It is very rare in the life of a football fan that you look at an early March fixture and say to yourself “This game will define the very life of my football club”. But such a fate befalls West Ham’s loyal following going into the game at home to Spurs this Weekend.
Usually a London derby like this is a time for fire and animosity for the Hammers. This time round, though, only the brave and the foolhardy will harbour optimism; Upton Park will be filled with gloom.
Spurs, fresh from drubbing a Bolton side that do not often get drubbed will show no mercy to their neighbours on Sunday, and every West Ham supporter in the land is painfully aware that one more home defeat could mean almost certain relegation for their team.
It is becoming football’s biggest cliché to point out the fact that only a few months ago, they came to within minutes of winning the FA Cup but now they have been brought so low. News reports on reported dressing room rifts and on-the-pitch brawls are becoming tiresome. That something is seriously wrong at West Ham is no longer a deduction, it is a simple fact.
Which is why, if you are really a fan of this football club, you should hope the side loses on Sunday, and that that horror of relegation becomes a reality.
The takeover, the switch of managers, the false dawn of beating Man United, all of this is becoming a collage of errors and pain too much for the usually cheery Hammers fans to bear.
Despite the apparent riches of their new owners, financially, the drop would be crippling. The board took a massive gamble in letting Curbishley spend big in the transfer window, and the inflated wage bill are going to mean that the club will be forced into a massive fire sale at the end of the season, involving not only the prize assets of the club — Ashton, Reo-Coker and Benayoun, but the newer acquisitions too.
But on and off the pitch, the players have been an embarrassment. Never has it been more apparent that a major squad cull is desperately needed at West Ham.
Money is a major issue, too. If the Hammers do not take quick control of their finances now, they could end up following Leeds into the kind of financial quagmire that may see them drop into the abyss in May.
The rot had started long before January, it is clear now, but the transfers of the likes of Lucas Niell and Luis Boa Morte have all but sealed their fate. Something was seriously wrong with these buys. Despite both being competitive, fierce even, both gave up the captaincy at their respective clubs, where they were loved and respected by their fans, to join a club further down the table than them. Niell even rejected the advances of Liverpool, his supposed “dream club”, in favour of a bigger pay day. Is this really the kind of player West Ham fans want to see in the claret and blue?
West Ham need to wipe the slate clean, to get rid of all the negatives and start again.
Curbishley did a great job rebuilding Charlton. If the board and the fans have the kind of patience they will require to unite behind Curbs and give him the time and support he needs, he will bring the Hammers back up from the Championship a happier, stronger unit.
Right now, the message could not be clearer: accept defeat and start planning for the future straight away. Knee-jerk managerial sackings and more of the ugly in-fighting we have seen this season could spell oblivion for West Ham United FC.