January 19th, 2010, a new dawn for West Ham United, a new beginning, a start of something special perhaps? It certainly was an interesting and exciting time to be a West Ham fan. We had new owners who support the club. Surely the perfect combination for success.
“We have a seven-year plan to get them into the Champions League.
“We are deeply and passionately involved in West Ham. It is where I have wanted to be for 20 years. We have done [what we have done] in a way that is good for Birmingham and we have got the club we wanted. Over the next seven years we will spend a lot of money.”
This is what David Sullivan outlined to the media upon completion of the takeover for a reported £105 million. Now, we must remember who West Ham are and let’s be honest, Champions League? Really? Don’t get me wrong, in my opinion we are a big club with a fantastic fan base and a big one at that but, the Champions League? You have to be good to be in that. Well, according to Sullivan this was possible, and yeah I believed it because why wouldn’t I? We were in a poor position financially and performing poorly on the pitch. As a fan, to hear this ambition, it is hard not to get caught up in it.
The David’s went onto reveal their plans for West Ham to move to the Olympic stadium after the London Olympics in 2012. This was met with cautious enthusiasm. The Boleyn Ground or Upton Park was the heartbeat of West Ham. So much history, so many memories and a proper football stadium which many players over the years have said, they did not like to play at. So it is understandable why this was met with such a sour response. However, this was a long way away and there were more important things for us to worry about such as premier league survival and well, the champions league in 7 years?
The man in charge when the takeover was complete was Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola. Zola led us to a respectable 9th placed finished in his previous season after taking over from Alan Curbishley on 7th September 2008. Zola received many plaudits for giving youth a chance in his maiden season as a manager, and a 9th placed finish was seriously impressive.
Unfortunately, when the takeover was complete, Zola wasn’t having a great season compared to his first as West Ham recorded just 4 wins from 22 games. This left them hanging precariously above the drop zone in 16th place with only Goal Difference keeping them out. The new owners however categorically denied they would replace Zola, stating that stability was needed at the club. This decision could be questionable given the poor form but I could understand it.
Let’s take a quick look at the signings made since the takeover. It is important to mention that these signings were not necessarily made by Sullivan and Gold, in fact I do believe it was most likely Zola who had the final say in these signings but this is not confirmed anywhere.
- Benni McCarthy – Signed for an undisclosed fee, however it is reported he cost £2.34 million. Absolutely shocking it must be said. Making his debut away to Burnley in a 2-1 loss, McCarthy picked up an injury which kept him out for 6 weeks. Following the injury, McCarthy made 14 appearances for West Ham starting just twice in the premier league and failing to score any goals. He had scored 1 goal in 14 premier league games for Blackburn that season so it really was no surprise that he failed to make an impact. Poor signing.
- Mido – Well what can we say about Mido? My only memory of Mido was that abysmal penalty away to Everton to equalise in the first half. This was such a huge moment in our season and I still question why he was trusted with that responsibility. Mido joined on a 4 month loan and was earning just £1,000 a week in a bid to ‘revive’ his career which had been nothing short of mediocre up until this point, apart from his 11 goal season for Spurs in the 05-06 premier league season. But again, another very poor signing.
- Ilan – Now this signing was certainly the best of the 3. Ilan did end up scoring some important goals for us in our fight for survival, and also saved Mido’s blushes in the mentioned Everton game above. Ilan joined on a free transfer after scoring very little for his previous club Saint-Ettiene so not much was expected. Ilan didn’t exactly set the world a light but he scored some important goals and was a great option off the bench. This for me was a good signing based sheerly on the important goals he scored.
There were no notable departures in January other than a few loans for players such as, Freddie Sears and Frank Nouble.
Unfortunately, in December 2009 there was one notable departure which devastated myself, and I am sure many other West Ham fans, as Dean Ashton was forced to retire at the age of 26. He was in his prime and was a rising talent and could easily have broke into the England set up. Such a cruel ending to a career that was just getting started.
A Review Of The Season – January 2010 Onwards
Up until this point it had been mediocre from West Ham who desperately needed points in their battle against relegation. We had struggled for form and found ourselves in a relegation dog fight.
A 1-1 draw away to Portsmouth and then 0-0 draw at home to Blackburn led to a damaging 2-1 loss away to Burnley, who sat 19th before the game having lost their last 4 games. I was unfortunate enough to be in attendance at this match and it is one of my worst memories as a football fan. Ilan however, managed to get his first goal for the club which I guess could be a slight positive.
