The one thing every manager I played for said to his team at the start of the season was: ‘Do not lose this first game — give yourself something to hold on to.’
And, with the run of fixtures they have coming up between matchdays two and seven, no Premier League manager will have been drumming that point home more than West Ham boss David Moyes.
The Hammers face trips to Arsenal, Leicester, Tottenham and Liverpool, interspersed with home games against Wolves and Manchester City, between Saturday and the end of October.
So it’s easy to understand why plenty of their supporters already fear they could be rock bottom — and even pointless — by the start of November.
I’m not going to say that will definitely be the case because I encountered similar runs many times in my career and I know they don’t always play out how supporters and the media think they will.
When there’s nowhere to turn, you might be surprised how many times teams get a couple of results that not only put vital points on the board but also give them more confidence for the games to come.
So it’s not all doom and gloom for West Ham yet. But…
It soon could be and if they don’t get at least three points from their next two games — against Arsenal and Wolves — or six from the next four, including Leicester and Spurs, then I can see Moyes being shown the door.
I know David Sullivan and David Gold speak very highly of him but he needs points on the board and if he doesn’t get them he will be toast.
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The transfer window still has a month to run and if in two weeks things are still bleak you can well imagine a new gaffer being brought in and given three or four panic-buy signings before it closes.
Everyone at West Ham will have looked at Newcastle and said, ’It’s the perfect opener to show fans we’re moving in the right direction’.
But they were flat and reactionary against Steve Bruce’s men, and unless they double their output, starting at the weekend, then they will be in serious bother.
I worked with Kevin Nolan, Moyes’s assistant, quite a bit towards the end of last season doing some foreign broadcasting and he’s a man who’s lively, fun and will be very good in the dressing-room.
Yet he looked exasperated already on Saturday and that’s not a good sign.
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What is absolutely vital now is that West Ham nick a point or three in each of their next two games, and to do that they must park the bus, pack the midfield and have some pace up top.
They should jettison any worries about style because there will be half-a-dozen ambulance men and women and a few journalists at the game, and it doesn’t matter what any of them think of the performance.
Yes, people will be watching at home, but they can only shout at the telly.
It’s a 9/10 emergency already for the Hammers and it’s crucial they bounce back fast.
Otherwise they will be leaving the door open for Moyes to become the top flight’s first managerial casualty of the season.
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