Happy days at the Boleyn my friends…no.. make that AMAZING days! Unfortunately, it’s in the make-up and DNA of all longstanding Hammers fans to sit back and wait for the collapse, partial sometimes, catastrophic others, but this really does seem like something different, something undeniably positive, and something real and solid. I have a newfound confidence of getting something from every game…what a welcome change that is.
It’s not the points tally, or league placing that tells me we are on the up; they speak for themselves. It’s the results at Stoke City, Everton and West Bromwich Albion in particular that gave me the heads-up. As an old timer with his schoolboy roots in the 1960’s, trust me, coming back from goals down at both Stoke and West Bromwich, two and one respectively, is an outcome that would rarely ever have happened, even during the misty eyed era of Moore, Hurst and Peters, or later in the swashbuckling days of Bonzo, Trev and Devo.
North of Watford, as legend had it, West Ham just didn’t turn up and used to be easy meat for the Northern toughies. The smart, calculated and controlled ball play of the Greenwood and Lyall sides was never quite matched by the guts and steel needed to sneak back south will all three points safely tucked in the proverbial back pocket. At home West Ham thrilled and excited; on their travels they usually huffed and puffed, but never quite blew the house down. But that was then, and this is very much now.
Watching us dig in and take the fight to the opposition was in itself some sort of result. Watching us take the points was the icing on the cake. Even at one of our all time bogey sides, the Everton performance at Goodison was below par by our newfound standards, but we were still in with a shout until the end; that is the hallmark of a half decent side.
Along with the steel, determination and will, we also have the big man back, and I for one am delighted he has proved a number of things to a number of people. Firstly he is not just a big lump, and secondly we have not slipped back to the bad old Carroll/Nolan days where long ball after long ball saw us lose possession and offer no threat whatsoever. With pace now in and around Andy supplied by Diafra Sakho, Stewart Downing and Enner Valencia, and a superb supply of ball from Stewart Downing, Aaron Cresswell and Carl Jenkinson, we have numbers close to the play looking for knock downs and loose balls and defensive errors. Andy Carroll’s goals in themselves are priceless, but the mayhem the big man causes is in itself a potential match winner, and now we have chosen pace and power over previously inadequate and unwilling support players who simply were unfit for purpose; even the laboured Nolan looks re-energised, and losing the amateurish one-trick pony that was Diame has been a god send. We once again look exciting and threatening, and in Song we have what can only be described as a world-class footballer in the side.
In so many articles I read, many were concerned that once Andy Carroll was available for selection, so the long ball bonanza would once again be back on the agenda. Having seen the newfound “pass and move” style demanded by the hierarchy pay such handsome dividends, a return to Neanderthal football was for me never really on the cards. Allardyce may still not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he has been around long enough to know a good thing when he sees it. Why kill the goose that’s laying the golden egg?
Carroll has ability far beyond heading balls and bruising defenders. Like Peter Crouch, the guys control and ground play is better than most, and we do now have an option of long or short, high or low, and it’s this” mix and match” weaponry that has seen us hit the net so much this term. Provided the Collins/Reid/Tomkins to Carroll 60-yard balls are occasional and calculated, and provided three runners are detailed to get in and around the box if and when these tactics are deployed, then I really feel we have enough about us to maintain a challenge toward the top, and have one of the best seasons that many of us can remember. We have Arsenal and Chelsea on the horizon, but having seen of Liverpool, Man City, and recently the high flying Magpies, then I see no reason to fear anyone.
The bubbles are bigger, the pie & mash tastier, and the crowd banter is so much more positive and has got me laughing once again. God I love West Ham!