Good luck Julen: you are going to need it

Only at West Ham, eh? In with the brave new world, out with the old and then smack between the eyes, a crisis we all hoped had gone away ruins what should have been a confidence-boosting day.

Welcome to West Ham, Julen Lopetegui. It gets like this a lot, but like all fans I wish you and your team every ounce of luck in the world. I desperately want to see West Ham prosper under your control, just like I’ve felt for every manager from Ted Fenton to now in my lifetime.


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The day started so well. The worst kept secret in football was confirmed when Lopetegui was confirmed as our new head coach. David Moyes was consigned to history, four seasons - 6th, 7th, 14th, 9th and a European trophy = couldn’t outweigh a dreadful last half of the season which would have seen most managers axed.

But it’s never as clear cut as that at West Ham. Lopetegui had walked out on Wolves last August after a issue with promises of money and transfer targets. The former Spain and Real Madrid chief had let it be known to his staff that he wanted to hang around in the UK to see what other opportunities came along.

It seems, says Jacob Steinberg in the Guardian, that Tim Steidten was recommending Lopetegui to David Sullivan as a replacement for Moyes in October, little more than a couple of months since he quit Molineux.

I don’t doubt for a second that Moyes knew, and you can bet the players were aware of the situation. At that point they were doing well in Europe, were in a run that saw them beat Arsenal twice as well as Spurs and Manchester United, and you would be forgiven for thinking that the downward spiral of the season started around that time.

The last ashes were at Manchester City on Sunday when we witnessed a great side win the title. At least we survived the expected battering and even had a magestic Mo Kudus goal to celebrate.

It was a fine day, a chance of a lovely day out in the sun with both my sons and a few mates, and a chance to see the amazing improvements to Ancoats where I spent 30 years working, that the oil money has achieved. But that’s another complex story not really for these pages.

But since then the old world of Moyes and his staff have gone. It’s what always happens in modern football when one manager goes, so does his staff. Kevin Nolan, Billy McKinley, John Heitinga and Henry Newman from the coaching staff have been axed. As has Head of Recruitment Rob Newman, Alan Irvine, fitness coach Nick Davies and performance analysis James Osman.


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Lopetegui arrives with a galaxy of Spanish staff. Pablo Sanz, assistant head coach; Oscar Caro; Juan Vicente Peinado; Borja De Alba and Edu Rubio. Goalkeeper coach Xavi Valero and coach Mark Robson have survived the cull. Lopetegui starts officially on 1 July and will take his squad soon after to the US for matches against Wolves and Crystal Palace.

So the times are changing. West Ham staged a glitzy announcement, an interview with the new head coach all over Sky - and then the shock of Lucas Paqueta’s FA charges hit.

Many of us felt that had gone away. He was interviewed by the FA back in September and handed over his phone as they investigated allegations of betting fraud. He claims total innocence and the club are supporting him.

But the more you hear about the charges, the more worrying the situation is. You sense this is far more serious than was first thought. But it’s best not to dig any deeper, he has until 3 June to lodge an appeal and, if he does, there will be a three-man hearing to decide where we go from here.

The situation has done little to help the new coach to settle in. It seems the possible £85m move to Manchester City would have helped boost the transfer budget, but that is hardly likely to happen now.

So Lopetegui's plans, alongside Steidten's, are in disarray. As usual we are told there is little money and transfers will have to be funded by other sales. Jarrod Bowen is being linked with Newcastle United while the club will be desperate to hang onto Kudus.

This is not the scenario that Lopetegui was anticipating, and the irony that he quit Wolves last summer after being denied the budget he was expecting is not lost on some.


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He wants to bring in six to eight players, and the list has spread far and wide. Ademola Lookman, Atlanta’s hat-trick hero in the Europa League final is a target, along with Marcus Edwards of Sporting Lisbon. Fabricio Bruno from Brazilian club Flamingo, Stuttgart’s Serhou Guirassy, Hull’s Jacob Greaves, Wolves skipper Max Kilman and Coventry’s Callum O’Hare are all being considered, it is believed.

Another ‘keeper is wanted and a left winger. But all this costs money and the Paqueta issue has pulled the rug from under Lopetegui’s feet.

A retained list is due next month and those freed are expected to include Ben Johnson, Angelo Ogbonna and Divin Mubama. Arron Cresswell has been offered a one-season contract extension, which he has accepted.

So the issues of squad depth, age and numbers still have to be addressed, and we will see whether Steidten lives up to all the hype now he has to contend with a seemingly truncated budget thanks to the Paqueta issue.

How many of our youth players make the grade is another issue. The constant clamouring for kids to play I feel is irrational. Very few teenagers are playing in the Premier League and despite all the noise, there does not seem to be any real pressure from within the club to throw in the youngsters. One suggestion that there are ten who can move up is nonsense.

History suggests youth should not be over-hyped. Back in 1963 when we won the Youth Cup for the first time, only John Sissons and Harry Redknapp from that team forged a genuine first team career. In 1999, the next time the cup was lifted, just Joe Cole and Michael Carrick made that jump to regular first team level.

Now of this current crop, George Earthy has always been considered the best, and we have seen encouraging signs there. The rest will need time.

All this will give Steidten and Lopetegui plenty to think about now. Plain sailing it never is at West Ham.

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