It has been revealed that West Ham are to send ‘expert’ representatives to India for ‘player identification’ camps this summer in order to uncover the best young talent the country has to offer. The camp will provide workshops for coaches and parents and a shortlisted few will be invited to the club’s London academy for trials, where the best candidates will be granted opportunities to break in to the first team.
Those first team opportunities are currently being reaped by a collection of underperforming, overpaid and some overweight players, whose time in the Premiership will surely be coming to an immediate end whether or not the Hammers survive their relegation challenge. The likes of Luis Boa Morte, Lars Jacobsen, Danny Gabbidon, Carlton Cole and Matthew Upson, who all featured in the Irons’ most recent performance – a 2-1 defeat at Manchester City – no longer provide the quality, individually or collectively, to compete in England’s elite league.
But what has gone wrong for West Ham this season? Scott Parker, the captain, was recently awarded the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year award, Demba Ba, a January signing from Hoffenheim has scored 5 in his eleven appearances since joining, and Thomas Hitzlsperger now appears to be rewarding Avram Grant’s trust following a lengthy injury sustained before the start of the season. So there are certainly positives hidden underneath the evident turmoil at Upton Park, which implies that Grant may have to shoulder some of the responsibility for the club’s form, but the Hammers avoided the drop narrowly last season and are only three points behind their total for 2010 with 3 games remaining this term.
Although the club had invested in ten reinforcements between last summer and January’s transfer window, none of the permanent or loan recruits can claim to have performed to a top-half cailbre. The East London side’s finances have been managed erratically (to say the least) since the Icelandic takeover and through the Tevez mess, and Grant has been particularly restricted in the transfer market since succeeding Gianfranco Zola last June. But maybe it’s too easy to say that the Israeli faced an impossible task by taking the helm, particularly as Blackpool boss, Ian Holloway, has implemented a recognized style with far fewer internationals and reduced transfer funds at the club which emerged from the Championship just eleven months ago. Grant took Portsmouth down last season with a points tally reading 19, having lost the FA Cup Final to Chelsea two years after he led the West London club to final defeats in the League Cup and Champions’ League.
West Ham legend, Tony Cottee, firmly believes the manager is to blame for his former club’s instability, recently stating: “I don’t think the club has progressed since Avram Grant was appointed. Under [Gianfranco] Zola it was acknowledged that we played good football and the players were certainly behind the manager in terms of his philosophy and beliefs. Unfortunately, since the [new] manager was appointed we’ve been in the bottom three for most of the season.” Cottee isn’t the only former Hammers icon to express his views on the team’s failings, and retired defender, Julian Dicks, has also vented his frustrations by declaring: “The players don’t work hard enough. If you’re struggling you need people who are going to put themselves about, make tackles and pressurise the other team. Only Scotty Parker does this on a consistent basis.”
Both make a valid point, and it is hard to see how the club are going to make the vast improvements necessary in almost every department in order to reverse their continual demise. Last year’s takeover by David Gold and David Sullivan only served to prevent the club from being placed in to administration, but in practice simply papered over the cracks which have been growing for several seasons. A change of manager is required, but that is just the start.