West Ham Support & Premier League Influence Published 25/8/18 on Irons United
As the West Ham faithful prepare themselves for a trip to North London to face off against Arsenal today and face the realistic spectre of a third straight defeat…one would begin to question how the fanbase would react to another poor season and how would attendances be affected at the London Stadium?
This is not intended to be a sermon of impending doom however, after two years of misery and narrow escapes from relegation, most West Ham fans were buoyant after the summer transfer dealings, but that faith has begun to be tested for many, whilst others are still standing firm in the belief that as the season develops, Pellegrini will find a solution to his woes and the squad will begin to perform at a higher level, deliver results and launch themselves up the Premier League table.
The first two seasons at the London Stadium have been poor…very poor indeed! Don’t let the table standings fool you. 2016/17 saw West Ham, under Bilic, finish 11th and 11 points above the relegation zone with a minus 17 goal difference. 2017/18 saw West Ham, under Bilic & Moyes, finish 13th and 9 points above the relegation places with a minus 20 goal difference. It was possibly more luck than design, whilst the quality of football was a shambles for the most part.
Much was said at the end of last season, that the board had to invest properly or the dissension within the fanbase would reach fever pitch and relegation would almost be assured. However, the club have reacted well and have retained the services of a decent manager with pedigree. They have invested heavily in new players…which begs the question….what of the financial situation now of the club? Was this the transfer money that was left to idle in the club coffers over the last two years or has this been another loan extension from Gold and Sullivan? What happens to the financial affairs of the club in the worst case scenario…and the season never kicks off like we all hope it will? Will the Hammers be thrown into another relegation fight? Well, judging by player performances thus far and the first ten games of the fixture list…there will be an almighty fight for survival and there will be a tough uphill climb to safer vantages.
Over the last two seasons, much of West Ham’s woes have been predicated upon a failure to capitalise upon minor successes and build momentum by aiming to go out and win every game. Does anyone remember the Carabao Cup quarter final clash with Arsenal last season? It was a horror show of ineptitude by both teams but the Hammers changed the team drastically with dire consequences…the same could be said of the FA Cup poor showing against Shrewsbury Town and the ultimate exit against the impressive Wigan Athletic.
This season, Pellegrini must find a formula that would not only deliver the best possible performances from his squad but also keep the bandwagon moving up the hill with pace and power. There cannot be any relenting and conservation in his quest. Any foot off the gas and the season will stall again…if it ever gets going in the first instance that is?
Of course it is still premature to be concerned about this season, however to ignore idle warnings may ultimately be the club’s undoing and send the fanbase into a tail spin. Nobody wants relegation of course, however much of the malaise around the club and fanbase might be based upon the artificial need to remain in the Premier League, with all of its riches and prestige. The fans grow increasingly expectant year upon year and the patience wears thin with lightning pace, both at the boardroom level and through the turnstiles too.
The club has spent a lot of money this season on transfers and will spend a king’s ransom on players’ wages too. There is a full flowing pot of gold from TV revenues but overall percentage profits are usually relatively low in comparison to other businesses or business models. So it is imperative to stay within the league to be able to retain and afford our current players but it requires exponential investment year upon year to have any kind of fighting chance to progress.
There is no doubt that the Premier League is one of the most exciting and competitive leagues in the world, with audiences that stretch across the global. This attracts investment, media attention and football fans who all want a piece of the action or at least would like the experience of it.
I sometimes question whether clubs like West Ham have sold their souls to the devil and will be tossed aside when dark clouds come to rest overhead once more? Not only has the club become part of the institution, it is also part of the problem! The club, like all others, is chasing the TV money whilst the fan appreciation comes much lower on the priority ladder. We are all buying into this wisdom of more is better, but is it ever so?
Thousands of West Ham fans, cannot attend every game but do their level best to go to as many games as they can, whilst for others, life pressures preclude such adventures. There are fans that are on the supposed season ticket waiting list that cannot get a sniff of a seat, whilst I would question why a third of the London Stadium crowd could be neutral interlopers and do not have a vested interest whether the players succeed or not…are allowed to be there in the first place.
Being a neutral fan is perfectly acceptable if you want to go and see a game, but being a neutral fan and a season ticket holder…surely is not! This is the problem with the West Ham crowds now. You’re never quite sure if the person sitting next to you is a spiritually committed West Ham fan or someone who just wants to watch Premier League football. Perhaps the numbers are not so stark but the reality is that attendance demographics are dramatically affected by performances and results…and of course primarily whether a club remains in the Premier League.
All fans will be hoping for a committed performance today at the Emirates Stadium and to return home with a positive result. Anything better than a draw would be outstanding considering the faltering start, but a loss would not mean the West Ham world end is nigh either…albeit many fans would have you believe it so. However it would make the hill just that little bit steeper to climb and the spirited naysayers’ voices would assuredly get louder as the weeks go by.
This season may yet prove to be successful and the players may turn into the superstars we all hope they can be, but we should prepare for a rough ride along this campaign trail and possibly even a fight until the bitter end. West Ham has too many talented players and are surely too good to get relegated this season…but haven’t we heard that before! However, whilst the club may indeed suffer in the short term, the cleansing affect may reap rewards for future generations, if only we were not so tunnelled vision only to consider the here and now! And for Pellegrini…all he can focus on is the right here and the right now. He is charged with steering this ship away from the rocks and into calm waters. Let us pray, let us hope and let our spirits be lifted by a season that now starts today!