If you had offered me a seventh place finish and a quarter-final route in the FA Cup at the start of the season, I’d have bitten your hand off.
As it was; come the final whistle at the Britannia Stadium last week, the West Ham faithful were left a little disappointed.
The very fact we were left rather glum last Sunday, despite enjoying what was statistically our most successful season in Premier League history, shows just how far Slaven Bilic has taken us during his maiden voyage as West Ham United manager.
He has guided us to our highest-ever points total in our top-flight era, the most goals scored in our Premier League life and a positive goal difference come the end of the season for the first time ever. In truth, I had forgotten what a positive goal difference even was!
Not only has he enjoyed great success during our last ever season at our famous old ground, but he has also brought ‘proper’ football back to the club. He brought players into the squad that got fans off the edge of their seat on a regular basis, as well as bringing the best out of players who may have struggled under the previous regime – that is a sign of a top manager.
Players like Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini are the types of individuals the West Ham faithful want to see, and the Croat has also delved into the Championship market to sign such players like Michail Antonio – who has been a revelation since breaking into the squad.
Moving onto the season itself, and Slaven got his dream start at the Emirates, Payet looked unplayable and a young 16-year-old star in Reece Oxford was born – Mesut Ozil is still in his pocket somewhere trying to escape.
But in true West Ham style, they backed that up with two disappointing defeats against Bournemouth and Leicester City (although we now know losing to Leicester is nothing to be ashamed of, at the time though it was a catastrophe). Mercifully they were to be the only defeats at the Boleyn for some time as the Irons went on a mazy unbeaten run until May in the league.
Wins at Anfield (the first for 60 odd years) and the Etihad further proved this Bilic side could compete with the best in the league. It was great to see, and the season was panning out to be quite something. The east Londoners then completed home victories over Chelsea and Liverpool, whilst claiming creditable draws with Arsenal and Manchester City, as the Boleyn was getting a proper send-off.
And there was to be one last hooray at the Boleyn, although it would’ve been so much better had the Hammers not capitulated against Swansea days before. It was always going to be an emotionally charged night on Green Street, and the scenes outside the ground were something I’d never seen before.
A walk that would usually take me 15 minutes from the pub took me around an hour to complete as Green Street was put to an absolute standstill by police vans and fans lining the street taking their last experience of the Boleyn in.
After a 45 minute delay, the time for talking was over and the Irons produced a scintillating opening half to blow Manchester United away. How it was only one-nil at half-time is beyond me. But just as the Hammers faithful started to enjoy themselves, Anthony Martial scored a brace to temporarily silence the Upton Park crowd.
The Hammers weren’t going to leave their home of 112 years in defeat though, as Antonio and Winston Reid lifted the roof for a final time to leave the Hammers requiring a win at Stoke to secure Europa League football and cap off a wonderful season.
Of course, as we now know that final Boleyn Ground win knocked the stuffing out of the Hammers, and despite an utterly dominant first-half display in the Potteries, the east Londoners fell away in the second period to lose 2-1.
They could yet still gain European football should the Red Devils win at Wembley against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final, and should they do that, it would prove to be a magnificent season for the Irons.
All in all; though, we must be pleased with the season as a whole, and but for a shoddy referring decision at Old Trafford in the FA Cup quarter-final, the Irons would have had a trip to Wembley to rubber stamp their terrific season.
Roll on next season at our new home.
Come on you Irons!