So here we are again at the business end of the season with us up to our necks in a relegation dog fight.
Having gone on a seemingly relentless slide down the table, we are now in the relegation zone and without a win in the seven games since dismantling Bournemouth on New Year’s Day. As the cry goes out to our squad that they need to show their warrior side on the pitch, we might also ask the fans to show similar grit and resilience from the stands as we prepare for a stressful run in.
A quick look through the more popular social media hangouts for Hammers fans reveals a sense of panic and outrage, with calls for Moyes sacking, dropping of various key players and off field protests. As a more experienced fan (50 years and three relegations) all this makes me wonder if many of these fans really get what being a West Ham fan is really about!
For a start, if you follow West Ham you have to adapt to the fact that we are a crazy club – just as when things are going well we have a knack for losing games against ‘easier’ opposition.We are most likely to take down the Goliaths when we are struggling and seemingly in poor form.
On a better night, Monday’s heroics would have been rewarded with a win at mighty Liverpool, but alas SuperFab had a night to forget. Still, the age old pattern of upping our game when most needed was plainly there to see.
Then there’s the injury jinx – just as we looked to have sorted our problems at midfield with the arrival of the impressive Tomas Soucek, he picks up an injury. You’d have to wonder whether we could have held on for a win against Liverpool if Soucek had stayed on the pitch but now we are left hoping he can recover soon for some vital games over the coming weeks. Fingers crossed!
And of course VAR has proven to be another source of bad fortune for West Ham, as we stand way out on our own at the top of the Premier League for most VAR decisions against. Looking back at the many disasters in the recent game against Brighton, the Glenn Murray goal sticks in the mind as a bizarre call as the laws of physics dictate that the ball could not have suddenly fallen perfectly to his feet unless it struck his arm!
Add to that the devastating VAR call against Declan Rice at Sheffield United that still cuts deep to the heart. The three points lost to VAR in those two games alone could prove crucial come the season’s end. But ‘real’ West Ham fans are used to these vicissitudes, we know how cruel the footballing Gods can be and remain positive in the face of adversity.
‘Fortune’s always hiding’ and all that, we move on. Bleating about injustice is not our thing and we never turn against our own. Manuel Lanzini has had a poor season by his previous standards, but what’s the bets that he will come up with a crucial contribution before the season is done? It would be ‘typical’ West Ham!
Even the most confident Spurs fans must recognise that our looming trip to White Hart Lane provides the perfect opportunity for a classic Hammers win. Time will tell but whatever else, we can expect plenty of excitement in the coming weeks.
For those fans who are already giving up in the fight for survival, our local fan group did an analysis of our remaining games back before the away trip to Leicester. Pete the Pessimist reckoned we would crash out of the Premier League with only 32 points, while Reggie the Realist predicted that we would pick up 17 points to reach the magical 40 points total that almost always ensures survival (I know, 2003 and all that!).
So far we are more Pete than Reggie, but only by two points. In reality, we didn’t expect much against Liverpool and Man City and we have managed to avoid letting our goal difference slide too much which will count for an extra point when the maths get scary on May 17. Forget protest and outrage, we need to show solidarity with our team. We have three tough games but they are all set up for drama and classic wins, two results will suffice in those games before a run in in which five of our remaining six games are all very winnable.
The other, our penultimate game, is a trip to Old Trafford, a game that real fans will see as a chance to add to the list of glorious victories. It’s Tevez time again folks!