Time is a funny thing. Since our uninspiring 2-0 defeat to Manchester City back in May a hell of a lot has happened.
We’ve had a belting World Cup with precisely no West Ham representatives, Luis Suarez has been sent packing to Spain for turning into a vampire, we’ve hired Teddy Sheringham as an attacking coach and Julian Dicks now manages the Ladies’ side. Add to that we’ve been polled on a new design for the club crest and the Hammers have splashed out more than £20million in transfer fees.
Yet it’s difficult to know what to feel at the start of this season. I don’t want to make the same mistake as last time round, viewing it optimistically at first but then realising that we were just dragging the season through the mill. Sam Allardyce is still in charge, to the surprise of many (myself included), but solidity and continuity is what is required at the Boleyn Ground right now.
I, for one, am glad that the board got 100 per cent behind the manager. Certainly, there will be a degree of unrest should we get off to a poor start. Not to worry, though, as Tottenham are first up, complete with their new manager, Mauricio Pochettino, fresh from his successful stint at Southampton. Since we beat them three times last year, you’d imagine confidence might be high for this one. Following our London derby, we’re off to, er, another one.
Crystal Palace away is followed by Southampton at home and you have to think these are both winnable games. We might well have a clearer idea of where our season is headed even at the end of August. Without doing a disservice to FA Cup finalists Hull City, Liverpool will provide the first severe examination of our title credentials — sorry, mid-table credentials.
With no Luis Suarez to con the referee this time around, we obviously have a better chance of getting something out of this one. This is followed by an away match against Manchester United, which we will inevitably lose (well, if we can’t win when David Moyes is in charge, we certainly won’t with Louis van Gaal).
October looks a bit more comfortable with matches against QPR — and the return of Harry Redknapp — and away to Burnley. The home match against Manchester City should be a corker and, let’s be honest; the team owes us one (or several) after several insipid performances against this opposition. The League Cup semi-final still gives me sleepless nights.
November looks a slightly easier ride, with Stoke, Aston Villa, Everton and Newcastle providing the opposition, and the first part of December brings us West Brom, Swansea, Sunderland and Leicester. If we’re not in a reasonable position after that run, we have problems. The Premier League’s Christmas present to us is Chelsea away followed by Arsenal at home. Happy holidays.
Into 2015, and other highlights include our annual defeat away to Liverpool (January 31), the Tottenham away match (and a fifth win in a row, perhaps?) on February 21, and the home matches against Manchester United (February 7) and Chelsea (March 3). At the start of last season, I suggested that we wouldn’t suffer the so-called ‘second season syndrome’ and we would survive.
Admittedly, it was a closer-run thing than we would have liked, but we did survive thanks to Norwich City, Fulham and Cardiff. This time around, we should have a better season with the new additions to the playing staff. If we don’t, expect significant change – and unrest – over the coming nine months. Potentially, however, this could be the start of some exciting times at the club.