David Moyes recently vowed to avoid ‘over-promising the West Ham fans’ when asked what his team could achieve this season.
Granted that was before the Hammers lost 3-0 at Chelsea and failed to beat relegation-threatened Brighton at home so reporters are unlikely to ask such an optimistic question again in a hurry.
But for a second – before the inevitable slide back towards mid-table mediocrity – West Ham fans looked like they could soon be given something they were promised nearly eight years ago.
‘A world class team for a world class stadium’.
That’s what Karren Brady said in 2013 as the board were in the midst of thrusting the move from Upton Park to London Stadium on several generations of loyal match-going West Ham fans.
Moyes said: ‘I still want to make sure I don’t over-promise the West Ham supporters because I think they’ve been over-promised. I want to be as straight as I can, I think we’ve got a really good team in the making.
‘We’ve brought in some really good, exciting players and hopefully in the next couple of transfer windows we can add to that. I can’t build it and get it that good right away but I believe I can, given a period of time.
‘You can’t turn perceptions of West Ham around in one or two transfer windows. This is a massive oil tanker we’re turning around and we want to get it turned around and facing the right direction with everybody aboard.’
In light of Moyes’ comments, I was asked by the editor of this magazine if I thought we have been over-promised over the years and if so, which promises still annoy me.
To that question, there is only one answer. The biggest broken promise of all: ‘A world class team for a world class stadium’.
There was an implicit contract forged between fans and the club as the heart-wrenching stadium move was confirmed.
And it was thus: ‘We – the club – are ripping you away from your spiritual home where your hearts belong and generations of your friends and family have gone to support your team for more than 100 years.
‘And in return for your loss, you – the fans – will receive a team on the pitch that will no longer be “also rans”, they will instead strive for greatness and be in the mix for trophies and a European place season after season.’
A world class team if you will.
In 2013, Brady said: ‘When I came to West Ham in January 2010 and embarked on a journey for the Olympic Stadium I had two things in mind.
‘It had to be a world-class football stadium and our fixtures always had to have priority over everything else that happens in the stadium.’
No mention of home games on Boxing Day being canned because of nearby Westfield but carry on.
Brady continued: ‘I said you could trust us to deliver a world class stadium. I think and hope you can see you could trust us.
‘There’s only one Olympic Stadium and that gives us a fantastic chance to grow commercially. And why would we do that? So we can provide the best team possible for our manager to win things for all of us.
‘That’s our ambition, a world-class stadium with a world class team. And with commercial opportunities afforded to us by the Olympic Stadium, that money can be invested in the team so the team and the stadium are a powerful mix of the best football has to offer in the UK.’
No amount of empty spending assurances by previous regimes or hollow pledges by managers to play “the West Ham way” will ever come close to that promise in its importance and vast, long lasting impact on West Ham fans and their hearts and lives.
I – like so many others – spent some of the greatest days of my life at Upton Park, just as my dad and granddad did before me and its permanent absence from my life saddens me deeply to this day.
And the indisputably hefty price paid by thousands of fans for whom Upton Park was an intrinsic part of their identity – and an even larger part of their hearts and souls – should not see them feeling shafted or short-changed.
So here I am – with my first article of the New Year – to reassure everyone who still feels angry, wronged, sad or all three: It’s ok and you’re not alone.
In an interview with TalkSPORT in January 2020 co-owner David Gold was asked whether he had over-promised West Ham fans, and he said: ‘Those promises are not written in stone – they were our hopes and dreams. Upping the capacity from 35,000 at Upton Park to 60,000 at the Olympic Stadium is a promise we knew we could deliver.
‘But of course there were promises made that were hopeful promises. There are promises you know you can deliver and there are promises you hope you can deliver. And we shouldn’t be lambasted because we failed in some of those promises.
‘Those promises still exist and we promise to do the absolute best we can. And the aim remains to challenge at the very top of football – whether that’s winning the FA Cup, getting into Europe or challenging the top-six.
‘It’s happening, but is it going to happen overnight? Clearly not. That’s where I feel we’ve let the fans down. We shouldn’t have been so positive, we should have made it clear these are our hopes and dreams.’
A promise as defined by the Oxford English dictionary is: ‘A declaration or assurance that one will do something or that a particular thing will happen’.
So no matter how many owners, club statements, media outlets, radio stations or ill-informed pundits subtly or obtusely suggest it’s time to move on or get over it, ignore them.
You have every right to feel wronged until West Ham are continually pushing for the European places in the Premier League on a regular basis. Like we were promised.
You wouldn’t just ‘move on’ if you paid for a brand new BMW in full and then, on delivery day, the dealership handed you a 10-year-old Fiesta knowing there was nothing you could do as it was the only car you had.
You would ask for your money back or keep complaining until the dealership provided what it said it would – and rightfully so.
West Ham fans did not pay money for the promise of better football. They paid with something far more valuable than that.
Scraping a 10th place finish is not what West Ham are supposed to about anymore.
To compete towards the top of the modern Premier League all of the following must be world leading: training complex, players, manager, medical staff, coaches, administrative and recruitment structure and finally, owners and board.
So until West Ham United Football Club ticks all of those boxes, do not let yourself be gaslighted as some have tried – and will continue to try – to do.
You were – and continue to be – wronged and you are well within your rights as a human being and a West Ham fan to demand the parties doing the ‘wronging’ uphold their end of the bargain.
Just like you would at the car dealership. Happy New Year everyone.