Whilst 12th is unspectacular, it appears Sam Allardyce was harshly done by given West Ham had an excellent start to the season and qualified for Europe, albeit via their fair play record. But Allardyce was sacked within minutes of the season’s end, replaced by former player Slaven Bilic. A new era and a tough new challenge for the ambitious Croatian.
Last Season: Premier League (12th)
Manager: Slaven Bilic
GKs: Darren Randolph, Adrian, Raphael Spiegel
DFs: Winston Reid, Aaron Cresswell, James Tomkins, Joey O’Brien, Carl Jenkinson, James Collins, Doneil Henry, Reece Burke, Stephen Hendrie, Angelo Ogbonna
MFs: Kevin Nolan, Matt Jarvis, Cheikhou Kouyate, Pedro Obiang, Mark Noble, Morgan Amalfitano, Diego Poyet, Dimitri Payet, Martin Samuelson, Manuel Lanzini
FWs: Andy Carroll, Mauro Zarate, Diafra Sakho, Modibo Maiga, Enner Valencia
In: Stephen Hendrie (Hamilton), Darren Randolph (Birmingham City), Pedro Obiang (Sampdoria), Martin Samuelson (Manchester City), Dimitri Payet (Marseille), Angelo Ogbonna (Juventus), Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal – Loan), Manuel Lanzini (Al Jaziri – Loan)
Out: Kieran Bailey (Colchester United), Carlton Cole (Released), Guy Demel (Released), Jussi Jaaskelainen (Released), Sean Maguire (Released), Paul McCallum (Leyton Orient), Nene (Released), Dan Potts (Luton Town), Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough)
First Six: Arsenal (A), Leicester City (H), Bournemouth (H), Liverpool (A), Newcastle United (H), Manchester City (A)
Likely Lineup: (4-1-2-1-2) Adrian – Jenkinson, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell – Kouyate – Obiang, Noble – Payet – Sakho, Valencia
A word from…Steve Lomas
On joining the club Well I actually joined West Ham when they were under a bit of threat. They’d just signed Paul Kitson and John Hartson who really helped out in saving the club from relegation that season. The club’s Premier League status was under threat at that stage but I always felt if we could get by that – looking at the squad Harry Redknapp was building – that we could go on and that’s exactly what happened. We stayed up that year in ‘97 and I think next year we finished 9th and in my first five seasons we were an established top ten team which was great and thoroughly enjoyable.
On when it started to go wrong I’d say it was two things; firstly, we had quite a few injuries within the squad that year – I remember getting quite a bad knee injury myself – and we had lost Rio Ferdinand to Leeds United the season before and it was tough. Nobody ever thought that was how the season would go but unfortunately it did and it was a bit of a shock really to drop down.
On the mental toughness of losing a play-off final It was tough! Any club that goes down has to cut their wage bill and we had to do that so we lost quite a few players, but we managed to get to the play-off final that season. We were favourites going in to the game so to get beat by Crystal Palace was a crushing blow for myself personally and for the club.
So it was great that the club got back up the next season and stabilised themselves. Of course another relegation under Avram Grant followed, but hopefully now they’re back in the Premier League for a while and long may it continue!
On Sam Allardyce I think Sam came in and did exactly what was asked of him, albeit by the play-offs, but still he got West Ham up and then followed with a top ten finish in his first season in the Premier League, so you have to say he was very unlucky!
On Slaven Bilic and an early European run The season we qualified for the Intertoto Cup it really helped us because we hit the ground running, but sometimes it has the adverse effect because you’re playing so early on and by Christmas players can be picking up injuries so it just depends.
I think the key thing for West Ham is that the players they brought in last season have done very well – Jenkinson, Cresswell, Kouyate, Sakho – but they have to go again. There’s no point in doing well with signings one year if you don’t go again the next. It’s always a challenge for a club like West Ham to bring top, top quality in and I think it’s imperative that Slaven has been allowed to bring in more quality players. When you do qualify for the Europa League it does have an adverse effect – you only have to look at Everton last season – and playing on a Thursday knocks up your schedule, but you only have to look at the West Ham fans and see a sell out crowd at home for a first round qualifier to know they crave those European nights! It’s just finding that balance to know you have to stay in the Premier League moving into the new stadium the following season.
On pushing on ahead of the big move There’s no reason why not! They’re moving into a 54,000-seater stadium and the good thing is they will hopefully be able to give fans cheaper tickets which will create an even better atmosphere! And who knows, there might be a rich owner out there that wants to invest and there’s no better club at the minute to invest in than West Ham United – moving into a brand new stadium just on the outskirts of London and it’s a great, great club. Obviously I think Mr Gold and Mr Sullivan will want to stay as Chairmen for a long time but I think if the right offer came along I wouldn’t be surprised. You only have to look at the foreign investors coming into the Premier League and West ham, at the moment, have to be a very exciting prospect!
The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: It’s going to be an interesting season. They’ve brought in some very good players but have a manager new to the league and their early European commitments could come back to bite them. Either way, they won’t want their last game at Upton Park next year to be a relegation battle.
Key Player: Dimitri Payet – He’s already looked excellent in pre-season and could be one of the buys of the season, joining from Marseille for a large fee. But, he’s got all the talent needed to succeed in the Premier League and bigger teams may regret not picking him up.
One to Watch: Martin Samuelson – The young Scandanavian was picked up from Manchester City this summer and has looked bright in pre-season. Whilst he may not get many chances in the Premier League, it’ll be interesting to see if he gets a run in the cups or in Europe.