It’s official – West Ham are down and out. We can all bid adieu to the Premier League for the time being and look forward to many happy days in the Fizzy Pop. With Sullivan’s confidence that “this time next year… we will be in the Premier League”, it looks like our days are numbered but one should always make the most of this glorious opportunity to venture to new stadiums across the country, and hopefully we also manage to enjoy winning more often. That said, it doesn’t really even apply to me anyway – I live several thousand miles away from England and therefore cannot make such trips to these new stadiums nor to the Boleyn (although I am looking into the possibility of attending one or two games in either October, December or April next year), I wish all the best to those that do. I hope relegation does not hinder our attendances too much… last time we got relegated, I believe it didn’t.
Now, I’m not saying relegation is a wonderful thing (although every cloud does have a silver lining!) and we should be overjoyed that we have failed to retain our Premier League status. There are plenty of negative things that are associated with relegation, such as the clear out of the few talented players we have (emphasis on the word few), the financial implications and just the general idea that the likes of Stoke are currently relishing Premier League football whilst we’re now in the same league as the likes of Millwall… mind you, that will make two interesting fixtures come next season. I have to admit that this is my very first relegation and I did not take well to it at first. After playing to a draw at Blackburn I had already done a fair bit of sobbing but it hit much harder after we once again managed to throw away a 2-0 lead. Sadness and tears soon turned to anger and me ripping up my Premier League fixture list that I had on my wall. I have since replaced it with a lovely poster of the reasons why one should choose West Ham and it makes me far happier. Relegation was a bitter pill to swallow but now I’m just looking forward to a fresh start, with new players who actually want to play for the club and a new manager who, hopefully, isn’t as tactically inept as Avram Grant. Sullivan has assured us that this time round he and Mr. Gold will be looking to employ a manager with a proven track record – shame it took a relegation for them to finally figure out the importance of that. The question though, is who do we blame? Who put us in our current predicament? ‘The Daves’? The Icelandics? Grant? Zola? Is it the players? What sent us spiraling down to the foot of the Premier League?
It’s been a combination of bad management, incompetent owners and poor player performances over the years that have brought us to where we are now. You can’t single out this season as the only one where we haven’t set the Premier League alight. To be honest, last season looked far less optimistic and I thought we were definitely going to go down. At least this season the team has turned up on occasions and produced some good performances, the highlight being against Spurs, both home and away, Manchester United in the Carling Cup, the Liverpool game we won 3-1; last season seemed a lot less hopeless than this one, we just weren’t relegated. This is where part of the blame needs to be shoved onto Grant’s shoulders. This squad clearly has more ability and talent than the squad of 2009/10 yet we failed to stay up. Why? Many people would point their fingers at Grant and the way he was tactically out of his depth paired with the fact that he is supposedly a very uninspiring manager, one that offers little during his halftime team talks. It was revealed by Carlton Cole that the brilliant comeback at West Brom was inspired by Scott Parker – a man who is incidentally our captain – not Avram Grant. Clearly, Grant has to shoulder some of the blame in this farce. Avram Grant has now consecutively relegated two teams, both with the talent and ability to be sitting comfortably mid-table, spending an abnormally large percentage of his time as manager in the drop zone. It doesn’t look likely that he will have any managerial work to attend to anytime soon.
This is where The Daves come into the picture as well. What exactly were they thinking when they appointed him? He didn’t exactly have the greatest managerial record. Although we owe a lot to the two of them for saving us from a certain administration, they still have a lot to answer for. Why did they sanction the purchase of Benni McCarthy? Was that really Zola’s choice or theirs? What were they really hoping to achieve by claiming the likes of Klose, Beckham, Ruud van Nistleroy, Neymar et al were going to sign for West Ham? It’s all very good to try and attract big names to our club but what we really needed was a solid left back and right back more than anything else. That, along with their constant need to publicize every little detail about the club. They have no respect for their managers – their blatant attempts to get Zola to walk were embarrassing to witness. The way they dismissed Grant, by ushering him into an empty room about an hour after the Wigan game, was also rather distasteful. The thing is, they aren’t the worst owners we’ve had. The ones right before them were even worse, and they, I believe, are most responsible for the clubs current state of affairs.
