West Ham: Why mid-table mediocrity is the way forward
For most other football fans it was a day dominated by Chelsea becoming the first London club to win the European Cup, but it was easy to forget that another area of the capital had something to celebrate on May 19th 2012.
Perhaps West Ham’s Championship play-off final victory over Blackpool at Wembley was ‘easy to forget’ because the Hammers had always seemed to be a top flight club, regardless of their relegation under everyone’s favourite life of the party Avram Grant in 2011.
As opposed to the likes of Blackpool whose stopovers in the top flight have always been brief ones, West Ham have always regarded themselves as a big club who should feel at home amongst the elite and not be fearful of them.
There is nothing wrong with that of course, but at times it has seemed as though the club are fixated on running before they can walk, on aiming high only to end up disappointed.
This season they have taken back to Premier League life with a minimum of fuss, winning eight, drawing six and losing 11 of their 25 fixtures to find themselves 11th in the table. They have never really looked to be in serious relegation danger and now nine points ahead of 18th-placed Wigan following Saturday’s win over Swansea they don’t look like being in trouble any time soon.
Whereas the ‘running before you can walk’ tag can be labelled at London rivals Queens Park Rangers this season, Sam Allardyce’s West Ham have simply done enough to impress onlookers without overstretching themselves.
The signings of Jussi Jaaskelainen, Matt Jarvis and Mohamed Diame were all clever ones, whilst Allardyce pleased fans by granting Joe Cole a Hammers homecoming in January, with the former England midfielder expected to flesh out the squad and offer his guile and experience where needed.
It was another arrival from Liverpool who produced headlines in August though, and whilst injury hasn’t allowed Andy Carroll to make the kind of impact he’d have hoped for since his switch to Upton Park it is his move which has certainly been the most intriguing.
Unlike with plenty of the big money transfer deals seen throughout the Premier League, Carroll’s switch from Anfield is still a temporary one for now, and it is this move which showcases just why West Ham are fine being where they are at the moment.
Should, as now looks likely, the Hammers end the season in the middle reaches of the table then the money generated from both that position and the well-publicised new Premier League television deal will allow them to kick on and look to perhaps make Carroll’s signing a permanent one if they wish – maybe for around £15m.
Even if they don’t want to sanction such an outlay for the forward they will at least have that money there to spend on other targets, and you can be sure that Allardyce will be determined to spend that money wisely and not fritter it away as has been seen elsewhere.
West Ham just needed this season get into that position though. A season where previous ups and downs were forgotten about and consolidation in the top flight could be achieved.
They aren’t safe yet of course, and could even find themselves drawn closer to the foot of the table given that four of their next seven fixtures are against Tottenham, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, but you have to believe that they’ll pick up enough points to ensure a safe distance between them and bottom three.
It might not be as glamorous as some would want, and it is likely to leave Hammers fans waiting a while to see their team on Match Of The Day, but this approach is just what their club needed in a first season back in the big time.
Next season they could really reap the benefits.