Thursday 28th March 2013
With West Ham United finally confirmed as the permanent tenants of the Olympic Stadium in Stratford from 2016, can the Hammers push onto the next level? Or the level above the next level? And for regular periods of time rather than the one every 20 odd seasons that they seem to yield?
Considering that they sometimes fail to fill just over 35,000 seats at Upton Park, the first question may be ‘‘can they fill the ground’s 54,000 capacity?’’ But with the new stadium ready to attract new and old fans alike in the West Ham hotbed of east London, not to mention Stratford’s direct links to other hot spots such as Essex—they may just do that.
Many may laugh at the headline of this article, but those who clearly remember where Manchester City were in the years leading up to their move into the former Commonwealth (then City of Manchester, now Etihad) Stadium will likely nod in approval.
Until seven years after City’s move into their current home they were one of the most average clubs in the top division in terms of their league and cup record. The same applies to West Ham United now where they are either fighting off relegation or battling for a heroic finish in 10th place. The Falklands War had not yet been fought and Peter Sellers and John Lennon were still alive when West Ham last won a trophy.
That was May 1980, but City went even longer without a major honour. The 1976 League Cup was their last until their FA Cup win in 2011.
They have also had a more chequered history than West Ham since the formation of the Premiership, which only adds to the thought that the Hammers have got just as much chance of attaining success as the Blues from Manchester had. Since the 1992-93 season City have been outside the top division for five of those seasons including one in the third tier compared to West Ham’s four, which were all in the second tier.
Up until City’s title win last year both club’s respective records in the top-flight were remarkably similar. City’s final league positions in the Premier League since its inaugural season read 9th, 16th, 17th, 18th (next four seasons in lower divisions), 18th, (second tier), 9th, 16th, 8th, 15th, 14th, 9th, 10th, 5th, 3rd, 1st. West Ham’s meanwhile reads (second tier), 13th, 14th, 10th, 14th, 8th, 5th, 9th, 15th, 7th, 18th, (two seasons in second tier), 9th, 15th, 10th, 9th, 17th, 20th, (second tier).
Pretty similar aren’t they? If Manchester City can achieve what they have done then why can’t a popular club such as West Ham?
Obviously, it was the money that the Abu Dhabi group put into City that helped transform them into the club they are today, but the billionaires could see the potential in them. Was it the new stadium coupled with the area? Why not bid for their more illustrious neighbours, United, for virtually guaranteed success? Maybe it was the challenge of usurping them. Or maybe Mansour bin Zayed Nahyan had always imagined he was 1981 FA Cup hero/villain, Tommy Hutchison, when dribbling with a ball on the streets of the United Arab Emirates.
Would his group have taken over the club if they were still at Maine Road—an impressive stadium by itself?
Abu Dhabi saw the potential of a club like City with its position, fan base and new stadium, but will someone do the same for the Hammers? If there is someone with the money who can see this then the acquirement of the Olympic Stadium could be the first step towards achieving success for West Ham’s long-suffering, but forever loyal and passionate fans.
Although having big, impressive stadia as your home doesn’t guarantee success. Just ask followers of Sunderland. Or Scottish Third Division side, Queen’s Park, who for some reason or other, still ply their trade at Hampden Park playing to an average crowd of around 750 people in a stadium that can hold over 52,000 (I don’t think dogs are allowed there anymore for fear of them barking over the noise of the crowd).
However, West Ham will not have problems of that scale, and the added lure of Stratford’s Olympics connection may well play a part in whether some sugar daddy or other decides to take over the club. The Hammers will certainly appear more alluring in 2016 than they do now at the Boleyn Ground, providing they don’t suffer multiple relegations between now and then that is.
Co-chairman David Sullivan has stated that they can’t compete with the likes of City and Chelsea, and seemed to allude to wanting to be the next Manchester United (who doesn’t?) in stating that they are a ‘‘magical club’’ while hinting that, unlike the former two, the Red Devils didn’t get much help from billionaires. West Ham have a renowned record for bringing through exceptional youngsters, but until they achieve the stability it takes, on and off the pitch, to keep hold of them, they will never be able to triumph the ‘right’ way as those players will always leave for bigger things.
Sullivan has said that he and his fellow chairman and vice-chairman, David Gold and Karren Brady, would step aside if an oil magnate were to come calling to discuss taking over the club—which seems the most quick-fire way to success as it has been for City, Chelsea and Blackburn Rovers before them. The latter were only in the top four for three seasons, but they won the Premiership in the last of those.
These are feats that I’m sure any West Ham fan would take at the present time. So with the help of a new stadium in tow, can the club reach those dizzying heights?
What do you think of West Ham’s move? What direction should they take as a team? Feel free to leave me any comments on here and/or on Twitter, Facebook, WordPress or YouTube: