A to Z of the season: From Antonio to Zabaleta, it has been another dramatic journey

Blowing Bubbles A-Z of the season looks back at the best and worst of last year

A: is for Antonio scoring the first ever away goal at Spurs’ new stadium, to lead to West Ham being the first ever away team to win there. What a result for the Irons, and one that will remain a part of the history of both clubs into the future.

B: is for Bottom, where West Ham deservedly sat after losing our four opening games. We weren’t worried; when the Pellegrini took over Man City, they lost their first three and went on to win the league. We got into the top 10, which is almost the same thing.

C: is for China. Would he, wouldn’t he? Marko Arnautovic and his humble brother/agent spent most of the January transfer window trying to pull off a big money move to China. Instead of pulling off the move, they p****d off the fans and it took Marko months to start scoring again. Not a great look.

D: is for Donkey’s…as in ears, as in years, as in that’s how long Andy Carroll has been with us. It’s also how long it’s been since we’ve seen him play.

E: is for Eight goals, from our stunning cup effort against Macclesfield town, in which we won 8-0. Previous seasons have seen us go to extra time to overturn the likes of Shrewsbury, so this win showed promise that was made all the more sweet by the amount of youngsters (including Grady Diangana) who made this result possible.

F: is for the Fairer sex. While the men were turfed out of the FA Cup in an embarrassing defeat to Wimbledon, the women showed us how it was done, making their way to an FA Cup final. They may not have won, but what an incredible achievement for the West Ham Women – a team to be proud of.

G: is for GDPR breach. West Ham United sent an email to away season ticket holders and displayed every recipient’s email address, a slight GDPR violation. They then rectified it by sending an apology email and forgot to BCC everyone in that one also. Irons.

H: is for Hard Graft. We’ve got some skillful players on our team, but this season belonged to those that put in the work. Last season, Sullivan publicly stated his kids begged him not to sign Snodgrass. This year, Snodgrass was the exampler for hard work and a positive attitude, and his drive made him incredibly valuable to the team.

I: is for Isla, the brave West Ham supporter who’s got an entire club rooting for her to beat cancer. If you haven’t made a donation to her cause yet, there’s no better time than now.

J: is for Just the one. Incredibly, West Ham managed to keep their temper and discipline on the pitch this year, and got only one red card in the league this season – Mark Noble’s at Leicester in October.

K: is for Kick it Out. It’s 2019. Players and fans both deserve better than to have racist abuse thrown at them, and it was abhorrent to hear that a ‘supporter’ was heard aiming Islamophobic abuse at Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah at the London Stadium. Hissing and swearing in relation to specific religions is also not okay; there’s plenty of other songs we can sing instead. Kick. It. Out.

L: is for ‘Legs are Gone;’ except they aren’t – club captain Mark Noble led the team admirably this year, and finished the season with a phenomenal show against Spurs, as well as grabbing two goals against Watford to get to within a few goals of West Ham’s all-time record. More again next season, please.

M: Is for Million, as in 100 million, our summer transfer spend. Was it money well spent? The pennies towards Anderson and Fabianski were fantastic value for money, but injuries to Yarmolenko, Sanchez, and, as written in the prophecy, Wilshire, made for a difficult season to get the return on investment we so desperately needed.

N: is for Negative goal difference. We’ve improved this season, but we’re still not keeping enough teams quiet in front of goal. Big losses to Liverpool, City and Wolves need to be improved on next season to see if we can finish the season in the black.

O: is for Overdue. This season, West Ham finally paid tribute to a club legend, the one and only Billy Bonds, as they named a stand for him. It was an incredibly emotional day to see the humble and private Bonds be honoured by the club, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as we were reminded what a player who was proud to play for the badge looked like.

P: is for Pitch Surround. Just weeks after we were pushing for a European spot and honouring club legend Billy Bonds, we had another exciting pyrotechnics-rife unveiling as we tried desperately to get back into the top ten. Was it for a record signing, a club legend, a trophy? Nope. It was for a carpet.

Q: is for Quiet. Thankfully, the board have learned to keep schtum this season, leading to substantially less embarrassment in the mainstream media. Let’s keep this up.

R: is for Rice, Rice Baby. This was the year of Declan Rice. What a tremendous talent he is; technically gifted, hard working, level-headed and a dream to watch in every game. The sheer joy on his face after his goal against Arsenal was wonderful. Long may he stay in claret and blue.

S: is for Safe Pair of Hands. What a signing Fabianski is. A £7 million pound player who got relegated last season became West Ham’s unquestionable Hammer of Year. He made more saves than anyone else in Europe – but wouldn’t it be nice if next season he didn’t have to make quite so many of them?

T: is for Top Half of the Table. How nice was it to have a season where we didn’t worry about relegation? We haven’t pushed on enough yet, and every time we had an opportunity to go seventh we bottled it harder than a soda factory, but it’s a sign of progress to end up in the top ten for the first time since 2016.

U: is for Uncertain, as you never really knew what you’d get in an inconsistent season in which we only turned up against the top six teams. We played well and took points against Liverpool, United and Arsenal at the OS, but couldn’t overcome Burnley, Wimbledon, or Cardiff. We’ve got to start finding consistency, and applying the same amount of effort to the teams around us, especially those who are fighting even harder for survival.

V: is for VAR – which can’t come quickly enough. The decisions that went against us – particularly against the top six – were soul-destroying in a season which was challenging enough on a level playing field. Liverpool’s offside goal, Andersson’s denied opener at United, and Perez’s onside goal against Leicester cost us dearly.

W: is for Womble wobble. Our FA Cup game at Wimbledon was our worst game this season, and possibly our worst game in the better part of 10 years. We were deservedly dumped out of the cup by the bottom side of League One. Never again, please.

X: is for X-ray. Another year full of injuries, and I can’t imagine how much radiation has been pumped into our players to get to the extent of their ails. Sanchez, Yarmolenko, Carroll, and – shock of shocks – Wilshire all missed so much of the season and it’s lucky they have West Ham’s medical coverage, or they’d have bankrupted the NHS.

Y: is for Youth. It’s been a tremendous year for the youngsters. Rice is a mainstay in the first team, Diangana featured for a strong amount of the season (and is growing in skill with each game), Ben Johnson got to start against domestic treble winners Man City (and did well), and Nathan Holland’s got a new contract.

Z: is for Zabaleta, and thank goodness – not only that we’ve still got a player with a ‘Z’ in his name for this list, but that it’s this guy. The veteran defender is slowing in pace, but not in leadership, and after starting 60 per cent of games this season, he triggered a one-year contract extension in which he’ll help on the pitch when needed, and educate and lead off the pitch. This is how you bow out gracefully.

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