Behrami blames everyone except the players for West Ham’s relegation
Avram Grant, the West Ham board, the coaching staff, everyone is to blame except the players for the Hammers’ demise this season according to Swiss international Valon Behrami
Former Hammer Valon Behrami has exonerated the players from West Ham’s relegation last season and put the blame towards the current club owners and manager Avram Grant.
The Swiss international, who played his part in his countries 2-2 draw with England at Wembley on Saturday, moved to Fiorentina in January, but he feels that the damage to West Ham’s chances occurred before the campaign had even begun.
“They sacked Zola for no reason I think,” said the 26-year-old midfielder, who played 63 appearances in claret and blue, scoring five goals along the way.
“Everybody was with him. We’d had a difficult season, but we secured safety two or three games before the end of the season and we felt that with him as manager, we could improve.”
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To an extent he was right, but the situation was a lot more complicated than that.
During that campaign, David Sullivan and David Gold took control of the club and it was apparently clear that despite them supposedly backing Zola in the transfer market in January, it was their signings rather than the Italians that were brought in with little or no consultation with the manager.
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The manner in which Zola was removed from his job left a bitter taste in the mouth, but many fans felt that the Italian needed to be replaced.
However, it was the replacement that the two Davids found, that proved to be their undoing.
“The players were very, very sad when they sacked him and the first day with the new manager was difficult to accept. Everybody was still with Zola.”
Of course, it is important to consider the position of Behrami himself at this point. He may say that he was behind Zola, but he had looked for a move away from Upton Park throughout the summer, with his wife and child already back in Italy having failed to settle in England.
There were stories about Behrami not being fit, but when he did play last season, even scoring goals in the 2-2 draw at Birmingham City and the 3-1 win over Wigan Athletic, he looked fit enough, suggesting it was a mental, rather than a physical problem that had beset Behrami, who had cost West Ham �5million from Lazio.
Given that the majority of the players were behind Zola, it is also fair to say that footballers are used to changes of managers, it is part and parcel of their career and they learn to adapt.
What they needed was a strong manager to make West Ham a more resolute, more determined team who would become more difficult to beat, especially away from home.
What they got was Avram Grant and Behrami was quick to suggest that it simply did not work.
“Maybe sometimes a manager has to take charge of a situation in a stronger way,” said Behrami. “Avram was a good person, but he left the situation drift along too easily.
“It was a time when he had to change something, he had to bring something new, but he didn’t give a thing.
“We tried to do a good job, but what the players needed was a reaction. We needed something new and we didn’t feel that we got it. We felt the situation was the same – going down.”
That statement flies in the face of his backing for Zola. You can’t claim that Zola was doing a good job and then say it was a time when the new manager had to change something – it was one thing or the other.
Behrami played 17 games for Fiorentina after his departure from Upton Park in January, helping them to ninth in Serie A.
So was his absence from the West Ham team for the last five months of the campaign a significant one? Probably not.
His final game in claret and blue was as a second-half substitute in the 5-0 battering by Newcastle United at St James’ Park, but his record for the Hammers was never particularly good anyway.
His five goals in over 60 appearances was simply not enough for a midfielder, and while, when fit, he could run and run as if propelled by a Duracell battery, while others flagged, you could not say that he ever really changed a match in West Ham’s favour.
You noticed him more when he wasn’t playing than when he did, as he did offer the Hammers something a little different, but from the moment he decided he wanted to return to Italy, there was little point in having him in the team.
What he is right about Grant though. When West Ham needed a kick up the backside, the manager continued to insist that all was well and the players and staff simply drifted until relegation became inevitable.
The players must take some responsibility for that, alongside Grant and to a lesser extent the West Ham board and Behrami, a highly-paid international player who jumped ship, must hold his hand up too.