Written by Anthony Hufton @AnthonyHufton
It’s been a somewhat unusual couple of days on Twitter – the positivity amongst our fans probably hasn’t been seen since May 2016! Strange actually as a lot of the fans have been demanding silence from the board and their family / associates, yet media speculation (technically that is all it is at the time of writing) re: Arnautovic and West Ham United Official releasing a statement saying a transfer fee for Hernandez has been agreed has led to jubilation online.
All West Ham have confirmed re: Hernandez is that a fee has been agreed, subject to personal terms & a medical. Players have been closer to signing, (Sidwell & Darren Fletcher for example were both on club property at one point) and never signed. Yet a lot of supporters, many of whom are ones critical of the board for pretty much anything between their train being late for a home game to being at fault for Nordtveit for committing a foul in injury time at White Hart Lane seem to have suddenly forgot all that. It just seems to me like a lot of supporters have had a bit of good news confirmed by decent sources and now a lot of their concerns seem to have been dropped.
I don’t blame supporters for being a little upset over how last season turned out, however, now we can sit back and review it, I don’t think it was as bad as people made out. I haven’t checked it out, but I read a few weeks ago that we weren’t even in the bottom 5 after Mid-December? I’m sure someone will tell me if that’s true or not! There were a lot of obstacles facing the team & management last season –
- Injuries (as usual!) – I don’t think a new medical team can necessarily prevent injuries, but I would think that a more experienced team can certainly implement a better management system to ensure that they reoccur less and the rehabilitation process runs smoother than before.
- London Stadium – I know for a fact that a few players have said they can barely hear the fans when they’re on the pitch. It must be an over exaggeration but I guess they are comparing to other stadiums. Obviously we are further from the pitch than most, if not all other stadiums in the country. I still feel that it is down to us to make it home. Hopefully some cosmetic features in the stadium will continue to pop up and I hope eventually that the stadium seats are completely changed. I do feel that the cost of moving the seats and removing the branding over the summer months will eventually outweigh any potential profit made, so much so that they call it a day and we can buy the stadium on the cheap. Whether or not that means modifications can be made to bring us closer, I don’t know. I honestly feel that the negativity amongst the supporters, which predominantly starts online led to bad atmospheres in the stands. The noise was immense when the teams came out for the first game there, and the stadium was less of a home then than it is now. The stewarding didn’t help. Nor did supporters in other teams shirts. If anyone thinks that these incidents didn’t happen at Upton Park though, they are wrong. The stadium is effectively double the size and nearly three times the size if you go back a little further. The chances are that you will get double the amount of opposition fans in the stadium. People say they never saw it, well, they may have been in the Bobby Moore Lower in an area where it was difficult to get tickets but it was happening elsewhere. I can remember a Swansea fan sitting behind me at Upton Park and there was even a Hamburg supporter cheering on Martin Jol when he was managing Fulham. They lost 3-0 and he hasn’t managed over here since. The facts are, the majority of problems within the stadium occurred and still occur elsewhere, but you may not have seen them. Russell Brand got accused of only coming to games once he was famous. He correctly replied, “you wouldn’t have known me before.” It’s all in the mind. Does a tree make a noise if it falls but you weren’t there to hear it? What about the popcorn? I wouldn’t buy it and I’m guilty of seeing people with it and thinking that its muggy. I can tell you one thing for certain, if something isn’t selling in the stadium then it won’t be available for long – It must be in demand. I don’t feel that it is a snack to be eaten at football but there are probably 80 year olds that thought burgers were unusual 60 years ago. I reckon if a bloke walked round the front of the stands selling roasted peanuts, a lot of the “popcorn complainers” would think it’s strange. Well, it was happening long before you ever came to Upton Park. What I’m trying to say here is, if you were getting yourselves wound up before you got in the stadium, you were naturally going to be in a bad mood within it. People often dispel my comparisons but if I get stuck in traffic for 2 hours before work, inevitably I’m in a mood when I get into the office. I feel people need to keep a calm head. I’d like to know what issues people have with the stadium now a lot of the problems have been eradicated? It’s a serious question. I’m not happy with the distance from the pitch, although in my seat it’s not too different to what I was before, I’d say my view is quite similar. I have moved from about Row 20 to Row 8 for that though! Anyone who thought the distance from the front row to the touchline must’ve been living in a cave. I don’t care (I do care) what David Gold said on a video, it was never going to be the case. However, it seems to me that people think the fact that we do not have a “retractable” seat system in place is the reason why we are the distance away that we are. Nonsense. Even if it was state of the art technology, we would still be in the same position. It is how it moves, not where it moves to that has changed. Yes, it does look bad having a scaffold pole on a breeze block. At the end of the day though, it doesn’t actually affect you at all. Not unless it collapses with us in it anyway! To summarise this point, if the fans are up for it (Spurs, Chelsea) then we can make the place a cauldron. There will always be games against teams like Hull, West Brom where the team have to turn it on to get us off their seats…like they did against Watford for 30 minutes actually – but again, if people think there was an electric atmosphere for these games at Upton Park, they are wrong again. I can definitely remember seeing fans walk out at 2-0 down vs Watford in Division 1. We ended up winning 3-2 – maybe we were better off without them! We were also often subject to heavy defeats at Upton Park, the most recent in what was the last scheduled game vs Swansea and we lost 4-1. To leave the stadium off the back of that really would’ve been “the West Ham way”. Overall, this doesn’t mean I’m delighted with the stadium move, not at all. What I am old enough to realise though is that no amount of moaning, be it justified or not is going to move us back to Upton Park. Unfortunately, it is time to let go, we are supposed to support the team & the club as a whole and that is what we should be doing. 54,000 West Ham fans supporting the team in full voice can’t be matched.
