Premier ambitions

When cattle creep,
When I’m asleep,
To lands of hope I stray.
Then at daybreak,
When I awake,
My bluebird flutters away.
Happiness new seemed so near me,
Happiness come forth and heal me

The oft forgotten second verse of Bubbles

One of the most frustrating aspects of supporting a Premier League team is the simple lack of ambition 75% of clubs now have these days. Unfortunately, the league is so awash with money that real ambition has disappeared. Gone are the days when clubs would take domestic cups really seriously (there are a few exceptions such as Swansea City’s glorious season this year), deciding nowadays that the Premier League cash is more important. This leads to clubs simply being satisfied at reaching the “magical” 40 point mark, knowing that they will be on the gravy train for another season. The rich will continue to get richer, especially with the new TV deal kicking in next season. And what do we have to look forward to? A lame cup exit versus a lower division team, whilst the manager talks about “concentrating on the league”, when in reality all they care about is finishing in 17th place.

To demonstrate the massive gulf that exists within the same league, Manchester United came into this game with some fans suggesting this season hadn’t been as successful as it could have been. I’m sure the home defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League hurt, as too did the FA Cup defeat to Chelsea, but surely winning the Premier League at a canter from their nearest rivals was the number one objective of the season? Whilst West Ham’s fans would boo and jeer every touch United would have, who wouldn’t want even a small slice of the success they have had.

Premier League TV moneyI’m sure many will have believed the rhetoric in the past few weeks from the owners of West Ham regarding what will happen when we move to the Olympic Stadium in terms of being able to compete with the best, but is it going to be a couple of years too late? There are simply already too many clubs with richer owners with deeper pockets in the Premier League today. There are at most 7 European spots up for grabs, including the two cups and its fair to say that five of those are now all but sewn up on a yearly basis. Add in a Liverpool team who have the cash but just keep spending it poorly and there isn’t a lot of room for anyone else. Continue reading

Are we taking the Olympic spirit too far?

You may have missed the little nugget in the media over the past week that West Ham United are going to be moving to the Olympic Stadium in 2016.  It seems the world and his wife have an opinion on this subject, whether they be fans of the Hammers, of the Olympic Park or just concerned tax payers.  I have written about my opposition to the move on numerous occasions but decided to reflect back on those reasons over the weekend.  I can now see the good and the bad in the plan to move the club 2 1/2 miles north(ish) to the newest stadium in Great Britain.  So I thought I would try to write a “balanced view statement” as my daughter’s English teacher is so fond of saying, focusing on why I think it is a good deal for all parties, and why it is a bad deal for all parties.

7686283758_062833b406_bThis was hard.  I tend to write very opinionated pieces, focusing on one side to a story.  But I genuinely can see both sides.  Even my mother-in-law sent me a text, asking my opinion and I simply don’t know.  The obvious winner in all of this is undoubtedly West Ham United Football Club.  Nobody can deny that the FOOTBALL CLUB will benefit massively from this move.  But who or what exactly constitutes the Football Club?  The team? The employees of the club?  The fans?  The owners?  Or a combination of all or some of the above?  Let’s see…

So my idea is to present five clear arguments for and against the decision of the club to move to Stratford.  There, of course, is no right or wrong answer.  In ten years time with West Ham dominating the Premier League and having won successive Champions League titles, playing in front of 54,000 local’s with families and local good causes well represented and contributing to the local economy, the doom mongers will have to hold their hands up and say they were wrong.  But if the stadium sits half full whilst West Ham play hoof ball against Carlisle United in the lower leagues (no disrespect to Carlisle United btw), whilst local businesses employ their Saturday 1pm curfew then we know something will have gone very wrong indeed.

