The blame game is the folly of those who would stand, stare and sneer without any inward reflection. The West Ham woes are a collection of failings that may have coincidental sources but none are so grand to be identified as solitary causes.
“We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers – but never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s always your fault, because if you wanted to change you’re the one who has got to change.” – Katherine Hepburn
After a two week period of hellfire and brimstone, I wanted to put to bed all notion of failure and capitulation, instead lay my hands upon the ample bosom of opportunity and optimism. The fans needed some stay of execution and some light relief from the wallowing and strife…and the players needed to draw a line under recent pasts and come out to dazzle us with their convictions.
Off the field activities, whilst noble in the blue corner and heresy in the red corner, would not sway my opinions and distract me from wanting to see my claret and blue titans rally together to deliver what they have failed to do most of the season…a convincing performance and a win!
Indeed, those glorious three points that we should have grabbed many games ago, but the team diced with death and entertained the devil for much longer than was ever healthy to do so. I had been clearing my mind all week and sending positive thoughts out into the ether, hoping that Moyes, Noble & Collins would take heart to lead us into promised lands.
I had meditated my way through a muddled week of diatribe and tripe and wished the players only good times and boat drinks…praying they could bring me some solace, happiness and vindication for putting my faith in them once more. I was either setting myself for a great fall or as heroic prognosticator…and so it began!
Of course we can all point in a certain direction and lay the blame on particular persons of note, however that identification is worthless unless there is mode to rectify the issues and make better on failing matters. We could blame the stars, the players in the drinking bars and the management faux pas but in the final analysis…it is the players who walk onto the pitch that need to perform and show conviction.
Any other person, away from sports, would not be handled with such kid gloves and certainly would not be allowed to put in shambolic and shoddy work…well, not for very long at least. We are all accountable in some form…from children with manners and homework to teenagers with respect and examinations to finally…adults with responsibilities and dreams unfulfilled. We all have our cross to bear…and now it was time for the West Ham players to carry theirs!
Prior to the match, Burnley sat proud in a lofty 7th in the league whereas West Ham languished precariously in 14th position. There was a sense that battles on the home front, now subsided would inspire the team to a draw or even a win…but mostly to generate some vim and vigour in a team that had drowned in cheap whiskey for the last two encounters.
Whilst fans of all persuasions were expectant of an uplifting performance, they were equally so for a vital win and to begin to ease tensions that had reached fever pitch. I sat in the crowd along with thousands more, I held up my polythene bag in united formation to commemorate 25 years of a passing club hero and icon. I was ready, primed…I sat upright and forward…anticipating the glory that waited us…but I sat stranded on the platform waiting for the gravy train that was cancelled again due to more desiccated leaves on the line and the remnants of melted snow.
The early exchanges were nervous but gradually West Ham began to grow in purpose and created opportunity and half chances to take the lead. There was a marked improvement in passion, urgency and endeavour but still lacked a clinical edge to that final pass onwards for goal.
I began to wonder what was the obsession with our left side bias and how time after time we failed to cross early or effectively enough? I quizzed my neighbours why the right hand flank was not targeted, much less exploited. I wondered why Moyes had persisted with Kouyate and would Mario show strength and passion as opposed to neat flicks and wilting kicks. The defence stood tall and although there were wayward passes and mistimed tackles which the referee seemed all too content to penalise without reservation, on the whole the team took charge of the half with Noble and Lanzini beginning to make an impact.
Half time discussions ensued and I was relaxed enough to consider a draw might be in the offing but thought a win was not beyond our reach. I slurped my coffee, I dodged the hot dog walkers and burger van bargers…then began the ascent to take my throne once more…I felt good, I had been a pauper all week, a prince in the first half and was ready to become king in the second…then the coup happened which ripped shreds out of the fabric of our club.
Burnley started to find space and completed their passes, even substituting early to bring added dimension, which worked fabulously for their scurrilous probings until they took the lead. The West Ham midfield had gone to sleep and created spaces for the Burnley players to exercise their desires to punt goal wards for the waiting Hart.
The once heroic heads began to drop, Moyes stood idle as Dyche rejoiced and the fans embittered souls began to boil over with rage, contempt and vitriol. Isolated fans ran onto the pitch, berating the players which infuriated Noble to the point he wrestled one to the ground. All eyes around the stadium were transfixed on the pitch but the game had paled into insignificance for some, as the moment occupied everyone’s attention.
More fans ran on, dodging the sleeping stewards who had failed to secure the green borders, then ran back into the crowds…only to be met by furious fellow fans who resorted to physical confrontation with the original offenders…then in turn started on each other too. It was beginning to spiral out of control with skirmishes breaking out all over the East stand…whilst on the West stand, hundreds of fans broke free to march on the sanctuary once held by the owners who were bombarded with hellfire missiles of dissension and abuse.
On the pitch, the game continued but the players were notably shocked…or at least only the West Ham players were. Burnley continued to press and were able to walk through our defences to score a second, whilst forcing Hart to fumble a feeble long range shot which was readily converted with ease.
The game continued whilst many were expecting it to be abandoned. Police entered the stadium to add weight to the naivety and inexperience of stewarding…and all the while the overwhelming majority of fans were wondering what the bloody hell was going on. What had happened to our club that had caused such division, such animosity and to entice fans to storm the barricades or revolt with such venom?
This had been a ticking time bomb for some time. Fans have been increasingly divided, derided and devalued from all sections. The fans have suffered, the players are suffering but have not eased the pains with dull and indefensible displays. The life is draining out of our limp club…we are cold, frozen and stuck in a Siberian winter…but we can’t blame the Russians for this…not this time. We must look to the source and the source must look back and take emergency action to make amends and heal the gaping wounds where the passion of the claret and blue bleeds.