Routine victory over Stockport is the perfect way to show West Ham progress under David Moyes
The FA Cup third round comes to a close on Monday night as West Ham take on non-league Stockport County at Edgeley Park.
So far, upset has been rare with Leeds’ humiliating League exit Two Crawley being the only result to really put the cat among the pigeons.
But long-suffering West Ham fans will know only too well that their squad is more than capable of cutting disaster, regardless of their performances and the league their less-than-glamorous opposition may play in.
Spirits are only to be returned at the end of January 2019, when Manuel Pellegrini – named the previous summer in renewed optimism that the Hammers were ready to seek a place in Europe – oversaw a disastrous 4-2 outing in the fourth round in the basement of League 1. AFC boys Wimbledon.
On that day, not only were a strong West Ham side beaten, but they were humiliated and outclassed by a team that found themselves in the relegation mud. “Was I angry at halftime? Yes of course – I was ashamed of them, ”admitted Pellegrini at the final whistle (via BBC Sport).
Fortunately, times have changed in West Ham. Pellegrini is no longer at the club and six of the starting eleven that day left the London stadium. Additionally, Michail Antonio, disconcertingly used from the start at right-back, is no longer a player thrown just to fill a void, he is a rejuvenated character and the main talisman of West Ham after coming to the fore. like a power station, nuisance from an attacker.
This position switch was implemented by Pellegrini’s successor at the end of this year, David Moyes. Slowly but surely the Scotsman set out to change the culture and ethics of the club, gradually entrenching some of the fibers and fabric that have made him such a successful manager at Everton.
“It’s very easy to explain what happened – it was a team that wanted to win [AFC Wimbledon] and another team [West Ham] who played without any desire or ambition to win or continue in this cup. “
– Manuel Pellegrini, January 2019
While Moyes’ methods and style of play have been considered archaic by some, there is no doubt that West Ham is reaping the rewards of its management and winning people over every week.
Antonio, troubled by issues of tenderness lately, has emerged as one of the club’s most important players and recruiting has improved significantly – the signings of Jarrod Bowen, Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal bear witness to that.
But with the bliss of the locker room and some real vibrancy and zipper to the piece from West Ham came one thing.
Belief in the Moyes process, belief in the structure and formation of the team, belief in the style of football played and belief in the other as a collective unit. These elements, often taken for granted, separate the bad sides from the good sides, and this is the leap West Ham has made under Moyes over the past 12 months.
Now they face a real test of their character at Stockport. On paper this should be a routine win and a safe passage into the FA Cup fourth round. But for West Ham, there has never been this comfort of taking anything for granted; too many slips and mental scars have seen this.
A comfortable win here wouldn’t completely heal those old wounds, but it would mean real progress and development on the mental side of West Ham’s game. Plus, it would ensure that this writer enjoys his Monday night viewing and the spectacle that the FA Cup brings, rather than the fear that something might go terribly wrong.
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