This West Ham team deserve relegation, team of 2003 did not
West Ham have failed to learn from their previous mistakes
If ever there was a match that encapsulated a season, then this was it.
Promising signs, raised hope, followed swiftly by a pathetic capitulation on the field of play when faced with adversity; overseen by a hopelessly insipid presence on the touchline with a total failure to address the situation unfolding in front of him. In turn overseen by owners determined to create more headlines where no more headlines were wanted or needed.
In short, there’s been little to like about the West Ham United Class of 2010/11, and the demotion to the Championship has stirred up a range of emotions, but not much of the heartbreak that accompanied the last relegation in 2003.
Scott Parker, Demba Ba, the Academy products and the supporters aside, relegation is exactly what everyone associated with the east London club deserves.
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The comparisons between this and Hammers last relegation season will always begin with the respective managers. Undoubtedly, Glen Roeder and Avram Grant cut the least inspiring figures ever seen in a West Ham dugout, and they’ve been united in their abject failure to get anything like the best out of the resources at their disposal.
They have something else in common too, which, when you factor in the appointment of Gianfranco Zola, who had no managerial experience whatsoever (he was a coach to the Italy under-21s), reveals a worrying trend in Hammers recent managerial history.
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Three men, three decent, dignified men; not one of them qualified for the job of managing a football club of West Ham’s size.
The obvious counter-argument to that is that neither Ron Greenwood nor John Lyall had any great experience; but both had served lengthy apprenticeships before being given their chance.
To make this kind of appointment once might be considered an error. To make three of them is a dereliction of duty by the controllers of the club.
This short-sighted approach is indicative of the mismanagement of the club over the last 20 years, which has proved far more of a stumbling block to realising the full potential of the club than anything else.
There’s a school of thought that the move to the Olympic Stadium will help to ignite the club, but until those in the corridor of power at Upton Park can get their decision-making right there’s little hope of that happening. It is mismanagement at every level that has stunted the club’s progress, nothing else.
Here too, similarities lie with the Terry Brown custodianship that presided over the 2003 campaign. The difference in communication is marked, though. Brown said nothing at all; the current owners fill newspaper columns on a seemingly daily basis.
There’s an accusation here that owners of the club can’t win, and there may be an element of truth in that; but the bottom line is that if they get the decisions right, then furore about their media activities would, at least in part, fade. Thus far, they’ve got far more wrong than they have right.
If there have been similarities to this point, then it is in the playing staff where perhaps the greatest difference lies. Thanks to the intervention of Sir Trevor Brooking, much of the ire at both Brown and Roeder had dissipated as Hammers launched a sterling survival bid and there was ultimately a sense of injustice at the club’s relegation with 42 points.
By the end of the season, there was a sense of togetherness at the club, never more apparent than in the 1-0 home victory over Chelsea. Relegation meant the break-up of one of the most talented squads Hammers have had in recent times; the likes of Joe Cole, Paolo Di Canio, Frederic Kanoute, Michael Carrick, David James, Glenn Johnson and Jermain Defoe were all on their way and this is where the pain lay for the Hammers faithful.
This time, apart from the obvious exceptions mentioned above, there’ll be no shortage of Hammers supporters willing to drive the majority of this squad to their new clubs. Just to make sure they actually leave.
What’s clear is that the club has not learned the lessons of previous failures, and that is unacceptable. The club is a shambles, and there needs to be an overhaul from top to bottom.
With the Olympic Stadium move looming large on the horizon, the next managerial appointment takes on added significance and it is no exaggeration to say that it is the most important in the history of the club. This time, the owners must get it right.
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