Saying that last season with tumultuous for the Hammers would perhaps be one of the understatements of the year. Debt and turmoil were at the forefront of any conversations surrounding West Ham which ultimately saw them struggle, battling with relegation all season long, however, eventually; they managed to survive finishing in 17th place a long way off the previous seasons 9th place finish. Ultimately, that was the end of the line for manager Gianfranco Zola, somewhat unsurprisingly his contract was terminated at the end of the season.
Had West Ham gone down last season, as far as the club is concerned then it could have been devastating because of the debts that still hang over them. Luckily, in January of this year, former Birmingham City owners David Sullivan and David Gold acquired a 50% share in the club from CB Holding, giving them operational and commercial control – a future 10% was also purchased in May. And new year and a new manager will hopefully provide the Hammers with a new dawn and some much needed stability – as former Portsmouth boss Avram Grant takes over on a four-year deal – making him the first non-European manager of West Ham.
By all accounts, the Hammers last season were poor right throughout the season – battling relegation for most of it. Victories were few and far between for Zola and his side, and after an opening day victory over Wolves – they did not win again until a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa on November 4th. Six consecutive defeats during mid-season ensured that a battle for their survival was on the cards. A 3-2 victory with two games to go over Wigan ensured their Premier League status for another season – 35 points from 38 games was all that was required for them to finish in 17th place, having gone down before with 40 points.
Something that the Hammers do lack is a proven striker – Carlton Cole was the only one to hit double figures all season long. Having released Guillermo Franco and Ilan, Grant has managed to secure striker Frederic Piquionne, who played with Portsmouth last season, on loan from Lyon. Also joining will be midfielders Thomas Hitzlsperger and Pablo Barrera, along with defenders Tal Ben Haim and New Zealand international Winston Reid – all of those signings seem to be very astute on Grant’s part – hopefully leading to the solidity that the club needs.
Sullivan and Gold are famous for their meddling as chairman, which was season towards the end of last season making no secret of wanting rid of Gianfranco Zola, who was barely even given a chance by them. Sullivan also announced that the whole squad was up for sale – excluding Scott Parker. A bold statement indeed, while by the same token a rather clever one because he was effectively the life and soul of a rather mediocre Hammers team last season.
Avram Grant will have his work cut out this season with West Ham because it is not going to be easy, however, having battled through a far worse situation with Portsmouth last season, managing to lead them to an FA Cup Final this season will probably be a doddle as long as the Hammers do not become embroiled in a relegation battle. Unfortunately, that is all that I can see happening to for the Hammers.