Most of us have a club for whom we have a soft spot; that’s to say a team you don’t support but like so long as they’re playing someone else. The reasons for having a soft spot for a club are usually centred on a clubs philosophy, history, style of play and tendency to beat your bitterest rivals in critical games. It’s a personal thing but for me West Ham qualify on all of those ground: their academy of football past, ’66 links, flair players and wins over Manchester United in several title run ins (especially 1992) all add up to this being a club I like.
But it’s become increasingly difficult to retain that affection for the Hammers. First they were bought by Porn Magnets Sullivan & Gold bringing with them Karen Brady. Brady deserves a lot of credit for being a strong woman in a male dominated industry but that alone doesn’t make her good at her job nor does appearing on ‘The Apprentice’, what will always be in the minus column is she once appointed Barry Fry as Birmingham manager and worse still did so in a toe curling football fly on the wall documentary (has anyone ever looked good on one of those?)
Then came the appointment of Sam Allardyce, understandable following relegation but after regaining the clubs Premier League status we got to watch 3 seasons of Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan in an attack previously graced by the likes Di Canio, Kanoute, Lampard and Cole.
Finally the club left their old home for the footballing mausoleum of the Olympic Stadium paid for by public money and offering next to nothing in terms of 2012 legacy.
All that being said the arrival of Bilic 2 years ago seemed to bring hope back to the Hammers. He bought the enigmatic Dimitri Payet- an exciting playmaker whose style perfectly fitted with West Ham tradition and they made it to Europe in their last season at Upton Park.
But the following summer Payet became disaffected and eventually left meanwhile West Ham lost their mojo with Bilic fortunate to see out the 2016/17 season. The summer brought a bizarre and often confused looking transfer policy with the club signing an out of form Joe Hart, a barely mobile Pablo Zabaletta and a rarely interested Marko Arnautovic. The club failed to buy a desperately needed central defender yet allowed promising youngster Reece Oxford to leave on loan- so much for the academy of football!
Bilic is a likeable figure but has been on death row for months on East London. Now Gold & Sullivan need a new manager who not only improves results but wins back an increasingly unhappy fanbase. The mention of talks with David Moyes seem unlikely to remedy either problem. Moyes’ good run at Everton are an increasingly distant memory compared to more recent failures at Manchester United, Real Sociedad and Sunderland.
West Ham ultimately need to rediscover their identity not just survive the relegation battle ahead, but that requires a level of long term thinking clearly missing from the club in recent times. That change is key if West Ham are to provide the sort of football their history demands.