Hammer Fan Blog: West Ham players are as much to blame as Grant
“There can be no hard-luck stories and tales of misfortune; they simply have not been good enough when it has mattered most”
A thoroughly depressing draw with Blackburn Rovers at Upton Park may not have mathematically sealed relegation, but even the most faithful Hammers supporter would now concede that escape appears unlikely.
It’s not beyond the realms of possibility, of course, that Hammers could perform yet another miraculous turnaround but when the post-mortems are written on an horrendous campaign for the east London club, there can be no hard-luck stories and tales of misfortune; they simply have not been good enough when it has mattered most.
Featuring in every critical assessment of the club will be the performance of manager Avram Grant, and whilst the ineptitude of the Israeli is palpably obvious and has been covered here and elsewhere on numerous occasions; there is a real danger that Grant’s incompetence is being used as an excuse for, and to overshadow, the contributions of many others to the position in which the club finds itself.
There’s much time to consider the role of the owners and other contributors to the gross mismanagement of the club over the past 20 years or more when (okay, okay, IF) Hammers’ fate is sealed - but more pertinent, particularly in light of Saturday’s fixture, is the role of the players.
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Grant’s tactics - most notably the decision to include Carlton Cole, thereby ensuring yet more long ball football which played right into the hands (or more likely head) of Christopher Samba- and ability to motivate his players will rightly come into question again after a lacklustre performance, but any player that needs that motivating by anyone other than themselves for a game of this magnitude is, frankly, in the wrong job. And most certainly at the wrong club.
Once the white line is crossed, each and every player must take responsibility for their own performance, and endeavour to win their own personal battle. For 70 minutes, Hammers lost every single one. Blackburn were first to every second ball, stronger in the tackle, and more industrious all over the park.
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Then, shortly following the introduction of Jack Collison - the one high point of a dismal afternoon - and Freddie Picquionne, the players seemed suddenly to realise the implications of defeat.
They grabbed an equaliser and should have gone on to win the game. More on that in a moment, but it was abundantly clear that if Hammers had adopted the same approach and attitude from the first whistle that they displayed towards the end, they would have won the game comfortably, just as relegation rivals Wolves did 24 hours later.
It’s quite telling that even in spite of Grant’s limitations and the seemingly cowardly nature of his squad, that Hammers really ought to be outside the drop zone, or at very least in with a better shout of escaping the drop.
Home fixtures against Aston Villa and Blackburn offered the opportunity to turn the season from a disastrous one to just a less-than-good one, but those opportunities have been spurned.
Talking of spurning opportunities; in January, Robbie Keane was brought in at great expense to score the goals to fire the club to safety. In the last three games, he has missed a one-on-one at Chelsea with the score at 1-0, a one-on-one at Manchester City in a game that Hammers lost by a single goal, and most bafflingly of all he missed from two yards against Blackburn to win the game.
Arguably, those misses have cost the club four points in three games and in the great lexicon of Hammers’ villains; Keane will surely find himself slotting in alongside David Speedie barring a dramatic return to the form that he has only showed in the last two years whilst appraising himself in his own mind.
At this point, I normally try to throw in something cheery to offer hope for the forthcoming fixture. Jack Collison. That’s about as positive as I can be.
Grant and his players will do what they do, and rely on a couple of favours from elsewhere. Let’s wait and see if it’s enough.