From our Academy to Zouma it has been another memorable season

Our A-Z of the season looks back at the good, the bad and the ugly of our last campaign...

It’s been a massive season for players and fans, and one we’ll remember for years to come.

This is the year West Ham set the world alight, nearly touched a trophy in Europe, and played exciting and entertaining football home and away. 

Here’s a look at this fantastic season; from Areola to Zouma and Aston Villa to Zagreb, this is the 2021/22 A-Z of West Ham. 

A – E

A is for Academy, with eight youth players making appearances for the first team this year. Part of this was forced by injuries, but the players we saw did well with their cameos, and we will hope to see more of them next season.  

B is for Brighton. How are we living in the year of our Lord 2022 and we still can’t beat this seagull-loving team?! Glenn Murray isn’t even in their side anymore and they still wallop us. Annoying. This can’t continue.

C is for Conference League. Here’s to a second consecutive season of European football, albeit in the Conference League. But if it’s good enough for a ‘big club’ like Spurs, it’s definitely good enough for a massive club like us!

D is for Declan. What a man, what a captain, what a season. He exudes class, talent and skill – and with his star constantly on the rise, West Ham will need to move heaven and earth to keep him in claret and blue.

E is for Europe. It’s been a dream of a season for long-suffering Hammers fans, and the fact that we got to experience so many nights under the lights, so many goals, so many brilliant moments, and made it all the way to the semi-finals is a phenomenal achievement. What a wonderful ride it was.

F – I

F is for Fatigue. We had 10 defeats in our final 18 games and the writing is both on the wall and in the table – we just ran out of steam at the end. We were too tired to get it over the line, and investment in squad depth is needed to move forward.

G is for Goal of the Season, and if you were a fan of last year’s winner, you’ll be delighted with this year’s winner also as it’s the same player! Fans could be forgiven for thinking Manuel Lanzini hadn’t quite made a full recovery from injury, but when Fornals tested positive with COVID this season, Manu stepped up to the plate to remind us exactly what he was capable of. In January, he scored West Ham’s Goal of the Season in a 3-2 win against Palace.

H is for Hammer of the Year, because this year it was a very well fought contest which a number of hard working players could have won. Craig Dawson and Jarrod Bowen delivered incredible performances this year – the former being immense in defence, particularly in the second Lyon game, and the latter being our top scorer. It went to captain fantastic, Declan Rice, after a season full of determination and leadership. Here’s hoping the award is enough to sway him to stay.  

I is for Injury, every.single.season. No matter how good we get, we still seem to get season-impacting injuries – and this year’s biggest loss was our powerhouse defender Angelo Ogbonna. In November, he injured his ACL against Liverpool, and didn’t manage to play again this season. Even though his contract was meant to expire at the end of the season, he’s not on the release list – so watch this space to see if a comeback is on the cards.

J – M

J is for Jesse Lingard. No, he’s not a West Ham player but that’s exactly the point. Here lies a missed opportunity for both West Ham and Lingard. It was admirable that he wanted to play for his spot up north, but instead of being the player who could have gotten us touching the trophy in Europe, he sat the bench for United and his biggest moment was scoring a screamer against, well, us. A shame for both parties that he didn’t just stay.  

K is for Knockout. It wasn’t only in Europe that we did well in the cup and dispatching some big names! Lest we forget, we also got to the quarter finals of the League Cup and in the process, we knocked out both Manchester clubs.  

L is for Lions. West Ham are finally breaking the ‘Irons don’t play for England’ curse of the modern era – although it might have less to do with curse breaking and more to do with the fact that some of our English players, messers Rice and Bowen, are just too good to ignore. These call ups also give us a fighting chance to keep good homegrown players as they no longer need to leave east London to play for England.

M is for Massive, everywhere we goooooo, everywhere we go. This chant started off as a bit of a joke but it got a lot less of one the more West Ham climbed up the table and stayed there. The song became a rather sweet and optimistic reflection of us getting up where we didn’t always belong; and when your normal song is about your dreams always dying, it was nice to have something positive to sing both home and away.

