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West Ham’s thinking must change from bottom to top

In this highly articulate and deeply felt blog, lifelong Hammer Bobby Galbraith looks at the various issues that he believes bedevil this club and makes some inBilicuptelligent suggestions on how they can be cured.

By Bobby Galbraith

A post-mortem is the examination of a body after death. These are usually carried out with the aim of finding out what led to death and can help us understand what went wrong or how diseases spread.

I wouldn’t quite place West Ham’s dire performances of late in the same bracket as a corpse, but there is certainly good reason for worrying that our condition is getting serious.

Right now, the obvious treatment seems to be replacing the manager, Slaven Bilic. Only twice in my life have I felt a West Ham manager needed to be sacked mid-term; Avram Grant and Glenn Roeder. I’d argue those two had clearly masterminded us into an almost catatonic state, the likes of which we’re not in yet. For that reason, I’m not entirely ‘Slav Out’. I don’t believe he is a football manager incapable of delivering us a season toward the top end of what I feel we should be achieving.

It’s been said that we should be doing far better with the squad we have. I agree. But then I also look at our mid-90s teams, see names like Holmes, Moncur, Bishop and Morley and can’t understand why we never challenged for a title. The simple fact is: its very hard to judge the ability of a West Ham squad when you’re a West Ham fan. What you can do, however, is look at the league table, or many league tables, because they very rarely lie.

I’d argue that the evidence is pointing, looking at our recent history, to an institutional problem that reaches beyond the remit of the manager. How else could we explain the fact that over the last 10 years, under 5 different managers, our average Premier League position has been 12th.

In the last decade, excluding our one year in the Championship, our average season points haul has been 45.3. In this time, having played the same amount of PL seasons, Stoke City have bettered us on average points (47.1) and average position (11th). 

In the seasons since 2000 all of Ipswich, Newcastle, Blackburn, Villa, Spurs, Everton and Southampton (to name a few) have been able to achieve something we haven’t: a 6th place PL finish or higher. We are without a major trophy since 1980; both Swansea and Wigan therefore have a claim to being more successful than us in recent times. By any measure, we are underachieving and consistently so.

But I do accept that we are investing in the team at a level that should demand success. Signings like Chicharito and Arnautovic (who is reportedly out-earning Harry Kane), display ambition. We have a bigger stadium, we seemingly have the infrastructure to kick on in the Premier League; but it is not happening. At best we are standing still, at worst we seem to be regressing.

In this context, I don’t believe Slav is doing much better or worse than any manager in recent history. If you’re finishing 12th, you have a right to expect to be well beaten at home several times a year. 

Sacking the manager would be a short-termist move that would apportion blame to an office whose remit, since the start of this century, is seemingly unable to transcend the boundary of a finish higher than 7th.

Sir Dave Brailsford is a man whom I greatly admire. In transforming the fortunes of British Cycling, he looked not for a single avenue of change (as replacing a manager would surely represent), but to a holistic philosophy of marginal gains.

As he said himself, ”the whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together”.  

In thinking how best to fix West Ham, it’s this philosophy we must embrace. Chairmen aren’t a changeable variable in the way that players and managers are, and I genuinely believe ours are in this for the long haul. We can’t change the chairmen, but I do believe it is possible to change their thinking.

What is required is a period of serious self-reflection. It can’t be right that we hear reports of a lack of intensity in training. It can’t be right that our transfer window of summer 2016 proved so underwhelming. It can’t be right that we engaged in such a public spat with Sporting Lisbon. It can’t be right that our line-up is leaked the night before a game on Twitter. We need to collate these mistakes and understand how they are happening.

Upon joining Southampton in 2013, Mauricio Pochettino, one of the brightest managers to emerge in recent years, conducted a vigorous and holistic investigation into the football club; the result of which led to a number of changes that improved performances to new heights. These changes covered things as simple and transformative as giving each member of the team his own customised mattress; the club transporting these around the country and therefore ensuring every player got a consistent and comfortable sleep the night before an away game. This is the kind of root and branch analysis we need to undertake.

The first change needed is an acceptance that we have been underperforming for some time. From here we need hard-truths and more important than that, a willingness to both hear them, learn from them and fundamentally change our football club for the better.

We need someone from outside the current management team and board to come in, study everything about the way the club is being run, and feed back on where we’re going awry. We need cool, objective heads willing to listen to the diagnosis and treatment plan.

It need only be a short term appointment; a period of consultation with the end result of an objective analysis on the mistakes that have gotten us to where we are now. Then we can begin to make the change necessary to progress. Perhaps this self-reflection may even lead us to making better decisions about the managers we shortlist for the job should it become available.