- Recruitment – The supporters had in their heads that we were going to sign a 20 goal striker last summer. It’s not hard to know why. The chairman were particularly vocal and obviously confident they could deliver this. I’m not sure if they ever quoted that they would sign a striker that will score 20 goals, but it was certainly how it seemed. I feel that this was the only place, although probably the most important area that we were let down in. The board are apparently tight. I think we all are with our own money? Anyway, they bid £43m for Lacazette. We know this is for certain. Well, that rules out that they were willing to spend money. The paid £5m for a loan fee for Zaza with the agreement in place that if we wanted, we’d pay the extra £20m to secure the transfer. Zaza could’ve worked out as much as it may not have. Personally, although he wasn’t my first choice, I still thought he would be an adequate signing. I certainly expected him to score a few at least. Maybe I played too much Football Manger 15. We spent a similar amount on Ayew. If anyone thinks that Ayew isn’t a good addition to our squad, they’re mad. He is potentially our second choice left attacking midfielder now. Compare that to 3 or 4 years ago when our only choice was Jarvis. Unfortunately Ayew got injured very early on and he only really got going as the season was coming to a close. Calleri was brought in as 4th or even 5th choice striker. I still don’t think he was a bad footballer, but he lacked composure in front of goal without doubt. Again though, 4/5th choice. Feghouli, a “free transfer” – it’s become apparent that he is on extremely high wages as well as a substantial signing on fee. That’s good of the tight owners. Although he didn’t perform great throughout the season, I think he lacks a bit of common sense and the realisation that he is playing in the Premier League. I think he has the ability. I’m positive about him and certainly think he is worth a place in the squad. Lanzini, he was signed with last season’s budget. Nothing needs saying about this absolute steal. Tore – looked terrible but this was all Bilic. Would he have come good? I don’t think so, but he did only play at a time when the team was all over the place. He will always be the man who assisted the first ever league goal in the London Stadium. Maybe we can argue the board are tight here. Bilic wanted to sign him. I’d say its probably lucky that Sullivan didn’t agree. Arbeloa – I think he looked terrible from day 1, poor transfer but was signed out of desperation at the last minute as Bilic had insisted Antonio was the right back he wanted to use. We also had and still have Byram. We now have Zabaleta too. Masuaku – another decent signing. So much so that it’s a 50/50 split amongst the fans over who gets the nod between him and Creswell. Its probably the first time in history that the club have 4 good full backs. Even 3! Fernandes – I don’t think anyone was overly enthused with the signing at the time but the fans were often calling for him throughout the season, definitely got a good future, hopefully with us. Nordtveit – on paper this was a good signing. Again, was he the 4th choice DM? Captain of a decent club in Germany and a proven performer. He didn’t work out in the end but did look ok in his natural position with the exception of the 4-0 defeat to Liverpool. Snodgrass & Fonte were signed in January. Snodgrass actually started off ok and Fonte looked shaky. By the end of the season, their performances switched if you like. The club obviously went down the line of trying to sign players who know the league. Maybe with a full pre-season both players will show improvement, if they’re still here…it looks like Snodgrass might leave. Overall, the club didn’t really improve the first team at all. I did think the squad was a lot stronger than the season before when the summer window closed, but in hindsight, I would’ve rather had Eminike, Song & Moses than Calleri, Nordtveit & Tore. I feel the club definitely went for quantity over quality, although they may feel that they were going for both. We were definitely spoilt with the previous 2 summer transfer windows though. Overall, the club have signed very good players for the level we are / were at, at the time. Carroll as a newly promoted team on loan was magnificent at the time. Nolan in Division One. Yes, they threw money at him, I’ll accept that answer from you, as long as you’re not one of those that call them tight. Payet – say no more. I don’t know why he got the hump. The only really thing he has mentioned is that the team wasn’t performing and the only isolated incident he spoke about was the post getting MOTM against Hull. What a signing he was though and again, in hindsight it’s a shame Madrid or similar didn’t come in for him after the Euros. We would’ve got a lot more money and the relationship wouldn’t be what it is now. What a player to have in the final season at Upton Park at least. We have undoubtedly signed some rubbish in their time also. Often they are not first choice players. I would say out first eleven is very good. It goes without saying that they were all signed by the current board as they’ve been here so long now that everyone in the squad has, with the exception of Noble. It looks like this summer that every player signed / going to be signed is a major upgrade on whoever was playing in that position come the end of last season. It’s more progress. The squad has made great progress under this board. Look at the squad before they took over.
