by Daniel Shoesmith
What were your pre-season expectations and have they been met?
As a whole, everyone was expecting us to sail off into the distance and win the Championship at a canter. Personally though I always thought we’d struggle to finish in the top two, and earmarked the Playoffs as our best shot at going up. Even when we topped the table I didn’t dare believe we’d hang on, and I was proven right. We made the Playoffs with ease and won really dramatically at Wembley, but once you get past the euphoria of that final win I think that overall the air is one of ‘falling short’.
If you’d been on the touchline what would you have done differently to your manager this term?
Not been so negative at home. There’s nothing wrong with playing one up top when you’re on your travels as you try to weather the attacking storm of the home side, but on your own patch you have to take the initiative and get at your opposition. Negative football at home breeds crowd discontent, which in turn becomes hostility, and leads to the kind of bizarre home form we’ve seen from West Ham this year. The Brighton game is a classic example of what should’ve been happening all season – we got at them early from both the centre and the wings, they didn’t have a response to it and we hammered them. Ultimately it’s been our home form that’s cost us automatic promotion.
Player of the season?
Mark Noble, without a doubt. The Canning Town Xavi really stepped into the breach left by the departure of Scott Parker, and was our main creative force from midfield all year. He also takes a monster of a penalty! Definite future captain and it seems no matter how well he plays and how good he becomes, he never wants to leave the club. For fans of a ‘selling club’ like West Ham, that’s an absolutely beautiful feeling to have about such a quality player. Honourable mentions to our defence, most notably Tomkins, Faye and Winston Reid, who surprised everyone by not being all that rubbish this season.
John Carew. The man is an absolute donkey; his touch has gone, he’s got next to no pace and his eye for goal appears to have a cataract. He’s also incredibly injury-prone (and has been for a few years), so what on earth Allardyce was thinking by bringing him in is anyone’s guess. He’s basically a less mobile, less reliable and less energetic Carlton Cole, and will hopefully be jettisoned as soon as Silly Season begins. Dishonourable mentions to George McCartney and Sam Baldock.
Is there a player loved by your fans who other supporters may not rate particularly highly?
Fauberto Carlos! He was massively unlucky to get a bad injury when he first arrived a few years ago, and didn’t do himself any favours with the fans by loaning himself out to Real Madrid (and having a kip on their bench), but since he’s been back he’s knuckled down and worked his socks off. He’s also a bit mental and let’s face it, West Ham fans are absolute ba****ds for psychotic full-backs (see Dicks, Repka, Pantsil). He never stops running, he bags the occasional screamer and his takeout on the Millwall goalkeeper for our winner in the Upton Park game will live long in the memory. West Ham legend in the making, without doubt.
Beating Millwall. People might be surprised I didn’t say the Playoff final, but to beat the old enemy with ten men, with a goal that could generously be described as ‘dubious’… that was an absolutely beautiful moment for me. Obviously the Playoff final too, I genuinely thought that RVT had side-netted that shot and when I saw the roof of the net ripple I completely lost it. Such a dramatic way to go up!
Head in hands moment?
Our exploits in both cups. Nothing wins the supporters over like a decent cup run, but Allardyce almost seemed to give up on the cup competitions before they’d even started.
Who are your realistic transfer targets for this summer?
We need a left-back; Nicky Shorey (big West Ham fan) is on a free, absolute no-brainer. We also need to think about goalkeepers – Green is stalling on his contract and could be off this summer (possibly to Malaga) if he doesn’t sign. Manuel Almunia is the likely replacement, but look for Sam to try and lure Paul Robinson or Wayne Hennessey away from their Championship-bound clubs. You can expect Big Sam to strengthen all over though, and with some high-profile ‘elder statesmen’ leaving their big clubs this summer I reckon Allardyce might have a scout around and see if he can pull off an Okocha-esque move.