Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Striking while the Irons are not so hot

Whether West Ham's new owners took the right decision in removing Alan Pardew yesterday will probably always remain a question of debate; unless his replacement somehow drags them into Europe from their current precarious position.

But that Pardew has been less than fortunate as his fate has played itself out seems certain. The intentions of the deus ex machina who parachuted the Argentinian duo, Tevez and Mascherano, into Upton Park may have been wholly worthy, but their arrival has coincided with such a disastrous run of form that Pardew would be forgiven for reflecting on the deal as being one loaded with Faustian significance.

From their arrival on transfer deadline day, as the English summer drew to a close and the football season moved into September, the Hammers only managed three wins from 16, scoring only six goals. Pardew, who had faced calls for his dismissal even in the season that West Ham won promotion back to the Premiership, coming as it did via the back door of the play-offs, had seemingly triumphed over his naysayers after leading the club to ninth in their first season back in the top flight, as well as taking them to within seconds of a famous FA Cup success. But despite praise and support from legendary Hammers (notably Brooking and Peters, and recently Julian Dicks) there seemed an element of resistance to Pardew's acceptance among the West Ham faithful.

Known for their 'family values' as a club, the Hammers have only ever had ten managers in their 100 year history; although that number was as low as eight until the year 2001. Glenn Roeder and Pardew, the most recent two, have managed to seem somehow like outsiders. Roeder had been promoted from within, but had never played for the club, while Pardew was recruited from Reading, also having not been an Iron as a player. Prior to them, the last West Ham manager not to have played at Upton Park was Lou Macari, whose one year spell in charge from '89 to '90 must count as the most inauspicious in the club's history. Before that, Ron Greenwood joined after spending most of his playing career at Brentford, Chelsea and Fulham - but his unprecedented success won over any doubters there may have been.

The point is - and having had many conversations with my old man, who is ardently claret and blue, about this, I feel qualified to discuss - Hammers supporters warm to their own; and have difficulty ever loving those they've fostered. With another Alan, the reliable Mr. Curbishly, firm favourite to be installed by new head honcho, Eggert Magnusson the biscuit tycoon, I hope that another long and fruitful partnership will ensue. Curbishley played for the club in the mid to late seventies, and after fifteen years managing Charlton it's clear that he's anything if not durable.

But the feeling still lingers that Pardew could have scooped the team out of their rut, and probably would have eventually. We are destined not to know - and Pardew left to rue the heightened expectations born out of a wonderfully successful 2005-06, and the arrival of two South Americans whose presence coincided with West Ham's pretty bubbles bursting; for now at least.


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