Recorder Review: Sleepwalking Hammers got what they deserved
The Recorder’s West Ham Correspondent Dave Evans looks over a disastrous season for the Hammers and assesses who was responsible for their demise.
Many would suggest that the origins of West Ham’s Premier League demise came last summer.
That was when the two Davids – Gold and Sullivan – appointed Avram Grant as their manager. The rest, as they say is painful history.
To say the Hammers went sleepwalking into the Championship is an understatement.
Admittedly their opening six games always looked tough ones and after a disastrous start, the Hammers were left playing catch-up.
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The problem was the players and in particular the manager, didn’t think like that.
An excellent Carling Cup run, which ended when they threw away a 3-1 aggregate lead at Birmingham, merely masked their frailities in the league, while Grant insisted that his team were playing well, even when they were awful.
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It could have been so different. A humiliating 5-0 defeat at Newcastle prompted the board to approach Martin O’Neill and when the Arsenal home game arrived it was clear that Grant was on his way.
However, the plan leaked out, O’Neill got cold feet and it was the decision to stick with the Israeli coach at that point that was to prove fatal to the survival chances.
To be fair, the board did back Grant in the transfer window and the arrival of Demba Ba, Wayne Bridge and Robbie Keane looked to be enough to haul them away from the drop zone.
The reason it wasn’t has to be down to the manager.
He may have been undermined by his bosses at times, but too often he made the wrong team selections; played the wrong formations and failed to motivate a West Ham team who were too often beaten before they had even woken up to their task.
Even then there was still a chance to turn things round.
Successive wins over Liverpool and Stoke City added to a valiant draw at Spurs, set them up for the home game against Manchester United, where they stormed into a 2-0 lead.
The referee did not help the Hammers cause, but in the second half, United and Wayne Rooney turned on the style as they ran out 4-2 winners.
Defeat in the FA Cup quarter-final at Stoke City further dented their confidence, but still Grant was adamant his team would survive.
Whether he truly believed that is debatable, but it would seem that his team certainly didn’t and many, including the captain, played like the cause was already lost.
There were one or two good moments.
The Carling Cup victory over Manchester United at a snowy Upton Park was the high spot, with the 3-1 win over Liverpool not far behind, while Scott Parker was a hugely deserved Footballer of the Year.
But the overriding memories of the season will be the abject surrender of the team on too many occasions and the ineptitude of their manager.
They are the reasons that West Ham will be playing their football in the second tier next season and they really only have themselves to blame.
Top Scorer: Carlton Cole 11
The rest: 9 Freddie Piquionne
8 Victor Obinna
7 Scott Parker
7 Demba Ba
5 Mark Noble
4 Jonathan Spector
3 Thomas Hitzlsperger
2 Valon Behrami
2 Freddie Sears
2 Manuel Da Costa
2 Robbie Keane
1 James Tomkins
1 Junior Stanislas
1 Winston Reid
Most Assists: Mark Noble 11
The rest: 8 Victor Obinna
6 Freddie Piquionne
6 Thomas Hitzlsperger
4 Scott Parker
4 Jonathan Spector
2 Pablo Barrera
2 Luis Boa Morte
2 Wayne Bridge
2 Carlton Cole
1 Tal Ben Haim
1 Gary O’Neil
1 James Tomkins
Recorder Average Rating winner: Demba Ba 7.23
The rest (qualification - Five appearances):
7.18 Scott Parker
6.92 Thomas Hitzlsperger
6.89 Robert Green
6.89 James Tomkins
6.75 Gary O’Neil
6.71 Mark Noble
6.67 Tal Ben Haim
6.67 Kieron Dyer
6.53 Manuel da Costa
6.5 Wayne Bridge
6.5 Matty Upson
6.48 Victor Obinna
6.46 Freddie Sears
6.42 Lars Jacobsen
6.33 Junior Stanislas
6.2 Freddie Piquionne
6.18 Winston Reid
6.15 Danny Gabbidon
6.15 Jonathan Spector
6.12 Carlton Cole
6 Zavon Hines
6 Robbie Keane
5.77 Radoslav Kovac
5.7 Pablo Barrera
5.59 Luis Boa Morte
5.58 Herita Ilunga
5.57 Julien Faubert
5 Benni McCarthy
HIGHS AND LOWS
RECORDER HAMMER OF THE YEAR: Scott Parker
BEST GAME: West Brom 3 West Ham 3
BEST PERFORMANCE: West Ham 4 Man Utd 0
BEST GOAL: Carlton Cole v Birmingham City (Carling Cup SF2)
BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE: Robert Green v Tottenham (a)
MOST APPEARANCES: Robert Green 44, Carlton Cole 27(16), Freddie Piquionne 31(10)
BEST INDIVIDUAL AGAINST: Joey Barton (Newcastle h)
Yaya Toure (Man City h)
Wayne Rooney (Man Utd h)
Chris Samba (Blackburn h)
UNLUCKIEST DEFEAT: Arsenal 1 West Ham 0
LUCKIEST WIN: West Ham 2 Birmingham 1
WORST PERFORMANCES: Liverpool 3 West Ham 0
Newcastle 5 West Ham 0
Bolton 3 West Ham 0
WORST INDIVIDUAL Performance: Freddie Piquionne 2/10 v Newcastle Utd (a)
FUNNIEST MOMENTS OF THE SEASON (amid the misery)
Avram Grant’s notes blowing away at Man City
Martin Allen’s half-time interview at Upton Park against Man United
The West Ham fans fake goal celebrations at Liverpool helping them to record a 4-3 victory!
Victor Obinna kicks the ball straight into Wayne Bridge’s face from point-blank range
Carlton Cole’s bizarre air shot that allowed Ronald Zubar to score an own goal for Wolves
Carlton Cole’s bizarre finish from on the floor against Burnley
West Brom caretaker boss Michael Appleton trying to convince journalists that 3-0 is a dangerous lead
West Ham fans doing their relegation conga on the last day of the season
The sprinklers going off during the game at Birmingham City
Sir Alex Ferguson’s comical gnome hat in the snow at Upton Park