Ecstatic, euphoric, thrilled, over the moon, elated, delighted, on cloud nine, walking on air, in seventh heaven jubilant, rapturous, as pleased as Punch, cock-a-hoop, as happy as a sandboy, as happy as Larry (who was Larry?), like a child with a new toy, overjoyed.
In my preview to the Tottenham game last Friday I included a quote from the legendary footballer, perhaps the best player of all time, Pele. The quote is repeated above. I also gave a range of emotions that we would have if we pulled off a most unlikely result, and these too are repeated above. As we walked away on from the stadium on a chilly May evening, all West Ham fans could relate to these. Any victory against our most disliked neighbours is always something to savour, but as we all didn’t realistically expect a victory in this particular game, then the result is even sweeter.
Considering the season we’ve had, and Tottenham’s form coming into the game, then logically there was no way that we should have been able to live with them. But every West Ham player on the pitch, and you have to take into account that we had a number of first choice players unavailable, as well as the management team who constructed a game plan and strategy that hasn’t been seen almost all season, must take huge credit for what we witnessed.
The fans were really up for it, Bubbles was sung with a vigour and volume that reached new heights in the London Stadium, and the atmosphere was electric from the start. And with the players responding to the support from the outset, the noise generated by the supporters never wavered throughout the match. To me it just goes to prove that all the rubbish talked about the pitch size, the stadium, and the plethora of other excuses put forward for our indifferent form this season is absolute garbage. If our players show that level of commitment, and follow the game plan set out for them, then the results will come.
Yes, we do need some additional quality recruits to improve the team and the squad as a whole, but performances like that would have seen us higher in the table, and closer to the top teams, even if we are not yet in a position to make a real impression on them. For me, this game was up there with the final fixture at Upton Park against Manchester United in terms of excitement and tension, and I walked back to Stratford station unable to match the noise of my fellow supporters as I had completely lost my voice, and when I tried to speak nothing came out.
For the third game in a row since his recall Adrian remained unbeaten, and showed a determination not to let the ball enter our goal, especially with some important early saves, and was in the form that forced his international manager bring him into the Spanish squad in the past. But the clean sheet wasn’t entirely down to him, as the whole team defended with a passion that has been missed. Fonte and Collins were magnificent alongside the imperious Reid, and all three had games to remember. Cresswell looked more like his old self and played his best game of the season, and Byram showed all the qualities of a right back in both defence and when overlapping.
Noble, with undoubtedly his best game all season, and Kouyate bossed the midfield against their illustrious opponents in this area of the pitch. Ayew began to live up to his price tag, and the (once again) superb Lanzini, showed why the forgotten Frenchman is consigned to the very depths of our memories. And I finally “got” Calleri, and can understand why the manager rates him so highly. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would see 55,000 fans rise to their feet and applaud so enthusiastically when he was brought off exhausted near to the end. He really deserved a goal with his performance, and almost did score, but for a fine save from Lloris, after he had done everything right to create the chance. Even the brief cameos from Snodgrass, Fletcher and Fernandes were important contributions to ensure that we kept the lead.
All fourteen players made a strong case for their retention in the squad next season, and if you add Ogbonna, Obiang, Antonio and the ever improving Masuaku to these, in addition to the alleged (but unseen) quality of some of our youngsters (such as Oxford, Burke, Rice, Quina, Browne, Cullen, Martinez, and others) then that would form the nucleus of a squad that can improve on this season. But, and it’s a big but, they all need to show the same level of commitment and performance that we saw on Friday night. Even the very top teams don’t perform at the highest level week in and week out, but they do show greater consistency than we have managed this season.
In many ways I like Carroll, but his injury record, and the improved way the team play without him in the side, leaves doubts in my mind. And whilst Sakho is a Premier League quality player, there just seem to be too many questions about him.
So what do we need? Randolph is a good shot stopper but cannot command his area, and a high quality goalkeeper to challenge Adrian wouldn’t come amiss. We are short in the right back department, and have been for a long time, and a quality playmaker such as Sigurdsson would be a great addition. But for me, I would love to see two high quality goalscorers added to the squad, although our recruitment in this area fell well short last summer. A lot of people feel that Defoe would be a retrograde step, but personally I feel he could fulfil the role for a couple of seasons as he is still very fit, knows where the goal is, and is a proven goalscorer. It seems churlish to look at any negatives from the Tottenham game, but I would just love it if we could shoot on target, and at least force the opposition keeper into making saves. All season, far too many shots have been wildly off target, and this game was the same.
I purposely waited for a couple of days before writing my review of the game as I was on such a high on Friday evening. But I must confess that the smile hasn’t left my face yet, and although my voice has returned I am still croaky. I want to come away from a game after more performances of this calibre next season.