I guess the word for Fletcher is probably industrious, but to West Ham he’d be so much more than that.
Last season Big Sam’s side struggled. Lacking a midfielder with the bollocks to demand the ball off the defence, it was hoofed high and long to strikers for whom the word “ungainly” probably implies a little too much elegance. Fans thought his time might be up – for a return of “the West Ham way”, they cried – but the board kept faith, told him to play better football next time out and, to his credit, he’s done just that.
We’ve had a cracking start to the season that’s fell away a little. Injuries to Noble and Kouyaté plus a dip in form from Sakho have meant we’ve lost a little momentum and this transfer window needed to be one we succeeded in.
A time for knee-jerkers and panic buys, Allardyce has kept his head and possibly – hopefully – secured a player that West Ham actually need. In Darren Fletcher, they purchase a wealth of experience that has been sorely lacking.
He’s not got the legs he used to, and there’d be valid argument as to whether he ever had the legs to begin with, but Fletcher’s game is played upstairs. Mark Noble has been a terrific stalwart for the club and a man who’s blood-and-guts-and-loads-of-slide-tackles attitude to matches has made him a firm fan favourite but it’s not unfair to suggest that he lacks a little in the personality department. He cries when we lose and cries more when we win but he’s not a player who appears to inspire confidence and respect from those around him, especially in the newer signings.
Players like Alex Song, Morgan Amalfitano and Cheikhou Kouyaté have been brought in and are all of undoubted quality but none of them will look upon the boy from Canning Town with awe.
Signing Darren Fletcher could change all this. As much as it pains me to say it, Mark Noble’s time at West Ham could be numbered.
It’d be like signing a boot up the backside for the players around him. Here is a guy who Fergie clearly loved, saving him for the big games, trusting him for tough Champions League clashes. Even Alex Song would have to respect that. For in Fletcher the influence of Manchester United would flow through. The old Manchester United. The never-say-die, last-minute goal behemoth Manchester United.
He’s not going to be scoring goals and he probably won’t even play every game but the Scotsman would undoubtably be of utmost influence in the dressing room and his shadow would loom large even from the bench.
Despite calls from publications to the contrary, West Ham fans don’t believe that European football is quite in our grasp yet. That’d be a case of much too much, much too soon. We’re a midsize club for whom tough trips away to Kazan would prove too daunting a task, right now.
We have – for the first time in years – a strong squad full of pace, guile and quality but there’s still smell of success lacking. Perhaps a man with five league titles and a FA Cup to his name is just the man we need to set us on the right track.
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