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Monday 12 February 2007

I Can't Believe It's Not Bitter

There’ve been a few awkward silences at work on Monday mornings in recent weeks. I mean what else are you going to talk about, other than the weekend’s footie? Yet we’ve all been treading on eggshells, for fear of making matters even worse for our West Ham supporting boss. I’ve grown almost as desperate as him, for the Hammers’ fortunes to take a turn for the better, just so that normal service might be resumed and I can get back to bragging about the Arsenal, instead of feeling the need to apologise whenever we’ve sneaked another three points.

And after the miserable outcome of West Ham’s ‘must win’ match against Watford, I’m not sure I’d have had the front to show my face this Monday, if we’d gifted our game to their closest rivals. For all Egghead Magnusson’s money the Irons can’t seem to buy a goal at the minute and I really have my doubts about Curbishley’s scatter-gun approach to trying to solve the Irons problems, by spunking up £19 of the Icelander’s millions on eight new players.

Rumour has it that Freddie Ljungberg turned down a massive £70 grand a week wage packet on offer at Upton Park; which in turn might lead one to conclude that the likes of Upson, Neill, Boa Morte etc. have all been tempted by similarly ignoble motives, rather than any burning desire to sweat blood effecting a rescue mission.

Curbishley certainly didn’t have a wealthy sugar-daddy to fund his creditable efforts to establish the Addicks as a Premiership team. He achieved this feat with relatively limited resources, by fostering a good team spirit within a close-knit club, where, in the absence of any prima-donnas, everyone was prepared to work their socks off to achieve mid-table glory.

By contrast, I can only begin to imagine the seeds of discontent currently being sown in the West Ham dressing room, with its small remaining core of homegrown Academy kids, who genuinely suffer the “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” taunts of the Hammers’ fans and who are truly desperate to cling to their Premiership status. How can you possibly expect a squad full of unfamiliar faces to present the crucial united front necessary to escape their current plight? Especially with all the discord that’s likely to result from the disparity in the new arrivals earnings, when their careers to date hardly justify such superstar salaries.

Moreover it’s hard to picture this somewhat random selection of panic buys playing their hearts out to avoid the prospects of lower league football, if they’ve all got escape clauses enabling them to bale out long before the Championship beckons. Between counting their money and nursing every slightest niggle, I wonder if some of them will find the time demonstrate whether they’ve a taste for the battle ahead?

With all those millions at his disposal, you’d think Curbishley’s job would be a doddle compared to Paul Jewell. With 14 players in and 11 out of the JJB since the end of last season, including the sale of most of Wigan’s more influential players, Jewell has virtually started again from scratch. Even the most blinkered Gooner had to have some sympathy with the Lactics on Sunday, as they were extremely unlucky to be returning from their first appearance at our new stadium, with nothing but a burning sense of injustice.

Although I do get more than a little peeved at how everyone seems to focus almost exclusively on the pressure faced by managers and clubs involved in the relegation struggle. Relatively speaking, the three points on offer in Sunday’s game were no less vital to the Arsenal. Can Arsène Wenger’s job be any less stressful, when, with a fraction of the financial muscle that’s now been made available to many of our competitors, Arsène is expected at the very minimum, to deliver a top four finish every season. Additionally with the Gunner’s entire operation having been turned up a good few notches, to tie in with the scale and the setting of our grandiose new stage, it would be an unmitigated disaster if we failed to achieve Champions League qualification in our first season at the new gaff.

It also bothers me that it only takes another dire England performance for the press to start pointing the finger of blame at our academy and it’s production line of foreign talent. When it truth England’s shortcomings are all due to the FA’s insistence on appointing a “yes man” who hasn’t anywhere near the strength of personality to command either respect from his peers, or anything vaguely resembling a work ethic from his over-indulged players.

In truth, with no Arsenal players involved, I’d find it quite amusing to see England stuffed by Israel, but if Maclaren is ever going to force club managers to desist from taking the Michael, he should be demanding his players be prevented from playing domestic footie for a period of time, once they’ve been ruled unfit for international duty. That way the likes of Ferguson wouldn’t be quite so quick to withdraw Wayne Rooney from a midweek England match, when he’s able bodied enough to play Sunday / Saturday either side.

Meanwhile in laying into the lack of homegrown talent in the Gunners squad, the media seem to have totally ignored the likes of Bentley, Pennant, Sidwell and Harper who could go on to earn England caps, after having learned their trade at London Colney.

Arsène wasn’t the only one sweating, with ten minutes left on the clock on Sunday. I was fortunate to find myself watching the match from the plush surroundings of an extremely posh Club Level pitch. As our prospects of all three points dwindled with each passing minute, I grew increasingly convinced that I was going to be personally culpable for our first defeat, due to having forsaken my customary seat. Having been offered a seat that costs an unbelievable 173 quid per match, gratis (never mind my complimentary half-time cuppa, it should be foie gras and Dom Perignon at those prices), I felt obliged to pass on the goodwill, by giving up my own ticket, to enable someone to take their six year old son to his first live game.

It was only on collecting my membership cards after the match that I realised my own self-interests paled into insignificance, compared to the life changing effect of our last gasp win on this young convert to the Gooner faith. As the three of us headed towards the tube station, the lad was on such a high that he was literally skipping along beside us, when according to his old man, only minutes earlier he’d been on the verge of tears. I doubt his mother would be quite so enamoured by her son’s new vocabulary, but you should’ve seen the pride in pop’s face, when the pint-size tot made a point of reminding me that the referee was indeed “a w***er!”

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Anonymous said...

thank god for crap referees gives us hammers a chance

Anonymous said...

very astute and well observed (West Ham fan)