West Ham United season review – Steady progress ahead of a bright future

West Ham – 10th

FA Cup – 3rd round

League Cup – 3rd round

West Ham’s first season back in the Premier League was a campaign full of progress. A respectable top 10 finish backed up the decision to hand Sam Allardyce a new contract. Also, a bright future is dawning after the Hammers were announced as preferred bidders to move into the Olympic Stadium. With a stadium move, settled owners and a solid playing squad, hope of some much-needed stability is ahead for the east Londoners after too many yo-yo seasons in the past decade.

The season started with West Ham’s successful pursuit of transfer targets. They purchased Matt Jarvis from Wolves for a new club record after a summer of interest, and just before the deadline shut, Andy Carroll arrived on loan from Liverpool. They added to experience in the hands of Jussi Jaaskelainen, as well as Joey O’Brien and James Collins, who also joined up with the squad.

An opening day victory over Aston Villa was followed by a heavy 3-0 beating at Swansea, but other than that, Allardyce’s side competed well in early season matches. In fact, the club sat in a commendable sixth place in late October ahead of some testing fixtures.

West Ham’s greatest result of the season came on the first day of December, when Chelsea travelled to Upton Park. The Blues were under the microscope following the cruel sacking of Roberto Di Matteo just 10 days earlier. It might have been a good time to play the defending European champions, but when Juan Mata put the visitors into an early lead, it seemed like the game would follow the formbook.

However, whatever Allardyce said at half-time, it worked wonders. His side got right into Chelsea after the restart, and they ultimately deserved their victory. Carlton Cole brought the scores level, before the hard-working Mohamed Diame and summer arrival Modibo Maiga sliced through the wobbly Chelsea core to record a memorable 3-1 victory. The celebrations afterwards, both on the playing field and on the bench, showed what the result meant to everyone connected at the club.

It was at this time when West Ham’s bid to move into the Olympic Stadium was given the preferred nod, after a situation that can only be described as messy. The Hammers saw off challenges from Leyton Orient and Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone to make the stadium their home, and redevelopment plans have just received planning permission. West Ham expect to move into the new venue for the 2016/17 campaign.

Injuries before Christmas to Diame and Carroll saw the club’s progress stall in the festive period. An FA Cup exit in a replay to Manchester United was thrown in amongst that. Once he recovered from regular spells out injured, Carroll made more of an impact, and form improved again after a stuttering January and February. A top-half finish was secured on the final day, with a Kevin Nolan hat-trick helping the club defeat Reading 4-2.

With Carroll set to join permanently and a new deal for the boss, West Ham will feel they can consolidate further next season.

Manager – Sam Allardyce: Allardyce does the job you would expect in the top flight. A proven manager at this level, West Ham supporters must consider themselves to be lucky to have Allardyce at the helm. His signings were astute, especially those of Diame and Carroll, and was tactically spot-on in many head-to-head scenarios. Blackburn fans will wonder what might have been.

Player of the season – Jussi Jaaskelainen: After 15 years of loyalty to Bolton, Jaaskelainen opted for a new venture with West Ham. At 38, his form throughout was outstanding, rarely making a mistake and showing strong leadership from the back. David de Gea might have been goalkeeper of the season, but Jaaskelainen certainly was in the top three when it came to consistency. Nolan and Diame had their moments, but neither could match the form and fitness of Jaaskelainen.

Turning point – Stoke 0-1 West Ham: The Hammers’ away form was a real cause for concern at the turn of the year. Outplayed at Fulham and beaten soundly by struggling Aston Villa and Sunderland, they looked vulnerable for a few weeks at the start of 2013. Any lingering relegation worries ended at the former fortress of the Britannia, where Jack Collison scored the only goal of a scrappy encounter. After that, the Hammers could relax, knowing they would survive without any hassle.

Any other business: Progress is already being made ahead of next season. Although an injury will rule Carroll out for four months, a fee has been agreed between West Ham and Liverpool for the tall striker, and it is up to him now to make the decision. The acquisition of the experienced Razvan Rat at left-back is shrewd, in an area which was a weak spot this season.

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