In part one of our weekly 2016/2017 season review we look at June and July, two very transitional months for West Ham United.
As the dust settled on a fantastic 2015/2016 campaign, the whole West Ham United operation was moving West to Stratford. While many of The Hammers players were away dazzling the world at Euro 2016, so was the manager as Bilic was a popular pundit on ITV. During the exciting tournament many Hammers excelled, including James Collins and Dimitri Payet who both reached the last four and Darren Randolph who reached the final eight in goal for Ireland.
As the competition progressed Slaven Bilic returned home and attention began to turn to the new season and more importantly, making transfers. As per usual, in the first month of pre-season the onus was very much on rumour and not fact, with only two real ins or outs occurring. Mid-way through the month it was announced that Sofiane Feghouli would be joining on a free-transfer from Valencia, the deal was met with gratitude and excitement from fans. However, no real money was being spent and pressure was being put on Bilic and the board to splash out on an attacking player, with rumours of Bacca and Batshuayi not helping. Another decision that had made fans angry in the month was the departure of homegrown hero James Tomkins. Tonks had been sold to Crystal Palace for a fee believed to be in the region of £10 million. A few the signings that were to take place in July were also announced as the month grew older.
All in all, June had been a very quiet month in East London and it was hardly surprising with international Football taking centre stage. Very late in the month, the members of the first team squad who weren’t in France travelled to the USA for the first tour of the pre-season. As July dawned, the first real preparations for the 2016/2017 season were being made.
Unlike June, July was to be an extremely busy month in the world of West Ham as friendlies, Europa League and transfers took place.
The month began with the bulk of The Hammers squad away in The USA at a pre-season training camp. Seattle would be the base camp for Slaven Bilic’s men, with the first friendly of the trip scheduled for July 6th against Seattle Sounders. Many Hammers fans had made the trip out to The States and they were left disappointed as a Jordan Morris double ensured that we succumbed to a 3-0 defeat at CenturyLink Field. Bilic was left much to ponder after the defeat to The MLS side, but he had his weak team selection as an excuse. The tour concluded with a 2-2 draw at the hands of North American Soccer League outfit Carolina RailHawks.
Meanwhile, back home business was taking place with five signings taking place. Manuel Lanzini, who had wildly impressed on loan from Al-Jazira in the season before, joined on a permanent basis to the delight of fans. The signings of two young talents in Ashley Fletcher and Domingos Quina were also announced in the month. Two more deals from The Continent would follow, as Borussia Monchengladbach captain Havard Nordtveit was signed along with the second Valencia star of the summer in youngster Toni Martinez. The month also saw the departure of long serving right back Joey O’Brien and youngster Elliot Lee, who signed for Barnsley for an undisclosed fee.
Back on the Football pitch, an impromptu tour of Austria was announced to prepare the squad for The Europa League third qualifying round first leg against NK Domzale. The first of the diabolic tour’s three friendlies saw us face FC Slovacko of The Czech Republic. Two late goals from our opponents cancelled out Ashley Fletcher’s and Mark Noble’s early strikes and the game ended in a 2-2 draw. The following day, the half of the squad that hadn’t faced Slovacko were well beaten in another friendly against Russian side Rubin Kazan. The final game of the tour presented an opportunity to claim the only win of pre-season. A strong Hammers side faced Slaven Bilic’s former club Karlsruhe SC and came out on top, when goals from Carroll, Feghouli and Fletcher ensured a 0-3 victory. With the vast majority of friendlies now over and still without Euro 2016 stars such as Dimitri Payet, the squad travelled to Slovenia to face Domzale in The Europa League. The away leg of the tie would bring a hostile atmosphere and a scrappy, disappointing 2-1 defeat. The only highlight of the game had been Mark Noble’s crucial away goal penalty, as a Matic Crnic double left us with work to do in our first ever game at The London Stadium.
July had been an action-packed month and August would hold the start of The Premier League campaign, a glamorous friendly and more Europa League action. However, even in July it was clear to see that the foundations were being laid for a poor 2016/2017 season.