It’s the events of the last few weeks that remind you being a West Ham supporter is not a role for the faint hearted.
I think we should coin a new phrase, something like ‘West Ham-esque’, which we can use to describe an event or situation in which if there is a possibility of something going wrong then, my goodness, it most definitely will. Your boiler packs up on the coldest day of the year — that is so West Ham-esque.
You are late for an important meeting at work and the car/train/bus breaks down — again, so West Ham-esque. The thing is when I last wrote for this magazine things were looking actually, well, good!
A comfortable start at home against Cardiff, was followed by a 0-0 at Newcastle. OK, the performance wasn’t great there, but two games in, four points and two clean sheets — musn’t grumble. Then there was Stoke. There was that inevitability about it really, wasn’t there? The fact we could go top of the table for a few hours if we had won worked against us or it did in my mind anyway.
Three games in a row without defeat always seems a nigh on impossibility, something that just seems tantalisingly always out of reach for West Ham. But there was something more. West Ham just had that ‘look’ against Stoke and within the first five minutes it was definitely going to be ‘one of those days’ — one where the television screen was in grave danger of being shattered by a remote control hurled in anger at it at any given moment.
And there we have it. After three games, even before the news of Andy Carroll filtered through, things had lost their sheen somewhat. The bright start now seemed a lot more like distinctly average despite being helped along by an even kinder opening run of fixtures than last season. Writing this before the Southampton match, if we compare our results for this season to last we are already three points behind having beaten Newcastle away and drawing with Stoke at home last year.
If we extrapolate that to this weekend we’ll have to hope to reverse the trend of doing worse than last year although we won’t have Cole to score for us and then get sent off for us this time round. Obviously like for like comparisons are extremely unscientific but does the statistic of one shot on goal over the two matches against Stoke and Newcastle tell any more of a story of our current status?
Reading the report on our match against Espanyol were you in any way surprised our goal came from the penalty spot rather than from open play and that the most talked up feature of the match was an outstanding display from one of our defenders? No, me neither. And all this was before the news that Andy Carroll had sustained another injury. For me, this was as West Hamesque as you could get, as inevitable as an ice cube melting in the Dubai midday sun.
Sam Allardyce may tell us this is once again a moment of incredible bad luck. He tells us that specialists said the chance of this happening was 4%. A bizarrely precise figure based on what exactly and surely this happening to a key player who plays for a team that suffers from West Hamesque tendencies meant the probability of another injury occurring was hovering around the 100% mark?
The injury setback to Carroll was sown into the history of West Ham when Allardyce gambled on the fact he would be fine to perhaps make an appearance against Southampton and definitely back to play against Everton, thus choosing to use the final funds available before the transfer window shut to invest in Stewart Downing rather than another forward. Now I’m not knocking the signing of Downing and indeed his arrival on the pitch against Newcastle did suggest that he is a very useful addition to the squad but the gamble was always surely going to come back and haunt us.
Cue Stoke match and the inevitable injury to Downing, the following two weeks turmoil with an injury list heading towards our usual seasonal crisis, a frantic search through the free transfer list to plug the gap in our forward line and the early season optimism has filtered away to be replaced by an apprehension of where we might be sitting when the transfer window re-opens in January. At the time of writing the club is saying the new injury to Carroll is not as serious as they first thought and an operation is not required but they cannot say when he might feature again.
Lets face it, though, he’ll not be around much if at all for the rest of 2013 so we have to hope that a match fit Mladen Petric will do a job for us in the meantime. A team cannot win a match without scoring goals and cannot score goals without having shots on target and we know West Ham have not being doing either recently. Obviously it is something that has to change and change quickly to ensure the rapidly diminished hopes and aspirations do not spiral towards a sense of panic.
We have been fortunate with the fixture list and we must hope we’re not going to be punished for failing to beat Newcastle or Stoke later on in the season. In the meantime, a swift tonic and a boost in faith will be complete with three points in the bag as the final whistle sounds this weekend at the Boleyn. Bring on the Toffees and Come on You Irons!