West Ham… keep it real and the rewards will come

Feet on the ground, set ambitions realistically. Isn’t that what you do anywhere?

To be fair to West Ham, that’s what they’ve done, but with a modicum of success comes the rise in the fans’ expectations.

Unfair? Maybe. Expected? Certainly. With success comes an inflation in the thoughts of the minds of even the least vociferous fans. At the beginning of the season, there were few suggesting that West Ham would be as high as they are currently and have been all season, due to a new manager arriving with a new style and a plethora of new faces.

What a nonsense that was. Straight off the bat there came the unexpected away win at Arsenal, followed by more unexpected results.. but this time unexpected losses at home. Overall, the Hammers have played fairly consistently, even when they were down to bare bones not so long ago. Although they bounce up and down between fourth and eighth place, the team from Upton Park are grinding out results that used to seem impossible.

Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Norwich isn’t the first time that they’ve come back from being behind to snatch a win or a draw. There is a certain spirit, a certain resilience in their never-say-die attitude, but then the question must be – why go behind at all? Especially two behind before you start playing. However, Bilic has reason to believe this season will be different: “We have the quality, we have the team spirit, we have character, we have legs, the only problem is injuries. But we are expecting a few players to come back and that gives us hope, but only if we continue to play like the last half hour,” he said to The Guardian.

Notoriously slow to start a game this season, it appears as though West Ham require a while to get their mojo working – sometimes it hasn’t been until the second half that the team from Green Street have woken up and decided to join in.

It’s all rather frustrating for the Irons supporters, who are watching the best assembled Hammers squad in most people’s living memory. With the outstanding Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini, the emergence of Michail Antonio, the midfield dominance of Cheikhou Kouyate and a strong looking backline, you have to wonder why it takes them so long to get going.

If the FA Cup is to be paraded around the East End this year, then West Ham are doing it the hard way. A home tie versus Wolves was harder than predicted and was followed taking Liverpool to a replay and extra-time to set up a clash with Blackburn – not the easiest way to get to Wembley. That doesn’t seem to bother Bilic though, who wants cup glory more than anything else and why not? It’s too soon to be thinking of West Ham as title contenders, but maybe that will come soon enough. On the FA Cup, Bilic said in January: “I would like to win the Cup. It is a cup. Win the Cup and I can hold it up. The proof is silverware. So I would prefer to win the FA Cup – and finish fifth or sixth!”

Bilic is refreshing in all that he does at West Ham, but after the comeback against Norwich, are West Ham just content with somewhere in the top 10? In The Guardian Bilic advised: “We will not put the season to bed now. No way. You have no right to do it, even if you have no chance to move up or down, whatever, this is Premier League, we all have careers, we are representing West Ham; no matter if it’s a friendly game or the Premier League, there is no way for that to happen.”

So while other Premier League teams set their targets and fall short, except Leicester of course, The Hammers’ hierarchy seem keen to play down thoughts of success and of making wild predictions. The methodology at Upton Park is simple – stay in the Premier League for the historic move to the Olympic Stadium and build from there. It’s the fans that might be getting a little carried away with thoughts of a top four finish. But why not dream? Take away someone’s dreams and what’s left for them?