Ask people in the East End what life means to them, the chances are they will immediately think of particular traditions that are embedded deep within their own culture.

From Cockney rhyming slang to pie and mash, Pearly Kings to jellied eels and Chaz and Dave to Danny Dyer, those in the East End are proud of who they are and what they represent.

Icons matter. Moments in history are remembered for decades. There is a certain expectation that you work to the best of your ability whatever job you’re in. In short, these are the characteristics of a passionate, determined and loyal football fan at West Ham United.

There is no doubt those watching week in, week out care about the state of the side. While the quality of football is significant in how fans decide on the health of the club, what is undoubtedly more important is that the identity that The Hammers have built through generations is not eroded away.

And that’s the fear. It’s why David Sullivan, David Gold, and Karen Brady have recently received a catalogue of negative attention from every part of their home ground, the sections which don’t have empty seats that is.

The decision to move from Upton Park to the Olympic Stadium two years ago now resonates Del Boy falling through the bar. In trying to impress onlookers you end up falling flat on your face and become an embarrassment.

Fans feel that their trio of owners have sold them a false dream. The promise of the glamour nights in the Champions League now potentially look like dreary evenings in the Championship, while any atmosphere the stadium generated at London 2012 is long in the memory, with faithful supporters distant from the action.

When teams used to work their way through the bubbles out of the tunnel at Upton Park a challenge was expected. Even if the standard of football on the pitch may not have been the best, those watching in row A got right into your face, subsequently motivating the home side on countless occasions.

It is not unusual to see the Olympic Stadium a quarter empty on the hour mark. The core of the poisonous mood which surrounds the club is most likely, and fans will admit this, due to the sterile connection to what some see as essentially a bowl.

On the pitch, West Ham’s style of play has never really been settled over the past few years and that needs to be resolved. This was after the signings of Javier Hernandez, Marko Arnautovic, Pablo Zabaleta and Joe Hart were praised by numerous commentators and pundits up and down the country.

At £23m the arrival of Arnautovic was thought to be the statement of intent that Hammers supporters wished for, yet by mid-October, there was no cause for optimism with the Austrian consistently failing to provide game-changing bursts of acceleration, tackles or crosses.

Perhaps then it’s not a surprise that the winger has not even contributed a goal or an assist this season in The PL. During the home defeat to Liverpool sections of the crowd booed him, and even though he probably produced his best display of the season in the 1-1 draw to Leicester City, it’s only cautious belief.

While the anger from West Ham fans is directed at a few players there is still an understanding and a want for them to perform to the best of the ability. Unfortunately, for Gold, Sullivan, and Brady the same cannot be said of them.

Why’s this the case? If we look at the overall picture of the club’s finances you discover that the Hammers have managed to build up the 14th highest wage bill in world football, ahead of Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and AS Roma.

Even though Premier League clubs (nine) dominate the top 20, West Ham are the highest paid club in English football behind the big six, yet their position in the table doesn’t reflect that.

So then there is the question of value for money. It’s not pretty. Three months ago the University of Liverpool conducted research into the ticket prices of the country’s top-flight clubs and found that for two adults and two children to watch West Ham against Manchester United, City or Chelsea would cost £200.

Not only is this higher than any other team in the top division, but the seven teams immediately beneath the Hammers in the financial table are all above them when it comes to points collected.


While a significant reason for this is down to the ever-inflating television packages, there is a sense of inequality in terms of ticket prices set by the West Ham board.

The club’s most expensive season ticket is valued at £1,100, the fourth-most costly option in the Premier League, with only Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, and Chelsea offering a pricier seat.

But the club’s least expensive option – the £289 season ticket – is the second cheapest ticket in the division, significantly less than its predecessor at Upton Park. The lowest cost season ticket two years ago was £617.50.

What West Ham fans want to see is results in the short-term and direction in the long-term. While the first demand does not always grow to fruition, the latter has been met by a symbol of the club’s willingness to inspire a generation of exciting young footballers: the Academy.

Since the reign of Ron Greenwood in the 1960s the youth programme has produced talents from Geoff Hurst and Bobby Moore to Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand.

Now with Sam Byram, Reece Oxford, and Reece Burke, the prospect of continuing the excellence, which the academy has abided by for decades, may continue.

Byram, who was purchased from Leeds United and touted as a future England international, can hardly get a game though, failing to make the step up with just 22 games to his name at West Ham.

Oxford is currently on-loan at Borussia Monchengladbach. He first burst onto the scene playing in holding midfield, proving pivotal in the Hammers 2-0 win over Arsenal back in 2015.

When last season Jaap Stam spoke of how Oxford was surprised by the intensity of training during his loan spell at Reading, it told a worrying tale of the performance at West Ham’s academy.

Reece Burke, now 20 and on loan at Bolton, has suffered a similar trend. Originally handed his debut by Sam Allardyce, the youngster was viewed as an exciting and electric prospect.

This was enhanced by his loan spell at Bradford, where he was voted player of the year, but after the 2015/16 campaign Burke’s form collapsed and what was expected from him at a young age hasn’t materialised.

West Ham is considered the Academy of Football the failure to integrate prospects into the first-team, combined with the collapse in belief at loan clubs, suggests there is a problem coaching and developing these young players into the finished article.

So what next for the club? Not a lot of noise has left the boardroom but in the last week, Karen Brady has revealed that David Sullivan and David Gold have no intention of stepping down. There is no doubt that all three believe in themselves and won’t quit because of that view.

And therein lies the problem. The trio have now created a comparison to the boy who cried wolf, so even if something worthwhile occurs over the near horizon the probability is that the majority of supporters won’t be confident that promises will be kept.

Results are slipping. Performances dropping. Confidence decreasing. Atmospheres worsening.

Brady, Gold and Sullivan should have kept a promise they knew they would keep. They may have had the best intentions but without a plan, it was more when than if the false dream would become a reality.

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