The anger and frustration towards West Ham owners David Gold & Sullivan has been building up for a while and it all came to a head in this evening’s 0-3 loss against Burnley. The London Stadium stewards lost control, infuriated West Ham fans stormed the pitch and West Ham’s players got into it and served as stewards themselves.
The absolute state of West Ham right now ? pic.twitter.com/KyCrbAgCNY
— Dream Team (@dreamteamfc) March 10, 2018
It’s only the latest of a handful of embarrassments that have happened to a once proud club and it remains to be seen what the repercussions will be. West Ham fans are hoping it will be Gold & Sullivan taking their hats and leave, just like they did at the end of today’s game.
West Ham looked like a promising team just 2 years ago, fighting for Champions League spots and getting close to another FA Cup Final. Slaven Bilic’ first year as a manager made the former player into a fan favorite once again, while his star signing Dimitri Payet broke out as one of the league’s finest players. They ended up with 62 points, their most in PL ever and an iconic final match in a 3-2 win at home to Man Utd.
While the 2015/2016 season might be the most memorable season in recent memory for West Ham, a lot of the issues that have made the fans so angry right now, started back then. Let’s go through all of them:
Changing The Badge
West Ham fans were already warned about moving away from Upton Park to London Stadium. It was after all one of the main points of emphasis owners Gold & Sullivan had when they took over in 2010. They had a 10 point pledge to supporters, most of which have failed by the way, but a change of the badge was not mentioned.
Not only would 112 years of stadium history be gone, but the badge design that had been there since the 1960’s, around West Ham’s golden age, would be lost as well. The Boleyn Castle in the badge was removed – they wouldn’t want people to remember that stadium – and in it’s place you’d find a stripped down badge with a WordArt font and “London” at the bottom to increase revenue from countries who were not aware what city West Ham are from. Personally I much prefer the old one, but I’ll let you be the judge:
The club claimed they had 56% support of changing the badge and while that claim of a meager majority of fans being for a change of the badge, this was not the feeling you’d get talking to West Ham fans directly. The questionnaire you were made to fill out about the badge was heavily weighted in favor of the new one, and the actual results of the poll were hidden except for the 56% figure they arrived at.
It’s almost like they didn’t want people to know about the badge change and hide most of the information from people. As seen here with the “Crest reveal” video, which was unlisted, shown to a select few of fans with a disabled comments section and no Like/Dislike bar.
The Treatment of Club Legend Tony Carr
This is Tony Carr. You might not recognize his face, but you will instantly recognize the work he has done for West Ham and English football in general. Here are some of the players he has helped develop through the West Ham academy:
Tony Carr has meant so much that he was deservedly recognized with the MBE in 2010. That same year, England’s squad counted 7 of the players on the list above.
By West Ham, he was let go after 43 years of service, receiving a redundancy payment of £14,000. His exit was handled by the HR department rather than higher ups, which upset and disrespected Tony Carr personally and the great work he had done for the club.
He was replaced by Terry Westley in 2014, but was given an ambassadorial role for 2 years. With that role ending in 2016, it ended up being another blemish right as West Ham were about to move away from even more history.
Leaving Upton Park/Boleyn Ground
The 15/16 season would be West Ham’s last in their stadium of 112 years. It ended as a fantastic last campaign at the Boleyn, with an unbeaten streak of 15 matches at home, from August to May.
Upton Park was a fantastic stadium. It was one of the good old-fashioned intimate grounds, with stands close to the pitch, enabling the fans to create an atmosphere you only get in the Premier League. Not only do you say goodbye to a one of a kind match-day atmosphere, but you also leave behind 112 years of history and memories.
All the small businesses, the Pie and Mash shops, Ken’s Cafe, the “Chicken Run” terrace and everything that made Upton Park into an amalgamation of East London was lost. In it’s place, the stadium would be demolished and is currently being turned into a housing project. It’s modern football in a nutshell.
At least the move to London Stadium would help West Ham grow as a club… right? Right?
