Alan Pardew had been told, jokingly, by West Ham's new chairman Eggert Magnusson that his throat would be cut if his players did not perform. Last night there was the perceptible sound of knives starting to be sharpened. Hopefully, they will be sheathed, and Pardew will certainly be given more time, but any on-field dividend from the arrival of Magnusson and Co is not being reaped.
It was not just that West Ham played poorly in suffering their now annual home defeat to a vibrant Wigan, it was that they looked like a team for whom fortune is certainly hiding. The result, with Newcastle United winning, meant West Ham dropped into the bottom three. It was a Hammer blow of an evening. Pardew had talked about creating a "fortress". Instead he suffered a siege.
In the directors' box, for the first time, was Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, the Icelandic businessman who has bankrolled the £85m takeover of West Ham. The honorary life president - to give him his title - likes to be known as "BG". But this was West Ham's own BG - "Big Game" - a match they had to win.
Instead they capitulated. "I would not think that he is very pleased," Pardew said afterwards when asked what Gudmundsson must have made of it all. "We wanted to put on a performance. It was the complete opposite. I told the players that our - and their - status in the Premiership is under threat. When they get home and seen the league table, it will soon sink in. We were nervous and apprehensive."
They certainly were. Pardew offered his apologies to the supporters, many of whom streamed away well before the end. The rump that was left booed while, at the whistle, Carlos Tevez, the only West Ham player to perform with any credit, stomped off. The anguish on his face told its own story. If only some of his team-mates were on the same wavelength.
It could have been so much different had his second-half shot, after a slaloming run across the Wigan defence, not cannoned back off a post. Seconds later the visitors scored. It, too, was an arresting sight. David Cotterill, just two days after his 19th birthday, latched on to Kevin Kilbane's low cross, cut inside and curled a right-footed shot into the roof of the net. It was his first Premiership goal.
It was a cruel moment for West Ham but there were others. Seven minutes after the hosts had fallen behind a headed clearance from a corner fell to Leighton Baines. The stand-in captain struck an instant shot, it deflected off the hapless Jonathan Spector and beat Robert Green to end the contest.
If there was luck, it was deserved luck. Wigan had attacked from the start with Green tipping Lee McCulloch's header on to the post inside the first minute and then slamming his own clearance against the striker - only for the ball to dribble past the other post.
Pardew had shaken up his side. Instead they simply looked shaken.
Most worryingly for West Ham, once behind, is that they never appeared capable of recovering. Belief drained just as it started to flow through Wigan.
"We were humiliated by Liverpool," said their manager, Paul Jewell, of that 4-0 home defeat, "and we asked them to show their character. We controlled the game from start to finish,"
Now Pardew is asking the same.
Goals: Cotterill (51) 0-1; Spector og (57) 0-2
West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Spector, Collins, Ferdinand (McCartney 68), Konchesky; Benayoun (Sheringham 58), Mullins, Reo-Coker, Etherington (Bowyer 82); Tevez, Harewood. Substitutes not used: Carroll (gk), Zamora.
Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Kirkland; Wright, Boyce, Hall, Baines; Cotterill (Camara, 90), Skoko (Landzaat, 75), Scharner, Kilbane; McCulloch, Heskey. Substitutes not used: Pollitt (gk), Johnsson, Webster.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire)
Booked: Wigan Skoko, Cotterill, Scharner
Man of the match: Baines
Attendance: 33,805.Reuse content