THE reputation of West Ham United took another knock recently with the reported derogatory comments of director of player recruitment Tony Henry about not signing African players.
The club dealt quickly with the incident, suspending, then dismissing Henry for the comments.
The incident followed quickly on the heels of what many fans considered to be a less than satisfactory month of dealings in the transfer window.
The net result was the signing of Joao Mario on loan from Inter Milan and the £10 million signing of Jordan Hugill from Preston North End. Meanwhile, Andre Ayew returned to Swansea for £20m while Diafra Sakho joined Rennes for around £10m.
From a fans’ perspective it looked as though the club had actually weakened their playing pool as a result of this transfer window rather than strengthening it. Manager David Moyes was putting on a brave face on the dealings, insisting he was happy with the situation.
However, Moyes repeatedly said during the window that he did not want to lose players and needed to add two or three more.
Amazingly, when the £20m net gain that West Ham have got from this transfer window is put along side the £20m net spend in the summer, the club has laid out absolutely nothing since the January 2017 transfer window closed.
Given this situation, the work of both Moyes and Slaven Bilic before him need to be viewed in a particularly positive light.
For the owners, the cash cow that is West Ham United at the London Stadium continues to give. The club sell 57,000 tickets for most home games. TV money is going through the roof, not to mention the money made from selling the old Boleyn ground, which has now been demolished with flats rising up on the site.
Moyes and his management team have done a remarkable job since they came in at the beginning of November. The manager has shown an ability to shuffle the pack of players available. He has asserted discipline among the players and improved fitness levels.
A recent example of the strict disciplinary code adopted came recently when Michail Antonio was left out of the match day squad because he turned up late for a team meeting.
The former Everton and Manchester United manager has got the team melding together well. He has transformed Marko Arnautovic, who made an inauspicious start to the season following his move from Stoke. Now, he is a fans’ favourite, scoring six goals in a seven-game run recently before being hit by injury.
The manager replaced Joe Hart with Adrian after the latter put in an excellent display against Manchester City. The former England stopper has remained on the sidelines ever since, with the manager sticking by his decision.
Moyes has also got the best out of defenders Angelo Ogbonna and Arthur Masuaka until the latter’s spitting incident saw him suspended for six games and fined £50,000 by the club.
One of the most pleasing elements of the Moyes period in charge has been his willingness to give young players a chance. While a shortage of players has to a degree forced his hand, the manager should still be congratulated for his fearless attitude to giving the likes of Declan Rice, Reece Burke, Josh Cullen, Reece Oxford, Domingos Quina and Toni Martinez a chance to show what they can do.
Moyes has probably given the youngsters at West Ham more of a chance than any other manager at the club in the past seven years.
So things are progressing on the pitch. The fans have been disappointed at the lamentable exits from both the FA and League Cups, but maybe this should not come as too much of a surprise, given the manager was given a brief to keep the club in the Premier League.
Hopefully things may change next year if the club are under less pressure in the top flight.
Moving forward, West Ham should survive in the league, though there will no doubt be some ups and downs along the way. The club has a great tradition for managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The hope must then be that Moyes and his team are given the long-term contracts and money backing in the transfer market to take the club on.
It is a sobering thought for West Ham fans that, while the financial standing of the club may have advanced with the move to the London Stadium, the team on the pitch has largely gone backwards. A team that very nearly got into the top four of the Premier League in 2015-16, the last season at the Boleyn ground, has sunk down the table in the two seasons since.
A home like the London Stadium demands a top-six football team, but to achieve that goal the owners need to reach into their pockets and make money available to the manager to get the new players he requires.
No club stands still in the top flight, failure to improve a squad usually means struggle and, in many cases, relegation.
West Ham have been lucky to have two such good managers recently who have been able to survive on at times meagre resources.
Let’s hope the owners will back Moyes in the summer with a new contract and the funding he requires to make West Ham into that top six team.
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