Monday, July 11, 2011

View From The Away End: A West Ham fan's perspective

Given that the summer has seen us exchange Demba Ba for Kevin Nolan and Fat Sam take up the reins at Upton Park, we thought we'd ask long-suffering Hammers fan Kenny for his take on events.

In recent years the fates of the two Uniteds that count (ie West Ham and Newcastle) have been fairly closely linked. With the Hammers' descent into the Championship that might have changed this summer, but transfer dealings and/or personnel switches between the two sides have conspired to create a curious synergy.

In the immediate aftermath of Avram Grant's departure the front-runner to be his successor was former Toon boss Chris Hughton, who briefly played for the Irons and had a track record of transforming an underachieving team into runaway leaders of the Championship and getting promotion back to the "promised land" of the Premiership at the first time of asking. His apparently meek demeanour towards his board at Newcastle would also have pointed to this being a good bet given Gold/Sullivan/Brady's seeming control-freakery.

And yet in the end the availability of another ex-Toon supremo Fat Sam Allardyce proved too big a temptation to resist. It wasn't the most popular decision initially amongst Hammers fans many of whom still cling to a notion of Upton Park being a theatre for a particular passing game never really associated with Allardyce's teams. But his pulling power in terms of bringing in Toon captain Kevin Nolan as a readymade replacement for the outgoing Scotty Parker, with the added value of better end product (ie goals season on season) and recent proven ability in our new division, will buy him time with the Boleyn Ground faithful.

Heading in the other direction, of course, is Demba Ba, who had a release clause in his contract in case of relegation, along with Thomas Hitzlsperger (the latter seemingly Villa-rebound). Ba proved he can score at Premier League level (seven goals since his transfer window arrival) but was only truly effective when playing upfront and centre, often drifting out of games when playing just off Carlton Cole. Played as a traditional Toon No.9 he will get you plenty of goals and no doubt become a cult hero, but of course WHUFC still got relegated with his goals on board, so a bit of a warning there about building your team around him alone. But on the whole I'm happier he's going to Newcastle than the usual vultures like Spurs and Everton, or teams local to myself (rather than the team) like Wolves, Villa or Albion.

Many Hammers fans still have fond regards for current Toon gaffer Alan Pardew and will be wishing him well in his latest assignment. His biggest strength at Upton Park was his shrewd moves in the transfer market, however, so I'm concerned for him if the majority of these dealings are being taken out of his hands.

There's still a lot of business to be done before the seasons start, but I foresee tough campaigns for both sides. Financial prudence often wins brownie points in the media, but once the games start both teams may rue releasing proven talent from their ranks. What both teams will need to meet their targets is everybody pulling together, from the board down to the fans, and for realism not to give way to complacency or defeatism. Add to that the usual requirement of huge dollops of good fortune and who knows, the fixture of West Ham v Newcastle may become a Premier League staple once more.

Amen to that, Kenny - and best wishes to the Hammers in their quest to bounce back at the first attempt.

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