Awkward Integration Into London Stadium
The move to the brand new 52,000 seater stadium didn’t go quite as smoothly as Gold & Sullivan would’ve hoped. Not only did they lose in awkward fashion and go out against Astra Giurgiu for the 2nd year in a row in the Europa League qualifiers, but a whole host of other issues made it difficult for West Ham fans to feel quite at home.
It starts the moment you get off the tube station. Instead of walking down Green Street, with local businesses, burger vans and pubs, you get a Westfield Shopping Centre and Domino’s Pizza. It’s a food market next to a shopping market. That’s not quite the image you’d get when you think about a working class football club.
The fans have felt uneasy even inside the stadium as well. The length away from the pitch was obviously going to be an issue and with any new ground it will be hard to figure out where the hardcore fans will be situated. The problems already presented themselves in their 2nd match at the London Stadium in a game against Watford.
West Ham started out strong and went up 2-0, after a Michail Antonio header from a rabona cross by Dimitri Payet. It felt like the successful season prior and it actually created a good atmosphere, with fans all around singing, chanting and standing. The difference from the season prior was that West Ham didn’t own the stadium they played on anymore and a 3rd party crew of stewards were in charge. They lacked experience from football events and didn’t take any advice given to them by the stewards at Upton Park.
West Ham fans were made to sit, tensions arose and the good atmosphere quickly turned ugly. As did the game and West Ham ended up losing 4-2. The problems with the stewards have been ongoing as you saw today and the results still haven’t improved, like many were lead to believe when the owners argued for the move in the first place.
Broken Spending Promises
A reason why results haven’t improved since the move to the London Stadium is the failure to improve the team, transfer window after transfer window. It’s not just bad signings like Håvard Nordtveit, Alvaro Arbeloa and Robert Snodgrass, but also the amount of money spent on transfers. Here are the numbers from the 2 years before moving to London Stadium, compared to what they have spent after moving.
Transfer Net Spend 2 Years before London Stadium:
Transfer Net Spend 2 Years after London Stadium:
The headline signings leading into the inaugural season at London Stadium were Andre Ayew for £20 million (fair enough), Sofiane Feghouli and Håvard Nordtveit on a free (ehm okay), the loan signing of Gökhan Töre (urgh) aaaaaand…
Star Striker Failure
We’re still waiting for Simone Zaza to pan out for West Ham.
As good as the final season at Upton Park was, two major holes in the team were evident. They lacked a good right back after Carl Jenkinson proved to only be getting worse on loan from Arsenal and they needed a fit and good striker to lead the line after Payet ended up as the top scorer with his 9 goals.
Diafra Sakho could have been the one for West Ham, if only he could keep himself fit and motivated. Sadly, after several comments from owners Gold & Sullivan about wanting a new striker, Sakho felt disrespected (for a multitude of reasons, we’ll get to that). He struggled to stay in shape leading up to the next season and a striker signing was more important than ever to get right.
It’s not like the owners hadn’t tried to get the right striker in their tenure. They have made 42(!) signings that have played striker in some capacity since they took over in 2010. Look at all these flops and no name players (Link).
The owners made several unsuccessful attempts at landing a big fish, with bids rejected for #1 target Alexandre Lacazette, who was Lyon’s star man back then. These failed attempts at a huge name have been a staple for West Ham ever since Gold & Sullivan took over. Neymar, David Beckham, Adriano, Ronaldinho… the rumored marquee signings in the middle of season ticket renewal season never seemed to happen.
While West Ham were busy lollygagging around Lacazette, Chelsea swooped in to claim another known West Ham target, Michy Batshuayi. Lacazette didn’t go anywhere that summer and instead, West Ham began to engage in a seemingly never-ending “will they, won’t they” ordeal with Carlos Bacca. Which of course also ended up going nowhere.
