What a year it has been for West Ham.
Cast your mind back to December 2011 and the club was under massive pressure – Parker gone, rumours that Nolan’s legs are spent, and increasing concerns as to where the goals might come from to get out of the Championship at the first attempt. The full extent of the financial mess the Two Davids had inherited was also dawning as we were told that funds for reinforcements would be limited by the need to continue repayments to our old friends at Sheffield United.
Even worse, on New Years Eve, a shambolic defeat to lowly Derby sent us crashing out of the automatic promotion spots and with the transfer window about to open, rumours were gathering that any number of Premiership clubs were poised to lure Tomkins and Noble away. A helpful mate offered the opinion that other clubs had worked out how to outsmart Big Sam’s method – play for a draw and maybe catch us when we try to push it too much. Wind forward and we are in a very different place as 2013 looms.
Back in the Premiership and already established as an awkward outfit to play against for any opposition – including the current champions who were sent packing from fortress Upton Park. Allardyce has proven his management pedigree and won over all but the most stubborn doubters. It may sound obvious, but it’s great to have a manager that the players respect and who knows what he’s doing.
The Hammers faithful have been denied that sort of leadership for too much of the past five years. We have also had the great pleasure of witnessing the continued growth of Mark Noble who, importantly, is happy to be tied to the club for the foreseeable future and is our obvious captain in waiting. So much for Nolan’s apparent demise – five goals already (and two perfectly good disallowed strikes) speaks for itself.
The additions of Diame, Jarvis, Carroll, Collins, Benayoun and Maiga make for a squad that is of genuine Premiership quality. The struggles of poor Reading and Southampton emphasise the gap between strutting around the Championship and cutting it in the Premiership. Oh, and then there’s the Olympic Stadium.
Are we really going to make the massive transition from feeder club to major Premiership player? The Davids recognise that we have the fan base and a consistently packed Upton Park suggests that we can handle the extra space.
It may only be a matter of time before Hammers faithful will be protesting how they supported West Ham before it was suddenly fashionable due to European and other success. That said, it’s not easy to imagine a world without West Ham at Upton Park. As for the high points of 2012? The recent second half against Chelsea was a joyous romp in the park. The looks of bewilderment on the Chelsea players faces during injury time were priceless!
However, the play-off final victory was earth shatteringly important and after Carlton Cole’s sublime strike, followed by Ince’s gutting equaliser, Ricardo Vaz Te’s goal was priceless. Player of the year is a real teaser. Nolan has proven the naysayers wrong, Noble’s total commitment is a rare joy to behold, and Diame has been a mountain since his arrival in the summer.
However, throughout 2012 Winston Reid has been simply marvellous. The Kiwi has grown into a class act – physically strong, calm and assured, with a tasty turn of pace. What a contrast with the overwhelmed kid who looked out of his depth in the Premiership when he arrived after the World Cup in 2010. There have been some disappointments too. Poor Jack Collison’s continued injury woes rank at the top – hopefully 2013 will see him back to his significant best.
Losing Rob Green was sad, no Hammers fan should judge him too harshly for accepting the payday at QPR and his subsequent treatment has been shoddy, albeit quite amusing to observe from a distance. We should not forget that he remained loyal to the cause during our Championship campaign and played a big part in our promotion.
And so to 2013. Basics include making the 40 point mark as soon as possible so we can really cut lose, nail down proper deals for Diame and, if the money is right, Andy Carroll. He is an undoubted presence and it’s only a matter of time before the goals start to flow. A good cup run would also be nice and no better way to start than toppling Man United in the upcoming third round.