Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Tue 6 May 2008

A fickle band are we

I was going to call this article 'The Art of Mediocrity' for reasons which will soon become apparent, but I realised its subject was far more wide-ranging. My intention was to write about the team I've supported all my life, West Ham United, and the fact that they've spent most of this season stuck in 10th spot in the Premier League.

I'm not joking. West Ham were tenth in the league at the end of November 2007 and have moved neither up or down since.

You can only wonder at the skill that's involved in keeping any team in one position week after week. I mean can you imagine it - one heavy defeat or a sound thrashing of Derby County and your whole position in the table could be seriously jeopardised, but West Ham have walked this precarious tightrope of a predicament and come out of it with nothing but… well… an acute sense of being average, I suppose.

The thing is, many of us West Ham supporters have been fighting with our consciences this season. We feel frustrated and a little hard done by that our team haven't progressed further up into the top half of the Premier League table, yet at the same time we realise that it was only one year ago that we were having to go to Old Trafford to beat Man United just to stay in the Premier League.

Things have changed, though (including the winning at Old Trafford bit, but enough of this weekend's beating by Sir Alex's men). This season West Ham have steered well clear of a relegation battle, largely thanks to a pre-Christmas spell which saw them undefeated in thirteen of their nineteen league games. All well and good up to that point, but having quickly reached the 40-point mark that's loosely used to denote safety from relegation, The Hammers seemed content to coast over the finish line safe in the knowledge they'd achieved their main objective for 2007/08.

True, Alan Curbishley has had to deal with all manner of injuries to many of his players and in getting them to a creditable mid-table finish we Hammers fans should give him our heartiest applause. Yet there's still that nagging doubt in the back of our minds that says 'Surely we could have done just a little bit better?'

I'm wondering if fans from other teams in a similar predicament are thinking something along the same lines. Tottenham Hotspur have been stuck in 11th place just behind West Ham since January, and though they're a team used to finishing much higher in the Premier League, are they thinking this has been a disappointing season even though they languished near the bottom of the table for the first few months?

The same goes for Newcastle. Many people would have put them down for a top-half finish this season and I'm sure many still feel they should have got it, but is the sense of relief at avoiding a relegation dogfight uppermost in their minds now, I wonder?

It all shows that as football fans we can be a difficult bunch to satisfy. Not content with maintaining stability in any particular league at the expense of glory, we strive only for glory and to hell with the consequences. Perhaps that's how it should be. Why else were the clubs we support created in the first place? To win, win often, and win at the expense of all others. Being average, it seems, isn't what makes us fans tick.

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