I can remember the first game of last season we were all in the dumps after suffering a last minute home defeat at the hands of Cardiff City and wondering what chance we had of getting out of the Championship. Fair play to Sam and the team as through the nail-biting joys of the playoff final at Wembley, we made it back where we belong. The Premier League again!
We kicked off against a revitalised Aston Villa under the new management of the much acclaimed Paul Lambert and enjoyed a hard fought three points leaving us looking down on the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham and even Manchester United and only outside a Champions League place on goal difference.
Joking aside, while the game was not the best I have witnessed at Upton Park by a long way, there were plenty of positives to come from a performance played in 30 degree heat where the result was always going to be the most important thing. James Collins looked like a man on a mission to prove to us that he was still the player we knew from before and to Paul Lambert what he was foolish enough to let go.
Carlton Cole gave his usual 100% but lacked support. Kevin Nolan proved to be our “fox in the box” once more with yet another important goal. I wondered whether he was the same player for the first half of last season but since his sending off against Millwall he has proved himself to me and hopefully the rest of us too. Modibo Maiga showed some pace with his one chance and was unlucky not to put the icing on the cake with a debut goal. The biggest shining light for me, however, was Mo Diame. Yes I knew he would be good at breaking up play but his positive runs from midfield and distribution were truly great to see.
I am sure there were still too many long balls for the purists but this was mixed with some neat passing on the floor as well. To be honest, we haven’t really seen the “West Ham Way” for a long time and although we have proved we can beat anyone on our day, those days are few and far between so a mixture of styles are required along with the ability to defend a lead and grind out the occasional result.
In other news I was disappointed to see that Sam Baldock has joined Bristol City. While it is sad to see any young player leave the club, the reaction on Twitter was suggesting we released Lionel Messi on a free! If I am honest Sam Allardyce never really fancied him that much in the Championship so he was never going to get much of a look at this level and he could have become another Freddie Sears. I assume that there is no replacement lined up with Carlton Cole, Nicky Maynard, Modibo Maiga and Ricardo Vaz Te. With all those players ahead of Baldock in the pecking order, I believe the move will be good for all parties and allow him to prove himself in the 2nd tier. I wish him all the best.