Harry Redknapp’s men were rooted to the bottom of the Premiership and the story-hunting hounds of the popular press were beginning to smell blood. For his part, Redknapp remained defiant, fending off probing questions on his side’s plight with the promise that his team were of top-half quality and that is where they would soon be.
Given that West Ham are currently flavour of the month following their heroics at Old Trafford on Sunday, it now seems laughable that anyone ever doubted his word. An FA Cup away win at Manchester United would not have featured strongly in many people’s ‘away-banker’ list - it probably bust more fixed odds coupons than it paid out.
But win they did and ‘Arry’s boys have hardly been out of the news since as the nation has sat up and taken notice of the claret ‘n’ blue outfit from London E13. It is rare that Joe Cole and company get more national attention than those other EastEnders.
All of this has been achieved without Rio Ferdinand, who was perhaps the club’s greatest asset. The Hammers finally succumbed to Leeds United’s advances after the Yorkshire side had been casting envious glances in Ferdinand’s direction since the summer break. The England international departed, but at a price — and Leeds walked away with £18m-worth of central defender.
Redknapp is known to thrive on the roulette nature of the transfer market — and £18m buys a lot of chips to play with.
In came Rigobert Song and Titi Camara from Liverpool, followed by Christian Dailly from Blackburn, Bryne’s Ragnvald Soma and Svetoslav Todorov from Liteks Lovech. Those recruits have been supplemented by loan signings Hannu Tihinen and Sebastien Schemmel from Viking and Metz respectively.
Both loan signings played in the Old Trafford triumph and Redknapp is reported to be keen on securing their services on a long-term basis. The Finn Tihinen partners Liverpool’s Sami Hyypia in central defence for his national team, while Schemmel look a more than useful right-sided player.
Redknapp says that he has spent roughly £5m so far on new recruits, but claims it is merely the tip of a potentially costly iceberg. The master trader says that money spent so far was from the combined sale of Paulo Wanchope and Marc Vivien Foe, and that the Ferdinand chips have yet to be cashed.
He pledges to shop at the top-end of the market when he comes to spend that money.
However, Hammers fans will be encouraged by the fact that it was a homegrown English midfield trio who have attracted all the plaudits since Old Trafford was conquered. Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and Frank Lampard have enjoyed rave reviews — some saying all three should make up a future England midfield. Steven Gerrard, David Beckham, Kieron Dyer and our own Ledley might have something to say about that.
The scene is now perfectly set for Tottenham’s visit on Wednesday night and one of three outcomes — a home win and continued media attention, an anti-climatic draw, or West Ham to fall back down to earth with a mighty bump. While Harry seeks to keep his Irons on fire, Spurs fans will not need to phone a friend.
By Richard Hubbard
When West Ham came a calling at White Hart Lane in September, they did so without a win to their name in the new season. After 90 minutes action the Hammers remained winless following a 1-0 defeat courtesy of a goal from Sol Campbell.