There was a sense of deja vu for West Ham United fans when former manager Manuel Pellegrini spoke to the press this week.
Pellegrini is back in management with Real Betis seven months after being sacked by West Ham. He will take up the post from next season.
The Chilean was dismissed by West Ham owners David Sullivan and David Gold along with close ally and director of football Mario Husillos at the end of December.
The former Real Madrid and Manchester City boss had overseen a relatively successful first campaign, making several good signings and finishing 10th – level on 52 points with 9th placed Leicester.
The rise and fall of project Pellegrini
But West Ham struggled in Pellegrini’s second season and he was axed following a 2-1 home defeat to Leicester on December 28th.
Not too long before he was sacked by the Hammers, Pellegrini came out fighting.
He told the press his fundamental task in his bid to improve West Ham was to continue to try and change the club’s mentality.
Pellegrini, rightly, identified that West Ham had a small club mentality despite ticking all the big club boxes from income to stadium capacity and fanbase.
In the run up to his departure Pellegrini said it was the inability of the club and his players to match his ambition and big team mentality that was the issue.
“I think that with 33 years in this profession I know what football is,” Pellegrini said – as reported by the club’s official website – when grilled about his future by the press at the time.
Ex Hammers boss came out fighting over mentality and ambition before sacking
“It was a challenge to come here, and it’s a challenge that I want to win, to try to grow one step more with this club. For me, we try to improve, playing in the way that I like to play football.
“The pressure for me is to have a good team that plays good football in the way we have already demonstrated we can.
“I will continue trying to involve all the club, and the players and myself, in a winning mentality, an ambitious mentality, and try to grow one step more a club that has 60,000 fans behind it every game.”
Well it seems Pellegrini had a point. The Hammers have not drastically improved under his replacement David Moyes.
Some would argue West Ham have started to look more of a team and are a tougher nut to crack now.
But the fact is West Ham had 19 points when Pellegrini was sacked at the halfway stage and a -11 goal difference.
Moyes has only added 15 to that total – albeit with three games to go – and West Ham’s goal difference is now -15.
In truth a defeatist, small club mentality has held West Ham back for years.
It is that same mentality that sees fans and pundits make statements such as ‘Declan Rice is too good for us’.
But we didn’t leave our beloved Upton Park for the London Stadium to be stuck with the same outlook and hopes.
Deja vu for West Ham fans as Pellegrini repeats his mantra at Betis unveiling
So there was deja vu for West Ham fans when Pellegrini spoke out about his new role at Betis this week.
He once again preached about mentality, good football and challenging for Europe.
“I would like Betis to play well and for that you first have to win. Then there are different ways to do it,” Pellegrini told reporters at his introductory press conference on Monday, as cited by Marca.
“My teams have always had similar characteristics, being a team that scores goals, that people come to see and expect they will not play just to win 1-0. Because of the characteristics of the squad we are going to try to make a winning team that pleases the fans.
“We need to show a winning mentality because this is a team that has to be fighting for European places, it needs it as an institution and it will be my main objective, to take that leap on the pitch.”
West Ham fans will no doubt be watching on with great interest to see how Pellegrini fares back in Spain next term.
Let’s just hope the Hammers are a Premier League side by then.
Charlie Nicholas thinks they will be.