The Icelandic acquisition of West Ham is beginning to look the worst football investment since Sam Hamman trousered £20m from two Norwegian oil barons 10 years ago on the supposition that Wimbledon were about to move to Dublin.
Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson and Eggert Magnusson moved into West Ham in the belief that it was an upwardly mobile Premiership club suffering a blip in form. They now know better. Both men watched aghast yesterday as Reading, who had taken two points from the previous 18, humiliated their team.
The victory over Manchester United in Alan Curbishley's first match as manager was a distant memory as Reading helped themselves to goal after goal. Since defeating United, West Ham have won one point, and scored once, in four games. They are now four points adrift of safety and it seems only a huge outlay in the transfer window can save them.
Curbishley, who looked shell-shocked on the touchline, blamed the attitude of his players, not just on the day but throughout the season. "Reading had everything we didn't have: enthusiasm, pace, shape, aggression and, above all, hunger. The West Ham team that was playing last year - and most of the personnel are the same - was the Reading we saw today: full of hunger and commitment. They wanted to be in the Premiership and drive the Baby Bentley.
"They [West Ham] have shown me in the last couple of weeks why they are down there. The dressing room before the game was probably the bubbliest and noisiest we've been but it's all right having confidence in the dressing room, you have to go out and perform. We are very fragile and this has been coming."
West Ham actually began the brighter with Lee Bowyer and Nigel Reo-Coker having chances. Then Reading scored and the visitors crumbled. In an ironic touch the first goal came from an Icelandic head, Brynjar Gunnarsson, glancing in Stephen Hunt's free-kick after 12 minutes. Three minutes later, with the Hammers defence in shreds, Hunt headed in. The third, a near-post headed own goal from Anton Ferdinand, came on the half-hour, the fourth, a tap-in from Kevin Doyle after the left-back Nicky Shorey had dribbled through the heart of the visitors' rearguard, six minutes later.
At the half-time interval, Curbishley, grim-faced, interrogated Danny Gabbidon on the touchline, then switched to 4-5-1 in an attempt to keep the score down. "It was a case of stopping it being eight," he admitted. With Reading easing up, he succeeded, though when Leroy Lita tucked in the fifth eight minutes into the half double figures seemed on the cards. In the event Reading declared at six, Doyle heading in with 12 minutes left.
As the game wound down Bobby Zamora hit the bar but by then the travelling support had turned on the team. "You're not fit to wear the shirt" was the chorus, with the West Ham players being booed when in possession.
Their shambolic, lazy defending was typified by Reading's second. Gabbidon and Ferdinand went for the same bouncing ball but Doyle beat both to it, then found Glen Little on the right. He picked out the untracked Steve Sidwell, who crossed to the far post where Hunt, unmarked in the six-yard box, headed in.
Reading's biggest win since 1990, and West Ham's heaviest Premiership defeat, made it nine games since the Hammers' last away League goal. Curbishley now turns to the transfer market for salvation but, as he said: "Our last few results may have shot that to pieces. It's very difficult to attract players when you are in the bottom three."
Goals: Gunnarsson (12) 1-0; Hunt (15) 2-0; Ferdinand og (30) 3-0; Doyle (36) 4-0; Lita (53) 5-0; Doyle (78) 6-0.
Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Gunnarsson, Ingimarsson, Sonko (Bikey, 54), Shorey; Little (Oster, 54), Harper (Seol, 71), Sidwell, Hunt; Lita, Doyle. Substitutes not used: Federici (gk), Long.
West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Dailly, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky; Bowyer (Newton, 19), Reo-Coker, Mullins, Benayoun (Cole, 78); Harewood (Spector, h-t), Zamora. Substitutes not used: Carroll (gk), Tevez.
Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).
Booked: Reading Harper.
Man of the match: Sidwell.
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