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May 13, 2014

End of season report: West Ham

The hearts of many will sink when they recall that old-school report that read: "Could do better," but that epithet applies to West Ham United this season. People talk about pushing on, and that was the expectation in 2013-14. Most will say there has been a good deal of marching on the spot while others may claim the team has staggered back. The truth is that midtable is an acceptable position when you consider the club’s bank balance and the way the Premier League is financially structured.

Star pupil

Mark Noble was voted “Hammer of the Year” at the annual awards ceremony and it is testament to the type of season the club have had.  The accolade went to a favourite son of the club; someone who has shone at times and been not found wanting at others. He’s had a solid season with some highlights but hasn’t always been outstanding; this is a reward for years of selfless service to the cause. James Tomkins was the only other outstanding individual performer -- another local favourite showing that the best players are often those right underneath your nose -- something Sam Allardyce would do well to heed.

Detention

If West Ham were a school there would be a large number of surly looking players all standing outside the Headmaster’s study kicking the walls, looking at each other and muttering under their breath: “It’s his fault we’ve got detention.”

Nobody has been truly awful but no one has performed at their peak, either. George McCartney just plods away doing what he does well and without fuss. Arguments within the Irons’ faithful still revolve around captain Kevin Nolan’s role, while it often seems that opposing supporters view the Liverpudlian as the danger man. West Ham are a confused club at the moment.

Teacher’s notes

Ah, Allardyce. Where do you begin, eh? Love him or hate him, he just keeps doing what he always does. Obdurate at best and plain ornery at worst, if you look up in the dictionary for bluff Northerner then Sam surely has his picture there.

He plays the percentages and will never chase a cause if he feels it’s lost but putting out a youth team to get slaughtered at Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup -- a season low -- was a major error and one no West Ham fan ever wants to see again. He needs to meet the supporters some way, though, and a bit of flair and pace for next season, allied to the manager’s undoubted prowess at the art of defending, will surely turn any ill feeling around.

Final grade: C

West Ham’s final league placing leaves the club in almost exactly the same situation as last year and fans will expect some large investment to the squad to improve performance -- particularly in the entertainment department -- to push the Hammers into a comfortable top ten place as they go into their penultimate season at Upton Park. Even those outside the club could tell what is needed at next season and that is some flair and pace to make the team less one-dimensional.

Grading an injury-hit, frustrating, inconsistent but ultimately mid-table season isn’t easy but if the grades are the same as when I went to school -- usually from A to F(ail) -- then what can be given other than a midtable C-plus (Spurs results, semifinal cup run, good amount of clean sheets) or C-minus (Crystal Palace results, FA Cup third round, the month of January and poor entertainment).

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