Last Season: 3rd in the Championship
Odd to win the Premier League: 2500/1
This season we find ourselves in the complete opposite position than we were in during our brief stay in the Npower Championship where we found ourselves odds on favourites for an automatic return. Now however the bookies have us down as 6th favourites to go down, and as predictability goes, I suggest you hold onto your hats as it’s going to be a bumpy old ride on that roller-coaster.
Confidence was high after the Play-off win at Wembley, but that may in part have been due to the copious amounts of alcohol consumed that day.
But after a poor pre-season and a squad that looks thin in one or two places just weeks before the start of the season, is my confidence is faltering? I have no doubt we will stay up this season, as under Sam Allardyce we have a man who is tactically sound and has a record to admire, having never been relegated as a manager. We all know we have a solid core of a decent squad but most fans are worried about a lack of squad players to bulk up in areas we may struggle.
For me, one thing is for certain – we need bodies in defence. The first six games are crucial to our season. We play Aston Villa at home, followed by Swansea City away, and then heading back down east to play Fulham in our first London derby, then facing Norwich City, Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers. The start of the season I’m sure Big Sam would have looked to gain at least 10 points from and a flying start, but with new bodies due to come over the next week or so, will they have time to settle and gel in time to gain these points, therein lies the worry. I think the priority has to be realistic, we have to class this season as a rebuilding process, and hope to finish as high as possible and get to that magic 40 point mark as soon as possible.
Your thoughts on the gaffer…
We all knew what we were getting when David Gold and Sullivan appointed Sam Allardyce; the dour and determined man from Dudley sets his side out well and is tactically astute, defensively solid and well drilled. West Ham fans are more confident with this man in charge than anyone that has been in charge since Alan Curbishley. At times last year some fans doubted him. Allardyce took on the fans mid-season by calling us deluded, leading to outrage from some corners of the grounds with chants of “West Ham United We play on the floor”. But after our day in the Wembley sun, and Big Sam achieving his objective at his first attempt, fans have warmed to him rapidly. He has quickly become the man the Hammers faithful trust and feel confident with as we enter our latest adventure.
Your key man this season will be…
He may have only become a Hammer this summer but for me, new arrival Mohamed Diame will have to play a key role this season protecting our back four. My main worry is our defence as it’s brittle thin in quality with only James Tomkins and James Collins – players with known Premier League quality. The full back positions look weak with the injury prone Guy Demel looking a real worry, so if Diame can break up play and get a foot in when required he could take on the role of Scott Parker and quickly become a firm favourite with the fans.
Youngster to watch…
West Ham have a high reputation for producing quality young players, with a list as long as your arm of players who have come from our famous academy, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, and Rio Ferdinand to name but a few. But recently things haven’t gone so well, it’s been too long since a player burst on the scene.
Last year, Dan Potts showed potential in his 90 minute display against Barnsley but they are no Manchester City or Chelsea. For me this year could be the year for promising forward Robert Hall. He is the typical poacher, following successful loan spells as Oxford United where he bagged his first league goals. His pace off the bench and eye for a goal could become useful for the Hammers this season.
A player who must deliver…
A player who there has been a lot of chat about on the web, Carlton Cole, needs to prove his worth this season. He is a fans favourite, but the Irons will need him to bag the goals this season. We all know he can do it, but he is a confidence player, he will need to get off to a flier. Cole will look to be our main threat in front of goal after his commitment to the club which won him many an admirer.
Your Achilles’ heel…
It is simple, right back. The Hammers had the chance to minimise the issue with the signing of Nathaniel Clyne but lost out to Southampton, with only Joey O’Brien and Guy Demel it looks thin in quality. Both wing back positions look weak with the left back position only having one recognised player in George McCartney. Should he get injured, attack minded winger Matty Taylor will need to drop back. For West Ham to be competitive the manager and chairmen must bring in full backs to strengthen the clubs chances of a top 10 finish.
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Fixture you are looking forward to the most…
Tottenham Hotspurs… From the moment we collected that trophy at Wembley this is the game every Hammers fan was looking out for when the fixtures were announced. Walking through Wembley way after the game chants of “Tottenham Hotspurs we’re coming for you” were being belted out. So it’s no surprise that this is the game we are looking forward to most. Oh and how could I forget Chelsea, another game which is sure to whet the appetite.
Your toughest opponents will be…
Manchester City – With a team with that much quality and with money to burn and more high earners sure to join the blue half of Manchester it would be foolish not to say that this will be our toughest game of the season. With our defence a real worry it is hard to see how we would be able to cope with the likes of Silva, Aguero and co.
Player you love to hate…
West Ham have many a pantomime villain, mainly players who left during our last relegation campaign in 2003. And the player West Ham fans despise is Frank Lampard, not because of the relegation, but because of the way he left. He is the victim of abuse and boos whenever we play Chelsea. Nicknamed “Fat Frank” the West Ham faithful love to sing their not so kind song about their former academy star.
Rival player from the Premier League you’d have in your team?
I hate to keep banging on about the defence but this is an area which needs strengthening so if I could sign any player, it would have to Micah Richards. The player has a wealth of experience with both England and the Premier League. The attack minded right back who is strong and powerful can also play centre back would be an unrealistic dream.
Your first choice XI (4-3-3)
Demel Tomkins Collins McCartney
Diame Nolan Noble
Vaz Te Maiga Taylor
As we teeter on the edge of our highest of ups following our promotion on our roller-coaster that we have been put on from birth, the West Ham faithful will hope that it will be a smooth ride this year rather than the normal bumpy ride. The Hammers will hope that Big Sam’s record of never being relegated will continue. A good start will be vital and it will certainly settle the nerves.
In Big Sam we trust.
Written by David Bowden @Bowdenwhu