What a week this has been for West Ham, and not really for the right reasons. Last weekend we faced Kidderminster at the Aggborough Stadium in the FA Cup Fourth Round – a game that should have been relatively comfortable given the fact that we are one of the top sides in the Premier League, and they are one of the top sides in the Vanarama National League North which is effectively the sixth tier in England.
But in typical West Ham fashion in the FA Cup where there have been far too many occasions when we have been eliminated from the competition by teams from a lower division we contrived to make hard work of progression to Round Five coming within a couple of minutes from going out, and then within seconds of facing a penalty shootout at the end of extra time. That is exactly why we were prime candidates for a TV slot and didn’t the pundits enjoy watching us squirm? Their disappointment at our equaliser was so noticeable. How they would have loved the upset to have actually happened.
The fact that it didn’t was almost entirely down to one player. Declan Rice. If ever there was a one man performance in a game of football then he provided it in this one, both inspiring the team forward in the second half, and then scoring the last gasp equaliser himself. Where would we be without him? The fringe players that had performed so admirably in the European games and in the League Cup just didn’t perform in this game. And quite how Yarmolenko was still on the pitch after we had made five substitutions is beyond me!
But somehow we scraped through and face an away tie at Southampton in Round Five in one of only two ties that will be contested by two teams from the top tier. Most of the Premier League teams face a game against a team from a lower division and Liverpool are at home to Norwich so we definitely have one of the tougher tasks to progress to the Quarter-Finals. I suppose it could have been worse; we could have faced an away trip to Boreham Wood!
The dust had barely settled on our fortunate cup victory and before our Tuesday night game at home to lowly Watford when we were not only headlines on the back pages but on the front pages too. Kurt Zouma hit the headlines by mistreatment of one of his cats. Three things totally baffled me about this. Firstly, the fact that anyone could treat an animal in such a horrible way, secondly that his brother decided to video it happening, and then perhaps even more incredibly decided to post it on social media!
I was surprised that David Moyes selected him for the Watford game but he did, and as a result our centre back was jeered throughout the game, not only by the away fans but by many of the home supporters too. It was another poor game but we picked up the three points thanks to Jarrod Bowen’s deflected strike to move us back into the top four. The teams below can overhaul us with success in their games in hand but we have the points in the bag and march on despite not playing well – the sign of a good team as Joe Cole said.
One of the things that struck me about the week’s events was reading the varied opinions of West Ham fans who write on social media. Regarding the Kidderminster game I read calls for Moyes to be sacked, much criticism of the players and the performance, and others who hated the fact that some fans were critical and suggested that they weren’t true fans if they dared to criticise in any way. Fans were turning on each other, sometimes in an abusive manner using obscene language. Why can’t people accept that there are varying opinions and everyone is entitled to air theirs without resorting to some of the abuse that I read?
The same is true of “Zoumagate”. There are varying opinions as to how this should move forward from leaving it as it stands regarding the £250,000 fine that has been donated to animal charities, to sacking him. There are fans who, whilst not condoning Zouma’s actions, just want to move on and others who claim they will no longer watch the team while Zouma remains at the club.
I noted that we have lost a couple of club sponsors as a result of this, one of which is Experience Kissimmee. I also read Martin Samuel’s column in the Daily Mail where he wrote that they (Experience Kissimmee) continue to promote tickets for Sea World on their website, despite what would appear to be some allegedly awful treatment of animals by them (Sea World). But they are making a big deal of the Zouma cat affair. I guess that is their prerogative. I also assume that there could be further sponsor ramifications going forward depending on how it moves forward and is handled from here?
Most of us are horrified by the whole thing, but should someone’s career be ended by it? That is totally different I think, although some believe that all misdeeds, transgressions, misdemeanours, or crimes (call it as you see it) should result in the sack. We haven’t heard the last of this and however it resolves in the coming weeks, Kurt Zouma will forever be remembered and tainted by his actions, as will his brother for his amazing decision to broadcast it to the world.
Another headline to come out of all this is the reporting of an alleged mutiny by the West Ham players, who despite providing some support to Zouma believing that the public backlash is over the top, were seemingly unaware of his £125,000 per week wages. Apparently they are dissatisfied that he is the top earner at the club (just exceeding Yarmolenko), and they are ready to confront the club over this. I find the reporting of an upcoming mutiny hard to believe but the media seem to enjoy kicking players or clubs who are down, and this would appear to be another example?
So that was the week that was. For anyone of my age or older you might remember a late-night Saturday TV programme – That Was The Week That Was. The programme was a significant element of the satire boom in the UK in the early 1960s (it ran for a couple of years, 1962/3), breaking ground in comedy by lampooning political figures. Millicent Martin sang the theme which went “That Was The Week That Was, It’s Over Let It Go”.
But I suspect we haven’t heard the last of this week’s headlines, and that there are people who will not let it go. Quite how it affects our season moving forward remains to be seen. And by the way, as an interruption to all this we are playing football at Leicester on Sunday in the TV game that kicks off at 4.30.