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.

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Die Titus-Fuss­bal­ling-Eng-zyklo­pädie
An dieser Stelle erklärt Titus Chalk die eng­li­sche Fuß­ball-Kultur auf Deutsch

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