Written Adam Leatherbarrow @_ldesign

Hello you and welcome to my first article for The West Ham Way. Firstly, I’d like to express my pleasure to write for such an established fan site and to work alongside EX. Sites such as “TWHW” gives us the platform to be able to share my thoughts and opinions on a club we all share a love for. I hope you enjoy my maiden article for the site and hopefully will be able to post a lot more often.

If you’re unaware of me, then please allow me to introduce myself to you. I’m a blooded West Ham fan brought up from Romford, Essex. My main profession has actually nothing to do with football or West Ham, I’m currently an Architectural Designer and have been for the past decade working on residential schemes from bespoke extensions to large master planning developments. Apart from the wife, Architecture takes up a huge part of my life. Any spare time I get, I share my passion with the beautiful game and West Ham. My main “goal” (excuse the pun) in my life, is to be able to be a main design consultant on Stadia Architectural projects; being able to merge my love for Sport and Architecture on a more regular basis.

An interesting fact about myself is that I’m the FIRST and ONLY person to have designed a stadium (single handily) purely for Three-Sided Football – a take on the conventional modern game we see today. I’ve featured in Four-Four-Two Magazine and I have also been on TalkSport talking about my design! Cool eh?!

For the past years in my spare time, I have been writing all things West Ham related on fan site West Ham World talking about Transfer Rumours, Transfer Opinions, Game previews, Kit reviews and statistical articles. Some have received good reviews, some have fired up fans for games and some have infuriated fans… All reactions (good and bad) is always a positive thing with my articles because it shows the passion within our fan base, even if it is keyboard bashing!

So let’s start with an easy article… a breakdown of the 2017-18 Fixtures!

The fixtures have been out for a few days now and some interesting dates have been highlighted. 12th August we visit Manchester United to open our campaign and it’s not the first time we have played a top 6 side on the opening day. We played Chelsea (lost 2-1) last Season, Arsenal (won 0-2) before that and Spurs (lost 1-0) before that, so it’s safe to say that we have a tough opener! Manchester United do however start slow so maybe playing one of our hardest games on day one might not be as bad as we think.

Due to the Athletics being held at the London Stadium, West Ham first three games will be away from home, which means that the team will be making a total round trip of 1,222 miles in the first three weeks of the season! Playing the first three games away also means that Slaven will make his 100th appearance as boss at Newcastle. If we can get a minimum 4 points, I think the club will have done well considering the amount of travelling they will do. After an extensively travelled set of fixtures, there will be a well-timed international break between 28th August to 5th September where England will play Malta on 1st September and Slovakia on 4th September.

Once the first international break of the season has occurred, West Ham will FINALLY get to play their first home game of the season against newly promoted Huddersfield Town. The month of September will be kind to West Ham as we will be playing 75% of our monthly fixtures at home. The only away game of the month will be playing a well drilled Tony Pulis West Bromwich Albion side. We hardly get a good result at The Hawthorns apart from the win in the 2015-16 season. Hopefully the long break before and a solid home performance against Huddersfield could put us in a good run of form early in the season. Games followed by Tottenham and Swansea at home will put the premier league schedule on hold for another international break. With home advantage for the majority of our games, I would like to think that we can pick up at least seven more points.

The break will run from 2nd to 10th October where England will play two world cup qualifier matches against Slovenia and Lithuania. These will be the final two competitive games for the national side and will hopefully have secured qualification for the 2018 World Cup.

“England Qualify for the World Cup” Hooray!… another summer of disappointment next year it is! But before all that we restart the season by going to Turf Moor to face Burnley. ***Interesting Statistic Alert!!!*** with Sunderland and Middlesbrough playing Championship football next season, Burnley will be second furthest distance the players will have to travel for an away game. The team secured 3 points last season with goals from Feghouli and Ayew with an injury hit team. hopefully the squad will be at near full fitness and be able to have a more comfortable win this time round. West Ham return to the London Stadium to face another Premier League debutant in Brighton and Hove Albion. Premier League boys tend to play off adrenaline for the first few months, as we’ve seen previously. Brighton could be a banana skin fixture and with them managed by Stratford born Ex-Hammer Chris Houghton, I can see that particular team turning up to cause an upset. The following week we play Crystal Palace and this time without an ex-hammers boss in charge. The past two seasons we’ve played against Pardew and Allardyce taking all three points on both occasions. Who knows what will happen with Palace, it will be one of those games where a certain Jonathan Calleri signs for them in the summer, scores a hat trick against us and sticks 2 fingers up at the board… or maybe we’ll win 3-1 again? October is a funny sort of month where we could get maximum points from the fixtures. In my personal opinion I think 4 points would be acceptable.

We start November playing at home where a Champions League Liverpool side could show signs of exhaustion early in the season. Playing midweek games in between fixtures, could mean that this game would be either a Saturday night game or a Sunday lunchtime game. Revenge on the cards? Hope so! This fixture puts the premier league season on hold against, as there is another international break and final one of 2017 before the 2018 World Cup draw on 1st December in Moscow, Russia. Watford away next in the league and this fixture will be the start of the toughest run in of the season, where there will be eleven games played without a weekend break. West Ham could rack up an astonishing 1,960 miles on the road by playing away 6 times between November and New Year’s Day. For me, the summer transfer window is key for winter fixture congestion, wise spending on experienced players is what will help the club overcome the 11 games that will determine where West Ham will finish up in the league. The Watford away game is a “bogey” game as is the following fixture against Leicester City, where we have failed to get a point at home in the past 2 seasons. They say things come in three’s and we played Everton away to complete the Triple Bogey run in for November. Like October, 4 points is the minimum we should achieve and I hope the players realise that the November games are all games we have to win. We have to start beating these type of teams to push us up the league. Everton, Watford and Leicester have all dented our progress in previous seasons and it is time this stopped.

