“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ― Albert Einstein
It’s February 2019 and you could say that what has happened since February 2016 is nothing short of a miracle for the Claret and Blue.
Supporters of this club have seen more down’s and mediocrity than they’ve seen up’s over the years. It seems impossible that the likes of Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst won the World Cup with England 53 years ago and before the turn of events in the summer of 2016, that The Hammers had won nothing of note since 1980.
The England team continues to qualify for major finals, only to disappoint and frustrate. Wayne Rooney has now retired from international football and eventually he did stay in the comfort blanket of Old Trafford, but reports today suggest that he will retire at the end of this season.
There is an increase in English players now playing in the Premier League. The FA decided after a disastrous Euro 2016 campaign, when England failed to win a game and came home before Wales, that things needed changing. From a squad of 25 players, 14 are now home grown talent and that in time should improve the national team’s position and stop clubs from stockpiling the best international talent.
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The main teams in the Premier League haven’t really changed, but the emergence of smaller teams has. It was unfortunate that Leicester City couldn’t keep up with the pace of change at the King Power Stadium.
After the 2015/16 season, in which they eventually finished third behind Manchester City and champions Arsenal, the magic just seemed to elude them.
At the moment they lay mid-table, but after the sale of Vardy to Manchester United, they never replaced him and the team disintegrated somewhat. Ranieri’s sacking was harsh, but bringing in Eddie Howe didn’t work out and it looks as though he is on his way out too.
No such thing at the Olympic Stadium though, where David Gold, David Sullivan and Karren Brady still proudly preside over a promise made to the fans a few years earlier. The rise was indeed quicker than Hammers fans expected and it is as though a whirlwind swept across East London, stopping at Stratford.
No one ever really thought West Ham would be up in the higher echelons of the Premier League on a regular basis. At the end of the 2015/16 season, the Hammers waved goodbye to the historic and much loved Boleyn Ground. Many fans protested against leaving their field of dreams, but the vast majority had to reluctantly accept that with progress comes change. It also comes with investment.
The two David’s now have a debt free club, one of the few in the Premier League nowadays. A Middle Eastern consortium tried to buy the club, as did a top American businessman. Gold and Sullivan dismissed the American, as American owners haven’t had the best track record, but the interest from the Arab quartet was tempting. The control of the club is still with the two David’s, but the injection of funds was significant enough to see them bring in names West Ham had oreviously only dreamt of.
They finished fifth in the Premier League in Slaven Bilic’s first season at West Ham. Higher than Liverpool, who never really got going under Klopp and he deserved more time than he had, but with Jurgen now gone and Ancellotti in place, the Reds are expecting great things again. Manchester United have imploded. The managers have come and gone and Gary Neville is finding life tough even though most supporters feel that he is the right man for the job. They’ve won nothing for years, but West Ham have. Not once, but three times.
It was a fantastic day at the Boleyn when the club left. After winning the FA Cup 2-0 against Arsenal, the Director’s opened the doors one more time as the iconic trophy was paraded around the East End before finally seeing Upton Park one last time. A season later we won the league cup for the first time and were unlucky in the FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool. A hotly disputed penalty was the difference on the day, but we finished second in the league and we were in Europe again. Yep, again.
In the 2016/17 season, the Hammers took their place in the Europa League – properly this time. They did quite well in first proper European adventure and got to the quarter finals. The second Napoli goal was controversial, but there wasn’t much anyone could do about it. The following year was West Ham’s first Champions league campaign. No pre-qualifiers, they were immediately in the group stages and much was said that year about smaller clubs being involved. There appears to be a real momentum of thought amongst the big clubs in Europe, that the likes of West Ham should play in a lesser competition, while the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern, etc. should not have to play the boys from the East End or any other country’s lesser clubs.
Lesser? Really. West Ham spent £100million on their squad at the beginning of the season. They had Ibrahimovic for one season last year, and he doesn’t play for “lesser” clubs. What a player he was! Age was taking it’s toll and it was always one season, but a great player.
Packed out matches every game, European matches under the lights at the Olympic Stadium, which isn’t quite the same, but the club has done it’s best to ignite the atmosphere. Bubbles rain down on the fans during matches, the anthem is sung with such gusto that even the shoppers at the local Westfield shopping centre can hear it. The stadium is wrapped in claret and blue and is now very much West Ham’s home. Hammers fans still get reminders from jealous opposition fans that the public bought the stadium, but that’s their perception and while things are good at West Ham, they can laugh it off and tell them to check their facts.
West Ham have been hailed as the new Manchester City. Generous investment has stabilised further an already well run club with PR stretching around the world. Europe has awoken to the new West Ham and players that would never have played in the claret and blue, now ask their agents about joining the club. Ibrahimovic is just one star name to have joined the ranks, but what has been good is the academy.
Slaven Bilic, now the league’s longest serving manager, has brought in the kids and the West Ham side for Saturday’s match against Crystal Palace contains eight English born players with a further three on the bench. Remember Sam Byram? Now a regular England player and captain of West Ham. Tomkins is just West Ham through and through and runs through walls for the team, whilst the two Reece’s (Oxford and Burke) steal the show each week.
So, life is getting better in Stratford. European qualification, two league runners-up places and the’ve started winning trophies. This season, they are doing very well in the league and sit one point behind Manchester City. Guardiola has them playing a fast paced game and with the talent at his disposal, they should be more than one point ahead. Who would have thought of seeing Bale and Messi playing together? The Hammers have qualified again for the last 16 in the Champions League and there is a lot of anticipation of winning one of the two top trophies this time around.
They’ve had some low games as well. You can’t win them all. Silly defeats at the hands of teams below them in the league, where the players just didn’t look interested. But these things happen to the best of us.
Stability, youth, investment and winning. All now words synonymous with the all new West Ham football club here in 2019. Miracles?
The future is bright. The future is Claret and Blue.