Some people will agree with my views, others wont.  Nobody knows what the future will bring.  We can see the success that Manchester City have experienced since moving to the old Commonwealth Games stadium (although that’s not the reason why), Capital Cup winners Swansea City have enjoyed since moving to the Liberty Stadium or even Wigan Athletic have seen since Dave Whelan built the DW/JJB.  But we all remember the tales of desperation that haunted Darlington after moving to their new stadium, or the pain that Coventry City are currently going through at the Ricoh Arena.  So where, without further fanfare…. Continue reading

A Gray day I could Ilford to miss

Some time very soon we will be up in arms about the death of another football club in London. It is a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon at 3.05pm and I have joined barely 150 other paying spectators who are watching Grays Athletic take on Needham Market in the 8th level of English football. Why are there so few fans bothered about football at this level? Well, a scan on the immediate horizon will give you a good idea.

Just as the hosts breath down the Needham Market goal in the first minute of the game, Leyton Orient are holding their own against Sheffield United at the Matchroom Stadium and the mighty Dagenham & Redbridge are probing at Bradford City defence less than 2 miles down the Rainham Road. Two nPower Football League games kicking off at the same time. Oh, and of course let’s not forget that if ESPN didn’t have their way West Ham would have been hoofing high balls into the Arsenal box at Upton Park as well at this time.

So perhaps we can see why there are only just a few hardy souls in the Rush Green Sports and Leisure Centre for this game. But it is not just Grays who face this issue of trying to compete with the big boys this afternoon. Local rivals Redbridge and Ilford are around 2 miles North and West respectively, who both average less than 70 fans for their home games, although a late postponement of the game at Redbridge doesn’t trouble the turnstile operators elsewhere. Even if these clubs were to admit fans for free I doubt they would be able to increase attendances by more than 10-15%. Continue reading

A West Ham Fan’s home is his castle

I am the first to admit that I am a “lapsed” loyal supporter of West Ham United.  Up until May 2010 I had two season tickets for Upton Park.  That final year, with the threat of bankruptcy then the arrival of David Sullivan and David Gold was tortuous.  Whilst the football under Gianfranco Zola was “ok”, I was concerned after the feedback I had received from a couple of Birmingham City fans about the circus that would arrive in town with the new owners (for those with short memories, click here).

A few months later they announced their intention of “bidding” for the Olympic Stadium.  Obviously with such a massive injection of investment in the area, West Ham wanted to get their share.  But I am still yet to meet more than a small percentage of fans to go to matches who actually want to move away from Upton Park.

Hundreds of thousands of football fans have experienced a matchday at Upton Park.  Whilst the surrounding area is one of the most in need of urban regeneration in the country, the presence of a football club (which was a few years ago the 2nd biggest employer in the borough of Newham) brings in significant business.  Last year I did a study of pubs in the area on a match day (over the course of three visits).  Within a 10 minute walk of the ground I counted 17 pubs/bars, virtually all packed to the rafters prior to the game.  I also asked the bar staff what it is like on a non match day..”Quiet” was the consensus.  A vast majority of these will suffer massively if West Ham move.  Ditto cafes, including the legendary Cassettari’s Cafe and the Pie and Mash shop. Continue reading

West Ham are the best team in England….for 85 minutes

Do you know what happened at 3.15pm on Sunday 7th August 2011? Last time anyone on X-Factor was any good? Good shout but no. It was actually the last time West Ham lost in the nPower Championship. I can see you are more impressed with the X-Factor trivia aren’t you.

Since the defeat to Cardiff City West Ham had looked impressive in places, scoring four against Watford, Forest and Portsmouth, not conceding against Doncaster Rovers, Millwall and Peterborough United but then disappointing in the home draw against Leeds United, and of course THAT game versus Aldershot Town. The football, as predicted under Big Sam hasn’t been good on the eye but there is an argument to say “who cares” as long as in May we are celebrating a return to the land of milk and honey.

I hadn’t been for a few weeks, preferring my fix of entertainment at equally unbeaten Lewes where an afternoon out of football, some of the best beer in the world and a home-made pie weighed in at less than £15. A recent BBC Survey had revealed that a similar afternoon at Upton Park would cost £38.50. But tonight wasn’t one of those times – instead admission alone was a staggering £43. We were playing Ipswich Town for Christ Sake not Inter Milan! Continue reading