At the beginning of this season I was in a general state of well being, content in my slumber and fat with relief that West Ham had escaped the misery and would go again into another campaign…surely it would be so much better than the last?
The search was made, scoured throughout endless web pages to find that consumable we so desperately needed, placed the order and waited for it to arrive…but did it ever? Only a note stuck on the front door… ‘Delivery attempted, contact your local sorting office!’
“The ocean,” I said, “look at it out there, battering, crawling up and down. And underneath all that, the fish, the poor fish fighting each other, eating each other. We’re like those fish, only we’re up here. One bad move and you’re finished. It’s nice to be a champion. It’s nice to know your moves.” – Charles Bukowski – Post Office
Like many of the Claret and Blue allegiant, I was hopeful that this would be our year after so many past seasons of frustration. There was no basis for such a premonition but merely a gut feeling that we could do something special. Not ever seriously thinking we could win the league but possibly qualify for Europe or most likely to go far into one of the cup competitions…into a final or even win one.
That gut feeling has served me well in years gone by…never showering me in glory or wealth but guiding me to make the better decisions in life. Do I eat the mouldy cheese or not? Do I ride my bike today or take the car? Do I stick to red wine or mix it up with a bottle of ‘James Beam’. I thought there was an opportunity to bring us something to smile about and relieve us from our toils and spoils, but we started poorly and haven’t risen to any notable degree…flatlined with the occasional blip on the ECG monitor.
I was saddened when Bilic was ejected, the nobleman with sincere objectives was made the scapegoat and was let down by too many shameful performances and players’ selfishness. However, I have admired Moyes for he attempts to sure us up, give us sound footing to build upon in games to come…but it has hardly been a season to be proud of. Many would argue that he took the team that was languishing in the bottom three and has guided them to a mid-table position with only a couple more wins away from a Europa League place. Many would also argue that the team is only a couple of losses from being sucked back into the bubbling pot of doom and terror.
After the game on Saturday I wondered if we had reached the point in the season where we all realised that we let ourselves go too soon. The result was unimportant in isolation, although granted, extremely so in league table terms…but it was a reflection of what has become of us and where we could have been…very Post Office…very Bukowski.
‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread’ – Alexander Pope. I was the fool who let my ambitions and hopes cloud what was soon to be our purpose for this season, but it left me bitter for dreams ripped apart and performances left discarded, unwrapped and dented. There are those who value the Premiership above all else…whether to make the top four to qualify for the Champions League or to avoid relegation and survive for another year…it’s all about the money! However, we failed to make the concerted effort in cup ties that would have lifted fans’ spirits and given us momentum for brighter match days.
I felt ashamed that Moyes and the club paid such little importance to the quarter-final of the Carabao Cup against Arsenal. They were poor that night and were there for the taking, but the team selections exposed our most stark weaknesses. Second tier squad players, the youthful, inexperienced and incapable were chosen…that obliterated momentum and adversely affected that which the manager prized the most.
Arsenal made it all the way to the final on Sunday…and we could have made it too, if only we had taken it more seriously. Whatever the reasons for tinkering with a butcher’s knife rather than a surgeon’s scalpel…it backfired. Not only in terms of team performance but also to rally fans, bring pride to our play and lift the spirits on the coldest of winter days.
Lessons were not learnt! We could not expect more but we floundered again when we faced Liverpool at the weekend after being out of action for two weeks because of our failings in the FA Cup. Two cup ties of note where the team failed to deliver…in result but mostly in performance too. Moyes sacrificed the bishops and the castles, rolled out the pawns instead and left the king and queen exposed. Checkmate!
The performances against Shrewsbury were embarrassing and the Wigan encounter made us question who were the League One side and who were the Premiership incumbents. All sacrifices made in the name of league survival but did little to entertain, raise a smile or voice a cheer. Wigan have gone from strength to strength, whilst West Ham look forward to another three-week layoff in March because of FA Cup miseries and International follies.
It could have been so much more, this season could have delivered so much pleasure and joy but all it has done is fuel the malcontent and the depression. We can raise our heads with a weekly win or a hard-fought draw but cower in shame the next week when we lose or roll over like puppies seeking attention. We have run our course and have made our way onto the home stretch…only a few more hurdles to leap and the season can end…in safety but also in oblivion.
The argument reigns…whether the Premier League survival or a good cup run is more important? This is a choice between loved children, to favour one over the other does nothing for family unity and general well being. West Ham should never sacrifice one in the name of another. We should fight on all fronts…not with cavalier abandon, but with determination and conviction. This is a confidence game and the team have faltered to maintain any kind of consistency throughout the season, let alone generate that confidence throughout the whole squad, where understudies are as good as the headliners.
The season continues with a fight to the end. We ordered our goods and the club failed to deliver…we have not been entertained, we have not been inspired and we gathered moss as the stone got jammed in the mud. Like the waiting Parcel at the Post Office, the team have not posted the ideal package through our front door when nobody was home and now it’s up to the fans to make good on collection, see out the year and rally again.