Both on and off the pitch, this has been a summer break to forget for West Ham.
It all started with promise and excitement; the marquee signings of Enner Valencia and Cheikhou Kouyate have been complimented by our captures of Mauro Zarate, Aaron Cresswell, Carl Jenkinson and Diego Poyet. The board demanded that Allardyce plays a more aesthetically pleasing style of football. Teddy Sheringham re-joined the Hammers as an attacking coach.
But in a remarkably cruel turn of events, West Ham fans were left dejected as bad news flocked in relentlessly. After being left out as a ‘precautionary measure’ for our first few friendlies, our record signing Andy Carroll was frustratingly ruled out for another four months, meaning that we will be starting yet another term without our main striker.
Our woes worsened as troublesome creative midfielder Ravel Morrison was being held in prison after being charged with assault.
The off-the-pitch misery was replicated in our games too, as our toothless attack resurrected nightmares of last season’s football. Our schedule started with two draws, 2-2 and 0-0 against Stevenage and Ipswich respectively. We then jetted halfway around the world to lose both games in New Zealand. A-League opposition should be well below our standard but we were made to look like amateurs as only a Mauro Zarate goal could console our worried fans.
We then travelled to Germany for the Schalke Cup, still struggling to play this new expansive style of football that had been promised, but scraped victory on penalties after a 0-0 stalemate. Young Jack Sullivan then claimed on Twitter to explain that we cannot play attacking football against Schalke.
You could feel the frustration bubbling up amongst us Hammers, though, and our concerns were justifiably brought about again as we were picked apart too easily by mid-table La Liga side Malaga. Two nil ended up being a flattering margin of defeat for us in the end with Adrian also saving a penalty.
We did eventually find that elusive victory at Upton Park against Sampdoria. A late tap-in from teenage centre-back Reece Burke ensured that our pre-season was not entirely fruitless as we came away with a 3-2 victory. The feeling of relief somewhat glistened over the fact that this result was merely a merry end to a torrid period.
But does a lacklustre off-season predetermine failure in the actual season?
Let me invite you to cast your mind back to the last time we were relegated. Avram Grant enjoyed an undefeated summer of results which irrationally raised our hopes. We were, of course, subsequently brought back to reality as a dire campaign led us finishing rock bottom – 7 points adrift of safety.
Pre-season is primarily an indicator of match fitness and a chance to experiment. We mixed up our teams frequently and you never felt like we ever had our strongest eleven on the pitch.
We can take positives too; Cheikhou Kouyate looks to be an absolute steal with his dominating midfield displays and youngster Diego Poyet has staked a claim for a starting spot. Mauro Zarate has shown glimpses of excellence if he is used in the right capacity, but the long-term worry has been our style of play.
This has shown little sign of being altered and the worry is that we could be in for a similar season of negative tactics. Although pre-season should be taken with a pinch of salt, it is hard to not panic as everything seems to be imploding.
However, we must remember that pre-season is just a preparatory tool – albeit publicly – enabling us to set out a plan for the season. Premiership football (and competitive football in general) is a significant difference to non-competitive friendlies.
That’s why we should reserve judgement on our prospects for the season until we have sufficient evidence from our league and cup matches.