Fernando Torres rose phoenix-like from the flames of Liverpool’s season this weekend, but at the other end of the table, things couldn’t have been more different. West Ham, rooted at the bottom for almost the entire season, went home from Birmingham’s St Andrew’s Park utterly soggy.
In a farcical moment during the first half that seemed entirely in keeping with the Hammers’ campaign, the pitch sprinklers burst into life, drenching the players. West Ham then contrived to throw away a 2 – 0 lead, snatching a draw from the jaws of victory. It was not a good day at the office.
It was all supposed to be so different though. New owners finally arrived in January (albeit the polarising David Gold and David Sullivan) after the financially disastrous ownership of Iceland’s Eggert Magnússon and Björgólfur Guomundsson. Avram Grant, who fought so valiantly at Portsmouth last season, joined in the summer and looked a shrewd replacement for the browbeaten Gianfranco Zola. Then in September, the club’s best player Scott Parker shunned a move to Tottenham and signed a new deal that should have galvanised his team-mates.
Unfortunately, the Hammers sleep-walked their way to a 3 – 0 defeat at Aston Villa on the opening day and have remained somnambulant since. They have stirred themselves to record a victory only once, against Spurs, and that as far back as September. Though the bottom of the table remains tight – and West Ham are only 3 points from safety – their worrying form has already made them relegation contenders.
West Ham did many things well
The build-up to the game at Birmingham was overshadowed by an unseemly argument between David Gold, former Birmingham City owner, and the new regime, resulting in Gold’s banning from the ground. But despite that, West Ham did many things well.
Too often unable to find the goal this season, they scored twice in ten second-half minutes. Avram Grant had fielded his most attacking line-up with a front three of Carlton Cole, Frederic Piquionne and Victor Obinna (on loan from Inter Milan) and appeared to be reaping the rewards. Cole played intelligently and looked more like the instinctive, hustling frontman he can be, Piquionne finished beautifully and at 2 – 0 Obinna rattled the crossbar with a fierce shot – everything seemed to being to plan. But two goals from Sebastian Larsson deliveries later, and it was all over. The worry now for fans is whether or not the club can do anything to arrest the slide. Debts stood at £110 million when the new owners arrived, and the ability to sign impact players in the January window will be greatly restricted. Meanwhile, one of the seasoned campaigners signed during the summer who should have made a vast difference, Germany’s own Thomas Hitzlsperger, has yet to play a single Premier League minute due to injury.
What happened to Matthew Upson?
Avram Grant seems shorn of the inspirational qualities he deployed so magnificently at Portsmouth last season, where utterly embattled, dealing with players who in some cases hadn’t been paid, he emerged as an unlikely hero, exhorting the team ever-onwards in their desperate fight for survival. West Ham’s plight is not yet as severe – but he must rekindle his fire and rouse his players, particularly underperforming stars such as Carlton Cole and lumbering defender Matthew Upson, who has never been the same since a certain day in Bloemfontein.
Upson has not been alone in his shaky form. Goalkeeper Robert Green took time to recover from a confidence-shattering summer, while left-back Herita Ilunga seems to have lost his way and finds himself often caught out of position. For all Scott Parker’s indefatigable desire to tackle, harry and help out his defence, he can’t close out games himself – and West Ham must protect the precious points they garner in games.
For if West Ham do go down, the club’s future health could be gravely affected. Along with Spurs, they are currently vying to become tenants of London’s Olympic Stadium after the 2012 games. West Ham have previously drawn praise for their bid which talks up their ability as a top-flight football club to boost attendance for athletics events at the stadium and unearth sporting talent.
Whether the Olympic Park Legacy Company would remain convinced of that argument if the club were to slide into the Championship remains to be seen – and whether West Ham could fill what would be a 60,000-capacity venue every weekend for the visits of Scunthorpe and Hull is also a major doubt. Hammers owner David Sullivan colourfully spoke of »riots« and »civil unrest« on the streets of Newham if Spurs beat West Ham to the Olympic Stadium. Unless his team start winning soon, he would be best advised to stay indoors.
An dieser Stelle erklärt Titus Chalk die englische Fußball-Kultur auf Deutsch
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