I was standing inside Upton Park on Monday afternoon watching a dire game of football which West Ham managed to win 1-0 over the Championship’s bottom side Coventry City; when I looked around and saw scenes that I thought would be irrelevant this season.
As Kevin Nolan headed home a deserved winner for the Hammers, there were nail-biting conversations circling around the ground, desperately trying to find out the scores from other Championship games. What a difference a year has made to the mentality of the everyday West Ham fan. The announcement that both Southampton and Middlesbrough had lost was met with just as bigger cheer as the one that met Nolan’s goal and that made me extremely worried.
It felt like it was the final game of the season and the club were depending on other teams’ results to sneak into the promotion places, but the fact that it is the beginning of January shocked me. It is now that the majority of Hammers fans have realised that not only are West Ham a Championship side but the fact that promotion is anything but guaranteed.
Sam Allardyce is desperately hoping to add numbers to his remarkably thin squad in January but the names linked with the club once again show what level the club is now on. The likes of Billy Sharp and Peter Whittingham are two of the top targets branded about in the media in the past few days, and they would probably get into the majority of Championship sides and as of this week, West Ham fans have realised they are no longer above that sort of signing. A modest attitude is now a must from everyone surrounding the clubs as they are no longer a big fish in a small pond.
A naivety that was lingering around before has been dismissed and the supporters are now set for a long, tough second half of season where the club will do everything it can to return to the top flight at the first attempt. On paper the East Enders have the best side in the division, but the opening few months of the season has shown anything but that and although the club moved back into the top two on Monday, they are a million miles from any Premier League quality.
This time last year West Ham secured the signing of Demba Ba, who as everyone knows has gone on to have a stunning 12 months and with the likes of Wayne Bridge and Robbie Keane also coming through the door last January, you can understand the underwhelming attitude towards the prospect of Doncaster’s Sharp’s possible arrival. But West Ham fans are a realistic bunch and Allardyce appears to have the full backing of both the board and the fans for the first time in a while to drag the club from the doom and gloom of waiting on Middelsborough’s results to the thrill of hosting Manchester United and Chelsea next year.