N – R

N is for Noble. What can we say about Nobes that hasn’t already been said? 550 games, tons of penalties, games, interceptions, leadership, loyalty and hard work. The last of his kind; Noble by name and noble by nature.

O is for Outgoing players. We knew Nobes was heading to a nice farm to see out his remaining years, but it was somewhat of a surprise to see the pacey Ryan Fredericks on the list of players released by the club. Also departing, with great thanks for their time at the club, are Yarmolenko and goalkeeper David Martin.  

P is for Penalties Saved. There’s speculation on whether or not Fabianski will remain our number one, but he’s certainly created a compelling case to do so having saved three penalties this season – including a crucial one against Manchester City to give West Ham a fighting chance at finishing sixth.

Q is for Quote, as West Ham fans and critics alike have spent years having a giggle at the expense of one David Moyes after a specific quote of his painted him as rather delusional. However, after this season, it’s the Moyesiah who’s having the last laugh. It turns out winning is what he does, after all.  

R is for the Referees. We’ve never had a good year for referees, but this year seems to be the worst yet. Whether it’s the abysmal display in Europe from a referee who’s previously been done for match fixing, or the battle in the Premier League for the ‘controversial crown’ left vacant by Mike Dean, it’s getting harder and harder to watch games knowing the refs will engineer the result they want regardless of the players efforts on the pitch.

S – V

S is for Straight reds in Europe. Some players learn by experience, but it would appear that doesn’t apply to one Aaron Cresswell who went full Brexit mode to try to get us out of Europe in not one but two European games. Cresswell committed similar fouls in similar places and received a red card for his troubles both times. One of them was harsh, the other less so, but either way he should have learned a lesson the first time.

T is for Top half of the Table. In a strong show of evidence that the tide is turning for the better at West Ham, we spent the season in top half of the table. For how far we’ve come, it’s incredible to finish the season in seventh and still just be a little disappointed we didn’t do better.

U is for Unrest at UEFA. Although West Ham have had a season to sing about, it’s not always been smooth sailing. Crowd trouble at the Genk away draw saw West Ham issued with a £25k fine for ‘crowd disturbances’, a further £3k for ‘throwing of objects’, and a ban on fans attending the Vienna game. We also had pitch invaders for UEFA games and our Manager saw red. Temper temper.

V is for Vlad the Defender. This is the sort of player West Ham should always have in their squad – tough, driven, committed and maybe a little bit mad. Coufal has spent his summer vacation visiting the Upton Park area and learning more about the history of the club, and when the pitch was invaded with home fans after Frankfurt away, Coufal stayed on the pitch to applaud West Ham fans, saying: ;I wasn’t scared. If a fan attacks me it would be their problem not mine.’ More of this please.

W – Z

W is for Window, Transfer. Maybe next year we could use the January one and, I don’t know, do something crazy like sign some players so we don’t crash and burn out at the end of the season.  

X is for Xenial, which means good relations between guests and hosts and is a word we could use to describe the bulk of our European adventures this year (sans the Genk game, of course). From lighting up Lyon to singing in Seville, it was largely positive travels for Hammers fans, with the exception of the bloke who lost his finger in a literal display of limbs.

Y is for Yarmolenko. Delivering one hell of a goal and performance while his homeland was at war and his friends and family were in danger was an incredibly emotional experience for players and fans alike. Although it didn’t work out for him here like it could have, we will all wish him (and his fellow Ukrainians) a safe and peaceful future.  

Z is for Zoooouma. He got his own ‘chant’ this season, which is nice for a hard working player, but the way it came about was not nice at all – after a sickening display of animal cruelty that will (and should) cast a shadow over the player moving forwards. Zouma has apologised and paid a hefty fine, but it’s the kind of off the pitch headlines you hope to never again see in east London. Let’s hope next year he steals the limelight for kicking footballs instead.

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