There was silence, but it wasn’t stunned. The gloom surrounding West Ham is so pervasive that the appointment of Manuel Pellegrini as manager has been greeted with a yawning shrug.
It’s been a long old season at the Olympic Stadium.
A year chocked with embarrassing escapades had its latest debacle in midweek, with James Collins’ desultory send-off after ten years of service. The Welshman was informed of his termination in a curt e-mail on Monday. No appreciation, no respect, no clue.
Hammers fans can be forgiven, then, for their understated reaction to Pellegrini’s appointment. The 64-year-old has signed a three-year deal, inheriting a team that David Moyes bawled into shape before he too was shown the door.
The Chilean, one feels, will be working in spite of his superiors rather than in conjunction with them.
Straight shooting Pellegrini
Some cautious optimism should be kept in reserve, however. Unlike some of his predecessors, Pellegrini doesn’t indulge in personas.
Throughout a four-year spell at Manchester City, he was a study of beige indifference. Journalists rarely got a ‘scoop’ from him, and his press conferences were notable only for their drudgery.
Pellegrini, therefore, is exactly what West Ham need. A calm, authoritative figure, he is the antithesis to a shambolic, preening boardroom and subsequent media circus.
The bright light of progress
Players get better under him. For proof, see Yaya Toure’s reinvention as attacking midfielder or Alvaro Negredo’s 23 goals in 48 City appearances. West Ham, a team crammed with inconsistent technicians, is sure to improve with his stewardship.
This is certainly something of note for Javier Hernandez, West Ham’s flagship summer purchase that saw game-time limited under David Moyes.
With Pellegrini’s expansive style of football a lure, Chicharito might yet be convinced to stay.
On the pitch, Pellegrini led Manchester City to two Premier League titles, overrunning opponents long before Pep Guardiola worried his way into the record books at the Etihad. In 2014 alone his side scored 151 goals, a record that still stands.
His record in Spain is exemplary, too.
Villarreal were transformed from provincial anonymity to Champions League semi-finalist under his tenure, with Juan Riquelme cajoled into the most effective football of his career.
He pushed Guardiola’s original, devastating Barcelona side all the way in his only season as Real Madrid boss, finishing three points behind them in second.
A year later, his Malaga players were denied a place in the Champions League semi-final only by the most controversial of goals against Borussia Dortmund. Wherever Pellegrini goes, progress follows.
His early transfer targets offer promising indications of his intents. Phil Foden might be young, but he is the kind of quick-thinking passer that the Hammers have lacked all season.
Salomon Rondon, too, is an improvement on the inconsistent and oft-injured Andy Carroll.
“Manuel brings a reputation for attacking football and getting the best out of his player,” beamed David Sullivan at Pellegrini’s unveiling.
The West Ham board, however, should refrain from self-congratulation. They may have pulled off what feels like a managerial coup, but Pellegrini knows all too well the dangers of working with intrusive owners.
Working under the spotlights of the Santiago Bernabéu and the expectations of the Etihad, he might feel versed in the sins of exuberant administrators.
Karren Brady and Davids Sullivan and Gold are an entirely different proposition, however. Fan protests this season were an inevitable result of their horrific mismanagement.
Hammers fans will hope that lessons will be learned from yet another dismal year, and that the club hierarchy allows Pellegrini to simply do his job. If so, the Chilean might work wonders in the East End.
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