March saw West Ham United succeed in their bid for Olympic Stadium backing. In May an altogether more pressing bid faces the Hammers as they seek to avoid relegation from the Premier League.
The omens are not looking good, with Avram Grant’s side rooted to the bottom of the table with only three games remaining. Yet, despite their lowly status, West Ham are only three points adrift of safety and face two of their relegation rivals in the remaining games. Five games ago the Hammers occupied the comparatively lofty heights of 15th place in the league after a draw against Olympic bidding rivals Tottenham Hotspur. This marked their joint highest league position of the season in what has been a dismal campaign for the Upton Park faithful.
Since then the Happy Hammers have been anything but with a run of five defeats on the spin leaving them rock bottom. The testing, if not terminal, decline began when they surrendered a two-goal half-time lead against leaders Manchester United and the disappointing run was prolonged by further defeats against Champions League chasers Chelsea and Manchester City. Fixtures have not been kind to Grant’s men of late, but a lack of early season points – six from their opening 10 games – has brought about their current predicament.
Unsurprisingly for a team struggling on the pitch, there is disharmony off it. Chairman David Sullivan is the latest to provoke debate after he boycotted the defeat to Man City, choosing instead to: “donate the cost of a private plane to a charity for terminally ill children.” Sullivan cited the club’s poor away form as the reason he, along with co-chairman David Gold and vice-chairman Karren Brady, missed the trip to Eastlands. Whilst five home wins give this impression, the Hammers have only picked up six more points at Upton Park than they have on the road. Belying their club colours, West Ham’s home form has been black or white, with a similar analogy applying to the clash with Blackburn Rovers. A win could lift them out of the drop zone, whilst a defeat would cement their place at the foot of the table and allow relegation candidates Rovers to move out of sight.
Overall the difference between West Ham’s home and away form has been marginal all year and may count for little under the pressure of a relegation dogfight. Demba Ba asserted: “We don’t feel that there is pressure at home,” and with two of their final three matches at the Boleyn Ground the Hammers still hold their fate in their hands. Manager Grant has targeted seven points from the remaining three fixtures to ensure safety, but with the Hammers having only amassed this total in their previous eight matches, survival appears to be a bid they cannot succeed in.