By Robert McHugh @mchughr @TLE_Sport
Don’t say it too loudly, but there is a revolution going on in East London, which is vociferously supported by Russell Brand. No, I’m not talking about overthrowing the capitalist elite and not voting, I’m talking about the footballing revolution going on at Upton Park.
West Ham United now sit third in the Barclays Premier League, and are well placed for qualification to the Europa League, if not the Champions League (unlikely I admit). This appears to be a season where major changes to the accepted footballing hierarchy are possible, and although Southampton have been the focus of most of the attention so far, I believe it is West Ham who are the best placed to establish themselves near the top of the new footballing order.
The most obvious reason for this prediction is the upturn in West Ham’s fortunes on the pitch this season. Sam Allardyce has got the team playing exciting, attacking football, based on a solid defence and a creative midfield. West Ham also appear to have recruited well in attack- which has been a problem for the Hammers for several years and their over-reliance on the fairly unreliable Carlton Cole finally appears to have been left behind. The return to form of Andy Carroll could be huge for this team, as he provides a physical presence in attack which can create space for fellow attackers Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho.
Off the field, West Ham are well placed to take advantage of the new Financial Fair Play Rules using the huge boost in revenues that their move to the Olympic Stadium will provide in 2016. All of a sudden, West Ham could be a team who are playing in Europe, with a modern stadium with a vastly increased capacity, excellent transport links and huge marketing potential. If the club were to qualify for Europe, and marketed a season ticket creatively – one which includes Europa League group games for example – the club could realistically aim to sell 30,000 season tickets in their new stadium. If there is another Roman Abramovich or Sheikh Mansour looking for an English club, West Ham appear to be the most viable option for investment, and I’m certain that David Sullivan and David Gold would be willing to listen to offers.
The only immediate question for West Ham is the future of Sam Allardyce as manager, as his contract expires at the end of this year. This could be a definitive moment in the future of the club, as although Allardyce has taken the club to the brink of European qualification and appears to have improved the style of football which nearly saw him lose his job last year, he is a manager with limitations and does not have extensive experience of managing in Europe. The safe thing to do is to extend Allardyce’s contract, and this may also be the prudent thing to do given the improvements he has overseen this year. But a braver decision would be to allow Allardyce’s contract to expire and to try to get a real elite level manager. Jurgen Klopp has been mooted for the Arsenal job, but may be sold on the long term potential of West Ham given the fall in his stock at Dortmund this year.
This is a very exciting time to be a West Ham fan, and their journey in the coming years could yet falter. But if this club fulfils its potential I see no reason why West Ham would be unable to steal a march on Spurs – who will have to wait a few years at least for their big move – and regularly challenge Arsenal and Chelsea as London’s most successful club.