On love lost days and ale massacred nights, a fan dreams of towering spires and getaways to neighbouring European host cities. For that was the journey we were supposed to venture and that was our story yet to be told.
Instead West Ham are clinging onto mid table obscurity, precariously teetering before our fate takes us down or hoists us upwards to reach the skies. The next five fixtures may determine whether we should be in a fight until the very last kick of the season or indeed whether we can take flight to reach higher purpose.
Our squad is conservatively sprinkled with sub 25yr olds and the majority residing in the late 20s or older, even most of our defensive make up is made up of thirty somethings whom we may need to put out to pasture anytime soon. The future looks uncertain for the old salts and we’re surely looking at more new signings within the next year or so to replace the elder statesmen.
However the here and now draws our attention and our plight has seen increasing demands on the older players to lead the line and guide the youth to deliver performances and the team results.
On many a match day we have been blessed with wondrous performances from the likes of Noble, Collins and Zabaleta. By the same token, many of the youthful players have struggled to deliver notable performances or even demonstrate endeavour on hallowed grounds. Of course there is review required of our current youth policy and how we drip feed those talents into first team games. However when called upon, the youthful debutants have not had the gumption to latch onto opportunities…apart from Master Declan Rice. He has been able to prove his worth and talent that would secure him a West Ham future…many even boldly forecasting he might one day be a club captain. High praise indeed!
What many lack in pace or raw talent, they certainly make up for with experience, positioning & timing. The older players are often the best players on the field with the younger ones still in need of encouragement and direction.
Moyes has struggled to find a solution to our inconsistency and has been plagued by injuries and below par performances from some of the understudies, however even many of the regulars have been largely hit and miss over the course of this current campaign. The question that yearns to be asked now is whether there is enough time for any of the youth to reach maturity to provide sufficient product or whether there will continue to be an over reliance on the ageing players on their final hurrah?
Objectively, Moyes has fielded the youth in cup games and have endeavoured to put them to work and charged them with a task which they could not accomplish. In the Carabao Cup quarter final against Arsenal, Moyes played the second string players and a few youth players too. We lacked any kind of composure and control in central midfield thus highlighting our greatest deficiencies.
Many, inducing myself, looked upon the selections and performance with scornful eyes and barely at ease from the malcontent felt. There was an opportunity to go much further in a cup competition and to build a winning momentum. There was a chance for the young hearts to mix with old parts and see us through to the next stage…but they failed and Moyes failed to extract a performance out of the team that was devoid of composure and creativity.
These two qualities have eluded us for the best part of two seasons, especially when the first team players have been absent with a sick note or absent without leave in general. When Moyes took over, the team and players were a shambles. The youth looked like disinterested teenagers, lolloping about carefree and pointless, whereas the elders looked frustrated and lost in confusion…unable to find the correct equation to solve the ongoing problem.
Since his appointment, Moyes and the coaching staff have succeeded in getting a tune out of the senior players and their performances have risen as well as their spirits. He has attempted to cover injured positions with youthful enterprise, but more often than not has ben forced to revert back to the tried and tested, the reliable and reasonable…and the upright and solid. He has so far fulfilled his mandate to ensure Premier League survival in that the focus has been obviously in that arena. Regardless of whatever cup proclamations he might deliver prior to those encounters, each time it would be key senior players that would sacrificed.
However, in both FA Cup rounds against Shrewsbury Town and Wigan Athletic, in which the performances were truly woeful and devoid of hope, one would imagine that the players that crossed the white lines were good enough to put away any lower tier pretenders…they were not!
This left much of the fanbase livid with selections and the apparent disrespect for the competition but what it really highlighted was that our squad was dangerously thin, our youth…when pooled together were not experienced enough and simply not good enough. It highlighted that even the senior squad players lacked any confidence and suffered in fruitless endeavour and lacklustre efforts.
Manchester United were never supposed to win anything when many of the youth were promoted to senior ranks in one foul swoop…but they did, over and over! West Ham do not have that level of talent at the moment, but given time and opportunity, Moyes may indeed be the right kind of manager who might be able to nurture the younger talents and afford them greater opportunities.
In the meantime he’ll be forced to select from our squad of Age Concerned players who still have the goods and still able to show the children the right and proper way to behave on the green green grass of home…and away!
With a record breaking season for injuries, Moyes can only pray for good health from all of his foot soldiers from now until season end. He may still need to call upon the newbies to offer support and backfill the ranks…but for now those young hearts will be replaced by old parts, almost worn out but still good for just a while longer.