In his article in the Daily Mail on Monday 9th, which was subsequently and bizarrely shared on the club’s official site despite its critique of both the fans and the club’s transfer policy, Martin Samuel made the following statement:
“The negativity felt by the locals towards West Ham’s new stadium is a contradiction anyway. On one hand, fans are furious because the team keep losing, on the other they say they did not want to move to a new stadium, because West Ham was more about community, good football, and having a laugh with your mates, and it didn’t matter that they wouldn’t win the league.
“So which one is it? It cannot be outrageous that West Ham keep losing, but equally outrageous that the club should have left Upton Park because success was never the aim. Does the result matter or not?”
Now, I think we can be furious about poor performances and losses.
Yes we may have accepted that we are unlikely to ever win the league, but it doesn’t mean we have to accept lacklustre displays on the relatively consistent basis that we have so far this season.
Likewise, I think it is fine for fans to say they didn’t want to move because of the effect leaving would have on a community that we have been the heartbeat of for over 100 years, and that they miss their old favourite boozer and preferred that set up to the one currently on offer at London Stadium.
I do not see anything contradictory in those two viewpoints. I have also gone on record before in saying I like the new place and believe that once everyone adjusts, it will be a great home for us.
However, it did have echoes of an idea that has been festering for a while within my own mind – that we are not really sure what we want from our club.
For example, on Twitter I often see statements calling for the likes of Reece Oxford, Martin Samuelsen, Marcus Browne and recently Toni Martinez to be given a chance in the first team. This is because we at West Ham pride ourselves on our track record of producing young players and giving them first team opportunities. We are The Academy of Football after all.
We love one of our own and long for a new home grown talent to come and cement a place in the first team as Moore, Brooking, Rio, Cole, Noble et al have done in the past. It is part of the much fabled West Ham Way.
Then, elsewhere on the same format, you will find people begging the club to sign x, y and z. Players who will be in direct competition and in all honesty block the progress of the very players we want to see given a chance.
I also see and hear fans bemoan the fact that Spurs have clearly gone to a level beyond us (in terms of financial clout and consistency in challenging near the top end) and that perceived lesser clubs such as Southampton, Everton and Stoke are outperforming us in many aspects as well.
They want the club to be able to compete, if not with the big boys, at least with the also rans, and not be left behind, forever in relegation battles. And then with the same hand they attack the board for the stadium move, which has increased the potential for us to be more competitive, both on and off the pitch. They despise the suggestion that West Ham has a brand, let alone any business-like approach adopted to try and develop and expand.
The final one is the Board. Messrs Gold and Sullivan, lifelong Hammers, who for all their faults (and there are many), I genuinely believe love the club and our history. There are many voices that seem to suggest the board has taken us as far as they can and that they should sell up, preferably to a middle eastern billionaire who will plough funds into the club.
These are the same voices that want club to stay true to its roots at every turn, who don’t believe the move has done enough to up hold our traditions and link to the community. Do these people really think the Qatar royal family or the like would do that any better? Look at City and Chelsea; those clubs have changed beyond all recognition since they got Oil-money-rich.
The point I am making is many fans seem to want us to move towards ‘big club’ status but want us to retain our small-ish but loyally followed and community driven mentality.
As Martin Samuels alludes to – it isn’t really possible to do both. So what do we really want our club to be?