I write this in the moments after Everton’s equalizer in the early part of the 2nd half. I am sure that many who are watching the game are bemoaning West Ham’s inability to find the net, Maiga’s basic ineptitude, and our lack of a viable option to replace Andy Carroll. I am sure of this because it has been the most talked about West Ham story since the close of the transfer window, and maybe it should be. I choose to look at things another way though, and I choose to remain very confident in the direction the team is heading even if I have concerns about the immediate future. I am not afraid of a relegation scrap and I am not afraid of a lost season.
You are probably thinking about now that I am just bonkers and should quite possibly have my head examined. But I fully believe that this team will avoid relegation and probably not even figure heavily in the fight to avoid the bottom of the table. There are two reasons, I think, very good reasons to feel that way. I think there are even good reasons to think that we will still build on the success of last year and perhaps make a cup run or otherwise do something interesting this year.
The primary reason is the solid defense that Big Sam fields combined with the exceptional goal keeping Jussi has favored the team with this year. If the scoreline against Everton holds there will not have been a goal scored from open play against West Ham in 450 minutes of play, plus stoppage time. That is pretty amazing. Much of the credit for this has to go with the hard work of what is arguably the best defense in the EPL. Much of it must also go to the ageless Jussi Jaaskelainen who was simply transcendent against Southampton.
I think that there is an even better reason to be excited about this season and, more importantly, the team in the long run though. That reason is Ravel Morrison. Morrison might be the best young player in the EPL right now, and if he isn’t he is certainly part of the conversation. The meteoric rise he has experienced over the last few months has been a joy to behold and once cannot help but think about what he might do for the club in the coming years. Keeping him happy and fit should be a primary concern for the club because he could truly represent the future.
For this year that means making sure he gets first team action, both for his sake and for the sake of the club. It also means a new deal and a commitment to continue to push forward towards becoming something more than a mid-table defensive monolith. Morrison is a player who will eventually want, and deserve, European football. Fortunately, I think he gives us a building block towards being one of those clubs and how wonderful would it be to see the move to Olympic Stadium coincide with Ravel Morrison hitting his prime, Adrian finding his top form as a goalie (for Jussi will surely have retired by then, right?!) and the rest of the team being built with a mind towards becoming one of the elite clubs of the EPL?
Maybe it is foolish naiveté, maybe it is the sort of optimism that some consider blasphemy, and maybe I will be eating my words in a few months. I don’t think so though. I think that as fans we have a great deal to be excited about and that we should be hoping, and expecting, to soon enter another golden age for West Ham United FC.
Addendum: As I wrote this it appears that West Ham turned victory into defeat against Everton and conceded from open play for the first time this season. I still stand by everything I said although it is a sad way to start my weekend here in the US.