Harry Sherlock of goal.com felt the hairs rise on his neck and his skin prick as the Hammers beat Manchester City yesterday and writes: “There are few clubs that can evoke such feelings of emotion. Mr Moore would have smiled at a performance of such class on Saturday.
West Ham are in the top four. Long may it continue. God knows they deserve it.”
There is a hint of romance to West Ham. Everything about the club reeks of class, of a rose-tinted desire to emulate past glories. There are few clubs who can evoke such feelings of emotion. Walking into Upton Park today, there was a feeling that something truly special was in the air.
The fans filtered in slowly, almost as if they were savouring the atmosphere before a performance to match the passion in the stands. It was akin to the devoted hordes heading into a Beatles concert; they knew what was coming.
That it came as it did shocked many in the press box – being sat next to a Manchester City fan, maybe I felt that more than most – but West Ham were good value for their 2-1 win over the Premier League champions.
They bettered them in every department. From the first whistle every tackle was greeted with a roar, a roar to prick the skin, a roar to raise the hairs on the back of the neck.
When Morgan Amalfitano turned home Enner Valencia’s cross it felt like Upton Park was going to lift off. When Diafra Sakho scored, the press box physically shook such was the elation in the stands. Grown men were hugging one another, seeing but not quite yet believing.
David Silva did his best to spoil the occasion – scoring an absolutely superb goal for City just two minutes after Sakho’s effort hit the back of the net – but this was West Ham’s day.
Sam Allardyce was effusive in his praise of his team later on, saying “every man played his best today.” And some.
Alex Song was magnificent in midfield, recapturing his form at Arsenal that earned him a move to Barcelona, a penny for Arsene Wenger’s thoughts on his display.
Song covered every blade of grass, snapping into tackles, winning the ball back, keeping his side ticking over, even doing his best Erik Lamela impression with a stunning rabona in the second half.
It was a captain’s performance. He drove his team to be better and dominated proceedings. While Yaya Toure was languid and wasteful, Song was bursting with energy and rarely saw a pass go astray.
Valencia, too, proved his worth. It is all very well terrorizing Burnley’s defence, but he gave Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala the runaround and deserved to get on the scoresheet himself.
There are few strikers in the Premier League who work as hard as the Ecuadorian and at £13 million he looks a snip. Serenaded by chants of ‘Enner Valencia! Enner Valencia!’ throughout, he responded with a wave to the fans as he was substituted in the second half. That only ratcheted the noise levels up further.
Diafra Sakho, though, is the man who is fast becoming a Hammers legend. Already he has written his name into folklore – scoring in six consecutive starts, and doing so in style.
None of his goals have been easy and today was no different. Aaron Cresswell – surely a future England international if Roy Hodgson ever realises that the Hammers are actually a Premier League club – whipped a dangerous cross in from the left, and Sakho was on the end of it to power a bullet header past Joe Hart.
For a striker without electric pace, he has had to develop his football intelligence and his movement is so clever he is almost impossible to man-mark. He picked up a late knock in a clash with Hart and Allardyce later acknowledged that he can ill-afford to lose his top scorer. Even if he does, Mauro Zarate is waiting in the wings, with Andy Carroll to come back soon.
It is a squad game, of course, and West Ham’s looks the strongest it has been for years.
The primal cry that met the final whistle spoke volumes: this is a West Ham team going places and this win signified their progress.
This is a club that thrives on legends, that prides itself on making – rather than purchasing – stars. Looking down from above, Mr Moore would have smiled at a performance of such class on Saturday.
West Ham are in the top four. Long may it continue. God knows they deserve it.