Any West Ham fans’ emotions have been through the mill this season, but ever since the news of Dimitri Payet’s desire to leave E20 was broken by Slaven Bilic, it has left a horrible feeling in my stomach. Off the back of the Manchester City humiliation, it felt like this was the final straw, the ultimate rejection from a season that had promised so much and delivered, well, nothing.
At first, I honestly felt sympathy, on two levels. Th is is a player who dazzled last year and entertained millions at the Euros. He rightly expected that West Ham would buy a few decent defenders and strikers for him to work with, thus ensuring he would never be subjected to a relegation battle.
Th e owners did not provide him that support, and he felt it was time to go. Secondly, there is the family angle that I don’t think anyone can be angry at. His wife and children have not settled in the UK and want to return to France. In an age when the Premier League is naturally international, it’s easy to forget the realities of moving from country to country, club to club, city to city. It can be gruelling for players’ loved ones, even if we – the fans – are the only ones who want to be loved.
But Payet cannot be defended and we should have seen it coming. Th is is something Payet has done routinely throughout his career; demanding, striking, sulking, retreating. Did the owners know this when they bought him? Did they do any research? Maybe not, but neither did we before we sang our chants and voted him Hammer of the Year.
A la Trump in America, sometimes we don’t care about the past and are merely focused on the present, and if our candidate appeals to our instincts and emotions, we are content. But Payet’s actions are not defensible. To refuse to play is counterproductive and a clearly ridiculous, petulant tactic to get one’s way. He has also displayed a clear lack of respect for the fans that have made him a name just as much as his skills have.
For those who called him greedy and money-grabbing, it seems clear that that was not the reason behind his desire to move. Th at does not make me forgive him for the way he has behaved – and nor will I ever forgive. But it makes me understand him – the man we once all loved – just a little bit more.