for.

A couple of new faces in the window could have gone a long way to cementing another season in Europe, it may still happen, but there’s this lingering doubt that we have blown another great opportunity. But that’s entertainment for you!

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