West Ham is a sinking ship, but it’ll rise again

Finn Ranson 8 November 2017

Being a West Ham fan at the moment feels like being a passenger on a sinking ship. Holed below the waterline by the London Stadium and a year of poor form, the club’s taking on water and slipping beneath the waves. As a result, the board have just sacked the manager – the captain, instead of going down with the ship, has been booted off to be replaced with another, more competent sailor.

Bilic’s tenure was mixed, it’s true. Under Allardyce, we went from flirting with relegation to mid-table stability – in Bilic’s first season at Upton Park, we soared to seventh in the league. The London Stadium era began with a sense that, while silverware was off the table for a while, we were moving up in the world – secure in the upper echelons of the English game, with European football dangling before us.

Then all that went up in smoke. Last season produced a mid-table finish. This season has been without a win in the Premiership since September (although there was a very sweet victory against Spurs), and relegation seems a real possibility. But the way to resolve those problems is not to sack a manager who has delivered in the past, and knew the team, the club, and the league.

West Ham is a football club where the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. The fans are involved; the players are behind the club; the owners claim some emotional investment. But a series of poor decisions (chiefly moving out of Upton Park) have left the team rudderless, energy-less, and now leaderless. This is not the nadir for the club – that will most likely come in the spring.

Bilic was – is – a good manager. But he has been made a scapegoat for the failures of Brady, Sullivan, and Gold. Through their financial mismanagement and mania for moving stadiums, they’ve done more to harm the club than any of Bilic’s signings. They’re the ones who need to go but their departure seems far off. In the meantime, we’ve got David Moyes taking over as manager when we’re hovering above relegation.

To return to the metaphor I started with, that’s like getting rid of the captain and replacing him with a clown.

To be a West Ham fan is to know frustration and heartbreak – which is good, because we’re going to be feeling those two emotions a lot over the next couple of years. I’m keeping an open mind on Moyes; he’s the manager who brought Everton to the Champions League and an FA Cup Final, and became the third manager to get 150 Premier League wins. But he’s also the manager who frittered away Ferguson’s legacy at Manchester United and led Sunderland to the drop last season.

The rest of the season is going to be a fun one for West Ham and its fans. There may be some good moments, but there will also be some appalling ones – we may get relegated. But we’ll stick with it, in the knowledge that things will improve someday.

We’re the club that fell at the final hurdle in 2006; the club that went down in 2011; the club which, rightly or wrongly, got an almost unparalleled reputation for hooliganism in the 70s and 80s. But we’re also the club which produced Moore, Peters, and Hurst; the club which made the Boys of ‘86; the club which came out of the docks to dominate East London.

West Ham’s a sinking ship, but it’ll rise again. And in the meantime, we fans will stick with it. Because, as a wise man once said of a great team, “the promise of the highs is always worth the pain.” We’ll take the pain, we’ll take the losses. Because one day, we’ll watch from the stands as our team knows success again.