It wasn’t a happy Easter for fans of relegation threatened Premiership clubs. Only Blackpool and Wolves of the five bottom sides managed to salvage any points. With just five matches to go Wigan(18th), Wolves(19th) and West Ham(20th) look like favourites for the drop.
Any fan whose club has been relegated from the Premiership never wants to experience the feeling again. For some teams, particularly those middle-ranking sides whose role in this money- dominated competition is simply to make up the numbers, the annual battle for survival has become almost a way of life.
And while pundits pour over the remaining fixtures and determine winners and losers in the battle for the last few vital points, the fans of one particular club in the relegation dog-fight should see the drop as their just deserve, and not complain when the axe falls.
I’m talking about West Ham United. Let me get one thing straight: I hail from the East End and have long been an admirer of the Hammers and its great traditions. My dad was a supporter and I was brought up to revere the likes of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters – truly great players.
Sadly the Hammers have lost their way over recent years, both on and off the field, and friends who still go to Upton Park, say the club is a shadow of its former self.
I moved to Yorkshire a long time ago and took a fancy to Sheffield United, so Bramall Lane is where I get my football fix these days. Us Blades have had our ups and downs, for sure, but one particular ‘down’ still rankles – and always will, which is why West Ham United deserve to be relegated.
The Carlos Tevez affair might have long-since disappeared from the headlines but, four years on, the bitterness for Blades fans, and fair-minded football supporters everywhere, remains.
The issue centres on Tevez and his Argentinian international colleague Javier Mascherano being illegally under contract to Kia Joorabchian, an agent, when they signed for West Ham in 2007, in contravention of Premiership rules.
And this contract remained in place, despite West Ham’s assurances to the Premiership and the FA that it had been cancelled. Meanwhile the players, specifically Tevez, continued to play a key role in the Hammers’ battle against relegation, eventually condemning Sheffield United to the drop.
It was only after legal action instigated by Sheffield United that the FA agreed to re-examine the situation, resulting in an independent arbitration panel ruling that Tevez’s participation in key matches was indeed in breach of the Premier League rules and had been decisive in helping West Ham remain in the top league in place of Sheffield United .
By the time this ruling was made the 2008 season was imminent so, United had no option but to accept relegation. By way of compensation, the club asked West Ham for £45million.
Two years later, and after much wrangling, both clubs settled on £10m, to be paid in instalments over five years.
So to be absolutely blunt: West Ham retained their place in the Premiership for the 2008 season by cheating. Simple as that. My club was relegated as a result of that deception. I’ll leave it to the followers of Natter Football to make up their minds about the role of the authorities in all of this and whether £10m is sufficient compensation for the Blades being cheated out of the club’s rightful place in the top tier of English football.
Us Yorkshire folk still believe cheats should never prosper, even in the distinctly dubious world of professional football. So if West Ham United do get relegated Blades fans everywhere will feel that justice has, at long last, been delivered and we can finally draw a line under what has been a bitter and painful experience for everyone associated with Sheffield United Football Club.
By Peter Reynolds – Sheffield United fan