A Warning from History
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 6 November 2019 at 6:05pm
Written by : Jonathan Lee
After Saturday’s poor performance and result, West Ham have taken two points from the last 15 available – and unarguably, that is dipping into relegation form and setting off alarm bells for a lot of supporters. With talk of Europe just a couple of months back suddenly feeling a long time ago (particularly as these recent games were supposed to be the ones where we amassed plenty of points to cushion us for the much harder games to follow, i.e. Spurs, Chelsea, Wolves, Arsenal), this all worryingly rings familiar.
For those of you not under 25 you will doubtless recall the season of 2002/03 – an array of talent that was going to take us to the next level, having finished seventh in 2001/02: David James; Michael Carrick; Joe Cole; Trevor Sinclair; Freddie Kanoute; Jermaine Defoe; Christian Dailly; Stevie Lomas; Don Hutchison; Paolo Di Canio; Glenn Johnson, the list goes on. The team that was “too good to go down” and yet, very similar to our last five games, in the early part of that season they failed to work as a team, didn’t put in a shift, and defended at times like the Keystone Cops.
After their opening 11 games they had 11 points (and were in 15th place) followed by (and which ultimately did for them) no wins in the next 13 games. A 1-0 win at Fulham on 23 October 2002 was not followed up with another league victory until a 2-1 home win over Blackburn on 29 January 2003, a third round league cup defeat at home to Oldham included – sounding familiar? By the time they pulled their socks up and Sir Trevor was called in the death rattle had sounded – too little too late and a drop into tier two followed. This current crop of 2019/20 undoubtedly also have huge talent but have recently been lethargic, disinterested, uncreative in the final third, messy in their passing, and a shambles at the back, be it at set pieces (for all his faults please restore Ogbonna to the team) or from balls booted down the field (please bring Fredericks back in for Zaba). They give the impression that they think just by being on the pitch they are entitled to win.
The games against Everton, Sheffield Utd, Newcastle and Burnley would be our make or break point of the season – and so far the sequence of results is LDL and it would be a brave Irons supporter to suggest anything other than a defeat this Saturday at Turf Moor against a Burnley side who will possibly be welcoming back Chris Wood and with a point to prove to their fans after their weekend capitulation at Bramall Lane.
Perhaps this third international break is coming at the right time for us as, like in 2002/03, once you get into the groove of not winning games it’s hard to climb out of it when you step onto the pitch as a group not expecting to win. It is going to take huge personality and courage from the manager (and let’s be clear there is little to no chance of him being replaced ahead of his contract ending) and the players, but from the evidence of the last month it is genuinely concerning whether this squad has the right attitude and application to turn things round.
It is a telling sign that our most effective player currently is Robert Snodgrass, a seasoned pro who appreciates what it takes to make a team tick – energy, effort, playing for the shirt and each other, hating that feeling of losing. One sign of a team’s morale is when they concede a goal. On Saturday to a man when the first and second goals went in there were just hunched shoulders and lowered heads as they all solemnly returned to the half way line. Why weren’t they pointing fingers and calling each other out; can you ever imagine Dicksy or Alvin conceding such soft goals without barking at their team mates?
A few weeks ago, we could see these potential rocky waters ahead – but right now we are all a bit at sea with our oarsmen nowhere to be seen. Let’s hope they regroup as a squad and steer us safely away from those relegation rocks, with this current spell later to be seen as nothing more than a bad blip in our season. As many have observed, we are still only four points off fifth, yet equally only five points above 18th. Time will tell.