LONDON: West Ham are in the sort of trouble no-one envisaged when the old club of Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst moved into the 57,000-capacity London Olympic Stadium in 2016. The switch was supposed to be start of a bright new era which would transform the club’s finances and, thus, also their results.
The Hammers have not won a major prize since the FA Cup in 2006 but they have been fixtures in the Premier League since 2005 apart from one short spell in the second division. But troubles are piling up both on and off the pitch.
West Ham finished 13th last season after the appointment of David Moyes as manager early in the season helped overcome a bad start under Slaven Bilic. Moyes was only a short-term appointment because, like Sam Allardyce in 2011-15, the fans did not like his focus on workrate. They believe West Ham, like London derby rivals Tottenham, should be entertaining as well as winning.
Hence the club followed Spurs’ example in looking to South America for a manager. Chilean Mauricio Pellegrini has a far more successful c.v. than Spurs’ Mauricio Pochettino. He won six titles in Chile, Ecuador and Argentina then guided Manchester City to Premier League and League Cup success.
West Ham welcomed Pellegrini by spending nearly £100m on nine new players. Summer arrivals included ex-England midfielder Jack Wilshere from Arsenal on a free transfer from Arsenal, Andriy Yarmolenko from Borussia Dortmund forward and Brazilian Felipe Anderson from Lazio for a club record £40m.
The new central defensive pairing of Angelo Ogbonna and Paraguayan Fabian Balbuena has still to adjust to Premier pressures. As goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski said: “Obviously there were big changes and it takes new players time to bed in. Hopefully it will happen sooner rather than later.”
Sir Trevor Brooking, who played 647 times for West Ham, is concerned already.
Brooking, 69, is one of the most respected elder statesmen in the English games. He said: “What is worrying is that we’ve already conceded 10 goals and scored only two and there’s also a lot of discussion about not creating enough in midfield. That’s why our early games against Bournemouth and Wolves were so important because we should have been able to win those. Instead we lost them both – at home.”
Defeats in the next 10 days away to Everton then home to Chelsea and Manchester United will see Pellegrini go the same early-season way at Bilic.
Simultaneously the club are involved in a dispute with the London Legacy Development Corporation which owns the stadium. One of the issues concerns the colour of the pitchside surround, another the annual rent of £2.5m. The LLDC says this is not proving sufficient to cover match costs.
A battle against relegation would be bad news for everyone.