As all West Ham fans know we generally have to struggle through significantly more lows than highs over the years and have been cast asunder from the top division more time that we would prefer.
So as we come down from the high of Wembley, are we just hitting the downslope of another season of struggle back in the top flight or will we put up more of a fight than Audley Harrison?
Let’s looks at what history has taught us of the follow up to some previous promotion years, and just for once it seems fortunes are not necessarily always hiding.
Still riding the back of a record breaking season in Division 2, the Hammers added just two players to a very good squad with the talent of Francois Van Der Elst and (ahem) Neil Orr being brought in.
As expected, with the team still full of confidence, they started like a rocket and, having won 5 and drawn 1 of the first six games, they headed the Division (I think this was last time we have done that!!).
This run stretched to ten unbeaten in all competitions until Aston Villa rudely beat us 3-2 at Villa Park.
Now the West Ham we know and love would probably then have gone on a streak of ten games without a win, but this side had more than a touch of class and steel about it and it was a further 8 games before we would taste defeat again.
A 2-1 reverse against Arsenal in December was the first home loss of the season but the team were still handily placed in 7th. However, immediately following this, a cold snap resulting in a number of matches being cancelled and when normal service was resumed in January a 3-0 defeat at Liverpool (like I said normal service was resumed) the team had slipped to 12th. Having already suffered early cup exits West Ham could ‘concentrate on the league’ but instead showed Matthew Upsonesque levels of concentration as they picked up 1 win in 9 games and slipped to 14th. The rest of the season was largely meaningless with the side safe from relegation and not close enough to challenge for Europe and a final position of 8th seemed like a fair return from a promoted side.
FA Cup 4th Round – Away vs. Watford – 0-2
League Cup 3rd Round (2nd replay) – Home vs. WBA – 0-1
Top Scorer – David Cross, 20 goals
It’s probably best for everyone’s state of mind that I gloss over this season, which saw the newly promoted West Ham become newly relegated West Ham in one awful season.
This relegation was unique in the fact that we actually stayed in the same Division following our demise, albeit that the old Division 1 had become the bright and shiny Carling FA Premiership. Oh and we also had the ill-fated bond scheme introduced this year which added to the carnival atmosphere that was at West Ham tremendously (oh you can cut the sarcasm with a knife!)
FA Cup 5th Round – Home vs. Sunderland – 0-2
League Cup 4rd Round – Away vs. Norwich – 1-2
ZDS Cup* Southern SF – Away vs. Southampton – 1-2
Top Scorer – Mike Small, 18 goals
*Zenith Data Systems Cup – This was a short lived competition (thank god) for the top two division of the English league. This was even more reviled by the top clubs than the League Cup and was often used as a chance to blood the youngsters, much like the top clubs do in the League & FA Cup’s today!
Right, hope you’ve all forgotten the appalling / terrible /(insert your own adjective for bad here) 91/92 season as we fast forward to the last time we had just been promoted.
Alan Pardew had masterminded a sneaky promotion the season before as we had just scraped in to the Play Offs and hadn’t really looked promotion candidates.
Being fair to Mr Pardew, he had actually shaped a pretty decent side and with some good additions like Yossi Benayoun, James Collins and Danny Gabbidon things weren’t looking too bad.
Things were starting to look even better after a come-from-behind win at home to Blackburn on the first game of the season and then a very creditable 0-0 draw with Newcastle away. This fine form continued and saw just one defeat in five (which was our customary rolling over performance to Big Sam’s Bolton) saw us push up to 4th in the table. This, alas, couldn’t continue as Pardew’s side then lost 10 of the next 15 matches, including a League Cup 3rd round exit to Bolton (yep, rolled over again).
This run had seen us slip to 10th in the Premiership and as we moved into 2006 our bad form continued with a 3-1 reverse at home to Chelsea. Something pretty much akin to a miracle happened as West Ham then went on a run of 7 (yes really seven!) consecutive wins and aligned to this was the capture of the highly rated Dean Ashton and the good times were rolling.
This run included two FA Cup victories and one half of the ‘Last Team at Highbury First team at Emirates song’ with a 3-2 thrashing(!!) of Arsenal.
A daunting away trip to Bolton in the FA Cup followed and yep you guessed it we…. actually no, we held out for 0-0 draw and a replay at Upton Park. This new found confidence against our bogey team was in full evidence in our very next match, away to Bolton, in which we suddenly remembered the usual plot and rolled over for a 4-1 defeat.
The Cup replay with Bolton was played out against the back drop of Mr Allardyce being hotly tipped for the vacant England managers job, and West Ham fans were quick to voice their opinion as chants of ‘England job, you’re having a laugh’ echoed around the ground as West Ham went onto win 2-1.
With the Hammers now moving into the 6th round of the FA Cup our league form somewhat understandably waned as concentration moved to the Cup run. Thrilling victories over Man City and then Middlesbrough sent West Ham to their first FA Cup Final for over 25 years.
At the end of the league season the team finished in an impressive 9th place and had also gave us a joyful moment of stopping a lasagne heavy Spurs team from entering the Champions League as we signed off with a 2-1 win.
This left the FA Cup final and, but for a moment of idiocy from an Argentian, West Ham would have pulled off one of the greatest shocks ever, but alas following a thrilling 3-3 draw the match went to penalties and even England would beat West Ham in a penalty shoot-out.
FA Cup Runners Up – vs. Liverpool 3-3 (Lost 3-1 on penalties)
League Cup 3rd Round – Away vs. Bolton – 0-1
Top Scorer – Marlon Harewood, 17 goals