The headline no West Ham United fan wanted to read:
“Mark Noble rejects big-money move to China.”
No, it wasn’t that.
“Simone Zaza turns down opportunity to reprise role of smirking cat in Hector’s House.”
No, it wasn’t that either (by the way I hated Kiki the frog and, at 56, still do. There, it’s out).
“Alan Curbishley linked with Hammer’s job.”
No and, let’s be honest, that would hardly be a surprise.
The correct answer is, of course:
“Dimitri Payet ‘does not want to play for West Ham’, says Slaven Bilic.”
At first sight, this headline is designed to induce a knee-jerk reaction worthy of Ron Harris or Norman Hunter or, maybe more appropriately: Julian Dicks. We are meant to throw up our hands in knowing despair, drive the Renault to the nearest Volkswagen garage on a free transfer and promise never to eat Camembert again (no, not even baked in a non-French restaurant).
The headline wants to portray Payet as the self-serving, greedy Frenchmen nobody at the Boleyn Ground thought he was last season. Moussa Sissoko must have been going La La (or should that be Le Le?) at the abuse he was receiving from football fans from north to south who saw him as the archetypal ‘lazy Frenchman.’ He must be throwing another boule into the courtyard of his magnificent chateau in sheer delight this morning at having someone else to share the load; finally understanding what that phrase actually means.
Karren Brady may yet turn this into a new dawn, new London Stadium thing where they are intent on making a new start with a clean sheet. Unfortunately, she might well risk throwing the baby out with the bath water…again.
Bilic claims to have given Payet all possible help and support and now feels horribly let down as, presumably, does everyone else in English football, though Chelsea fans may struggle to hide their sniggering.
So, should we take this whole story at face value or, for once, try to look beyond some of the appallingly racist comments and on-going typecasting that bedevils the ‘greatest league in the world?’
For me, the answer is further down in the body copy. Bilic has apparently hung his player out to dry and, with it, draining all the confidence out of him so that he becomes, well, Vincent Janssen. However, he also allegedly states that “We will not sell him.” Is that the clue we were looking for in a much less complicated way than staying with ‘Sherlock’ for 90 minutes?
Now that he has made this statement to the world’s media (and The Sun) he has practically ensured that Payet will not want to play for West Ham in the future. Publicly indicating that the player will not be sold is of course a less-than-subtle (not that West Ham’s management could ever be described as that) way of throwing up the challenge to all other teams to bid for him; each believing a change away from London/Bilic/Pie and Mash will do the trick and suddenly bring the magic back.
If Payet did – like practically everyone else at West Ham – overperform last year; if he is weary after the Euros (Wenger’s early Arsenal teams won nothing in seasons following major international tournaments the previous summers); if it just isn’t working for a variety of unknown reasons, should Bilic have made this statement?
Perhaps he was ordered to do so to take everyone’s minds off the carnage – and I don’t mean that caused by the bulldozers at Upton Park – everywhere else at the club? Perhaps he himself doesn’t want to play at being the manager of West Ham anymore or perhaps he thinks others might make that reality come true very soon?
Either way, claret and blue worked very well last season and by taking the blue away now, the West Ham United bubble may well and truly burst.