As Sun Tzu postulates in the art of war, it is not enough to know the enemy; you have to know yourself.

We learnt an expensive lesson in our relegations of 2003 and 2011. We need to make sure we don’t have to learn those lessons again; as any doctor will tell you, prevention is better than cure.

The views expressed here are those of the blogger and are not necessarily shared by ClaretandHugh

About Hugh5outhon1895

Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!" Follow on Twitter @hughsouthon
 

19 comments on “West Ham’s thinking must change from bottom to top

  1. Damn why didn’t we think of that. Get them some new mattresses quick!!

  2. Well it looked like Carroll was wearing one in the first 60 minutes 😂😂

  3. This article hits the nail on the head – The drains up review was instigated by A NEW MANAGER’s arrival. Yes we need the same, but not by some £5k a day consultant who then disappears off into the horizon with no accountability for their recommendations. We need a new manager who is both willing and capable to deliver this, but then hangs around to see it through. So what are we waiting for?
    PS – A stable rather than a mattress in the example quoted Laz!

  4. Good article, I am not sure that employing an external person to put in procedures for the long term will have the dramatic gains you believe, the whole team has to buy into them and this includes the coaching staff, it is better to appoint a manager that already realises the marginal gain theory, an example of trying to do it the way you suggest could be the very same Southampton who appointed Clive Woodward another marginal gains advocate and the football side of the organisation refused to accept his proposals and it turned out disasterously even though it should have worked well. The other thing is that the manager or somebody has to measure how these marginal gains are progressing in every aspect of the club / playing staff, Slav has shown no indication that he is capable of that, every player is getting progressively worse i.e. marginally or maximally gaining on a downward trend rather than an upwards curve. If Slav was willing to wholeheartedly embrace marginal gains and roll it out across the whole organisation I am all in for it, it is what we need and would deliver huge improvements over an extended period and transform the club, personally I do not believe he can and I have been watching from the very start of his tenure whether we have been improving and there is not a single area other than creating chances that I have observed. We are less fit, we make less sprints, we cover less ground per player than (this season) any other team in the league, we make more errors to leading to goals, we have more players booked and sent off, we have more injuries than most clubs, we are less likely (since Payet) to do as we did last night and come from a losing position to win, we lose more games from winning positions than any other club (last season and this), the facts are damning to Slav, the biggest surprise is that our Chairmen run multiple businesses yet they don’t seem to link these things together and realise that the manager and or the coaching staff are the problem.

  5. Can you do a precis?

    I lost interest when he started talking about Holmes, Moncur, Bishop and Morley, some really bang-ordinary players IMHO.

    • I must admit I wouldn’t have put them among the all time greats to challenge for titles but the essence of the article I understood about using marginal gains to make incremental improvements leading in progression to a higher league position I got, to be honest the team with DiCanio, Cole, Carrick, Sinclair, Lampard, Defoe etc should have been a team challenging for the upper league positions but got relegated would have been a better example to me.

    • Well, if you choose to give up because you come across one comment you don’t share,, seems you have precised it for yourself

  6. Having read the article several times, i agree with all thats been said. Outside opinions regards changes are a must have item, and i would ask this, surely amongst the 50000 plus fans their are those who are in positions of knowledge regarding the club, who should get together look at the problems in every department and come to a conclusion, and put these to the board for them to digest. Should these not be considered , then outside professional persons should be invited to look at matters even further..

  7. Let’s look at it another way ! The board made a statement the other day promoting their experience in running football stadiums for 25 years !! Which sums up the problem we have lol!
    They haven’t a clue how to run a football team and the move to this pesh hole of a athletics track , which by the way could go into administration and leave us homeless ( did they see that one coming ??) Says an awful lot about the brand is bigger than the team !! These are not the people to move us forward IMO , it needs a team orientated ambitious owner who wants to take us to that imaginary next level !!! And spend whatever it takes to do so !!
    The games about money today , like it or not it ain’t going away neither ! So to start the ball rolling we need to get rid of the present mob and go on from there , last night was heaven but I’m not fooled one way or another that we’ve solved any problems in the team ! Not by a long shot !!!😉

    • Maybe they are just candidates from the apprentice in disguise ? Having said what I said earlier the marginal gains should actually come from the directors and be imposed across all aspects of the club and any encumbant or future manager should be contracted to comply with that, there are plenty of forward thinking managers out there and not the dinosaurs that are stuck in the dark ages, Allardyce for all his faults did take on several of these, as have Dyche/Pullis/Howe etc the trouble with allowing the manager autonomy in this region is they will tend to play to their strengths when it may be that they need plenty of improvement also, certainly Allardyce was completely clueless when it came to attacking football, well he had one clue, hit a long diagonal pass to the big fella and try and win the second ball, if that fails hit another long diagonal ball to the big fella and try and win the second ball.

