I think it’s fair to say that 2012 has been an action packed year for the Hammers.
It’s always nice to look back at the past year and be able to smile at the good things but also learn from the bad things. The obvious highlight of 2012 was gaining promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs. Ok so we were expected to top the table at the end of the Championship season but we allowed that pleasure to Reading and let Southampton take the plaudits in second.
Surely, the best way to go up is to do it by the play-offs, right? I mean, you might remember the day when you win the league at your home ground but it can never be as special as travelling to Wembley to witness a win along with tens of thousands of other West Ham fans.
We shrugged off Cardiff almost too easily in the semi-finals but then struggled in the final. Maybe nerves kicked in but we never looked like the team who would win it. Blackpool out-played us that day but in the end it’s the result that counts and thank heavens for Ricardo Vaz Te. He gave us the winning goal that we will proudly remember forever.
I think I speak for all West Ham fans when I say that that was the moment of 2012. Seeing the players on the pitch afterwards and witnessing the ear-to-ear grin of Sam Allardyce made the efforts of the entire season worth every minute of travelling up and down the country.
It’s easy to forget that other things have happened in 2012, but it wasn’t all about play-offs. Transfers in and out have played a big part of the year, as have significant loan deals. The most high-profile loan deal was that of Andy Carroll. It was a signing to show that we mean business. Regardless of his reputation as a misfiring striker, he is without doubt a big name with a point to prove.
Unfortunately, as our luck goes, he has already been struck down with injury twice since his signing but we do have the chance to sign him permanently, so he could have years to make a lasting impact. There was also the free signing of Mohamed Diamé and what a catch he was. He’s been a solid performer; tracking back to defend, making crucial tackles in midfield and even firing into the back of the net.
I really hope that after the January transfer window he will still be our player and we won’t have accepted any offers for him. I wouldn’t be surprised if clubs do try to sign him, after seeing his recent performances. He could even be in the running for Hammer of the Year at the end of the season. In 2012 we have also seen the likes of Jussi Jääskeläinen, Modibo Maiga and Alou Diarra sign for us as well as club record signing Matt Jarvis.
We have also seen the return of ex-players James Collins, George McCartney and Yossi Benayoun (on loan), and it’s always great to see that players want to come back. Of course that means we’ve also lost players in the last 12 months. The name that springs to mind is Rob Green – from West Ham hero to “bit part” at QPR. I still think the whole situation is a strange one.
Meanwhile Mark Noble has had a brilliant year and, as we’ve read time and time again, he deserves an England place at this stage in his career. His persistence and midfield ability helped us to promotion and he has continued to be a player that no one can have any complaints about. Unfortunately, the year has not been so lucky for Hammers’ favourite Jack Collison. We have learnt that his knee injury may shorten his career, but after undergoing surgery in the summer, Jack is hopeful that he can continue to play for many years to come.
To matters off the pitch now (well, sort of!), and 2012 has witnessed one of the greatest sporting events our City has ever seen. The London Olympics and Paralympics were spectacular events, and something that as a nation we will never forget. It does of course mean that there is a stadium going spare, which happens to be around the corner from our very own Upton Park. We were aware before 2012 that a move to the Olympic Stadium was possible but since the closing ceremonies were over, the chances of the relocation have increased.
I’m not going to go into the pros and cons of moving, but I think it’s a likelihood that we have to face. We must make the most of Upton Park in the years to come and continue to create an atmosphere that we can take to a bigger and more open stadium. On a personal note, 2012 has been a great year for away days. I got to visit Blackpool for a second time on an odd night when Henry Lansbury ended up goalkeeping, went to Leeds to witness one of the loudest crowds I’ve heard, and witnessed the record-breaking match at Barnsley, which saw our best number of away wins in a season at 13.
But without doubt the most memorable was a trip to Peterborough. That night on the terraces was the greatest party I’ve ever been to. Overall, I would rate 2012 as one of the best years I’ve been supporting West Ham. I’ve had a great time and really enjoyed watching us grow as a team. To top it all off, we’ve also featured in The Simpsons. How much better can it get than that? I don’t have a crystal ball within reach but I hope that 2013 can be just as good. I’ll be very happy with a top half finish in the league and maybe even a decent FA Cup run.