A shameful show
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 27 September 2019 at 8:57pm
Written by: Jonathan Lee
“I thought it was a poor performance from everyone,” said Hammers captain Zabaleta. “We feel sorry about the performance tonight and sorry to the away fans who came to the game. It was just a bad night.”
What transpired on Wednesday evening has collectively been acknowledged, both by fans and players, as embarrassing and lies up there with one of the worst Cup results against lower league opposition over the years. But what makes this stick slightly more in the throat is the fact that we had not conceded a goal for a while, plus we had the experience of knowing what could befall us from the Wimbledon debacle last season. It is hard to pinpoint an exact answer as you hope players who are paid handsomely, and have the lives the rest of us can only dream, of never go onto a pitch with the aim of playing badly or letting our great support down.
But that is exactly what took place at Oxford (bar one or two individuals); a lack of effort, enthusiasm, togetherness or the heart for a scrap against a team who were clearly going to be motivated to take a Premier League scalp. Possibly it’s a bit akin to yawning, that one person starts and then it rapidly filters round the group – a couple of key players decide, albeit unconsciously, that a midweek trip in an early round Cup game just isn’t going to float their boat, and before you know it that apathy has flooded through the whole team. Clubs in the top flight are generally paranoid about keeping their Premier League status (the obvious big boys apart), and this filters down to the players who know they will ultimately be judged on their league form, not Round 3 of a competition that has a different name every three years.
For us as supporters, the matter is very different. We harbour dreams of our first (proper) silverware since 1980 and the League Cup is arguably the best route to earn that. A first Wembley (Cup) appearance in nearly 14 years would just be amazing; we know how that day might feel from our Play Off final in 2012, just a special memory you will cherish forever.
But do players think that same way? Sadly, probably not – although the likes of Noble and Rice would surely treasure a day at Wembley with the club they love.
Each one of the players on Wednesday nightwho started that game need to ask themselves why they didn’t commit, why they didn’t throw themselves into the challenge, why they played at half pace posing no threat to the Oxford goal for large spells of the match – and MP is not innocent here either; in reports from those who were there, he did what BFS used to do and just sat there on the bench and let it unfurl, not appearing in the technical area until the damage was done.
For all his faults, can you imagine Pards just sitting there and taking it, or even Harry back in the day – they would be right up and in the players’ faces telling them to up their game, anything to shake them out of their half sleep. Not for MP; his mission is seemingly to steer safely clear of relegation and then if things look good second half of the season maybe push on for a Top 6 berth. The Cups appear a poor relation, and this possibly comes across to the players before a game in the dressing room. It is all well for Zabaleta to say it was ‘just a bad night’ and sure we all have ‘bad days at the office’ but our poor office days don’t let down thousands of people, with WH in their hearts and minds.
If it is be the case that management and players are somehow sacrificing Cup glory for a push in the league (and European football) than let’s see what the next four games bring – Bournemouth (A), Palace (H), Everton (A), Sheffield United (H). If we get seven or more points then ok, maybe, just maybe, we say there is some sort of approach here that merits a hiding from lower league opposition – but get four points or worse and then what was the point of Wednesday night?
It is time for the manager and team to show some character, and show us that Oxford was an isolated aberration from what otherwise promises to be a good season.