Chelsea come visiting this month flying high at the top again courtesy, of course, of Roman Abramovich’s billions.
But I can recall the days when they were a very ordinary club on the other side of London with a bunch of celebrity fans. Stamford Bridge was an awful place, a vast bowl. When I played on it in 1982 for Ian Hutchinson’s testimonial it was as bad as playing on Skegness beach – an awful surface for what had always been a very average club.
I remember going there in 1986 when we smashed ‘em 4-0 and Alan Devonshire cracked one home from around 35 yards. None of us realised he could kick it that far! They were just another London club who struggled along without there being any danger of them getting any better. They were mediocre for many years. End of. Then came Abramovich in 2003 with more money than we’d ever seen in the Premier League and the rise of this once humble club became the talk of the game.
We’ve seen the same at Manchester City since and as the financial rewards in the game get higher, the question is whether it will ever happen to West Ham. The simple answer is that it can but I hope and pray it doesn’t because were it to, the spirit of our lovely club would be gone forever.
I think many of the the younger supporters would like it to happen but for those of my generation and a bit below it, I think we want our club to remain as it has always been. We want it to remain in the spirit of the West Ham Way. Whilst the Davids are in charge I think that will always be the case, but there will always be a danger that some very rich foreigners will get hold of West Ham and that would be the end of it for me. Just another conglomerate club.
Were it to happen, the West Ham we have known and loved for over 100 years would be gone. Personally I believe that the vast majority of our fans simply want to see this club in the Premier League and producing healthy results. I know many of you will disagree with me but it’s the way I feel. I don’t want to see anymore of my West Ham lost – the Boleyn was more than enough!
Moving on, I believe Slaven has a lot of thinking to do about the goalkeeping situation this summer and personally I think he should off er Adrian another two year contract.
The truth is there are no great ’keepers out there. Many of them are much of the same with the exceptions of Ben Foster and Jack Butland. Th is means he’s not going to find anyone much better than what he has. I still believe Adrian has the potential to become a much better ’keeper than he is as he was quite a late starter and is still learning. Over the next couple of years he will get better and I have a lot of faith in Darren Randolph too.
The problem, however, may be out of Slav’s hands because Adrian is at a critical time of his career and may feel his Spanish international prospects would be better served at a club where he is the automatic starter.
As I say, I see no ‘keepers out there that would be a better bet than either of these two so Slav needs to be able to persuade Adrian that he remains very much in his thinking. All very difficult but he is a great man-manager and I think we can trust him to work it out as he has other signing priorities on his mind ahead of ‘keepers anyway.
Phil Parkes was talking to ClaretandHugh’s founding editor Hugh Southon