Football returns, what do West Ham return to?

Paul Colborne, Hammers United Chairman, reflects on our situation following our return to action.

So, after a long wait, we are back. I’ve read a lot of reaction to yesterdays performance. Most of it involving people saying we have no chance of staying up.

Actually when you look at yesterdays results, with Bournemouth losing at home to Palace, I believe there is a very good chance we will stay up.

Norwich were bloody terrible, worse that West Ham, and are a way behind the others so I’m going to assume they are down. Brighton are now a way ahead, so I’m going to assume they will stay up.

So that leaves two (out of West Ham, Villa, Watford and Bournemouth) who will stay up and two who will go down. If you look at the fixtures, Villa and Bournemouth have much harder run-ins than us and Watford and following results this weekend (including Bournemouth losing to Palace), I believe those two will go down; seeing us and Watford survive.

So assuming we stay up, not ‘cos we are any good, but because there are 3 teams worse than us, where does that leave West Ham United?

Some blame the players for the position we find ourselves in as a club, some blame the manager, but the fact is that the problems at West Ham lie at the very top, with the board. They spent around 25 million net in the Summer and in the money rich Premier League it is an unfortunate fact that, if you are to compete, you have to spend more than that.

We started the season with one proven striker in Haller. When Haller cannot play, we play Antonio up front. I love him to bits but he is better out wide, his finishing is simply not good enough for us to rely on him as a central striker.

We started the season with one decent goalkeeper. Our decent back-up goalkeeper left us and cheap replacements were brought in. If we were to go down this would probably be the biggest contributing factor.

We started the season with one proven Premiership full-back in Cresswell. Most Premiership clubs have four! Zabaleta is too old and the others are young and still learning.

We invested in a well respected manager but a man who was in semi-retirement and past his best. A strategy we usually use in signing players!

Our scouting and training facilities lag far behind other Premier League clubs and the infrastructure at the club is poor if not non-existent.

All this, of course, plays out to a background of empty promises; “A world class team in a world class stadium” springs to mind.

So that brings me to the most important thing of all. West Ham United as we once knew it barely exists, because of GSB. They rebranded us as West Ham London, and they have failed and failed spectacularly.

I remember watching Newcastle at home with an old mate, Bob Street. Bob no longer goes to home games, he says (like so many others) that he “hates the soulless bowl”. He was on the Hammers United march against the Board before Southampton at home and, along with his friend Brett, went to the bowl for the final time that day.

Bob started going regularly in 1968 when, with the likes of Bimbo, Richie and Sharon they would get a coach from the Boleyn around midnight on a Friday to go to the Northern away games. So, as we were getting hammered by Newcastle I was deeply saddened when Bob turned to me and said “do you know what, I don’t care anymore, I couldn’t care less if we go down”.

There are many who feel the same way. West Ham and the whole experience of supporting us is now so shit that many, many old school fans simply don’t care anymore and thousands of them have walked away. These people have seen relegations (at least 4 of them!) and have never walked away before.

I have said I believe there is a good chance we will stay up this year, but what about next year?

We have a poor infrastructure at the club, no strategy, and compared to most other clubs in the Premier League, we have limited financial resources. I do not blame the Board for that. They are not in the same financial league as some.

I do not like them and they do not like me. However, you will never find me being abusive towards them. The time may come when they seek talks with Hammers United. We will not be swayed from our view that they need to leave our club and whilst we push that message from a distance at present (as opposed to explaining it to them face to face) we will remain in a polite, but very clear, stand off.

The fact remains, however, that West Ham will not be able to compete with the big 6. You can add Wolves and Leicester to the list of clubs who we have fallen behind and who will continue to invest to widen the gap. Brighton and Sheffield United have more financial muscle than us. Newcastle, it seems, will be taken over by a ‘filthy’ rich consortium. If they were to stay up, it is highly likely that both Bournemouth and Villa would have more funds than us made available.

So, it is becoming a real possibility that we are now a club who aspires to finish twelfth. Since we never compete in the cups, one has to ask, “what is the point of West Ham?”.

The point, in the past, was always the fans themselves. The tradition and heritage, the camaraderie, the ‘West Ham family’, the day out; that has all been eroded away. We have to get it back or the answer to the question is that “there really is little point”.

Prediction: stay up this year and go down next.

GSB out.