Whether you like it or not, they are the closest thing to a West Ham supporter owning the club you’re likely to get now…unless one of us wins the Euromillions – I’m not sure if that’s even enough now? We have always known ourselves as a family club yet people want a “rich Arab” in. I guess we would all like someone to own us in the same way Chelsea or Man City are owned. For every good takeover, there is 2 or 3 that are terrible, so we need to use the old Allardyce adage “Be careful what you wish for” We were lucky to see the back of him, I don’t know if we would be so lucky to see the owners go.
I really cannot for the life of me see why people thought we weren’t going to make good signings this Summer. There is absolutely no chance that the club were not going to push the boat out to sign a proven PL striker. It looks like it will be Hernandez. He might have even scored for us by the time I finish typing this!
I could not believe what I have read over the past few weeks. People giving up season tickets? One in particular “supporter” was giving up his season ticket even though he got two for the price of one last season. Someone else today is gutted they didn’t renew because it looks like we’ll be signing Hernandez. Has West Ham become that we only care if we’re winning. Are people only saying it because we’ve moved stadiums that we expect to be near the top of the league? I don’t think many stadium moves went smoothly. Ours was probably worst of all for trouble within the stadium but again, the internet magnifies things massively now and we were a bit of “public enemy #1” because of the cheap deal we got. There could also be the argument that because it is our club, we see it happening. It’s like when you feel like you always join the slowest queue, you only think of that when you actually do it.
People demanding the board leave the club with nobody to come in to replace them. If there is someone with the money to own our club and they’re serious about it, that person will come forward whether the current board want to leave or not, and they will make an offer. So far, I don’t think anyone has made a serious offer. Other supporters are calling our club a joke. Don’t get me wrong, if we had got to September 1st and not signed a top striker, serious questions would’ve been asked. There was no chance of this happening. I imagine there would’ve been protests. I wouldn’t have necessarily joined in, I think I’m too old for it all now and have enough to worry about with the business I’m involved in than to think I can run a football club better.
The biggest oxymoron of all is how people think the owners of the club deliberately strip their own business of assets and are happy to see relegation so they can sell the club and make more money? I’ve actually seen people suggest this. I am quite sure that if they spend £70m net to get us challenging and maybe into the top 4 (that nearly happened once already), the club would be worth a lot more and they will be in a better position to sell. These people saying these things must surely look at themselves and ask if they are in a position to judge self-made multi-millionaires. Every single supporter wishes they could own the club. The chances are none of you started off with less than David Gold. Why don’t you try to do it better than them? The natural response is you cant. There lies your answer. You either think you can’t but you can if you put your head to it or you just can’t. If someone walked into my office telling me they could do my job better, I’d give them the chance. It would make my life a lot easier. At least until the following Monday when I’d be picking up the pieces.
Ultimately I want to know why people embarrass themselves by crying their eyes out on Twitter when the players hadn’t even done a week’s training. We have pretty much always left signings to the last minute – I remember a great summer where we signed Henri Camara at about 23:55. Supporters were quite pleased actually. It looks like we will have 4 good signings wrapped up before Fonte has even returned to train himself. I’ve seen a couple of supporters say that the club have pulled these out of the bag because of the pressure from the fans. I don’t think the board are naïve or stupid enough for that to be the case.
I still believe that we will sign an additional striker, probably Gray? This would effectively make our 3rd & 4th choice strikers Sakho & Carroll…if we have them to choose from! Again, great progress. I think we will also go in for Wilshere on loan which would be another a good addition without doubt and again a major upgrade on Nordtveit. I hope that a lot of the unnecessary moaning will be gone for the foreseeable and that when the season starts in August, all energy is put towards supporting the team on the pitch, especially when we eventually play our first game at home in September (which by the way is only the situation this year because of the World Athletic Championships – it is not going to be a regular occurrence). We do have the best support in the country, you only have to see what we’ve been through in my time (22 years) of going regularly and compare that to our attendances. We’re glutton for punishment it seems.
I’m not sure if we would really have it any other way?