The Bacca deal fell through and West Ham ended up getting the now infamous Simone Zaza a couple of days before the transfer window shut. In another “Sully Special” transfer deal by David Sullivan, Zaza was initially a loan on a “prove it” type of deal, with an obligation to buy him for close to £20 million total if he played 10 games. He ended up with 8, West Ham struggled on without a striker and the owners failed (and continued to fail) in the transfer market.
Constantly Undermining Slaven Bilic
Despite leaving Twitter to his two sons, David Sullivan has managed to shift the blame of West Ham transfer failings away from himself. Blaming the current manager isn’t normal practice for owners, but not when you are the businessman and former pornographer who owns West Ham.
“My kids begged me not to sign Fonté and Snodgrass” Sullivan said while both players were still contracted to the club. After West Ham failed to sign Bilic’ top target William Carvalho last summer, after a mix-up with Sporting which was another blemish for the club, Sullivan released a statement where he also confirmed that Bilic had a chance of signing Gregorz Krychowiak and Renato Sanches, but didn’t take it. His son Jack let it be known how disappointed he was that West Ham moved away from wanting Kelechi Iheanacho after Bilic felt uneasy about his buy-back clause.
This isn’t a new thing with Bilic either. The same thing happened in the very first year under the G&S regime. Gianfranco Zola was under scrutiny from day 1, and Sullivan never hid any of the qualms he had with the manager he inherited. Unfortunately, the managers he has hired haven’t exactly been slam dunks either.
Hiring David Moyes
The fans clearly didn’t want David Moyes. Want proof? This is a poll from prominent West Ham forum Knees Up Mother Brown. Who would you rather have: David Moyes or Alan Pardew (Link).
That says it all really. No one wanted Pardew either, but they especially didn’t want David Moyes. The results are there for everyone to see right now. On the pitch and in the poll.
The Tony Henry Incident
As if things weren’t bad enough, West Ham were hit with another scandal last month. The Gold & Sullivan hired Director of Player Recruitment, Tony Henry, was exposed by the Daily Mail in February. He had made comments to agents that West Ham didn’t want any more African players because “they can cause mayhem”.
When confronted with the comments, Henry suggested that management supported the “No African players” policy. He continued saying “It’s nothing racist at all. It’s just sometimes they can have a bad attitude.” citing Diafra Sakho’s recent turmoil with the club. You can only imagine why Sakho was upset.
West Ham dealt with it swiftly and fired Henry after an investigation was made. They also signed Patrice Evra a couple days after, but the damage had already been done.
Another Failed Transfer Window and Terrible Results
If all the extra hullabaloo around the club wasn’t bad enough, West Ham have struggled on the pitch as well. The main reason to switch out the historic Upton Park for the big restructured athletics stadium in Stratford was so West Ham could fulfill their potential as a proper big club.
Gold and Sullivan did have a seven year plan of getting into the Champions League when they took over in 2010. To qualify for the Champions League, you need big time players and in January newly hired David Moyes had his first chance of bringing in a true Champions League caliber name.
Andy Carroll went down with yet another long-term injury and Chicharito hadn’t quite managed to fit in yet, so with the sale of Diafra Sakho and Andre Ayew, West Ham were once again on a search for a main striker.
Like always, plenty of big names were mentioned. Would they go for the long-rumoured Olivier Giroud signing? Maybe Russian international Fyodor Smolov? Was this finally the time they would get Batshuayi who seeked a loan move away from Chelsea?
Nope, West Ham ended up with this guy:
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) January 31, 2018
The striker with 23 goals in 103 matches for Preston North End. No offence to Hugill – he seems like a great lad – but that wasn’t the type of signing West Ham fans imagined when they were promised high quality players after a move to London Stadium.
West Ham have now lost 4 out of 5 matches since the January transfer window, conceding a staggering 14 goals. The team is 3 points away from relegation and the nightmare scenario of playing Championship football attempting to fill the 60,000 seats is now a very real possibility.
West Ham fans want a change and it didn’t help when they changed managers. They want the board out of the club and they want them out now.