Strange times at West Ham; so many positives, and yet so many concerns.
The frustrations are nothing new, they should be worn as a badge of honour and they’ve been aired articulately by the fan base already, so I’m only going to mention them in passing.
So let’s talk about the positives. It feels like a very long time ago, but we were actually playing Championship football during 2011/12, the Chairmen had just recently taken over and charged the contentious Sam Allardyce with getting the team back where it belongs. We were still playing in the beloved Boleyn Ground to crowds of 35,000, the side captained Kevin Nolan.
Now let’s contrast that with our current situation, where we’re playing European football – albeit in the Europa league – and widely expected to finish in the top half of the most exciting league in the world.
The team are managed by fan-favourite Slaven Bilic and are playing expansive football in front of 57,000 fans at the London stadium, captained by the equally popular Mark Noble.
It doesn’t seem like a bad return, does it? I mean, we had a full Italy international on the bench against Bournemouth last weekend. For the first time in a long time, we don’t have to rush our starlets into the first team; Reece Oxford and Reece Burke don’t have to be leant on because of a lack of squad depth. It can be frustrating for everyone, but they’re learning, and they’ll be playing alongside some top players, and I can’t wait for them to see some more football.
I’d like to say a quick bit about injuries, too. These myriad injuries are again familiar territory for the West Ham faithful, what we’re not used to is having decent cover. If we’d had an injury situation similar to the one we have now a couple of seasons ago, we’d have been stuffed, but this season we have the quality ans depth to survive it.
Carroll’s most recent injury has highlighted the [age old] need for a reliable and prolific centre forward. I feel that both Wilfried Bony and Loic Remy would fit this bill perfectly, but I wonder if a look at a new figure behind the scenes in the medical department might not be an equally smart bit of business, as we can’t blame the old training ground anymore.
It’s not just the impressive stadium. And it’s not just the big name players like Dimitri Payet bending in free kicks, Lanzini threading inch perfect through balls into the box, it’s the tangible progression of the club.
I remember a time as recently as a few months ago that people were saying we’d never fill the stadium, and that if we did it would have no atmosphere. Well if we took three points home last weekend then that’s great, but the real victory was showing that we can win a game in our new stadium, with a depleted squad and win it singing.
I think if we can add a couple of players to our squad and allow a couple of our young stars to progress as we all know they can, then we’ll easily beat our record-breaking points haul from last season.
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