By Tony Attwood
West Ham United, which you might recall, is a team based in East London who were given their stadium for nothing, while taxpayers forked out a load of money to pay for the place.
Since England won the world cup some 56 years ago WHU have won the FA Cup twice, League Division Two twice (and been runners-up once), and … that’s about it. A couple of other beaten finalists (once in the FA Cup once in the League cup) but nothing else.
So not too much to cheer about by way of important silverware. And now they sit bottom of the Premier League – a league to which they returned in 2012. Since that return they have finished sixth once and seventh twice. Otherwise, it has been a range of places from 10th to 16th.
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And let’s be fair, someone has to be bottom. A year ago it was Arsenal. So the question for West Ham is, can they do what Arsenal did, and having been bottom after three games, rise up to, well, fifth, for example.
Unfortunately for them, they seemingly have an extra difficulty which Arsenal didn’t have. For their manager has suggested that because the WHU fans have been booing their own team, he is finding it hard to recruit players. And one can understand that. After all, would you go and play for a team which was not only bottom of the league but also being booed by your own fans? Perhaps not, unless you were desperate.
The manager said, “I had a couple of people at the game at the weekend who were very keen to come to the club, and you just never know when you’ve got people watching you. So I’m trying to attract top players to the club. I need the crowd to be right behind the team, and right with us all the way, even when it’s not going quite so good.’
And perhaps that is part of the problem. “Not going quite so good” is not really most people’s way of expressing “being bottom of the league when you expected to be heading for a place in Europe”.
So perhaps not so unexpected that some West Ham supporters seemingly didn’t like this. Indeed the Mail website has quoted various tweets such as the manager “now trying to blame the fans for people not signing,” and “… then give us something to cheer about instead of week in week out not winning.”
Of course, things have been poor for WHAM for some time, with only five wins in the last 18 games of last season, and only three wins in the league from the last 11 matches in the competition last season. But it is hard to see how booing helps. The players certainly know they are losing, and there is every chance that the opposition will be encouraged by booing of the home team. The very best one can say is that because of the yawning gap between the fans and the pitch the sound might not reach the players.
(And although I don’t recall hearing booing of the Arsenal team during the Wenger era, the constant harping on with lines like “Fourth is not a trophy” most certainly didn’t help the atmosphere in the ground.)
Also, matters are probably not helped at WHAM by the club being up for sale, and all the uncertainty that that sort of situation brings. But the reality is that there are 20 clubs in the league and half of them are going to end up in the lower half of the table, and three will go down.
In an earlier article, I suggested that “it doesn’t matter who manages Arsenal or what he (or indeed she) does because the media will report whatever agenda they think is going to bring them lots of readers. As indeed you may recall when Mr Wenger was appointed and a little while later the most appalling allegations about him were invented and a rowdy mob of half-baked journalists gathered at the foot of the steps of Highbury shouting, “What do you have to say about the rumours Mr Wenger?”
Mr Wenger’s reply of “What rumours?” so annoyed them that they were forced, very much against their will, to give up and go to the pub and then print the most biased reports of every single match thereafter. Wenger saw the media off, but at quite a cost.
During his time at Arsenal, supposed fans accused Wenger and Arsenal of having a “small club mentality” as ever reducing everything to endlessly repeated simplistic phrases until those who invented the phrase, got bored and invented another notion even simpler than the first. I recall one media outlet wrote during Mr Wenger’s first week at Arsenal, he missed a press conference because he had constipation. He didn’t because there was no press conference, but if filled up another half page.
I don’t really know what Moyes is like as a manager, I just know that I, as a UK tax payer, have made a contribution to the cost of the WHU stadium. But I do know that much of what happens at Arsenal, and a lot of what happens in football, is not reported by the media, because it doesn’t fit their agenda.
Maybe Moyes is a useless manager – his points per game average in the league is 1.52. Unai Emery’s average was 1.85. Arteta’s is currently 1.86. Wenger at Arsenal was 1.95. So yes Moyes is a lower-ranking manager, but then West Ham is a lower-ranking club. The two go together.
If Moyes goes because of the way he is being treated by the fans, what are the chances of bringing in someone with a better record? After the scenes of fans booing the manager, probably not that good. Although Large Sam Allerdyce is probably looking for a job. He usually is.
Do supporters have a responsibility? Yes, they do. It is to support the team, not to boo, no matter what.
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