West Ham United: A Season of Success?
At the beginning of the season, a certain Eggert Magnusson suggested the previous season's relegation dogfight was a blip. This year West Ham would be up and challenging for a European place. (Maybe he meant the Intertoto Cup.)
To most West Ham fans, anything above last season's 15th place would be an improvement, and from the looks of things the supporters were right.
West Ham are a club with tradition, but supporters feel that Curbishley's team doesn't play "the West Ham way." That is why some fans aren't willing to give him a chance. His signings seem to have been made to keep the physio busy rather than improving the team.
Only recently Curbs said he hasn't had the chance to field the same team for a run due to injuries. Well, when you sign Freddie Ljungberg, Kieron Dyer, Craig Bellamy, and Scott Parker (combined fee £23.5m) do you really expect them to play more than half a season? Twelve games if your lucky.
While the physio has kept busy, the players have been plugging away and scrapping results by playing "Jekyll and Hyde football." They beat Liverpool (1-0) and Manchester United (2-1) one minute and then struggle to beat a poor Wigan side the next. West Ham fans are use to this though.
Also, Alan Curbishley's side are renowned for dipping in form after Christmas, and West Ham have done just that. As we speak, West Ham are 10th in the table, but have unveiled the next stars to come off the Tony Carr conveyor belt in striker Freddie Sears and defender James Tomkins, who had differing debuts. Sears scored the winner against Blackburn, and the following week Tomkins was at fault for the opening goal in West Ham's 1-1 draw against Everton.
Starting with Sunderland at the weekend, West Ham have a chance for one final push and can climb as high up the table as possible, even if a European place is no longer an option. With games against Sunderland, Bolton, Derby, and Newcastle coming there are 12 points there, but the players have to perform.
Relegation isn't an option. Neither are Champions League or UEFA Cup football, so it'll be interesting to see where the players minds are—at Upton Park or some beach in the Bahamas.
What about next season?
The word on the West Ham grapevine is that there's money to spend, but Curbishley prefers to give youth a chance and fair play. It's a shame other managers don't want to take this chance, but the squad needs strengthening.
Dean Ashton's injury on international duty has affected him, and it wouldn't surprise me to see a new striker at Upton Park with Ashton going to Newcastle in the summer.
Defence...well it was so strong at the start of the season but has shown signs of cracking so maybe there could be signing in that department as well. Twelve goals conceded in three games is an obvious sign!!!
And the manager. I have this feeling that Alan Curbishley will be moved upstairs, but who will take over? A certain Croat, Slaven Bilic, would be my tip—a West Ham favourite, a strong character, and someone who in a short time has made his mark on the international scene is just what West Ham needs.
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