    • You know what Laz if The Sun declares we are gonna be homeless then we aren’t. The contract signed included the clause that should the stadium change hands the current details stood. Written in tablets of stone my friend. Rather than parade the well know prejudices why not comment on the author of this piece’s view which brings to new ideas to the table.

      “Look at it a different way?” By parading the endless and increasingly irritating “sack the manager” and the board agenda????

      • ?? Does that just apply to me or the 99% of the other posters on here as well saying the same ?? Its my point of view , the piece written above will never happen at west ham as good as it sounds on paper it will never be implemented with the current board ??
        Would it !!! So yes bobby , good piece but it’ll never happen IMO , by the way I don’t read the sun lol? I heard it from my son , nothing is concrete in this world and contracts are made and broken , if the story is true and it is by all accounts, and the funding stops , what happens if it goes into administration ! ?? West ham have no control over anything
        That could happen in that scenario ! Bit like Chamberlain waving a piece of paper ? We know what came next !! This isn’t our ground its rented accommodation on a lease !!
        But I do get you’re drift about banging on about the board because I’m sick of the popular negativity regarding them and bilic ! But its out there and they have nobody to blame but themselves !!

        • That’s far better.I get that but despite the regular accusations we are up the board’s arses we ain’t. Just get fed up with the same moan mate. That and Bilic out is so tribalistic it does my head in sometimes. No intention to offend. Based on what I’ve heard from inside the club and from operators there’s no danger of us being homeless at all but the Sun merely stirs **** for its own sake

          • No offence taken basil 😂
            I think its doing everybody’s head in , and can’t see it relenting anytime soon !
            If you wanted to be a board turtle that’s you’re perogative mate and nobody has the right to criticize you or anybody else who side with them ! I know ive never accused C+H of it ! All we as posters have to do is agree or disagree ! Diologue and banter without the personal attacks lol , maybe Luke should feel the force and take that on board , as jimbo said there’s no need for the personal crap as in you lot !!! But as I’m being a bit of a Hippocratic poster 😂
            I can’t help myself with the board , I just do not like them !!! 😎
            Just keep on doing what you’re doing basil !!!
            Tin hat ? I hope he starts sakho on Saturday and rests ayew and Carroll and pairs him with the pea 😉

  8. very interesting read,
    Not sure the owners would ever entertain an outsider telling them what to say

  9. Hugh, Bobby takes a story where, upon the appointment of a NEW MANAGER, a drains up review was undertaken and marginal gains investigated in order to deliver consistent benefits. Bobby then makes his point that he’d like someone brought in from outside to undertake a similar exercise at West Ham. Fair enough, and I respect his view, but you can’t bat away the fact that this article is based upon the actions of a NEW MANAGER who was then directly accountable for his actions.
    Many of us who’ve read this article agree with it, but not
    Bobbys recommendation to bring in an unaccountable consultant to undertake it. And then to force recommendations onto the current manager. We’d rather see someone appointed whose ethos is to do just this as part of their job, who will remain and personally see it delivered.
    So we are all verimently agreeing on WHAT needs to happen, just not on HOW. For me, this worked at Southampton because the person who instigated the review subsequently delivered it because he believed in it, (and because he is an excellent manager). It doesn’t always work as well when you are forced to deliver someone else’s ethos. If Slav believes in such a marginal gain theory, what’s he done to implement it in the last two years after all?

  10. Nice article about fans like you lot in The Guardian from Liam Rosenior.Fifa computer game managers who think they know it all..

    https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/oct/26/bilic-abuse-fans-questioning-desire-football-manager-liam-rosenior

  11. Luke, if you believe Bilic is doing a good job and we should stick with him then you’re entitled to your opinion mate and I respect that. I believe the side we had out against Brighton should have won, and didn’t because it lacked organisation, desire and commitment, and that’s why we lost three zip at home to an inferior set of individuals but a far superior team on the night. So yes, I believe we should change our manager as it will improve us and increase our chances of realising our potential. Because you don’t, you describe us “you lot” without acknowledging we have the right to state our views, whether or not you agree with them.
    And yes, it is a good article by Liam. But if he doesn’t think fans have the right to make their views known, perhaps he isn’t cut out to be a coach?

  12. Maybe young liam should read a few of daddy’s blogs lol. !!!

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