West Ham United are trying to track down the young fan captured by the TV cameras in tears during Sunday’s FA Cup humiliation at Nottingham Forest. The laudable aim is to give him and his family seats in the directors’ box at a forthcoming game at Upton Park. The question for his family is whether they are prepared to risk putting their son through that again.
These are dark January days in London’s East End and the stopgap arrival of Roger Johnson on loan from League One Wolves will not have done much to assuage supporters’ fears over what lies ahead.
Johnson, who has spent the season so far on loan at Sheffield Wednesday and has not played in the top flight for nearly two years, is likely to be dropped into the deep end in tomorrow’s first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final away to Manchester City – a side who have scored 53 times at home this season.
Little wonder co-chairmen David Gold and David Sullivan published a letter to West Ham fans pleading with them to hang in there. It hurts right now, went the message, but things will get better.
Gold and Sullivan described the demands faced by manager Sam Allardyce in dealing with three games in six days with a lengthy injury list as a “near impossible task”. It was not, though, a resounding endorsement of Allardyce, even if there is no suggestion that they are ready to bundle him out the door.
After the visit to the Etihad Stadium, West Ham travel to Cardiff City and victory there would wipe out the harm done by Sunday’s 5-0 defeat and whatever happens in the Capital One Cup. For Allardyce and the club, it begins a crucial run of Premier League matches, which include Swansea City, Norwich City and Southampton coming to Upton Park.
Gold and Sullivan have promised reinforcements, as well as the imminent return of striker Andy Carroll and the missing centre-halves Winston Reid, James Collins and Sam Tomkins for the season’s pivotal period.
“Sam has been handed a near impossible task of coming through three crucial games in six days with a squad of only 14 fit and available senior players,” wrote the co-chairmen. “This is not an excuse, it is a fact.
“We know Sam has not lost his ambition or desire and is committed to making West Ham United a great Premier League club. We hope to have several of our missing players back in time for Cardiff and we go there knowing that a win can get us out of the bottom three.
“Make no mistake, though; we are under no illusions as to the seriousness of our current predicament in the Premier League,” they added. “But on the board we have a combined talent of running football clubs and we will draw on all of our nous to get West Ham United out of this situation.”
There is no direct backing of Allardyce in his position, although the chairmen wrote that they “remain confident we can turn our season around”. West Ham are the only club among the bottom five to have stood by their manager. Another embarrassment at City and defeat in Cardiff on Saturday could signal the end of the 59-year-old’s tenure but barring that turn of events it remains likely, with recruitment plans in place, that he will be in charge through the key run of games next month.
Gold and Sullivan revealed that the club are close to securing a much-needed striker: deals for the Ivory Coast international Lacina Traoré and Internazionale’s Ishak Belfodil are imminent. West Ham also remain interested in defender Joleon Lescott, even if Manchester City will not let him go until closer to the end of the month.