After such a poor defeat to a relegation rivals, we needed to pick up points and quickly. Birmingham at home was our next fixture who sat in 8th and I think we all expected a loss in this game. Queue Allessandro Diamanti. I am sure all West Ham fans know about Diamanti but to sum him up in one word. Passion. He wanted to win and you could see the pain in his eyes when he didn’t, which was often. A superb free kick on the stroke of half time led us to a 2-0 victory. This was followed by a 3-0 win at home to fellow relegation strugglers Hull City which pushed West Ham up to 13th and now 4 points off the drop.
Now begins the poor form. West Ham went on a run which saw them lose their next 6 games. There were some tough fixtures in there but there were some winnable fixtures which really, we should be winning. This poor run meant we sat in 17th place just above Hull on goal difference who had a game in hand on us.
Our next opponent was Everton away who had their own aspirations of qualifying for European football. Although not much was expected from this game, it was an incredibly spirited performance from the Hammers. We conceded in the first half then had a chance from the spot to level things up. Mido. I remember this all too well, it is ingrained in my brain and always will be. A shocking penalty that just summed up West Ham. All those fans paying all that money to travel up to Goodison to see a ‘professional’ footballer take a penalty as poorly as that. We were destined for defeat. Moving into the second half, Manuel da Costa got us an equaliser and you can imagine the elation in the away end. Everton were looking to spoil our party and Yakubu notched them ahead in the 85th minute and it was hard to take. Unbelievably though, remember Ilan? On the pitch for just 10 minutes, grabbed an equaliser with an incredible diving header. The celebrations, the joy, the relief. It really was something to behold.
That turned out to be a huge result, and really boosted our confidence as Ilan again was the hero again as we ran out 1-0 winners at home to Sunderland. Survival was a real possibility now and a another massive win at home up against Wigan, with Scott Parker scoring the winner in a 3-2 win a few games later, saw us climb to 6 points above the drop zone with two games to go and a far superior goal difference. We were all but safe for another season. We finished the season with a 1-1 draw at home to Manchester City and were safe and ready to start our 7 year plan.
We finished the season in 17th on 35 points, 5 points above the relegation zone with Burnley, Hull and Portsmouth getting relegated.
It was a poor season under Zola which was unfortunate. We wanted so much for him to do well and to be fair to Zola there was a lot going on behind the scenes with the takeover and the previous owners. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been.
And so begins the David’s poor ownership. Just 3 months into their ownership, there were some very worrying signs. The first sign being, that Sullivan had to told the Sun the whole of our squad was for sale apart from Scott Parker. I understand there was debt that needed to be paid, but this is surely not the way to go about it. It was only 3 months prior that Sullivan was saying this club needs stability more than anything.
The next sign and perhaps the more worrying in my opinion, was that West Brom had published an article on their website stating they had rejected a £4 million bid from West Ham for Graham Dorrans. Not long after another article was published with Zola stating he had no idea about this bid and was not aware the club was interested. This isn’t a break down in communication, this is David Sullivan.
It is no surprise that 2 days after the season had ended, Zola left West Ham by mutual consent and I do not blame him. This was our warning.
Time for the season rating. I rate this season as a shocking 3/10. There was nothing to be happy about other than the fact we had been taken over and the potential of moving forward.
It was a poor season on and off the pitch. Some woeful January signings and a real fight for survival really made this a season to forget. The big news from this season for me was the controversy with Zola and the board as it was a stark warning of what was to come for our historic football club. This really overshadowed the boards unrealistic vision to reach the champions league. But as a West Ham fan, we need something to hang onto and hang on I did.
Life under the helm of the David’s was off to a rocky start to say the least, but it had only been a few months since their takeover. Time was needed and we as fans of the club had to be patient. After all, if we want champions league football, we must be patient.
The only personal highlight for myself was the 2-2 draw away to Everton which says a lot about the season we had. It was a great day out for myself personally and a day that I will always remember. But as I said, it really shows how poor our season was when a highlight is a 2-2 draw away to Everton.
It was only half a season under new ownership and it is rather impressive that there was controversy almost immediately after the David’s took charge, and it just added to the already poor season we were having.
I will finish this small season review with a quote from Gianfranco Zola on his year under new ownership of GSB. I still think this quote is relevant today.
“I have been surprised so many times this year – so I am not surprised that I am surprised.”
Thank you for reading. Watch this space for some more season reviews, more David Drama and some certainly honest and strong opinions!
featured image credit the totally football show