Flattered to deceive - Irons cast false aspersions over ability to go hammer and tongs with the big boys

Flattered to deceive - Irons cast false aspersions over ability to go hammer and tongs with the big boys

West Ham United have long had aspirations of been one of England elite clubs. However is the club's facilities, players and manager flattering to deceive ?

Danial Kennedy

West Ham United are regarded as one of the biggest sides in the Premier League, and one of the clubs with the richest history.

World Cup winners such as Bobby Moore, Sir Geoff Hurst and Sir Trevor Brooking were dominant figures throughout the ‘glory days’.

A resurgence in the 1990’s with the likes of Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand and Jermain Defoe coming through the academy and signings such as Paolo Di Canio, looked to reiterate the Hammers as one of the big hitters in the country.

What followed that was season after season of hope followed by disappointment, however they looked to rebuild themselves once again and it looked like the 2016/17 season would one of the biggest in the club’s history.

The major step was leaving the historic Boleyn Ground to move to the east of the capital into the London Stadium. The modernisation of their facilities, new players, an exciting young manager and excellent form seemed to have West Ham on the cusp of becoming one of the elite clubs in the country.

However, throughout the decades it has seemed in the case of West Ham that they have always been the bridesmaid but never the bride in terms of been considered as one of the elite clubs, and it seems that it is the case once again.

The London Stadium

Ignoring all the drama that has surrounded the capture and moving to the London Stadium, there is no doubt the significant increase in the move can benefit West Ham and move them to the next level.

The London Stadium is the third-largest stadium in the Premier League with a 60,000 capacity, an increase of 25,000 on Upton Park which held just 35,000 supporters.

This significant increase should not only see an increase attendance, atmosphere but more importantly in revenue. The London Stadium is famously a stadium of many uses, having already hosted the Olympics, athletics, rugby and many other events such as cricket and concerts on the horizon.

The biggest steal however comes in how much the Claret and Blues are paying to occupy the Stratford-based arena, with rent believed to be around £2.5m a year and many believe that where the problems that the stadium brought to the club have stemmed from.

The move was heavily criticised but when the full details of the contract were revealed at the beginning of the year, that only added fuel to the already burning fire.

Along with the low rent, it was revealed that West Ham would be exempt from paying for stewarding, goalposts, corner flags, cleaners, turnstile operators, undersoil heating and floodlighting, dugouts for managers, substitutes and the fourth official, changing rooms and toilets, Security and cleaning and pest control.

It is believed that those costs were estimated between £1.4m and £2.5m a year, and the ever-increasing stadium conversion costs estimated over £700m, paid for by the tax payer with £15m been put towards that total by the club.

All that trouble aside it is about what happens on the pitch, and it can be argued that there is the London Stadium is faltering the most. Having been specifically built for athletics, the atmosphere and passion is lost in the stadium’s bowl design and fall flat on many occasions.

The biggest problem has been security, lack of police and stewards came to a boiling point during the EFL Cup victory over Chelsea and though it seems to have improved the damage of the opening few months of tenure have been clear to see.

It is only natural for a club to want to continue to grow and become one of the heavyweights and improving, moving or building a new stadium is one of big steps however I believe West Ham have gone the wrong way about it.

London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have and will show the correct way about going into such a big move, through natural progression to the Emirates Stadium and the new White Hart Lane respectively.

However, I feel that the Hammers’ move was rushed. The stadium’s facilities are not being brought in to question, but with all the baggage that has come with the move it has done more harm than good for the club.

First-team squad

It has always been said that be considered one of the ‘big clubs’ that your line-up has to be full to the brim with some of the world best-players good enough to lift trophies year after year.

Leicester City debunked that slightly with their title heroics, and going on current and past players it can be argued that West Ham have one of the best squads in the league.

I have mentioned the Moore’s, Hurst’s, Lampard’s etc. but many Hammers fans argue that the current squad is one of the best that the club has had.

They certainly showed that in the 2014/15 season, with the likes of Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid, Adrian, Mauro Zarate and Michail Antonio to name a few that all performed way beyond people’s expectations.

However the jewel in their crown was summer signing Dimitri Payet, some knew what to expect after his summer move from Marseille but it would be fair to say that the Frenchman surpassed many people’s expectations.

Payet ended as the club’s top scorer with 15 goals in all competitions, racking up 17 assists and swept the club’s end of season awards with five awards including Player of the Year.

They looked to improve on an already strong squad this summer with 13 new faces entering the side, including the club record signing of £20m asset Andre Ayew from Swansea City.

Despite keeping pretty much the same set of players bar the departure of James Tomkins, and the multiple additions to the side the Slaven Bilic’s side have seriously underperformed despite more £40m been spent.

The likes of the Reid, Antonio, Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble and Aaron Cresswell have continued to impress despite the side’s poor performances, but it has been the summer signings that have disappointed most.

Kouyate and youngster Ashley Fletcher seem to be the only exemptions from what has proven to be a poor window especially in the attacking department.

Not a lot was known about the wingers of Sofiane Feghouli and Gokhan Tore when they made the switch, and Hammers fans are still clueless to their talents with 18 league appearances between them and the one goal to show for their ‘efforts’.

The striker position is Bilic’s has seriously faltered with the loss of Andy Carroll and Ayew very early in the season, meant that Simone Zaza and Jonathan Calleri had to step up and have failed to do so.

With 20 league appearances between the two, they managed no goals with Zaza looking incredibly out of form, and if rumours of his loan agreement are to believed it is likely he won’t be around for much longer along with Calleri and Tore.

Arguably the biggest loss has been the form of Payet, granted the Frenchman didn’t have much of a break as he was playing a big part in leading his nation to the final of Euro 2016 but has failed to kick on since his return.

He has managed three goals with seven assists in 18 games in all competitions, but the 29-year-old has looked a shadow of his former self. His excellent season also brought unwanted attention from some of the continent’s biggest clubs.

It was made worse with Payet refusing to deny that he wouldn’t make a move from East London even as early as the January transfer window, and the loss of the talismanic Frenchman would prove a major blow.

It would be naïve to deny that players have poor runs of form, but the big clubs always have players waiting in their ranks to step up and carry some of weight from that loss and that doesn’t seem to be happening at the Hammers.

Despite the high volume of players coming into the club it is difficult to say the side has been significantly strengthened, the prime example been Manchester United who brought in four players to strengthen their spine and I believe it is what will ultimately cost the Hammers.

Slaven Bilic

A lot of skepticism surrounded the announcement of former player Bilic been announced as the new first-team coach at the beginning of last season, after it was announced that Sam Allardyce would be leaving the Boleyn Ground.

After stints with the Croatian national team and Besiktas the Croatian didn’t go into this inexperienced, and he proved a lot of the doubters wrong with his side finishing sixth their joint-highest Premier League finish.

How it does seem that it might be a case of second-season blip for the 48-year-old, despite adopting a 4-3-3 formation overall the team have failed to improve.

Though it does seem that the Hammers are somewhat back on track, the pressure hanging over Bilic, and his position could be brought into question if a vast improvement isn’t seen.

Looking at all the factors it seems that West Ham United have all factors that they could be considered a big club, they have the fans, stadium, manager, players and history.

However, for some reason over the decades it has never materialised and I could yet be proven wrong during their tenure at the London Stadium, but I wouldn’t bet on them breaking into the top clubs anytime soon.