It has been a year since Manuel Pelligrini took over the reins at West Ham and what an eventful year it has been.
It would be a huge understatement to say this has been the best season so far at the London Stadium, and certainly the best since 2015-16 which stands out as something of a freak in the club’s recent history.
I thought that his appointment showed some real intend and ambition on the part of the board. It also showed that they were prepared to let the manager do the talking as they have (almost) maintained a blissful silence ever since, and rumours of interference and botched transfer dealings have largely subsided.
This has to be largely down to Pellegrini and his team of staff who I am sure would not have accepted their role under any other terms.
Pelligrini came to the club with a fine pedigree. Like Slaven Bilic, he is a very intelligent guy, a qualified engineer who played as an uncompromising centre half in Chile, representing his country 28 times between 1973 and 1986.
His managerial career took off in Argentina with River Plate, then in Spain where he enjoyed a top two finish with Villareal, amassed a club record 96 points at Real Madrid but still ended up finishing second to Barcelona, then took unfashionable Malaga to the quarter finals of the Champion’s League.
His record at Manchester City after that is well known.
At every club he has managed he is fondly remembered not just for his successful attacking teams but also for his charm, his principles and his modest refusal to blame officials or other parties for any shortcoming with his teams.
Yet for games in to this last campaign, things looked very different. Four defeats out of four left us rock bottom, conceding ten goals in the process.
But there were signs of life in all but the opening day debacle at Anfield. I’m no tactician, but it seemed clear that Pelligrini had a plan, he just had to work out the members of staff at his disposal to help him deliver it.
We then lost just five of the following 18 league matches, which included a record Premier League points haul in December.
It is clear that Pellegrini has a system that works. However, the club was in such a state when he took over that it has taken time to show that progress is being made.
We finished the season with 10 more points than in 2017-2018 and picked up a whopping 15 points from losing positions, close to the 18 won in the final season at the Boleyn, which as I have said was something of a Payet-driven freak.
The improvements have been shrouded in some old failings of course.
Some performances were memorable for their pitiful standard, Cardiff and Burnley away being cases in point. But I can tell you my memory stretched back to some pretty pathetic away sowings under John Lyall — yes, with Bonds, Brooking, Martin and Devonshire in the side.
It is hardly a big surprise therefore — that in Pellegrini we have the man who can, with the right backing both financial and from us, the fans, achieve the level of consistency in levels of effort, and with that will come achievement, we have been looking for.
And he can sort out that negative goal difference millstone that hangs around our necks. Being quick out of the blocks, both in terms of starting seasons and games, is not something you would associate with the modern West Ham United.
But if Pelligrini is going to improve this team he needs to do this — in the transfer market, in the opening games of the season and in the opening 15 minutes of individual games.
I would not dare to criticise. If we back the boss as fans, as a board (with cash) and the playing staff are allowed to develop a relationship over a number of years then we could be on to something special — My only concern is that he turns 66 in September and may feel sooner rather than later that he’s had enough.
I hope not. This charming man has what it takes to become a West Ham legend.