The arctic wind roared in from the North to smother us with dread, surround us in misery and to steal away any aspirations that we might pull away from a relegation battle.
We had come off a reasonably impressive string of performances and had climbed the table, yet still tentative at best. We had not shown confidence in victory, we had not displayed cavalier pomp in parity but we had started to show a quiet determination to get through games and earn valuable points.
Our cup performances were truly ordinary at best and portrayed the worst of our apathy and vulnerability, however in the league. West Ham were proving that this kind of priority might just be paying off even with a squad that was plagued with the sick, infirm and rebellious.
So travelling down to Brighton on a cold and drizzle soaked afternoon, one might excuse a fan for feeling positive, nay hopeful for an improvement on a draw and a return with three points and an awe inspiring performance that would warm the coldest of fan’s hearts…It did not happen!
We have been bombarded with negativity all week…the FA Cup ejection, the apathetic display at home to Crystal Palace, the truly awful end to the transfer window and to top it all off the huge news that head of recruitment; Tony Henry had been sacked for his negative and totally disgraceful comments about African players. Could the week get any worse…oh yes it could!
Since the Moyes revival started to take hold, many in the mainstream media were heaping high praise upon him and the rest of the coaching staff. Indeed much of the West Ham faithful had started to do the same and started to think that Moyes could and should be a longer term choice for the managerial post holder. However we had conveniently erased from our memories many of the performances that just about made the grade and many in which we limped over the line.
I also fell amongst that gaggle of voices who thought we were starting back on the road to recovery and that with each passing game, we were improving, drawing, winning and becoming more confident. I acknowledged that our squad was still painfully under resourced and needed a magic wand to cure its ills, but that spell never took hold, was never created let alone manifested.
During this whole period we lacked a confident passing game, any success along both flanks, quality crossing capability and our general forward offensive play was less than amusing…it was downright tragic. We had seen in the cup games that we were a shadow of where we should be, but we all assumed that all the good, true and right stuff was being reserved for the league games…and recent performances would tend to make that argument less distasteful.
We started the game at the Amex Stadium and were very lucky not to go down to ten men in the opening minutes for a Cresswell challenge. Initially we started to pass and move quite effectively, however still lacking that quality and drive to progress further into the final third. Brighton however were passing with greater zip, moving with determined vim and supporting each other with superior vigour. They were plainly just better than us and deserved their 1-0 lead.
For much of the first half Brighton had the better of it but West Ham were able to launch an offensive and slowly made greater inroads into the heart of the Brighton defence…ultimately leading to a neat interchange of play between Chicharito, Noble and Mario, which the former lashed in a right boot shot, from the edge of the six yard box, into the top right hand corner of the goal after teasing us with a couple of extra touches to create space to the flank of the ailing defender.
The second half was an abysmal affair with any urgency to move forward seemed frozen on a distinctly cold afternoon. However, Brighton seemed to not suffer the same afflictions and proceeded to school the West Ham players and in turn the travelling support with an uplifted display and two very worthy goals. The agony was heartfelt, however the anger from the West Ham fans was palpable and all the frustration was aimed directly at the West Ham United ownership.
It was only a matter of time before the Moyes magic would be found wanting, like a child magician performing in front of an adult crowd used to being wowed by Penn & Teller. They would be found out, their sleight of hand would be obvious and the reveal would be a flat as a gymnast’s bust.
Moyes is being forced to field a team of individuals but he cannot fashion a team that is able to perform with any dexterity, fluidity or cohesion. At times they look like lost souls stranded in purgatory, debutants frozen on a lonely stage and ice dancers who skated too close to thin ice…and fell through.
None of my frustration or much of the faithful’s anger is directed at the players or indeed the management. We fully understand the situation we have got ourselves into and we hope that they can weather this imperfect storm at least until we have our injured return to us. We appreciate the limitations of the squad and that many players are being played in unfamiliar roles, however there is still an expectation that many would be performing to a higher standard and putting on more of a challenge to those opponents in comparative league circumstances…a task easier said than done I grant you but nonetheless still painful to watch.
A team has a symbiotic relationship with the fans and also with the club structure as a whole. One helps another, one feeds off each other and one is the muse for the other’s inspirations. That symbiosis is withering away at West Ham with dysfunctional displays, a fan base that is becoming more and more disenfranchised and disillusioned with the ownership of the club…and owners who have not covered themselves in glory at any stage and are perceived as the true villains in this whole drama.
We have been dancing on Ice for too long! Schofield and Willoughby have left the building, Torvill and Dean have hung up their skates and the ice has began to melt…only a big freeze can come to the rescue now before we fall through and never to return.