Tuesday 19 May ~
Acres of newsprint are regularly given over to extolling the virtues of our most successful clubs. But West Ham get plenty of attention too. This how the Independent’s Paul Newman began his report on Spurs' 1-0 victory over West Brom on May 4. "Consider Harry Redknapp's style and you think immediately of teams that attack with flair and zest. You can take the man out of West Ham, but you will never take West Ham out of the man." Are you a Happy Hammer? You shouldn't be after reading stuff like that, even if the author means well.
I would be surprised if West Ham have had proportionately more skilful, exciting teams down the years than other clubs who have spent a comparable time in the top division. It's just that when they happen to be playing attractive football, as is the case at the moment, we're required to believe this to be a reflection of the club's core philosophy. The times when a Hammers side packed with midfield cloggers has played turgid and unsuccessful route-one football are not retained in our football writers' collective memory.
But there haven't been many times when the archetypal West Ham side achieved things either. They have two FA Cups and one European trophy but the 1960s side that "won the World Cup" with its three England players never finished higher than eighth in the League – and came 16th in the season after Geoff Hurst's Wembley hat-trick.
The manager of that side, Ron Greenwood, is the person most directly responsible for prevailing ideas about "the West Ham way". By all accounts he was a very talented coach but he didn't have an aptitude for organising teams to grind out narrow away wins and the other prosaic stuff you have to be capable of if you're going to be successful as well as entertaining. And none of his successors have achieved this either – since Greenwood's time the club have managed two top-six finishes in the first division, third place in 1985-86 being their best ever.
We're required to believe that Hammers fans are perfectly content to see their team win 4-1 at home one week then lose 3-0 away the next, rather than, say, winning those two games by 1-0 while maintaining a place in the top five. Perhaps some are happy simply to compete at the top level these days given that they have experienced some dire seasons in the recent past. But I bet that they'd like to win ugly from time to time. "Harry Redknapp's style" is perfectly suited to Spurs too, of course. After all, with their occasional cup wins and underachieving international players they're just a bigger version of West Ham. Roy Henderson