The early months of 2018 will seem a distant and unfamiliar past to anyone in the midst of the COVID pandemic, but especially so for West Ham fans, and manager David Moyes.
Cast your mind back to March of 2018, to arguably the most defining moment of West Ham’s recent history.
Mired in a relegation battle, an awful Hammers side capitulate a 3-0 defeat at home to Burnley, as fans invade the pitch, protest in front of the director’s box, and wreak havoc inside the London Stadium, their unwanted new home.
Players fight with fans, and the #GSBOUT campaign begins to turf out the club’s owners, who barely escape an angry lynch mob.
West Ham are now above Chelsea and Arsenal in the Premier League table and three points off 3rd place ⚒
David Moyes doing his thing 😎 pic.twitter.com/5oPlcytlD5
— Goal (@goal) January 20, 2021
How times have changed for West Ham United.
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In the almost three years since that day, manager Moyes was let go, took a sabbatical, and was re-hired. Talisman Michail Antonio was played everywhere from fullback to winger and now finds himself shoehorned into a striking role.
Declan Rice has gone from an Irish youth player and captain of the Hammers U-23’s to a full English international captaining the club’s seniors on matchday. Most of all, a pandemic has arrived and remained, leaving an indelible mark on the footballing landscape.
One thing, however, is different from that day. An unexpected upturn in fortunes has seen the East Londoners rocket to 7th in the table, and the club’s fans become cautiously optimistic – even hopeful – about the future.
What had once seemed impossible has almost become reality – and all thanks to that man Moyes’ stoicism and tactical nous. Having transformed a mediocre West Ham team into a hard-nosed, disciplined outfit, Moyes has his eyes firmly set on the top spots on the ladder, not below as his predecessors did.
It is a mark of the Irons’ progress that halfway through the season, they have achieved a record points tally, only 7 shy of their entire haul from their last campaign.
Refusal to back Moyes with transfers could derail West Ham’s season
All this positivity, however, is threatened by the same destabilising forces behind the scenes. Moyes has the smallest squad in the league, left smaller still following the departures of two key senior players in January.
The Hammers have no out-and-out striker, and only a retirement-ready Mark Noble as a central midfield backup. West Ham are one or two injuries away from their entire season being derailed. Yet, all this seems lost on the club’s much-maligned owners, Messrs. Sullivan and Gold, who continue to drag their feet on crucial transfers.
Moyes is desperate for a new striker – he has made that much clear in recent press conferences, outlining his will to have one bought by February 1st. With only days left in the window, however, no signing appears imminent, and the Scot will be forced to rely on Antonio’s famously unreliable hamstrings holding out for six more months.
Should an injury crisis eventuate, the Clarets will free fall down the ladder. What would follow is obvious – renewed negativity, flirtation with relegation, and more protests.
What needs to be done to avoid this is clear; back the manager with player recruitment, and strengthen to really push on up the table. The problems, and the fans’ demands of transparency in the transfer market, have not changed since that fateful Burnley match.
Unfortunately, lessons of the past have not been heeded by ownership, and sadly, might never be.
The famous saying “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it” comes to mind; should West Ham’s owners fail to remember the crisis of March 2018 and its fallout, then the club will surely find itself there again in the future.