The Icelandics ran the club with such naïvety. They bought our club on borrowed money, bought players we could never really afford and offered them largely extravagant contracts. By doing all of this on money that they never really had. We were in financial turmoil and to make matters worse, we were left with players on contracts that no one in their right mind would have agreed to – it was spiraling out of control. The way they conducted the clubs transfers was horrendous as well. Going behind the manager’s back and selling his players on the last day of the transfer window, leaving him no time to bring in replacements… is it really any wonder Curbishley decided to walk? Who would stand for that sort of treatment? There are still traces of their horrible mismanagement at the club today. David Sullivan has gone on constantly about the state of the clubs finances, and the Icelandics are to blame. We spend tens of thousands of pounds a week just to pay Kieron Dyer’s salary. Admittedly, he is a half decent player when fit but he has hardly featured for us at all in his extensive time at the club. The Icelandics just seemed to make one poor decision after the other, ultimately costing West Ham millions of pounds and still affecting us to this very day.
Obviously it’s not all down to management. The players are somewhat to blame as well. Their lackluster, uninspiring performances week after week have resulted in our almost inevitable (well, since the Aston Villa game at least) relegation. Most fans brushed off an ominous start to the season by saying we had a lot of incredibly hard fixtures that we weren’t expecting points from. Come the Spurs game, I thought we had finally turned the corner after beating them 1-0 yet it was not to be. It was followed by a draw with both Fulham and Wolves – although, if there was any justice in this world, we would have been awarded 3 points from the Wolves game, but Piquionne’s late winner was ruled out – and a loss, at home, to Newcastle. We were in the lead for quite some time too, but we threw it away. Who would’ve thought that was to happen so many times this season? Apparently we have dropped 22 points from leading positions this season, a statistic that makes me want to quietly sob in the corner thinking of could have, should have and would have beens. This season we have made a name for ourselves as a ’45-minute team’. Sometimes we have an incredible first half and falter dramatically in the 2nd, or vice versa. The players just don’t seem to be giving their all. Admittedly we have been unlucky with injuries, as per usual when it comes to West Ham, but even so with the squad we have, if they had always given 100% (as Scott Parker frequently does) we would not have spent a large majority of our season at the foot of the Premier League. They seemed largely unmotivated and uninspired, and it looked far too much like most players thought the club was privileged to have them, not that they were privileged to play for the club. That’s not how it should be, but that’s how it is. The players have undoubtedly let us down this season and they must share part of the blame for our relegation.
Clearly the current state of the club is the result of many years of poor decisions from the board, mismanagement and the players letting us down. None of these things are solely to blame for our relegation but if you combine them, you have a recipe for disaster. It has been a painfully disappointing season, with a mere 7 wins to our name (although some very enjoyable ones at that), with a lot more disappointing losses and draws. Games we should have easily won never seemed to go our way and I suppose the players never quite registered the idea of ‘do or die’ when it came to certain games. It has been one disaster after another, and I for one am looking forward to start somewhat afresh.
A new manager is going to come in. The mercenary players are going to leave and we’ll be left with the players who actually want to play for our club, and give their all. We’re going to start blending more youth into our first team and hopefully we will bounce back to the Premier League. The Championship is a very tough league but I believe with the right personnel at the club, we will be able to maneuver our way out of it and back into the top flight. It will take a lot of work, and it won’t be easy but it’s not out of our reach. We just have to rely on the Chairmen to assign the best manager available for the job, and work from that.
It’s not the end of the world. We will make the most of our time in the Championship (although people abroad, like me, will face problems when it comes to watching games) and maybe even trounce the league completely. Who knows? A lot can happen, and we’ll just have to wait and see. We’ll get rid of the various trash lingering around our club and we’ll go back to the West Ham we all know and love. At least that’s what I hope. An exciting summer lays before us. Onwards and upwards from here on.
By Vicky Grueber – West Ham fan – @vickygrueber