Sam Wallace: Manager not solely to blame for the ham-fisted nightmare being played out at Upton Park
West Ham were almost ruined by their Icelandic owners, and the new lot are certainly taking their time proving that they can rescue the situation
The most memorable camera shot on ESPN from Upton Park on Saturday night was the three West Ham fans who were fast asleep as their team disintegrated on the pitch, thus taking supporter protest into a whole new dimension.
Not angry, not disaffected, not marching on the boardroom with placards. Just so fed up with the situation that they regarded sleep as a better option – safe in the knowledge that whatever nightmare might assail their dreams it would not be as upsetting as opening their eyes and watching Wayne Bridge's debut.
It made you wonder just what Martin O'Neill sees in West Ham and if he really is so desperate to get back into English football that he would take on the challenge of rescuing that dishevelled team so thoroughly beaten by Arsenal. Especially given that he walked away from a much better side at Aston Villa.
West Ham's season has not been Avram Grant's fault alone, although as the hapless captain of this unfortunate ship he has to take a large share of the blame. Grant has tried to portray himself as the victim of cruel circumstance but he has done nothing to change or improve West Ham in the way that, for example, Owen Coyle has done at Bolton Wanderers.
And it cannot only be me who finds the relish that Grant takes in greeting the opposition manager before matches a little odd. To him those meetings must represent acceptance into the managers' fraternity. He approaches them with the same glee that the matchball sponsor does the pre-match photograph with referee and captains.
But Grant is not the only one responsible for the problems at West Ham and what is hard to fathom is what O'Neill makes of the three people in charge of the club whose taste for their own publicity makes his former boss, Randy Lerner, look like Thomas Pynchon.
Whether it is dressing up like a member of the politburo, writing a column in a national newspaper or just a willingness to place their manager on public trial, David Sullivan, Karren Brady and David Gold are one particular breed of football administrator. The hunch was that O'Neill always preferred the other type.
It is difficult to know where to start with the problems that the Gold-Sullivan ownership have created for themselves. Probably the best place is with the signing of Benni McCarthy this time last year on a two-and-a-half-year contract worth £38,000 a week, despite the fact that he was 32 at the time and overweight.
On Saturday, with West Ham well beaten, it was telling that Grant brought on Frank Nouble rather than McCarthy. McCarthy has started one game all season – the Carling Cup win over Stoke City. He is yet to score his first goal for West Ham.
The club's board also sold Alessandro Diamanti in the summer for around £2m despite him having a reasonable first season at the club. He came second in the fans' player of the year poll and, given that he was bought for £6m,it is hard to understand why hewas allowed to leave for such a relatively small sum.
The replacement? Let's not even mention Mido on his famous £1,000-a-week wages which were still too high. How about Pablo Barrera, the Mexican who announced when he arrived that the club were a stepping stone to greater things? That went down so well among West Ham fans that on Saturday they were still booing him.
As for New Zealand's World Cup defender Winston Reid, signed for £4m, he has made one league start. That is more than Thomas Hitzlsperger, who is yet to play a competitive match. The German international is a good player but his injury record is probably the reason West Ham were able to sign him in the first place.
The list goes on, Lars Jacobsen, Victor Obinna, Tal Ben Haim – low-impact signings. West Ham do not have much money to spend, but that is the lot of many clubs. The trick is to spend what you have wisely. Yet their best players are still the likes of Scott Parker, Rob Green and Matthew Upson, who pre-date the current owners.
It could be argued that the issue that matters most to West Ham's future concerns the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, upon which there is a decision in 11 days' time. Tottenham's plans to knock down the stadium and rebuild it for football are controversial but they ask an important question of West Ham. Can they really afford to play in a stadium in which supporters are separated from the pitch by an athletics' track?
Gold originally opposed keeping the track but has changed his mind. In Europe, clubs are getting rid of them. There is a real danger that West Ham's putative new ground will negate their raucous home support and it will not be just the occasional Hammer who finds himself dozing.
At 58, O'Neill might fancy being the man who resurrects West Ham, although a year ago you would have said that his next job in football was destined to be considerably higher up the food chain. West Ham were almost ruined by their Icelandic owners and the new lot are certainly taking their time proving that they can rescue the situation.
Does O'Neill really need the hassle? Any manager, even one of his reputation, would take a look at West Ham and conclude that it is not just a case of changing the manager, a lot more has to change besides. If the browbeaten Grant has finally failed his drawn-out trial by results then what mark out of 10 should we give the owners?
Blatter abdicates responsibility for the 2022 mess
It was the final word in a long interview but Sepp Blatter's last answer to CNN this week was a cry for help. "I am the only one elected by the [Fifa] congress and all the other members [of the Fifa executive committee, ExCo] are elected by their confederations and that's why it is so difficult to manage my 'ministers', really it is difficult."
The Fifa president admits that he exerts little control over the loose cannons who would vote for a World Cup finals in Qatar and then try to rearrange the calendar to accommodate it. He also said that the selection of the ExCo is a "problem". All of which makes you wonder who is in charge and if anyone can sort out the dire mess of 2022.
England well-oiled with Vauxhall in the driving seat
They may no longer be British-owned but there is something pleasingly working-class and no-frills about Vauxhall and its sponsorship of the England team. English football's love-in with its corporate sponsors is normally a reason to reach for the sick bucket. At least Vauxhall represents manufacturing industry jobs in Britain.
The last time I was reminded of a Vauxhall Corsa while watching a game was when Mesut Ozil went past Gareth Barry in Bloemfontein like a Mercedes Benz overtaking the aforementioned hatchback. Of course, the chances of Rio Ferdinand getting behind the wheel of a Zafira are slim. But that will not diminish the Football Association's gratitude that someone is prepared to give it £5m a year.
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