I t’s that time of year again when we lift ourselves from our more relaxed moods on a Saturday and everywhere, goals are celebrated, defeats are consoled and stress levels generally rise a point or two. Yes folks — another season is beginning for West Ham United. This time around, though, it’s not just any old season: it’s the final one in our Boleyn Ground home before we move to the Olympic Stadium this time next year.
The next nine months or so will no doubt be tinged with a touch of sadness and fond memories of our soon-to-be old home. Of course, this makes it all the more important that we’re in the Premier League this time next year so how might we fare in our final season at the Boleyn Ground? It’s easy to think that some teams have an ‘easy’ fixture list and others don’t, but the truth of the matter is that everyone has to play everyone else twice at some point. So bearing that in mind, let’s look at the opening fixtures.
Firstly, it doesn’t really get much tougher than our opening game at Arsenal. Personally, I think their acquisition of Peta Cech is incredibly smart and he will win them points, no doubt. Perhaps we should view this result in terms of how well we play, as opposed to what the result is. Let’s be honest, not many will be expecting us to pick up points here. Of course, if we do, we could be in for a really exciting season. The next two games are much kinder, at home to Leicester City and then to promoted Bournemouth.
If we are to be successful this season, six points is a must, and there’s no real reason why this couldn’t be achieved, even if Bournemouth might still be on a high from a ‘promotion bounce’. Liverpool away next. We always lose, and let’s face it, it’ll probably happen again. We are used to disappointment in this fixture. Sorry for the negativity, but every year I think ‘this is the year’, and every year I end up being disappointed. There then follows an intriguing tie against Newcastle, a team which I’ve always compared us as being on some kind of even keel with. Could be a good one.
An away trip to Manchester City follows, and naturally our defence will need to be on its best form in order to cope with their firepower. That completes the first six matches of the season — and the way I see it, we need to be on or above nine points at that stage. Achieve that, and much kinder fixtures follow, with matches against Norwich City, Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Watford to look forward to, all of which are winnable. It can’t be emphasised enough though that the most important thing is the team getting off to a good start.
Should the points return be low a few games in, confidence will also be likely to be low and that might point it risks becoming a tougher season than we would like. However, early points on the board could point to a more successful season – and really, success for us will mean (particularly with our potential Europa League commitments) a mid-table or higher finish. To be quite honest though, as so much rides on it, the most important thing is that we’re in the Premier League this time next year. Saddle that with our side playing attractive football and Andy Carroll having some semblance of fitness, and that’ll be good enough for me.