By Colin Cooke
Everybody loves a good underdog and the Irons have been giving football fans every reason to cheer them on lately.
The start to 2021 literally couldn’t have gone better for the team and left some wondering what the secret is behind this strong campaign. Here we explore some of the possible forces driving the Hammers in their success this season.
Academy players come good
While all the news has been of the loan deal for Jesse Lingard to join the hammers for a spell, the real strength has come from the youth set up at the Hammers.
Lingard will offer some star power and speed, but any manager of note knows that home grown talent is where strength and depth can be found.
For the six victories at the start of the year, David Moyes named seven academy graduates amongst the 23 selected to play.
They included the likes of Declan Rice, Nathan Trott, Ben Johnson, Oladapo Afolayan, Mipo Odubekp and Jamal Batiste.
There is nothing better as a fan of a club to see one of your own prosper in the first team. Not only does it bring some home pride but promises much for the future.
Moyes has settled in
All too often managers are given too little time to build the ethos needed for success. Moyes is now in the heady situation of having won more games than he has lost with the club, taking the Scottish manager ahead of Allardyce, Pellegrini and Redknapp in his win percentage.
West Ham are used to being patient to get the wins and this patience is now paying dividends. Given the faith to show his full leadership potential, Moyes could easily build a platform for better things in the future.
It could become a habit for the Hammers to prosper in the Premier League, rather than constantly fight against relegation.
Chasing records for all time
There is nothing more motivating than keeping a winning run going. It is even more precious when you could earn the most points in a month for the club ever. Imagine what it would feel like in the West Ham dressing room if they could boost that running record.
The Hammers have not won six in a row since 2012 and that was when they were fighting for promotion . To do the same in the EPL is an obvious step up in class and form for the club.
The last time they did the same in the top flight was before the existence of the EPL. When it was the first division, they managed to beat Everton, Oxford United, Watford, Coventry City, West Bromwich Albion, QPR and Birmingham City – finishing third in the season.
If this is an omen for the season then there will be a lot of happy folk in London this year.
Yet, it is likely that the Hammers are really looking for a top half of the table finish this year and a decent run in the cup. If they can sustain a positive record, then it gives Moyes and the squad something powerful to build on in the 21 – 22 season.
Nothing is more powerful than momentum… other than a few hundred million injection of cash, if you ask a Man City fan.
It is the squad
We can wax lyrical about the manager and about records from the past, but the obvious driver for the success of West Ham is the teamwork – or squad work considering the need for strength and depth from the bench.
The goals for the team in the wins early in 2021 have come from seven different players. The assists for these goals also came from seven different players – and not even the same seven as scored the goals.
Think about that for a moment – two thirds of the outfield players are goal scorers – and more than this have been instrumental in the scoring of a goal.
However, it is not just the goal scoring that is so impressive. West Ham started the year with four clean sheets and conceded only 3 goals. In the pursuit of this impressive result, Moyes has selected three different goalkeepers and nine different defenders.
The point? Well, if the early success in 2021 was down to one or two players and a bit of luck, you wouldn’t be too excited. However, as it is a whole team contribution, with no weak links, it shows a squad capable of doing even more.
Fans can feel assured that there is cohesion in the ranks and Moyes has the squad purring like a supercar.
The top clubs in the EPL rely on big names to change a game when it is going against them. It is true that Jesse Lingard could bring this ingredient to the Hammers. However, in reality, the success at teams in the lower echelons of the EPL is down to a whole group effort.
The boardroom needs to be patient and give the manager time. The manager needs the talent and skill to develop a vision of play that the team can buy into. The squad must then work as a unit to deliver the results.
While we love an underdog and might feel the Hammers are worth a punt for a top four place, it is likely that they will be pleased with comfortable survival. The EPL is a tough environment to play your football and 15 of the 20 teams are scrapping for their life week in week out.