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Irish Hammer 12:34 Wed Sep 22
One from the archives, THAT 2006/2007 Season

Old one lads, but well written and nice interviews with those involved.


What is it like to be in a relegation battle with West Ham?

Carlos Tevez West Ham Old Trafford 2007
By Roshane Thomas Jun 30, 2020 21
“It’s the most nervous I’ve ever been during a game. I hated it. I remember sitting on the bench and me and Kevin Keen were kicking every ball because we couldn’t affect the match. It was so nerve-racking. With 30 minutes to go, they brought on three of their biggest hitters: Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. I remember all the lads looking at each other and thinking, ‘Oh fuck’.”
Jimmy Walker is casting his mind back to the final day of the 2006-07 season where West Ham United needed a result against Manchester United to ensure Premier League survival.
Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Scholes, Giggs and Ronaldo were all missing from the starting XI, rested by Sir Alex Ferguson with the following weekend’s FA Cup final against Chelsea in mind. Walker, a goalkeeper, was named among the West Ham substitutes and he will never forget the wave of emotions he endured during the course of 90 minutes as West Ham clung on to Carlos Tevez’s first-half goal to claim a shock win — and safety.
“When Carlos Tevez scored we all went crazy,” he tells The Athletic. “It was our game that day and the momentum we had gained showed on the pitch. It was our time to stay up and looking back now it still makes me smile that we were able to beat Man United.”
Thirteen years later and West Ham are again embroiled in another fight against relegation. A season that started with ambitions of European football is now set to go to the wire at the other end of the table. David Moyes’s side are outside the relegation zone only on goal difference and have eight games to salvage some much-needed points.
Scott Minto, former captain Matthew Upson, Walker and Matt Jarvis have all been involved in a relegation battle during their time at West Ham. Minto was part of the side that suffered relegation in the 2002-03 season, Upson also experienced relegation with West Ham during the 2010-11 season, while Jarvis was part of that side that stayed up during the 2013-14 season. Here they tell The Athletic how mentally draining it is, the sense of “sadness” when you suffer relegation and how a heavy defeat can often be the turning point — for better or worse — in a season.
“It’s like a light turned on in Tevez’s head from that moment onwards”
For West Ham, the 2006-07 season had barely kicked in when the drama started. On transfer deadline day, Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano joined from Brazilian side Corinthians. They were 22 and, just a couple of months earlier, had been part of the exciting Argentina side knocked out of the World Cup at the quarter-finals stage on penalties by hosts Germany.
When the duo signed, a statement on the club’s website read: “The transfers represent a massive coup for the Hammers, who have beaten off some of Europe’s biggest clubs to secure the services of the duo.”
But West Ham started the season in terrible form. Their opening day win against Charlton Athletic was their only victory in their first nine games. Although they would beat Blackburn Rovers and Arsenal in games 10 and 11, West Ham would only amass three points from a possible 18 in their following six games. They were also knocked out of the League Cup by Chesterfield and lost both legs of their UEFA Cup first-round tie against Palermo.
After 17 games, West Ham — under new ownership following a takeover led by Icelandic businessman Eggert Magnusson — were 18th on 14 points, with Charlton Athletic and Watford occupying the last two spots in the relegation zone. Alan Pardew was sacked after the 4-0 defeat at Bolton Wanderers in December and Alan Curbishley was brought in. He started with a 1-0 win over Manchester United — Nigel Reo-Coker scored the solitary goal — and a goalless draw at Fulham. West Ham then went 10 games without a win.
“The reaction to Curbishley’s appointment wasn’t particularly good. When you’re down there in that situation and a new manager comes in, all he’s going to do is pick faults,” says midfielder Hayden Mullins, who made 32 appearances for West Ham that season. “What he was trying at the start just wasn’t working, so he had to quickly change his mindset.”
Tevez was also struggling with his form having gone scoreless in his first seven months at West Ham — a run of 19 games. The turning point was a 4-3 defeat at home against Tottenham Hotspur. He got off the mark with a curled free-kick and everything started to click, as Walker explains.
“You always look for a catalyst moment and that was the 4-3 defeat against Spurs at home,” he says. “It was an amazing game and Tevez just came alive. We’d been waiting for him to perform for a while because he looked promising in training. In that game, the atmosphere was electric. Tevez scored a free-kick and ended up in the crowd, and they were going mental.
“It’s like a light turned on in Tevez’s head from that moment. Mark Noble was in tears after the game because he knew how much it meant to the players and the fans. So after the match, we were like, ‘There’s no way we can go down now. This club deserves to be in the Premier League’.
“After that match Tevez was incredible and he went up another level. It just seemed like he got what the club was about and everything started to click for him. We went on a great run after that Spurs game.”

