Grady Diangana is a player who had many West Ham fans excited about the upcoming season.
A super charged winger who is capable of doing the unexpected and creating chances in a side that lacks creativity.
A boy raised in Woolwich, who had worked his way up through the youth ranks and made his debut under Slaven Bilic, the youngster became a lightning rod of both creativity and fan optimism.
There are very few things that excite the West Ham fanbase more than an Academy player making it into the first team, and when that player, at just 20 years of age, scores two goals on their debut (against Macclesfield in the 8-0 EFL Cup victory) it stokes the imagination of what he might become.
His ascent into the first team, the way he would fearlessly run at the opposition and his touch of flair, meant there was just cause to believe he could go on to become a key figure in our future.
The decision to loan him out to WBA, therefore was met with murmurs of confusion. But when the Congo-born England U21 international hit the ground running and started lighting up the Championship, there was a concession that maybe the board had got it right.
In the end, Diangana bagged eight goals and six assists in 31 appearances and it was notable that the wheels of WBA’s promotion drive wobbled when he was injured.
It seemed that by finding him a consistent starting berth, the promising rough diamond would return polished and ready to shine in the Premier League.
As such, and despite the inactivity so far during the transfer window, the returning Grady felt like a new signing and became the sole source of excitement about the current squad.
His pre-season performances did little to quell the optimism with three assists, all for the service-starved Sebastian Haller, pointed to a creative partnership that gave fans hope.
Declan Rice declared on Instagram that the Premier League wasn’t “ready” for the storm that the academy graduate was about to reep.
And yet, 10 days after his starring role against Ipswich, three days after the West Ham Facebook page asked who was looking forward to seeing Grady and Bowen together this season, and after David Moyes had declared he wanted to give Hammers fans an exciting, young and hungry team, Diangana was sold to West Brom for £18m.
The player who sparked and ignited so much excitement and optimism amongst fans suddenly became a lightning rod for discontent and disappointment instead. As news of the bid broke, social media erupted with outrage and indignation. #GSBOUT was treading number one.
This anger towards the board was picked up on and caused TalkSport ‘presenters’ Jim White and Tony Cascarnio, both to question why we were complaining.
Cascarino stated that it was a ‘massive overreaction for a player who was out on loan last year’ and lamented us for having a ‘meltdown over a squad player’, claiming we were missing the point.
And yet, there is a sense that it is the experts who are missing the point.
First of all, many fans believed that Diangana would have been more than a squad player.
Capable of playing down both wings, he would have provided competition for the seemingly disinterested Felipe Anderson and the perennially injured Yarmolenko, whilst also ensuring that Jarrod Bowen wouldn’t be able to coast by after his impressive start in claret and blue.
Many in fact, believed that Grady would have been a starter ahead of Anderson. The prospect of Bowen and Diangana, two players who were standouts in the first half of the 19/20 Championship season due to their overall goal contributions, working the flanks was mouth watering.
On top of this is the age and potential that Grady possesses. At just 22, an England U21 international, coming off the back of a real breakthrough season, his trajectory seems to be heading in only one direction.
So why sell? And why sell to a relegation rival? Why, when the manager wants a young, hungry and entertaining team are we selling a young, hungry, entertaining player who has a real desire to succeed at the club he has been at since he was 12?
From a business standpoint it makes no sense either – his value is likely to double if he can replicate his Championship form in the PL.
It once again smacked of the short termism that so many fans accuse the board of having. As Trevor Sinclair told TalkSport, in an attempt to counter the narrative of Cascarino and co. it feels like yet another ‘final straw’.
When the club captain Mark Noble comes out and declares that he is ‘gutted, angry and sad’ that he has been sold, you know there is something wrong.
We left our spiritual home on the promise of competing with the big boys. The hard truth is that five years on, we are having to sell to buy and an academy starlet is the sacrificial lamb.
Diangana was a player who had fans daring to dream despite a lack of signings. His sale has woken us up to the desperate reality.