We’re on a dreadful losing streak in the league, the FA Cup is better left unmentioned, and it’s hard to tell if it’s more depressing for fans to watch what’s happening on the field, or for us to speculate about the rumours swirling around about what’s going on off the field.
Supporters feel as if they haven’t been told the truth about a few key issues in the club- in particular Andy Carroll’s injury (and the drug test rumour which keeps rearing its ugly head), and Ravel Morrison’s mysterious benching (groin strain, late Christmas night session at the pub, or fight with Allardyce?)
The tension is mounting, the grumbling is getting louder, and the fans are not happy at seeing the team that finished tenth last year look certain to be relegated come May.
Morale is low throughout the club, from the stands to the pitch, and it’s easy to see how defeated our players get after going behind.
We had big plans, and big dreams, and instead we’re now a club in big trouble.
We’re struggling to bury games we know we should win and as a result we’ve drifted steadily into the relegation zone without letting out so much as a whimper in protest. Injuries have made us barely able to field eleven players, and we are fresh out of centre backs.
What’s gone wrong at Upton Park?
Naturally, a lot of fans (particularly those with twitter accounts) are blaming those at the top. Fans are frustrated with Sam Allardyce’s failure to bring in a second striker this summer and for not strengthening our central defense – although in his defense, I would never have imagined Collins, Reid, and Tomkins to all be out injured.
There are concerns we play too much “hoof-ball,” and also concerns that we spend too much time defending and never attacking.
The few games we’ve done well in or at least attempted to do well in, were games in which we spent periods of the game going forward and attempting to score. Sitting back and allowing the ball to constantly come towards our goal in the hopes we can continuously keep it out is not a strategy for survival—it’s an invitation for disaster.
But will changing manager help us save our season? All the teams who’ve made a managerial change have certainly benefitted in the short term, particularly when they play us (Fulham, Palace, West Brom to name a few), but has it benefitted them in the long run? All of those clubs are still in and around the relegation zone.
Another change that’s been called for, and that would be easier to make, is to change our current captain, red-card enthusiast Kevin Nolan, for a stronger role model.
Last year’s team leader and top goal-scorer has yet to find his form in this season for anything other than getting carded. I’ve tried to stand behind him with only subtle digs at his weight, “pace,” and perpetual offside positioning but after his atrocious and unnecessary red-card at Fulham, any lingering support I had for him is long gone.
How could he not know how important those potential points were to the club, the fans, and the morale of his teammates? That is not the behaviour of a man who cares about the club; and certainly not the behaviour of a man meant to captain the team. Kevin Nolan needs a wake-up call – and failing that, a one-way ticket back up North.
Sadly, it’s not just Kevin Nolan’s abysmal performance, the lack of communication, and Big Sam’s stubborn tactics (or lack thereof) causing all the concern at the club.
Yes, blame partially lies in the mistakes made over the summer with signings, and Big Sam’s infuriating refusal to just try one game with two strikers up front (I mean, at this point, what have we got to lose)—but there is another problem at the club which I believe is causing us the majority of our anguish.
My main concern is that something is wrong with the way the players are being trained and conditioned. We have lost a whopping eight of our potential starting eleven to injuries— and have only fourteen first team players available, which is an atrocious number compared to other clubs and is unacceptable for a professional football club.
Players are dropping likes flies on the pitch—but are dropping even faster at the training ground, or too early in a game for their injuries to have come solely from the match (i.e. James Tomkins’s early injury against West Brom.) Sam has commented on this, saying, “I saw Alan Curbishley after the game at Fulham and I know he says the training ground at Chadwell Heath plays a part in the injuries.”
We have never been on good form with our injuries, but rather than to keep assuming we are just the unluckiest team known to man or beast, why are we not changing the way the players train?
Curbishley stopped managing the club back in September 2008, and we’ve also had a season where Matthew Upson was the only player uninjured around the Christmas period— and that turned out to be solely because he was stuffing his boots with old newspapers. Something hasn’t been right with the way we have been training for years – so how have we not learned lessons from this?
It’s a bleak scenario, but it is January, and there is hope. Andy Carroll is back in training, Downing has returned, and provided we can sign well this month, keep players fit, and look at improving morale this season is not over yet.
There are positives to remember too – we are yet to lose a league game by more than three goals, and even then it only happened against Chelsea and Liverpool. That was of course before the disastrous 5-0 drubbing in the FA Cup – to Forrest mind you.
We have the joint highest number of clean sheets in the Premier League (how about that, Jussi-haters?), but the best positive lies with the fans. We haven’t stopped singing bubbles, and haven’t given up on our team yet, nor will we ever.
We love this club, and no matter how tough it gets, we will always be there— yelling, begging, and praying through four important words.
Come on you Irons!
What will happen to Big Sam and the club? Let us know your thoughts below.