This week's guest article comes form avid Hammer, Emily Pulham, writer for Forever West Ham and Blowing Bubbles amongst many others. Hit her up on Twitter @makingthemarrow.
It’s safe to say that the past few seasons have not been my favourite as a West Ham season ticket holder. We’ve done time in the Championship, and then time desperately clinging to life in the Premier League, and the main emotion I seem to exhibit at the end of the season is not joy, or even sorrow—it’s just relief.
In fact, the only – only – thing that made last season even remotely bearable was beating Spurs every few weeks. Otherwise, it was painful viewing week in, week out. The players had no spark, no life, and I admit to having watched some incredibly boring football last season. There were more low points than high, including THAT Capitol One Cup defeat which involved Man City drilling 9 goals past the Hammers over two legs (why did that need to be drawn out over two legs? Why?) As a result, West Ham’s manager became a largely unpopular figure at the club, and demands and protests for him to be sacked were rife on social media.
This year, things seem to be a bit different. This year, the club made a statement of intent – to sign players that would lead to more exciting and entertaining football. Keeping in mind that last term our best transfer move was to wait till mid October to re-sign a player we let go on a free at the end of the season because we genuinely couldn’t attract anyone better to the club – enter Carlton Cole. I thought this new intent would mean that we’d aim high, fall hard, and re-sign Matty Taylor at the end of August.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
This year, the board and Big Sam pulled together to make some exceptional signings – all of whom have contributed to setting the start of the season alight for West Ham. As of eight weeks into the season, the Irons are sitting in a Champions League spot – and it’s all down to these brilliant new players.
Defensively, West Ham have brought in former Ipswich defender Aaron Cresswell as a permanent signing, and also Arsenal full back Carl Jenkinson on loan. Although Jenkinson had a slow start to the season owing to injury, both men have been tremendous acquisitions. Cresswell, in just his first season in the Premier League, has been a regular starter and excels not just at defending, but also at moving the ball forward with ease. He’s also got a great cross on him; Luis Boa Morte, eat your heart out.
It’s the attacking and midfield options which have really excited the fans though – over the summer West Ham brought in Cheikhou Kouyate, Mauro Zarate, Morgan Amalfitano, Diafra Sakho, Diego Poyet, and Enner Valencia on permanent contracts, and managed to attract Barcelona’s Alex Song on a season long loan. That thud you just heard is my jaw, still dropping to the floor whenever I think about us getting a Barcelona player on loan. Almost everyone mentioned in this paragraph has either scored a goal or assisted one already this season, and no one has contributed as strongly as Diafra Sahko. The man has scored six goals in six games already this season, and five of those goals have been scored in consecutive games. He keeps this up, and we might just see a Sakho Stand at the Olympic Park when we move - and the people of East London may see “Diafra” make a surge up the list of 'Top Twenty Baby Names 2014' (works well for boys and girls, I think.)
The new signings have led the Hammers to solid wins against QPR, Burnley (what, they defend really well), Crystal Palace, and last year’s Premier League runners-up, Liverpool, as well as a hard-fought draw against Hull. As a result, West Ham have spent their time this season not only sitting in the top half of the table, but they’ve also climbed a great height up to fourth – to be occupying a Champions League spot is a considerable achievement this far into the season.
The results have been brilliant, but even better than that is the transformation that’s occurred throughout the ground. The fans can enjoy a day out this year and aren’t mentally calculating the price of failure after every game. The ground is transformed; it’s back to being a powerful and dramatic fortress of songs, shouts and celebrations; we’re laughing, we’re clapping, and we’re grateful for the West Ham team we’ve seen this year.
We’re also grateful for the transformation that we’ve seen from our senior players as a result of the new lifeblood coming in. Stewart Downing being moved to a new position has been a revelation for the player and the club, and it surely can’t be long before England manager Roy Hodgson has to acknowledge this. Similarly, Mark Noble has stepped up as a leader and is firmly in charge of the midfield. He’s getting forward, creating opportunities left right and centre and the man even delivered a corner against Burnley that not only made it into the box, but ended up in the back of the net courtesy of Carlton Cole. No, really, that happened in real life.
Of course there’s still work to do – our centre backs need strengthening as it’s an area with few bodies behind it and Kevin Nolan still doesn’t demonstrate a clear and thorough understanding of the offside rule – but a top ten finish should be easily within our grasp, and who knows what else? Perhaps our improved squad depth will allow the Hammers a decent FA cup run, or maybe, just maybe we could finish with a chance of playing in Europe next season?
It’s a brilliant time to be a West Ham fan, and I’m so looking forward to the heights we have the potential to reach this season.
After all, maybe it’s the signings, maybe it’s luck – but maybe, just maybe, this is the year that fortune isn’t always hiding for West Ham United.