West Ham won six of their next eight games and arrived at Old Trafford knowing that a draw would ensure safety. They were 17th on 38 points, three points ahead of Wigan Athletic in 18th and level with Sheffield United in 16th, who played each other at Bramall Lane. Wigan knew only a win would be enough to survive. A draw at Bramall Lane would ensure safety for Sheffield United and keep West Ham up, too.
If Wigan were able to triumph, however, all eyes would be on Old Trafford. Victory for Wigan would mean West Ham’s inferior goal difference to Sheffield United necessitated a point to save their own skins and send down the Blades.
West Ham sealed their “Great Escape” courtesy of Tevez’s first-half strike, while Wigan beat Sheffield United 2-1 to avoid relegation, and condemn Warnock’s men. After his goal against Tottenham, Tevez had amassed seven goals in his next 10 appearances and was named Hammer of the Year at the end of the season.
Having looked completely and utterly doomed just a couple of months previously, West Ham were safe. So how did the players celebrate?
“As if we had won the cup,” says Walker. “We were down and out at one point. We lost the Spurs game and had nine matches to go. To get a win at Old Trafford was incredible and we celebrated for about the next three weeks!”
Before their 1-0 win over Manchester United, West Ham had been charged by the Premier League over breaching rules B13 and U18 in relation to the signings of Tevez and Mascherano. On April 27, 2007, West Ham pleaded guilty and were handed a record £5.5 million fine by the Premier League, but avoided a points deduction.
Sheffield United, having lost to Wigan Athletic, were the unwitting fall guys. The South Yorkshire club refused to go quietly and later won a settlement in the region of £21 million from West Ham but it is an episode that still rankles. The Premier League also outlawed third-party ownership.
Matthew Upson was part of the team that stayed up at the end of the 2009-10 campaign under Gianfranco Zola. It was the Italian’s first full season after replacing Curbishley in September 2008. He guided them to ninth that season but struggled the next. West Ham finished 17th on 35 points with Burnley, Hull City and Portsmouth relegated — and made hard work of it.
Between February and March of that season, West Ham lost six games in a row. With six games to go, they were 17th and only outside the relegation zone by one point. They won eight points from a possible 18, just enough to limp over the survival line.
“I really liked Gianfranco Zola as a person and I loved what he wanted to achieve and how he wanted to play,” says Upson. “He had a very good coach in Steve Clarke who would do brilliant training sessions. It was disciplined and the communication was good.
“But then the board had made a managerial switch and it proved to be the wrong decision.”
At the end of the 2009-10 season, Zola was sacked and Avram Grant was appointed as his successor on a four-year contract. Following his appointment, David Sullivan, the West Ham co-owner, was beaming. “I am confident he will prove a success. We have taken our time over this appointment and are certain we have got the right man.”
Pablo Barrera, Winston Reid, Gary O’Neil, Frederic Piquionne, Robbie Keane and Demba Ba were some of the notable arrivals but West Ham went on to finish bottom of the league with 33 points — their lowest points tally since 1978.
Under Grant, they won only seven Premier League games. His record in all competitions read 47 games, 15 wins, 12 draws and 20 defeats. He was told of his fate in the tunnel after the 3-2 loss to Wigan Athletic in May 2011 that confirmed relegation.
“I didn’t have a good relationship with him (Grant) and we got relegated because of him,” Julian Faubert told The Athletic earlier this year. “That season, he made so many poor decisions. It’s going to sound bad but the season we got relegated it was inevitable.”
Upson adds: “It was just so different from being with Steve Clark and Gianfranco Zola. We hadn’t invested a lot in the team and we just weren’t scoring. We were grinding for results early on but we were never going to outscore teams. So it became a real battle and it was a battle from the start.
“It was the hardest season of my career, by a mile. I had just come off the back off a World Cup and I’d been working towards that for probably five or six years. It wasn’t particularly successful in terms of what happened but I remember returning to West Ham halfway through pre-season. I hadn’t had much time off, and training didn’t feel quite right. There wasn’t much intensity and it felt very relaxed. We needed to be fitter and more aggressive than all the other teams because we hadn’t invested that much.
“We had numerous player meetings but for a team to be successful, it has to come from the top. It has to filter down. Looking back now, Avram Grant didn’t fit the model at West Ham. Avram had success at Chelsea but West Ham was a different environment to that, with a lack of money.”
The lack of money went beyond Grant transfer budget. Relegation resulted in job cuts among non-playing staff and Upson remembers the pressure that placed on him.
“I remember it being said in one of our meetings when someone brought it to the attention of the players,” he says. “Some players will receive that pressure in a positive way or find it overwhelming to think that the influence you have the pitch will affect people’s livelihoods.
“It was sad because the club was going down and that would have an impact on the people who work at the club. It was also my last season at the club and to finish it like that was really sad for me on a personal level.”
Such sadness is a feeling Scott Minto knew all too well during the 2002-03 season. It was the side that was considered “too good to go down”, boasting captain Joe Cole, Trevor Sinclair, David James, Tomas Repka, John Moncur, Paolo Di Canio, Jermain Defoe, Michael Carrick, Lee Bowyer and Frederic Kanoute.
But West Ham finished 18th on 42 points, the first time they had been relegated to the second tier since 1992. In 38 league games, they won 10, drew 12 and lost 16. It remains the highest points total for a relegated team in a 38-game Premier League season.
“We started the season with an amazing squad,” says Minto. “People were tipping us for a top-six finish. Our second game was against Arsenal and it finished 2-2, Sylvain Wiltord equalising late. If we had won that, who knows how things could have turned out.
“I remember a game against Man City in September that ended 0-0 and I came off the pitch thinking, ‘We should’ve won that game’. There were a lot of home games in the first half of the season that felt like that. Upton Park was a great place to play but the fans would also let you know if they weren’t happy with the team’s performance. So we really needed a home win and we just couldn’t give them that.”
West Ham won five of their 18 home games but the first didn’t arrive until January 29, a 2-1 win against Blackburn Rovers. Their poor league form was compounded by the fact manager Glenn Roeder collapsed after the 1-0 win against Middlesbrough in April. It was revealed he had been suffering from a non-malignant brain tumour.
Club legend Trevor Brooking was named as caretaker manager for their remaining three games against Manchester City, Chelsea and Birmingham City. It was Di Canio’s last season at West Ham and, having scored the winning goal against Chelsea, he was reduced to tears after the game when he realised his time at the club was coming to an end.

