West Ham 1-3 Arsenal

West Ham boss Pellegrini takes the long walk

WATCHING West Ham under Manuel Pellegrini is to be reminded of the old joke about the yokel who starts work in a sawmill. After 20 minutes the rookie calls his foreman over to complain he’s lost a finger on the saw blade. “How did you do that?”, enquires his boss, “Well, I just put my hand like this and – oh, there goes another one!” Just like the newbie, the Chilean never seems to learn – and cares even less.

Once again, the Hammers lost a game to a team on a poor run of form due to mental frailty born of tactical incoherence. Arsenal were terrible. Really poor. They looked like Avram Grant era West Ham. Unfortunately, the home side in contrast could be best viewed as a late-era Arsene Wenger side attempting to pass the ball into the net.

Pellegrini plays a formation that sacrifices central midfielders for wingers that won’t defend. Except the widemen (as well as everybody else) appear to have a moratorium on crossing the ball. The received wisdom is many goalkeepers are scared of crosses – at West Ham it’s our wingers. All the more frustrating when the first decent cross of the night resulted in Angelo Ogbonna scoring.

Arsenal, without a win in nine games could and should have crumbled. The Hammers should have tucked in, filled the midfield, shut the game down and picked the away side off as they stretched their play.

Instead of which the home team threw themselves lemming-like into the Gooners trap of playing out from the keeper. The claret and blue attempt at a press was dismal, those in yellow played through it and scored three goals in a nine-minute blitz as the Hammers defence disintegrated. For the third home game in succession West Ham conceded three.

Post-match as far as the eye could see were fans who shorn of anger were metaphorically throwing their hands in the air. David Sullivan might do well to reflect that apathy is a much more corrosive emotion for a football team than anger.

An accurate summary of the blossoming relationship between West Ham and their fans

As to the immediate future, all the studies show that managers make very little difference to a football team’s performance and that wages are a far better predicator of a team’s success. It would appear sacking Manuel Pellegrini will make very little difference to West Ham’s prospects for the second half of the season.

However, there is also good evidence to suggest certain managers are outriders – David Moyes, Sean Dyche and Sam Allardyce among others, consistently overperform.

The West Ham Board have said their manager has one game (Southampton away) to save his job, a decision that by any logic is futile. If the boss needs that gee up in the first place it would suggest he hasn’t been carrying out his duties to the full in the first place. A win doesn’t solve the problem but merely delays crunch time until the next game. Whereas, if there is no improvement then it’s one more game we haven’t won. This would be a very West Ham tactic that allow a Board famous for the practice to brief against the manager to once again attempt to escape responsibility for poor decisions.

When Alan Pardew (in)famously called Pellegrini “A fucking old cunt” on the touchline at St James Park who was to know he would be speaking for all of us – even if the former Palace man is NOT a suitable replacement. Coming back to the opening quote, the only question remains how long it will take the Hammers manager to saw off his remaining fingers.

Just like my dreams Part I

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning”

Gloria Steinem
This is not what we were promised

AMID all the places in the contemporary West Ham cybersphere for polls, forums and opportunities to “have your say” there is a dearth of space for an encompassing vision of what fans really want our football club to look like. As good as polls are at determining on a day to day basis whether this or that player is a favourite, the answers are only ever going to be granular.

This, then, is a vision of the club we aspire to under the unlikely conceit Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos feels making all that money while also pissing off Donald Trump has left a hole in his life that can only be filled by ploughing millions into an underperforming Premier League football club.

As well as establishing a basis for argument over what a football club should be and do the hope is such an examination can build a better framework within which to answer, “Who would you like to sign for us, x or y player?”

The stadium:

THE current arena isn’t fit for purpose. It was not designed as a football ground and it shows. Seats are too far from the pitch. The shallow rake of the stands means there is little atmosphere, the gap between stands worsens the problem and the scaffolding is an embarrassment. Worse, the migration from Upton Park was handled with all the dexterity and wit of a Duke being interviewed by Emily Maitlis.

Realistically the choice is between rebuild, replace or build a new stadium. A rebuild seems unfeasible as there is so little of the ground worth its name as a football stadium. There is no opportunity to dig down – and going upwards would only exacerbate current problems. Replacement on the same site would be expensive, messy, and would possibly, as with Spurs, involve a period at another ground.

With all respect to those that would quite legitimately cry “Not again” the best choice would be to start afresh with the Amazon Stadium sited elsewhere on the Queen Elizabeth Park. The current owners would be more than happy to get out of the current lease which is costing them around £10million a year. A decent deal could also be made buying some adjacent land as without a football club in situ the park would atrophy.

Seating priority would not be given, as with the recent migration to those having the most money or a mate who wants a ticket but to length of service as a season ticket holder. Obvious to everybody you might think, except for Karren Brady, who if she performed as badly as a contestant on The Apprentice as she does in real life would be booted off on the second week.

