The Manifesto.

It’s time to call a spade a spade. West Ham have lost some of their identity, have they not? Not just because of the move away from Upton Park, no, I am talking bigger and longer ago than that. Look at the name of this website. Moore Than A Club. Does that even mean anything anymore, in this corporate day and age? It’s not just the Hammers, granted. Many clubs that had “identity” and history seem to be performing an about turn from their roots and chasing the next wedge of £££ in whatever form TV companies are dishing it out in this week.

It’s all very well sitting here and judging the shift away from West Ham’s identity, but what was it in the first place? For me, the Hammers will always be synonymous with the early Ron Greenwood/late Ted Fenton era. Malcolm Allison mentoring Bobby Moore, Cassettari’s Cafe which became the East End equivalent to the Austrian coffee houses where revolutionary tactical thinking took place. England was in a mire of old school methods, preseason training where you wouldn’t see the ball for a month, midweek training where you wouldn’t see the ball until the weekend. Imagine that? What do you mean that was still happening before Sky reinvented football and all these foreign players appeared? No, West Ham’s alumni of that era had it all going on well ahead of their time. Allison would hold court on how this should be done, how the game should be played, how they should train and the likes of Brian Deer, Ronnie Boyce, John Bond, Frank O’Farrell, Dave Sexton et al would listen, learn, challenge and reinvent. Sure, in the 60’s and 70’s the Hammers could a reputation for being a comfortable club, very soft in the middle and never likely to win much but Greenwood remained true to his principles of trying to play a certain type of way with a certain type of player.

They also brought “their own” through the ranks. Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Sir Geoff Hurst – they won England the World Cup, didn’t they? But it wasn’t just these more famous boys that were West Ham graduates, oh no. Frank Lampard Sr, Harry Redknapp, Sir Trevor Brooking, Alan Devonshire, Tony Gale, Alvin Martin, Billy Bonds, Tony Cottee, Paul Ince, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, Glen Johnson, Jermain Defoe, Kevin Bond, Jimmy Bullard, Bobby Zamora and Mark Noble to name quite a list of local lads that played for the first team and this far from the complete list! Then you have an outlier like Michael Carrick who learned his football at West Ham.

This is not mentioning the other group of East End boys that ended up playing top level football, but not always starting or even playing for West Ham. David Beckham, Les Sealey, Jimmy Greaves, Ledley King, Perry Groves, Lee Bowyer, Sol Campbell, Paul Davis, Rob Lee, Paul Parker, Ashley Cole, Sir Alf Ramsey, Terry Venables and Paul Konchesky is quite a roll call.

Now, of course, as and when these East End boys were coming through as footballers there will have been a multitude of reasons why there weren’t at West Ham – other London clubs may well have been a greater draw at the time, for example. But just imagine if those in the same eras had all played for the club in their prime. Wow. It is not too great a jump to suggest that some of the greatest English players of all-time were born and raised in the East End of London.

This is what makes this virtual journey even more interesting to me. The challenge of not just getting West Ham playing the way the West Ham fans would like them to play, but to reinstate the Academy back to it’s former glory.

There are sociological reasons as to why the West Ham Academy is no longer producing the level of player they are historically known for. In fact, let’s take that up a level. There are sociological reasons as to why the East End is no longer producing the level of player it is historically known for doing. The East End of London started changing demographically in the mid to late 1990’s, with the middle classes moving into the area, driving up the prices and forcing, in some cases, the true East Ender to move on. Typically, they moved over to Essex which is still, granted, very much in the Hammers’ catchment area but the true grit of the club is now one step removed by a generational shift. Of course, you can then add the layer on top of the technological impact of the world on the young footballer, with street football a dying art yet FIFA and, ok, Football Manager, being the preferred way to connect with your modern day heroes on the pitch. Finally, consider the softness of the modern day academy in comparison to the YTS approach that virtually every player above will have encountered and you can start to understand the current situation.

So, using Football Manager 2017, what am I aiming to do with West Ham United? What is this alleged manifesto?

I want to, over a period of time, return to West Ham United back to the core values of the football club which are, for me, a core of East End lads who have come through the youth system playing attractive, attacking football in a tactically advanced manner. And, by tactically advanced I guess I mean by adopting a style and approach that could be considered evolved from the majority. It’s time to reinvent the Academy of Football.

How am I going to do that?

Yeah, not too sure of the answer to that part yet but I am sure that will become clear as this weekly series evolves….