We start December knowing that England are in the Group of Death for the upcoming World Cup and we all realise that winning the trophy is not going to happen. But back to reality and we face Manchester City away. If I was Bilic I would seriously consider setting up a base camp for the Everton and Man City games due to the amount of travelling involved over the space of four days, we’re looking at over 900 miles, would be great to cut that down in half and use the games as one trip. It would be worth trying to get in touch with a Football or Rugby League side in the area to see if they would share their facilities for a few days to save on travelling. Maybe training sessions with a rugby team might toughen the players up a bit. Afterwards we then have two back to back Home London derbies against Chelsea and Arsenal, two games where the atmosphere will be electric under the lights on a dark cold winters afternoon. An away trip to Stoke City followed by a home game to Newcastle, ensures the midway point of the season.

Controversially, as reported by ExWHUemployee, the away boxing day game looks set to be a regular fixture and this season we go to Bournemouth. With a gentleman’s agreement put in place by the club and neighbouring Westfield Shopping Centre, it appears that the boxing day sales are more important for an area that has been enriched with various sport in the past five years. How ironic… if it wasn’t for the Olympics, there wouldn’t have been a shopping centre, now the shops are shunning sport. West Ham finally go to Wembley in 2017, but it will be a league fixture against Tottenham Hotspur as they make the home of football their temporary base. The thought of West Ham beating Tottenham at Wembley sounds great, however it all sounds too good to be true. December is a hard-hitting month to play seven games in four weeks but I feel the club can look to achieve between 9-12 points, which would satisfy every hammer at the moment.

We start the new year at home playing WBA on new year’s day, which will be played on Monday and the FA CUP weekend follows. West Ham make their first trip to Huddersfield in the premier league and in typical West Ham fashion, a win could be guaranteed but a loss is on the cards. Back to back home games against Bournemouth and Crystal Palace could be a blessing in disguise as we look to push up the table. January could be a good month for us, especially if we get a decent draw in the cup, I expect a minimum of 7 points, however I think we could get a maximum 12 points from those four fixtures.

We kick of February by going to Brighton away and again like the Huddersfield game, we could see a slip up on the south coast. Watford at home follows and again revenge for the 4-2 defeat of last season will be on the minds of most West Ham players. An Away trip to Liverpool could see West Ham go three consecutive games undefeated at Anfield for the first time ever, something even my old man hasn’t seen in his lifetime! February could be a tricky month and if there hasn’t been significant investment in the January transfer window, we could be set for a dip in form and not gaining many points. Minimum three points expected, whether its three draws or 1 win, 3 points is needed, we cannot go through a run of games without winning. Last season we saw three poor runs of results where we hadn’t won for six games…. this just cannot happen again.

Spring has sprung and we go over to “daffodil land” to play Swansea City. If Paul Clement is still in charge, I cannot see us winning although The Liberty Stadium has been good to us in the past. Three Home games in a row for West Ham as Burnley make their 508 mile round trip to the London Stadium and we could look to expose Burnley’s tiredness. Manchester United and Southampton follow with the hammers looking to improve on last season’s meetings. Four games in March and with 3 home games, the club could should look to get a minimum 8 points and go undefeated in the month.

April in my opinion the toughest month for West Ham as we start the month playing Chelsea away. we could put in a performance and come away with a point and we normally do well at Chelsea’s place later on in the season, so maybe a shock could be on the cards and denting their titles hopes. A home game at Stoke the following week could be our final win of the season considering the teams left to play. Arsenal away and Man City at home are two games I’m not hopeful for. I predict that we will get 3 points, however if the club come back with 4-6 points that will be a good couple of results to see out the season.

The month of May sees two bogey sides return, West Ham travel to The King Power Stadium to try and get 3 points against Leicester City and we end the season at home against Everton. The final two games could go either way but 2 points could be enough and seeing out the season not losing, would end the season on a positive.

Upon reflection of the fixtures for the upcoming 2017-18 season, there are significant parts of the season that will influence West Ham’s final position. The start of the season indicates that the club need to be more affective away from home by gaining as many points as possible to upset the big clubs. The summer transfer window needs to address the eleven game run in during the winter period, by getting in experience players on a short term basis to prevent the squad being overused and inflict injuries. The club have to eliminate the potential stress of player playing through the pain barrier, we’ve seen Carroll, Sakho, Antonio, Noble, Ogbonna and Reid all play with injuries which has affected the team’s performances. April 2018 could ruin all the hard work in the earlier parts of the season, games against Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City and Everton are ones that could either stop us gaining a European place, or they could relegate us.

My season prediction is that the current West Ham team (before any transfers have occurred as of this publication date) will get around 51 points this season, which on average would secure a top 10 finish. For Slaven Bilic to keep his job as West Ham manager, he would have to match the points tally of the 2015-16 season, otherwise his contract will not be renewed. I love Slaven as West Ham Boss and if he doesn’t improve on his ratio at the club, it hates me to say it but then he has to leave. West Ham need a manager who is a “1 win from 2” rather than “1 win from 3” type of guy. Slaven is on the edge in terms of performances and his passion for the club is what is giving him another chance. His win ratio at West Ham is a mere 38%… 11% lower than his average and 13% below his Besiktas ratio (51%). For west ham to start considering themselves at a top 6 club, challenging for European football, they have to start winning more games, it’s as simple as that.