“The players we had were absolutely unbelievable and we experienced so many different emotions during that year,” Minto says. “On the training ground, it was still upbeat, not doom and gloom. From what I can remember morale wasn’t low but we all knew our league form wasn’t good enough. It’s just incredible how it happened because that side was so talented. The season prior, we finished seventh.
“When Jurgen Klopp kept saying Liverpool weren’t talking about winning the title, I believed that. It wasn’t a question of, ‘Oh come on, we can do it, we can survive’. It was just, ‘Go in and do the next training session’.
“I remember Trevor Sinclair being unbelievable in the World Cup for England and then during the season we got relegated the fans were on his back. Once you come out of the Christmas period and you’re around the relegation zone, it is very difficult to then go on a run. That’s one of the best squads to go down in the Premier League. It was right up there in terms of talent.”
On the final day of the season, West Ham were 18th, level on points with Bolton Wanderers but far behind on goal difference. They drew 2-2 with Birmingham City but Bolton beat Middlesbrough 2-1. “It was just a horrible feeling to be part of that,” says Minto.
Matt Jarvis was part of the West Ham side that struggled during the first half of the 2013-14 season. They had reached the semi-finals of the League Cup, but lost 9-0 on aggregate to Manchester City — survival had become the main aim. The turning point for Sam Allardyce’s side came during a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge at the end of January.
West Ham went into the match in 18th, level on points with Sunderland and Cardiff City below them, and needed to enter February with a bit of momentum: they had winnable games against Swansea City, Aston Villa, Norwich City and Southampton coming up.
Allardyce went on the defensive. His Chelsea counterpart Jose Mourinho accused West Ham of playing “football from the 19th century”. Mourinho got short shrift from Allardyce: “He can’t take it, can he? He can’t take it because we’ve out-tacticked him, out-witted him. He just can’t cope. He can tell me all he wants. I don’t give a shite.”
Although Sunderland won to leapfrog West Ham and keep them in the bottom three, they were galvanised and won those four winnable games and ended up finishing 13th — albeit with fewer points (40) than their relegation season in 2002-03.
“When you pick up points against the big teams, you need to grind out results,” says Jarvis. “It also stops that feeling of coming off the pitch thinking, ‘Oh God, we lost again’. Don’t get me wrong, the match against Chelsea wasn’t a nice passing game but you have to grind out results. When you do that against the big teams, it gives you that extra bit of confidence.
“When you’re in a relegation fight, you’re definitely aware that people behind the scenes could lose their jobs. So staying in the Premier League is massive.

“It’s mentally draining being in a relegation fight and that’s when you need the characters in the team to help out. I was one of those players that if we had a bad result I would be thinking about it all night and maybe in the next game. But you have to try and forget it and just move on to the next match.”

Replies - Newest Posts First (Show In Chronological Order)

Thanks Irish 6:51 Wed Sep 22
Re: One from the archives, THAT 2006/2007 Season
Thanks Irish

willswishwellingtons 5:07 Wed Sep 22
Re: One from the archives, THAT 2006/2007 Season
That was fucking depressing.

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