West Ham are transitioning into a new chapter of its existence and to say we are in an unsettled state is an understatement.
As a club, a fan base and a family, we are in a major period of change. We have changed location, we have moved into a bigger stadium and our physical presence as a fan base has nearly doubled.
We have welcomed new and often first-time season ticket holders. Never have we been so under the media spotlight thanks to the London Stadium saga. Every other football fan and taxpayer is hoping our stadium deal falls flat on its face and, to be frank, a portion of our fans are ensuring that is coming to fruition.
As a season ticket holder, I have been to the home games this season, including Saturday evening’s demolition against Arsenal. I believe there are many factors contributing to our current league position, such as under-performing players, the pressure of playing in front of a now nearly 60,000 strong home crowd, fan expectation and, the biggest factor, burnout.
At present, the team, the manager and to a certain extent the supporters, are very tired and weary. It has been a long decade. Looking back as far as the Zola years, our finances have been tight. I remember the winter of 2008, when we were told that for us to purchase players in the upcoming January transfer window, we were going to have to sell players. Already in a relegation dogfight we couldn’t afford to lose anyone, yet our squad was only just good enough to stay up that season.
The previous Great Escape season was hanging over us and we knew a hefty fine for Tevez Gate was on the horizon. That survival took everything out of us, both on and off the pitch.
New owners pitched up in 2009 and immediately we were made aware of their intentions to move us to the London Stadium. Keep in mind this was nearly eight years ago.
Zola was sacked; we loved him and the situation hurt us all emotionally to see the man greet reporters at his home in such a dignified manner and pour them coffee he had prepared for in anticipation of them seeking his side of the story. A true gentleman, in my eyes.
As the two Davids took to the press conference following their purchase of majority shares in the club, to announce themselves as our new owners, it was starting to set in just how bad a state we were in financially. We were heavily in debt after the Icelandic owners and no money was coming in. A dire situation that appeared to have no quick solution.
So, fast forward to present day. Two managers have come and gone and both won no favours with the fans, and certainly appear not to be missed. We have been relegated and won a play-off final to return to the Premier League. We have been in further relegation battles, had an often-crippling ongoing injury problem and, sadly, said goodbye to our spiritual home – the mighty fortress Boleyn Ground.
Last season saw great results both home and away as well as the emergence of a cult hero in Dimitri Payet. Slaven Bilic is the first manager for decades we have truly embraced.
So why the issues now? After all the events mentioned above, I think we as a fan base are entitled to be slightly irritable. We thought we had weathered the financial storm but the new stadium has had more teething problems than we thought. The players played immensely well last season and gave Upton Park the send-off it deserved. No wonder everyone is now tired.
We are exhausted and emotions are running high. We have turned on the players and the board. Many fans are old enough to remember West Ham teams with far more quality than the current one get relegated, and it is tearing open old wounds.
It was believed we had moved on from scraping money together, due to the television money, the board balancing the books and the divisive sale of our home, all hitting the clubs bank account.
The players that have come in over the summer are not performing and it isn’t hard to see why when they are constantly heckled and abused by the home crowd; probably the same section of fans that hide behind polls and hashtags on Twitter.
It’s hard to deny that a percentage of our fans are contributing to the problem now. Player confidence is low and this will only be compounded by fans huffing and puffing every time they do something wrong.
Zaza was practically booed before he even came on as a substitute at Old Trafford. He then slices a shot and the fans nearly heckled him out of Manchester. The clip of that going viral across social media, accompanied by the ‘gofundme’ fundraiser to send him home must make him open to taking that offer up. How is he to every get his confidence back?
Payet is also feeling the sharp end of fans’ tongues. Last season people believed he could walk on water, yet now after a long season last year, a nation on his back over the summer and only a short break before going into this season, fans expect the now almost 30-year-old to keep producing. He isn’t a golden egg laying goose and he must be close to burnout. He looks despondent, unappreciated, tired and in dire need of a recharge.
Moving forward, what can we expect? I would say that the hostility will grow towards the board and reach fever pitch after the transfer window, as I am sure whoever we sign will not appease the fans’ current anger. The players attending the African Cup of Nations will leave an already stretched squad depleted.
So, therefore, I would say that its feasible that results will slide during this tournament. Of course, the lingering threat of another Andy Carroll injury is always lurking in the background.
But I would say to the fans, back the team! Cheer the players and encourage them. We are the life blood and only we can heal this club.
Fortunes are always hiding, but we must still look everywhere. Up the Irons!