So it seems that the uplifting and exciting brand of football first witnessed last week up at Hull City wasn’t just a flash in the pan, and there may be real hope that the dark, dreary, desperate, defensive dinosaur displays will be consigned to the bin marked “bad old days”.
Just as we witnessed at the KC Stadium, the display against one of our bogey sides Liverpool was full of purpose, running, pace and skill, and only us long suffering Hammers fans can really understand the joy and relief seeing US pegging teams back and causing defensive panic by sheer endeavour and attacking weight of numbers.
Several things appear to have combined to cause this “perfect storm” of a claret and blue hew. First and foremost, and lets be fair and give huge credit where it is due, every new signing has hit the ground running in a league known world-wide to be more physical, more powerful and more intense than any other in the global game. We may have hoped to see two, three or possibly four of the new boys get up to speed in the first few weeks, but to see each and every recruit step up and produce, is both a rarity and a welcome relief.
The Premier League graveyard is littered with the long forgotten skeletons of those who came, tried and failed, and whilst we must be accepting of the fact that some of the imported guys may well fade at some stage, to see so many showing such huge commitment to the cause can only be great for the future of the club. The type of player we now see performing so well is an ingredient that has been so lacking for so long, and this previous deficiency of pace, trickery, attack minded intent and energy has been a huge factor in the Hammers troubled and uninspiring recent history. Sam Allardyce’s preferred player template favoured height over skill, power over speed, and safety over risk. By accident or design, he now has the tools to fashion an exciting offensive thinking side, and for me, there is absolutely no going back to the dark old days of Carlton Cole, Kevin Nolan, Joey O’Brien, Ricardo Vaz Te and balls that spent so much time in the air, they regularly featured on aircraft flight control systems….
Why the sudden change in tack? I have no doubt whatsoever that fan discontent played a huge and necessary part in the sudden style change of both play and player. The shrewd business sense of David Sullivan and the West Ham home boy David Gold realised long ago that the natives were not just restless; they were dying of boredom and disinterest. Fans loyal beyond reason (after 50 odd years, I share both your pain and elation) were actually questioning their support, and for those of us truly steeped in Mooro, Bonzo and pie and mash, this was just downright painful. The board knew the extent of the problem and acted. Hopefully Sam played his part in choosing the new breed, and maybe Teddy Sheringham weighed in with his thoughts, who knows?! Whatever the truth, thank you for the collective will to put things right and listen to the paying fan.
The Liverpool performance was the best I have seen for so, so long. It showed that indeed, the old adage that attack is the best form of defence was right on the money. Watching us press high up the field with the luxury of two strikers and a support man at the head of the diamond, chase, and force errors and backwards passing from Liverpool was almost hard to digest. As an old Dads Army fan, the classic phrase “they don’t like it up ’em” just about summed it all up. No player likes to be denied space and time on the ball, and as we saw with Steven Gerrard, so superbly marshalled by Stewart Downing, he was never in the game and had no influence whatsoever on proceedings. For once we looked solid, organised and confident of what we were doing.
I don’t especially care who rang the changes at West Ham. All I know is we now have a distinct team style, a great work ethic, and a system that looks capable of giving even the best sides and defences something to think about. To have commentators, journalists and even Match of the Day pundits singing our praises at long last and mentioning the word “entertainment” in the same sentence as West Ham is long overdue.
The big dilemma for Mr Allardyce now is the impending return to fitness and availability of both Andy Carroll and his golden boy Kevin Nolan. However, that’s for another day. Lets just enjoy the here and now. It has been a long and painful journey, but let’s just hope the startling change we have all witnessed is non-reversible and ushers in a new era of “the West Ham way”.