Like a number of teams this season, West Ham United had a strange season. Having started the season so strongly, the Hammers found themselves in the Champions League places at Christmas and by February were still in contention for some form of European football. But with just three wins in the final 20 games of the league season, the fans reverted back to Big Sam Out and finally got what they were asking for after losing to Newcastle on the final day of the season, as Allardyce found out his contract wouldn’t be renewed just an hour after the game.
It was West Ham’s form in the back end of the season that prompted a swift change at Upton Park after just three wins in the second half of the season saw them drop from 5th all the way down to 12th. They did still manage to get Europa League football however through the virtue of the fair play award, but with that starting in a few weeks’ time, next season could prove extremely long and tiresome for some of these West Ham players.
It was goals that dried up for West Ham with one player reaching ten goals in the league season. Top goalscorer Diafra Sakho scored ten in his first season in the Premier League, with seven of them coming in the first nine games of the season, meaning in the other 29 games, he scored just 3 league goals, and this coincided with their bad form.
The ambition of the West Ham fans and board is clear. With the move into the Olympic Park after this next season, it would have been very easy for the board to have stuck with Allardyce and most probably secured Premier League football for the move. Instead, in letting Big Sam go, they’ve appointed a new manager to the Premier League, a fan favourite during his playing days at West Ham, Slaven Bilic. The former Croatia and Besiktas manager has already made his intentions clear with some signings, and could he finally be the man to bring the “West Ham way” which we’re yet to find out true meaning of? Who knows.
Key Player – Adrian
The Spaniard enjoyed a magnificent season between the sticks for the Hammers. As West Ham performed so strongly in the first half of the season, a lot of that was down to Adrian’s shot stopping ability behind everyone else.
One of the better goalkeepers in the whole league over the season, it’s easy to overlook him because he only got eight clean sheets. Adrian made the fourth highest number of saves in the league with 126, just 10 behind leader Fabianski, so his importance to this West Ham team was vital. A hit and miss first season in England, Adrian showed some signs of being a decent keeper, but having played all 38 league games this time around he’s cemented himself as one of the better keepers in the league.
Most Improved Player – Aaron Cresswell
Arriving from Championship side Ipswich Town in the summer, Cresswell was somewhat of an unknown entity to Premier League fans. He immediately nailed himself down as the number one left-back, and having played every minute of the Premier League season, it’s safe to say he truly is the number one left-back at West Ham.
Now 25, Cresswell’s not exactly ‘young’ in footballing terms but he’s certainly coming into his peak. His performances this season will have put him in Roy Hodgson’s views, and if he can replicate this consistency of performance into next year, an England call-up cannot be far from his reach. Two goals and four assists from the left-back position is enough to be considered a solid attacking season for a full-back, but unlike some of the attacking full-backs in the league, he’s also very solid defensively.
Much like Ashley Cole, Cresswell is often seen behind the goalkeeper clearing the ball off the line, and it’s a valuable resource for a team to have a full-back, on either side, who has the pace and strength to get behind his own defenders and cover them when needed. The biggest thing from Cresswell’s season is, even when West Ham began to falter in their performances as a whole, Cresswell remained fairly consistent throughout. However, when you look at the entirety of the season, Cresswell has advanced massively from the quiet, shy looking player who joined the club to the confident individual he is today.
Fans’ View – James Jones (Assistant Editor of FootballFanCast and Founder of West Ham World)
After losing to a last minute Eric Dier goal on the opening day of the season I think it’s fair to say most Hammers fans thought it was going to be another one of those seasons. We were all half expecting it to be nine months of flirting with relegation, but instead it turned out to be the opposite.
Sam Allardyce found the attacking flair we always knew he secretly had inside him and turned Stewart Downing in to one of the most dangerous number 10s in the Premier League. Diafra Sakho couldn’t stop scoring, Alex Song proved he should’ve been playing in the Champions League and Kevin Nolan was nowhere to be seen.
It’s still hard to believe we were in the top four over Christmas but there’s no doubting we deserved to be there, just like there’s no doubting we deserved to finish 12th come the end of the campaign. Injuries to key players and the AFCON didn’t help us, but the fact that Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll were almost always preferred to the players who had got us to where we were was never going to end well.
In the end the season became something of a washout, with performances and results towards the end of the year being completely unacceptable. We ended the season with something like three wins in 19, which is relegation form and unacceptable for a side that should’ve been pushing for a top eight finish.
To an outsider it would appear our season was generally a success, but for West Ham fans it turned out to be a total disappointment. Still, at least we can look back on those opening four months with fond memories for years to come. They were good times.