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

Comments (6)
Comment by The Exploding Vole 2009-05-19 14:47:05

I wonder what Southampton fans think of "Harry Redknapp's style"?

Comment by trailofdead 2009-05-19 15:49:02

Three FA cup wins actually.

What's the point of this piece? West Ham have never been very successful? Everyone knows that, so why the dig? Also, good football doesn't lead to bulging trophy cabinets by right (look at Arsenal the last few years).

Comment by statto99 2009-05-19 17:09:48

I like the piece. I fear we're increasingly in danger of accepting football as a show, with clubs being virtually required to live up to near-arbitrary roles expected of them with their supporters being subtly encouraged to go along with it by the perpetuation of these roles in the media, who like a nice recognisable, uncomplicated storyline. There is a danger that these things become self-fulfilling prophecies and cloud the judgement of commentators and officials alike.

Comment by Mong1980 2009-05-19 18:04:18

Yes indeed 3! You plum Roy Henderson.

1980 v Arsenal
1975 v Fulham
1964 v Preston

and runners up twice 1923 v Bolton, 2006 v Liverpool

Comment by historyman 2009-05-19 20:45:48

A timely piece, since today is the anniversary of the Hammers' ECWC victory at Wembley in 1965. Their 2-0 victory over TSV Munich was hailed as a wonderful display of attacking football.

They've sometimes been labelled 'a good cup side', but it's been a long time since they've set the FA Cup alight.

Comment by Squid Ink 2009-05-20 16:27:15

The simple fact is: West Ham aren't a big enough team to hold on to their most talented players, so they are always in a state of flux. Can you give some examples of the players you are talking about when you say: "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"?

David James, Robert Green, Matthew Upson, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Glen Johnson, Michael Carrick, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, and Carlton Cole - there's a list of current England internationals who either have played for West Ham or currently play for them. If anything, this article is anything but timely, as it's abundantly clear that the club is still producing highly skilled players, albeit ones whose services they can't always retain.

Current West Ham players Scott Parker, Dean Ashton, and Kieron Dyer have also represented England in recent times, and Mark Noble is an England U21 regular. Then you have other players who have passed through the squad in recent times, including Yossi Benayoun, Javier Mascherano, and Carlos Tevez. Of course, West Ham fans would like to win ugly from time to time, but the club's core philosophy of producing skillful players who play attractive football hasn't wavered much at all. If anything, they should be applauded for being one of the few top flight teams who bring players through from their youth set up.

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