The prime concern for the stadium alongside givens such as sightlines, comfort and safety would be atmosphere. To that end the arena would have a steep rake all around and upper tiers that sit above rather than behind the space below giving a theatre feel. Individuals would feel more as though they are part of the action rather than spectators.

Behind one goal would be a single stand “Kop” designated a singing section that would be the cheapest area of the ground. The aim would be something akin to “die Gelbe Wand” (the Yellow Wall) of Borussia Dortmund. (Compare with the current ludicrous idea that the Billy Bonds Stand – with some of the most expensive seats in the ground – would possess the atmosphere).

The Yellow Wall

Controversially perhaps, the ground would have a capacity of just 45-50 thousand. The estimates are we currently attract around 42 thousand – the increased capacity has a lot more to do with David Sullivan’s ego than any practical concern. Much above 50 thousand attendees and atmosphere dissipates, a full ground is always livelier than a sparse stadium whatever the size.

All lower tier seats would be convertible to safe standing and there would be a designated Family Enclosure as well as disabled seating, a sensory room and so on. Corporate areas would consist of lounges with access to seats outside. No boxes. Food available within would be of pub standard rather having pretensions to haute cuisine in order to prevent inflated charges. Food and drink would be available behind the stands as is usual and be comparable in cost to pub prices. Fixed seats and tables would be available. Hopefully, fans would be drawn in earlier, preventing last minute waits to be searched, and profits would raise given fewer supporters would be drinking away from the ground.

Fan representation:

INDEPENDENT supporter groups would be encouraged and have regular dialogue with the Supporter Liaison Officer. Meetings with Board members would be regular, as would input into policing and stewarding committees. The hated OSB would be immediately disbanded. As appealing as it sounds a supporter on the Board would be unnecessary so long as the former protocol was adhered to. The Davids, Gold and Sullivan, profess to be fans and both are useless. The concern would be a Board place up for grabs would lead to infighting and invite those more concerned with thoughts of grandeur than representing the club’s support.

Kit:

PLAYING and training wear would be designed by top brands, realistically that means Nike or adidas. Home kit would consist of claret shirts with sky sleeves, white socks and shorts. Away strips would rotate on a tri-yearly basis between sky, navy and white. There is a place for gold within these kits – but teal, ecru, violet and so forth have no place in a West Ham strip and are an abomination.

Part II to follow. On-pitch matters...

You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

WEST HAM are currently applying short bans to supporters who advertise tickets for sale on social media in an effort to rectify the lack of available tickets to away games.

As you might expect of this club, the process that led to this more than regrettable conclusion lacked transparency, involved the Official Supporters Board and resulted in good honest fans being punished while far graver offenders carried on their business.

Here is how we arrived here:

The club commissioned a fans website who do pretty well publishing confidential chit chat received from senior club officials to produce a survey on tickets. Just coincidentally, one of the club’s OSB “representatives” happens to co-run the site chosen.

A sub-committee of the OSB were formed to look into away games ticket distribution. Three or more of the members of this committee were anonymous. Of the two members who outed themselves one was given suggestions on yet another website that included removing away season tickets, ending priority points and entering everyone into a ballot for high demand games.

Accusations abounded of bondholder and away season ticket holder abuse and the selling on of tickets. Throughout this process the Chairman of the OSB in typical fashion made it his business to run around social media blaming Independent Supporters’ Associations for “scaremongering” when in they were in truth presenting facts.

The meeting was held and little of substance resulted until letters were sent to fans banning them from home and away games for selling tickets.

Questions remain.

If it were that easy to contact supporters to ban them, why weren’t those very same supporters directly contacted to give their views in the first place?
So far there has been no announcement from the club as to any further measures. Are they looking at their own employees who bang tickets on (we know of one particularly egregious practitioner)?

Are the club taking a more confrontational stance on ticket touts – they appear far nastier transgressors than somebody selling a seat at face value because they cannot manage one particular game?

Summary:

If the club had provided a more transparent approach to the whole affair, including how many tickets are allocated to whom, they could have brought fans onside, got hold of the real culprits and engendered much goodwill.

Instead of which, they acted in poor faith and with shadowy intent as they stoked up bad feeling, increased suspicions of opacity and furthered mistrust.

We have no idea whether their behaviour is naked incompetence or an inherent loathing of the fans that provide their living.

Either way this is not how a successful club should behave. From our perspective the “West Ham family” seems pretty dysfunctional. Sadly, so long as the club continue their refusal to speak with ISAs we cannot metaphorically call Social Services in.

Who we, who we are

Oh West Ham We Love You is a loose collective of West Ham supporters who have been sharing thoughts about the club with each other via WhatsApp for some while.

We now believe there is room for our views to become more public.

We claim no constituency or mandate beyond our own.

Included in our group are season ticket holders, away season ticket holders, corporate users and “once in a while” supporters. We are men and women and have a wide age range.

What most defines us however, is our desire for a better West Ham. We believe with more thoughtful management across all areas the club have the potential to regularly improve their league position and consistently pick up silverware.

Let’s build something together.