A few weeks ago I was at an all-time low with not only my appraisal of the team performances but also with the ongoing club owners’ shenanigans…to the point that I felt compelled to ring into radio shows to voice my displeasure.
At the spritely age of 47, I’ve had an unwavering support for our club since I was a boy but had drifted in and out of pleasure with the teams and players over the years…some glorious and some…well just really poor, but it has been the last couple of seasons that seemed to tip me over the edge to the point that I considered whether this current squad was the worst I had seen in over 40 years.
Now this is a claim that will surely attract derision from the West Ham faithful, but my opinion was less to do with the quality of talent that percolated through the squad or indeed the abject performances that were witnessed all of last season and into the current campaign. It was actually more to do with a level of expectation that I had and which the team were simply failing to meet.
Whilst I had sympathy for Slaven Bilic, I also knew there were many errors being made but my main displeasure was aimed at the players and could not fathom why this crop of supposedly hugely talented players could be so poor. Of course there were tactical deficiencies and injuries to contend with, but as a whole the players were not performing and did not seem to demonstrate an unwavering desire to lay it all on the line for the manager, the club or indeed even the fans.
Exit Slaven Bilic and enter David Moyes! What on earth was the catalyst for his appointment and how would anything change for the better? The West Ham masses seemed unified in displeasure and lack of enthusiasm, however most would loyally support the new boss and trust he could turn our fortunes around.
So whilst half of the first team were away on international duty, Moyes took the helm and we were regaled with clips of his training sessions and a steely determination to instil some pride and performances back into the squad. The right words seemed to be said, the correct messages seemed to be conveyed and yes…even I, the recently embittered mild-mannered janitor, was taking note and beginning to sense a revival, albeit still not convinced that the ‘Moyesiah’ was our long-term solution.
Well, we all know what happened next…three largely dismal results but possibly a glimmer of hope as some individual performances seemed on the rise. However, my mood was turning for the better as I appreciated Moyes’ post-match assessments of not only some minor in-game victories but where our deficiencies really lay.
Unfortunately, at the same time, board members continued to air their opinions when really they shouldn’t and fans continued to voice concerns and displeasure of team performances but also about the board and their antics. However, Moyes seemed to lead by example and showed how effective communication should be done, amongst the team but also to the media and fans. The next three matches against Man City, Chelsea & Arsenal we were presumed doomed to fail but surprisingly a Eureka moment galvanised the team to put in some superb performances and all seemed well in my world again, but this was to be short lived!
More nonsensical commentary from board members and a drop in performances against teams in similar league positions followed but my main gripe was how we approached the quarter-final of the Carabao Cup against a definitely second rate Arsenal team and which was a very winnable match. This set off a chain reaction which brought us right back down to earth from our lofty aspirations and revealed a few chinks in Moyes’s tactical armoury and starting team selections.
As a fan, I hope but do not expect us to win every match but I wish for a committed performance and the desire from each player to do their best…some are clearly excelling under the Moyes mantra but others seem to be struggling once again which convinces me we are in a dogfight until the end of the season.
At times I get the impression that Moyes is in complete control of his own destiny, a leader amongst warriors, a man with charismatic potential, who can make the clouds part and the sun shine brightly on our club, then at other times I see him lost in turmoil on the touchline, a puppet for the board and a voice for the club that distracts our gaze from our weighty woes.
Whilst we showed great resilience against Spurs and a never give up attitude against West Brom to get the win, we inevitably did not field our first team in the FA Cup third round tie against Shrewsbury Town which illustrated the lack of cohesion in the second tier team. I am very much the champion of giving youth players game time and squad players a greater role in rotation, however there has to be a balance, whereby we maintain a winning momentum. Of course we must rest players and protect the injured, but surely we should not rest players for rest sake. Any significant disruption to the core first team make up undoubtedly affects performances at all levels.
As for the manager, the team and the club, I want us to approach every game with a winning mentality, to deliver the very best performance we can and to deliver a herculean effort that lifts our spirits…regardless of the final match result. We can’t afford to rest half the team in cup games, be complacent or underestimate any opponent, no matter what their league position is or whatever their recent form has been. A winning mentality breeds winning performances and results! It is this approach we must take into our next five league games against teams in and around our position. They are all winnable games but are easily losable if we allow complacency to seep in.
As for Moyes, well I’m supportive and hopeful he can do great things until the end of the season at least but I’m wary of showing unbridled commitment for the Moyes mantra as it’s still too early to tell. I’ll defer my opinion until the end of the transfer window and take note of the team’s and individual performances in the meantime…hoping for consistency and improvements but fearful of a club, team and management that may flatter to deceive.