To say that there’s discontent in East London surrounding West Ham’s current plight would be an understatement.
Having moved out of Green Street to pastures not quite so snug, the board’s promise of West Ham joining the Premier league’s elite look far closer to being a delirious rambling than a reality.
This weekend sees the Claret face a crunch encounter with Southampton, a club looking to bounce their way out of trouble with a new manager as Mark Hughes takes charge of his first Premier League game with the Saints.
If David Moyes’ side lose this game they will be plunged into the relegation zone. With only seven games remaining and arguably the toughest run of fixtures of any side fighting for survival, this would leave relegation a very distinct possibility.
But would dropping out of the Premier league be such a bad thing for West Ham?
While far from being a certainty, a quick return to the top-flight could be made easier by the significant wealth advantage the Hammers would hold over the other clubs in the Championship.
Beyond the “sweetheart deal” which sees the Irons leasing the former Olympic Stadium with very favourable terms, the club declared a profit of £43 million last season and were placed in the top 20 of Deloitte’s annual world Football Money League.
Over the course of the previous two transfer windows, the Hammers have further strengthened their financial position with a net profit reported to be £12.2 million – the third biggest return from transfers in the Premier League this season.
While topping the Championship takes more than just financial might, both Newcastle and Wolves have shown over the last two seasons that it can provide a significant edge in topping the division.
West Ham’s current troubles run far deeper than something simply throwing money at the problem can fix. A wave of disillusionment running through the core of the club’s fanbase is aimed squarely at the way the current board conduct themselves rather than focusing singularly on their new stadium.
With a protest planned before this weekend’s home game against Southampton, the crowd are likely to get behind their team come kick-off.
However, fears that a poor result could be the catalyst for further resentment inside the stadium have prompted the board to increase the security presence inside the ground and build a barrier close to the directors’ box to protect themselves.
This just seems to epitomise how isolated and disconnected the board have become from the fans who are part of the club’s very fabric.
While vice-chairman Karen Brady went on record through her regular newspaper column to “take full responsibility” by the board for the club’s current struggles, little has actually been done to show what repercussions they face or how they plan to amend the situation.
Falling from grace
In dropping out of the Premier League, West Ham would face losing around 94% of their current earnings from broadcasting rights. Coupled with a potential loss in ticket sales and reduced money through sponsorship, the club would invariably take a backward step financially.
What it would provide, however, is a golden chance to restructure the club and rebuild the squad into the vision which the board have long claimed to be prioritising.
Retaining Premier League status runs the risk of maintaining the status quo of a club mired in the bottom half of the table, a position they’ve finished in four of the last five seasons.
Another season spent with a main priority being to avoid relegation will not allow the club much breathing space to bring about changes evidently needed.
Having been both fined for breaching anti-doping regulations and accused of using the club to avoid a £700,000 tax bill within the last month, the structure behind the scenes appears far from perfect.
Concerning footballing matters, the appointment of David Moyes was met head-on with apprehension by fans last November regarding his suitability. Other than a 1-0 victory over Chelsea, results have been largely underwhelming as has the nature of the football produced.
While injuries have certainly tied at least one arm behind the manager’s back, there is little sign that he has moved the club forward during his first five months in charge.
The West Ham academy has also been neglected in recent years. With a new policy of bringing in ageing, high-profile players (their current wing-backs have a combined age of 69) who seem far more mercenary than the players of ten years ago, the conveyor belt which produced players of world-class standard at the turn of the millennium has never been more sorely missed.
A wind of change
While it’s unclear whether Davids Gold and Sullivan possess the skills required to lay a stable framework over the inner workings of the club, they can help to rebuild the club towards its former glory.
There have been some crumbs for comfort in their community approach such as the fund-raising friendly played last weekend against financially-struggling Dagenham & Redbridge, however, they need to take a long hard look at their marketing department and learn to curb their own polarising outbursts.
As Newcastle have shown over the last two years, finding a manager such as Rafael Benitez to shape and remodel all aspects of the playing side of the club can be achieved with a drop to the Championship.
While it would obviously be preferable to rebuild from the relative safety of the Premier League, the key to all of this is in finding a figure to lead the club forward. A solid strategy is needed if the club are to prosper on the field and West Ham are going to need to break some eggs to make this happen.
The squad is ripe for renewal, especially defensively but maybe any overhaul in playing staff would be easier with a new challenge and refocus on what’s important. If the Hammers do slip through the trapdoor, they should certainly put their house in order quickly to prevent their predicament becoming far worse.
What do you think the future holds for West Ham? Let us know by commenting below.