Effra is sick and tired of hearing the excuses.
Now retaining Premiership status is within touching distance belief has become more painful than ever. Half the history of our club over the past forty years has been about dreams shattered at the last possible moment. We sing about it every week, we have learned that it is part of who we are, and yet somehow we try to believe that this time it will be different. When West Ham step out at Old Trafford next Sunday, it will be a year to the day since the newest and rawest memory of them all. The announcer had just finished telling us there would be four minutes of added time, Steven Gerrard powered the ball into the back of net, and a twenty-six year wait was about to begin all over again. I am really not sure that if itâ€™s 1-1 at Old Trafford, Charlton are down, and Wigan are winning at Bramall Lane, and they tell us thereâ€™s four more added minutes that any part of my body will be able to take it. This relegation struggle is doing thing to my insides when I am watching football that even after more than 30 years of putting myself through the agony I didnâ€™t know was possible.
Now I know that there are plenty of northerners out there who think that West Ham fans suffering a collective heart attack in injury time will be the perfect divine retribution, but even the residual sympathy I was managing for Wigan, Sheffield, Charlton and Fulham fans at the beginning of last week has now turned to blind rage towards Sheffield and Wigan, and the ever more ridiculous Dave Whelan in particular. There is some of this row that is just funny. The supposed media bias in favour of West Ham has led to countless journalists peddling inaccuracy after inaccuracy about West Ham for the past week, such that the Telegraphâ€™s David Miller in his report this morning is no longer capable of reading the league table properly, and has got West Ham going down if West Ham lose and the northern conspirators play out a draw at Bramall Lane. Everyone on their sanctimonious high horse should have a check-list of facts in front of them before opening their mouth or committing themselves to print on the subject of West Ham.
West Ham deserved to be punished and they have been. I havenâ€™t found a single West Ham fan who would tell you otherwise. But please, please can the other relegation clubs stop telling us that what is a matter of desperate self-interest on their part is a matter of justice.
First, Carlos Tevez was not illegally registered. West Ham did not break the rules on registration but on third party influence and full disclosure. Second, no club has ever been found guilty of breaking the third party rule before and so there is no precedent where a club was deducted points for the same crime with which West Ham were fined. For Whelan to claim that he â€˜knowsâ€™ Wigan would have been punished for this is just preposterous. How on earth can anyone â€˜knowâ€™ such a thing. This scenario isnâ€™t just a hypothetical future that hasnâ€™t happened, there is no past example with which to make an informed comparison. Third, this supposed anti-northern bias at the Premier League and the FA takes the biscuit. Anyone would think that the two most successful clubs over the past thirty years in English football have been from London and cheerfully cosseted by the footballing authorities and referees from scrutiny and opposition penalties.
Take one look at the Premier Leagueâ€™s one-day inquiry into the Howard affair if you want to see double-standards at work. Manchester United and Everton tell them there was no agreement about Howard not playing, and the mugs at the Premier League expect us to believe that Moyes got out of bed last Saturday morning and thought, â€˜why donâ€™t I give that young Ian Turner a chance, he could do with a bit of practice against Ronaldo and Rooneyâ€™.
If West Ham had been deducted points one of these clubs would have had an incredibly lucky escape from their failure to win enough points. If West Ham do stay up, one of them will have Tevez as an anti-hero for ever more. But one of these clubs may still be lucky and escape at West Hamâ€™s expense and no doubt will never stop to remember that if West Hamâ€™s season hadnâ€™t descended into disaster for six months after the signing of Tevez and Mascherano then that club would have been condemned by their own inadequacies and the points that West Ham might just have managed not to hand over with barely a momentâ€™s fight to Charlton, Watford, Wigan, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Newcastle from September to February.
If West Ham do stay up, the story will all be about Carlos Tevez, and over the past month watching him has become a pleasure that will be passed down West Ham folklore. But not for the first time, it will be the wrong story. Tevez was part of the disaster as well as the attempted rescue. West Hamâ€™s season turned from the moment Curbishley gave Mark Noble his chance and we had someone capable of passing the ball in midfield and getting the ball to Tevez in dangerous positions. Whatever happens next Sunday, the 19-year old boy from Beckton, claret and blue through and through, is the reason that at the end of this extraordinary season West Ham fans have had some of our faith in football restored.