At the start of every season, my father, his friends and I take part in little ‘West Ham Predictions League’ with varying results, usually ending badly for me. At 50p per wrong prediction it can come at quite a hit to the old wallet come May.
Now, for the past few seasons I have gone with my heart rather than my head, ambitiously predicting home wins against the big boys and cheeky point here or there at Old Trafford and Anfield. In truth, I never really took it that seriously, now Student Loan-less I decided it was high time I took it for real, those 50ps really do start to add up.
Although still cautiously optimistic those home wins against the likes of Manchester City & co were taken off, thinking, “I’ll save myself a pretty penny here”. Low and behold, this current West Ham side have only gone and proved to me that gambling is more of a mugs game than I had ever thought. (I am not complaining mind you, I would take getting every result wrong if it meant we continued to upset the applecart.)
This success comes down to a number of factors, whether the grumbling around Upton Park at times last season had a detrimental effect on the summer dealings, I’m not too sure, but I firmly believe this squad assembled by Sam Allardyce, his backroom staff and David Gold and David Sullivan is the best we have had in a long, long time.
It is refreshing to turn on Match of the Day and hear words of praise towards the club rather than the usual tattle of West Ham being ‘a long ball team’. The arrivals of Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia have certainly given the team a different dimension up front and Cheikhou Kouyate and Alex Song have given us that little bit of bite and flair in midfield that we had so desperately lacked.
The squad itself has a new core and a new heartbeat, and whilst it is still early days the desire and passion on show is a wonderful change to that of the Avram Grant days. Whether it is Noble, Sakho, Valencia or Downing chasing the ball, the hassling and harrowing of the ball has meant the Hammers are always on the front foot.
Whilst Sam Allardyce has to take a large amount of the credit, he has to buy Teddy Sheringham a large bottle of wine for the change he has made to make the strikers more confident and potent in front of goal. Last season we were relying on Kevin Nolan to get us goals, a midfielder – and an ageing one at that. Now we have two strikers in their prime bagging goals left right and centre, and credit for that has to go to the former West Ham number eight.
In recent years, the Irons have lacked strength in depth and at times it has cost us dear, with full backs having to fill in at centre half, and having to play with zero strikers with varying success. Now, however, following a busy summer window the Hammers have a stronger squad than ever.
When West Ham predictably had their mini injury crisis with Noble and Kouyate missing, the Irons were still able to line-up with a strong midfield of Song, Amalfitano, Downing and Zarate, a midfield good enough to grace most teams outside of the top six.
A small mention has to go to the two new full backs, with Aaron Cresswell and Carl Jenkinson coming in to help the Hammers find their attack flair this season. They add pace and an uncanny knack to find there man unmarked in the box to power a header home. Credit really has to go to the scouting team to find Cresswell and spot his ability and putting faith in him.
I put a tweet out on Sunday night, stating that it is impossible to pick your favourite player amongst this current squad, as there are so many likeable characters at the club at the minute. That has to go down to the manager, coaches and captain, the atmosphere amongst the squad is fantastic and that was tested on Saturday and they showed they are more than up for a scrap after coming from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 away at Stoke City. That gutsy attitude will go a long way to continue to win those doubting fans over.
So let’s continue to enjoy the dizzy heights of the top six and back this team because I truly believe this is the best squad we have had since the 80’s.
Come on you Irons!
Tweet me @Bowdenwhu