Early Doors

‘Wet Sham’ deserve drop

Early Doors

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West Ham's season was encapsulated perfectly within 90 minutes on a frantic penultimate day of the Premier League season.

The struggling Hammers were up to their old trick of looking like a proper football team in the first half at Wigan, racing into a two-goal lead at half-time which made it tempting to believe that they could drag themselves out this mess after all.

Then came the inevitable capitulation. Playground defending, a Robert Green error which marred an otherwise good performance and a Carlton Cole miss from close range which almost defied physics led to a 3-2 defeat at the DW Stadium which saw them relegated and gave the Latics a fighting chance of staying up on the final day.

Cue agonising close-ups of tearful travelling fans, no doubt helped out by the plane which flew over the ground with the goading banner "Avram Grant - Millwall legend".

West Ham's owners wasted no time in sacking manager Avram Grant, with vice-chairman Karren Brady begging the use of a room at the ground from Wigan owner Dave Whelan in which to hand the Israeli his P45.

Well, in truth they wasted five months, having pulled out of canning the Israeli back in January after defeat at home to Arsenal. It was like the ever dramatic pause at the climax of an episode of The Apprentice: "Avram... (cue 120 days of tense music as the camera flits from Grant to David Sullivan to Grant to Brady to Grant to David Gold before bearded club co-owner extends a terminal index finger)... you're fired!"

Grant may have now led two teams into the Championship in successive seasons - with the Hammers now certain to match Portsmouth's feat of last year by finishing bottom - but he will probably be fine. With his connections in the game, someone will give him a job. If your club does not currently have a director of football, be afraid.

But what of West Ham as they prepare for a return to the second tier after six years? They may have chosen to lose their manager, but they are set to lose several players too.

Football Writers' Footballer of the Year Scott Parker may have been praised for bleeding claret-and-blue this season, but he will surely not stick around for life in the Championship after finally breaking into the England team. Thomas Hitzlsperger began the season captaining Germany, while Demba Ba could turn a tidy profit for the Hammers after impressing since they bought him in January.

Loan trio Robbie Keane, Wayne Bridge and Victor Obinna will all return to their parent clubs, although that may be more cause for relief than consternation among West Ham fans. The same could be said for Matthew Upson and Kieron Dyer seeing their contracts expire this summer.

Before an influx of players is seen at Upton Park, a new boss is needed. Martin O'Neill would be first choice but, after the bungled attempt to replace Grant with him in January, can he now be convinced to step down a division to work under meddling owners such as Gold and Sullivan? Not so long ago, O'Neill was aiming for Champions League qualification with Aston Villa, but he quit due to the perceived interference of the club's hierarchy. How long could he handle working at West Ham, with their owners' penchant for outspoken statements and involvement in transfers?

Chris Hughton, Sam Allardyce, Steve McClaren and even Paolo di Canio have all been touted as possible replacements. Could there be any appointment as diametrically opposed to the downbeat, doom-laden Grant as the fiery Italian Di Canio? Sign him up and maybe even Early Doors would buy a season ticket.

Ah yes, tickets. The spectre hovering over all of this is West Ham's planned move into the Olympic Stadium after the 2012 Games. The Hammers now have to win promotion back to the top flight at the first attempt - something they have not done on either of the last two occasions they have gone down - otherwise they will be moving into their new ground as a Championship club, not ideal conditions in which to find the £90 million or so needed upon arrival to complete its conversion into a football ground. It will be hard enough to persuade the club's long-suffering fans to make the move into the cavernous new arena, let alone attract new supporters to take up seats so far from the pitch they will be in a different time zone.

Golden boy Parker aside, no one comes out of this affair with any credit. Grant has managed to maintain a dignified demeanour throughout, although that is hardly any consolation for doing a poor job. No other player apart from the captain can look back on this campaign with any pride. And as for the club's owners, they will struggle to find a decent manager who will work for them, quality players who will play for them or new supporters who will support them.

Relegation has placed the club in deep trouble, and they have no one to blame but themselves. This season they have lived up to the nickname used to describe them by fans of local rival teams - they have been a Wet Sham.

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Away from the relegation thriller at Wigan, there was plenty going on in an action-packed weekend.

Manchester United had already been lavished with superlatives before they secured the title at Blackburn, but suffice to say that winning their record 19th league crown (and 12th under Alex Ferguson) is an exceptional milestone. The point needed at Ewood Park may have been secured in a thoroughly neutral final five minutes reminiscent of Germany v Austria in the 1982 World Cup - the scoreline was good for both sides, so they both simply ran down the clock - but it shouldn't detract from the achievement.

Neighbours Manchester City followed up their qualification for the Champions League with victory in the FA Cup final and, thanks to Arsenal's limp defeat at home to Aston Villa, can move third if they beat Stoke for the second time in four days on Tuesday.

Tottenham ended their 18-year wait for a league win at Anfield by beating the Reds 2-0 and moving above them into fifth place, while at the other end of the table five clubs will be battling to avoid joining West Ham in the second tier on the final day of the season.

With 11 games left to play, Opta tell us that this season has seen a monster average of 2.79 goals per game, equal with the record scoring rate set in the 1999/2000 campaign. Further proof that while this season may not have been the highest on quality, it has certainly delivered in terms of thrills, and we still have one final chapter to relish.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "My family, my kids are a long distance away from Manchester and if there is an option to go then it will be something to do with my family and children. It would be a personal decision rather than a professional one... It is not only distance that matters." - Carlos Tevez insists he is still considering a move away from Manchester City in order to be closer to his family back in Argentina. A move to Spain it is, then.

FOREIGN VIEW: "The run I am on is good, not for me but for the team, because scoring so many goals is very good for everyone. I am pleased on a personal level, although not completely because we wanted to win the league and the Champions League." - Another weekend, another scoring record for Cristiano Ronaldo, this time equalling the Spanish top-flight mark for goals scored in a season when his brace in Real Madrid's 3-1 win at Villarreal took his tally to 38 in 33 matches. 

COMING UP: Watch all the goals from the weekend's Premier League action right here, right now, as well as our round-ups of the top goals of the week and best five saves.

Paul Parker will be giving his verdict on a momentous weekend's action in his latest blog, there is the latest instalment of our new European column Pitchside, while later on there is live coverage of the Championship play-off semi-final second leg between Swansea City and Nottingham Forest (19:45)

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