A very Happy New year to each and every one of you, whether you are reading this before going out on the razz on New Year’s Eve or are squinting through bleary eyes with a pounding head on New Year’s Day desperately trying to sober up before kick-off.
And what a year it’s been eh? I don’t think anyone could turn round and say we haven’t made massive strides through 2012. In fact I’m writing this in my office looking out over the home ground of Al Jazira football club in Abu Dhabi, with the temperature hovering around the 25 degree mark, remembering back to the last time I flew back to London and was able to take in a match at the Boleyn.
It was October 29 last year, the last day of British Summer Time, and a managerless Leicester City were looking to derail West Ham’s charge for promotion. Funnily enough we managed to almost derail our promotion bid ourselves at the start of 2012 but back then it seemed things were clicking in to place quite nicely. What is interesting is that you can still listen to Allardyce’s post match interview on the BBC website and he talks about the injuries affecting the squad with a number of players having to play out of position and, with a hectic schedule of matches coming up, there’d be a great deal of effort needed from the players.
Mmmm, doesn’t all that seem a tad familiar? In fact, why does this happen every year? Surely it can’t be just bad luck that leads West Ham to its annual injury crisis? Didn’t they move or upgrade their medical facilities because the continuing susceptibility to injury by our squad was deemed to be of serious concern? Yet here we are in 2013, having just come through our toughest sequence of fixtures of the entire season barely able to muster a first team squad to consolidate our safe position in the league.
Anyway, I digress. Looking back at the team we played back then it makes interesting reading bearing in mind this match occurred only 14 months ago. In goal, Robert Green, now gone. The back four was Reid, MacCartney, Faye, and O’Brien. Interestingly the defence was pretty much where we are now if you swap Faye with Collins. It surely can’t be an accident that we seem to be much stronger in defence seeing as it appears to be fairly settled. Moving on to our midfield that day, it was Faubert, Nolan, Collison and Noble. I always felt a bit sad that Faubert never really fulfilled his potential after getting that injury so quickly after signing.
And, of course, talking of injuries, it’s great to see that Collison is back on the pitch playing and hopefully, fingers crossed, we can see more of him in action in 2013. And then our forward line that pleasant Saturday afternoon was a certain Sam Baldock and John Carew. Now, I liked Sam and on that day he grabbed his chance to shine while Cole was out injured by bagging two, his second two goal haul in successive home matches.
But I guess the writing was always on the wall when he then got injured and in to the squad came Ricardo Vaz Te and Nicky Maynard. Substitutions that day included Sears, only on for four minutes, and Piquionne who replaced Carew after 31 minutes (say no more).
If you can’t quite remember the result, we won 3-2 in a stereotypical West Ham way by totally dominating the first half before easing off so much in the second we almost allowed them an equaliser. Our second successive win consolidated second place in the league and indeed we went on to record four wins out of the next five before a disappointing home defeat against Burnley. Yes we had to ensure worse before it got better but, as we know, it did get better.
It’s been a privilege to chat with you over the first half of the season, discussing almost exclusively the positivity around the club, the results and the players we’ve brought in. And, as we go in to 2013 I can look forward to flying to London before the end of this season, breathe in the atmosphere of a club that’s moved forward leaps and bounds from the last time the Boleyn Ground was graced with my somewhat insignificant presence and enjoy another stirring West Ham home performance before a pint or two in one or more of the hostelries alongside the ground on Green Street. Here’s to 2013 and to all the Hammers fans worldwide.