Hammers on a collision course to crisis
There's nothing like a preseason crisis to liven things up in the summer heat, and West Ham have easily managed to drag the malaise from the last campaign firmly into the new one with a series of jaw-dropping gaffes that have had the unofficial web sites buzzing with anger and the sports page editors rubbing their hands in anticipation, sensing an early casualty in the unofficial Premier League sack race.
Following the strange conclusion to the 2013-14 season that saw Sam Allardyce being told in an unconvincing fashion that his services would be retained, but he must bring more entertaining football to Upton Park, things initially seemed to be going quite well. The Hammers moved quickly in the transfer market to snap up striker Mauro Zarate and followed this by strengthening the side in all the places where it previously looked weak.
The squad now looked more balanced and less reliant on individuals in specific positions, and a good preseason was expected.
Then came a series of lacklustre performances in the warm-up matches, culminating in two poor defeats in the tour of New Zealand where the team not only played badly but also looked unsure of what they were trying to do.
With Allardyce deflecting criticism, stating that it would take time to embed the new way of playing, the usual knee-jerk reaction from fans was swiftly followed by a shifting of the spotlight to the online exploits of the joint-owner.
David Gold has always taken pride in his ability to keep in touch with the fans through his Twitter account, but news that an ankle injury to Andy Carroll would keep him out until December prompted the chairman to state that he regretted signing the Geordie and wished the club hadn't put "all its eggs in one basket".
Bemoaning the signing of Carroll in a tweet that was sure to be seized on by fans and media alike is an appalling error of judgement; obviously the 15 million pound outlay on Carroll hasn't worked out so far -- perhaps it never will -- but if the history of West Ham is to become a series of analysing past mistakes then why stop there?
What about the Icelandic takeover? The sacking of Harry Redknapp and Glenn Roeder's appointment? Hey, what about swapping Martin Peters for Jimmy Greaves?
Carroll's injury is a hard and jagged pill to swallow, sure, but the West Ham players have always been beset by injury. Perhaps it might be better to look at the training methods or coaching facilities -- something the Board would be in a better position to involve themselves in -- particularly as the facilities at the Chadwell Heath ground have been long criticised by previous managers and players alike.
Barring that, get an exorcist. Whatever, Carroll is only one year through a 5-year contract, and this undermines not just the player but also the decision-making at the very top.
Tension was then heightened further when Allardyce indicated that Ravel Morrison didn't have a long-term future at the club; with the Board openly announcing that they were keen to offer Morrison a new deal once he recovered from his groin operation, it seemed yet again that Gold and Sullivan were at odds with Allardyce.
However, the manager then appeared to contradict himself, insisting the issue was merely financial.
Then came the awful clanger where Gold apparently "favorited" a remark from a fan on Twitter asking a derogatory question about Allardyce's future.
Apart from being highly unprofessional, it's difficult to imagine what can possibly be gained by this sniping, which is as petulant and tasteless as it is unwarranted.
The remit is quite simple: As owners of the club, the board should appoint the manager they want in charge and let him manage. If they feel the football isn't of the standard they require, or the man in charge is squandering the transfer budget or releasing players the club should keep then the options are obvious.
If the board are unhappy about things then they should be discussed behind closed doors at the Boleyn, not conducting them from 11,000 miles away or over the vastness of cyberspace.
The question is: Where do things go from here?
With the confirmation that Enner Valencia has officially signed , following the granting of a work permit, and Allardyce also hoping to take Carl Jenkinson from Arsenal together with strong rumours that another striker will be signed to cover Carroll's long lay-off, it still seems as if Big Sam is moulding the squad with a long-term view.
Perhaps some of the issues could be ironed out face-to-face, because the possibility of a preseason sacking in August will just turn the club into a laughing stock.
Nevertheless, the bookies hoping for a killing in the sack race may find the ground cut underneath their feet; with Allardyce being undermined and dictated too, there's a real possibility that he may decide he's had enough and walk before being pushed. Many fans would not be sorry about that, but with just two weeks before the season starts, it would cause a major upheaval.
Hopefully, some common sense can be found amongst the protagonist's and some form found on the pitch. This really is one drama that West Ham don't want to see develop into a crisis.
Peter Thorne, aka Billy Blagg (@BillyBlaggEsq), is the author of a regular column at WestHamOnline.net and the East London Guardian.