West Ham United: The Benefits of Relegation
Last week, West Ham threw away any chance of salvation in a demoralizing defeat to Wigan at DW Stadium.
The Hammers went ahead 2-0 in the first half of the game before losing 3-2 when Charles N'Zogbia scored in the last minute of stoppage time. It was a performance typical of the West Ham season and an appropriate ending.
Beginning in August of 2011, West Ham will take the field at Upton Park as a Championship side, not an EPL team. This fate is both a blessing and a curse.
Here are six reasons why it might ultimately be best for the Hammers play a handful of seasons in the Football League.
A New Appreciation for Sport
It’s not for nothing that the motto of the Football League is “Real Football, Real Fans.”
The Football League does not bear the strains of crass commercialism as blatantly as does the EPL. The league is not as driven by money and the desire to maximize profits the way that the Premiership is.
Of course, in gaining promotions, teams gain money and therefore the ability to buy players, and promotion drives many teams forward each season, so it’s a little naive to claim that the league isn’t drive by money.
But in a way, there’s something more pure about the football played in the Football League than there is about the football in the EPL. A few seasons in the Championship may help West Ham fans remember why they support the Hammers in the first place, and why they love the sport.
West Ham is in desperate need of reorganization.
The Hammers don’t just need some new players—they need a new approach to football. Being relegated will force the Irons to take stock of how the team has been playing and how it needs to be playing.
Though it goes without saying, West Ham isn’t Chelsea. The team doesn’t have the money to buy world-class players to fill holes in its lineup. It needs to put together a team of solid, workmanlike players who work well as a team.
A handful of seasons in the Championship are exactly what West Ham needs to rebuild the team from the ground up, rather than the top down.
Doing Well, for a Change
West Ham will finish the 2010-11 EPL in dead last. Last year, the team finished in 17th, one place and five points clear of the drop.
In the Championship, West Ham will come up against sides like Donacaster Rovers, Crystal Palace and Derby County.
Provided West Ham can hang on to players like James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Gary O’Neil and Manuel da Costa, the side will have no trouble finishing in the top 10, maybe even the top five.
Though everything is relative, it would be nice for the Hammers to finish in the top half.
Building Up the Nerves
One of the biggest problems West Ham had during the 2010-11 season was nerves. No matter the match, the team couldn’t stay calm.
It’s not hard to believe that the Hammers defeated themselves this season through a lack of self-confidence. You can see in Carlton Cole’s eyes he doesn’t believe he’ll score when he gets the ball. Ditto for the rest of the team.
Playing in the Championship and performing well for a handful of seasons while gaining valuable experience will prove essential to the Hammers when they return to the EPL.
Bye Bye, Mr. Grant!
Avram Grant has been an albatross around West Ham’s neck all season.
If the Hammers win their last game, the team will finish with more points than last year. But West Ham has played with less confidence and purpose than last season.
Grant didn’t make the team any worse, but he certainly didn’t make it any better.
Apart from a brief flirtation with an attacking 4-3-3 formation and some inspired transfers, Grant has done nothing for West Ham.
Bringing in a fresh manager with a fresh approach to football who can inspire the best in West Ham’s players will take the team to a better place mentally, if not in the table.
Had the Hammers managed to avoid relegation, Grant may well have been back in the throne in 2011-12. We can thank the gods of football he won’t be.
A Chance for Development
As West Ham captain Matthew Upson said in an interview with West Ham TV, young Hammers like Manuel da Costa have all the technical skills required for success in the EPL, but they make rash decisions.
A handful of seasons playing in the Championship will help these young men, players like Freddie Sears and Jordan Spence, gain the experience they need to form a solid and successful team upon their return to top-flight football.
Furthermore, playing in the Championship will allow West Ham to begin integrating promising academy stars like Robert Hall and Blair Turgott.
Without players like Victor Obinna clogging the starting lineup, promising youngsters like Zavon Hines will also be provided a chance to fully develop.
History of Violence
It’s been a while since West Ham had a chance to properly humiliate Millwall.
A season in the Championship will change that.
On the day, east London will erupt in a frenzy of tension. Police will partition routes into the stadium. Threats will fly. Families will be divided. Babies will scream, cry, run for cover. Hopefully no one will get seriously hurt.
And Millwall will fall like the wicked before a tide of the righteous.