When Slaven Bilić led West Ham United to a seventh-place finish in the 2015-16 campaign, many supporters were feeling optimistic that the next few seasons could be memorable for the club. They had just said farewell to Upton Park, with star signing Dimitri Payet lighting up the Premier League with his free-kick wizardry and general flair. With a move to a new stadium on the cards, it was seen as a chance for the club to fully establish itself in the upper echelon of English football.
Sadly for West Ham’s supporters, things haven’t worked out that way. A falling out between Payet and the club led the Frenchman to return to Marseille, and Bilić soon followed him out the door after the Hammers failed to live up to the standards of the previous campaign. David Moyes came in and steadied the ship before Manuel Pellegrini took the reins, but West Ham have struggled to hit the heights expected of them season upon season.
Now, Moyes is back for a second spell, with the task of steering West Ham clear of the choppy waters of the Premier League relegation zone. They are almost there, but complacency must be avoided if West Ham are to get themselves out of the mix in the Premiership relegation odds. There will be relief around East London when their survival is guaranteed, but also a sense of disappointment that the club is not challenging for Europe in a campaign where the top half of the table has been so tightly contested.
Should West Ham stay up, supporters will be wondering where the club goes from here. Moyes will be expected to oversee the next full campaign after signing an 18-month contract on his reappointment in December, and given the truncated nature of the upcoming pre-season ahead of the Premier League getting back underway in September, keeping Moyes in charge might be the most sensible thing for West Ham to do.
But under Moyes it feels as though there is a glass ceiling above West Ham that the Scot does not have the power to shatter. While he has proven himself capable of getting the job done, he is perhaps not the man supporters see as the one to lead the club forward and have them challenging for European football on a regular basis. Hammers fans are never lacking in ambition, and it’s a long time since their club has won a major tournament, excepting the Championship Play-Offs, with an agonising penalty shootout defeat to Liverpool in the 2006 FA Cup Final the closest they have come.
Pellegrini was seen as the man to hopefully lead the club towards winning silverware. After all, he had led Manchester City to the Premier League title and success in the League Cup, along with a run to the Champions League semi-finals with an unfancied Villarreal side back in 2006. While West Ham were solid for much of his tenure, securing a tenth-place finish in the 2018-19 campaign, there was little sign that the good times were coming back to the club.
For now, West Ham fans will likely have to content themselves with Moyes and the current squad, as the coronavirus situation makes the prospect of the club investing heavily in the team this summer an unlikely one. It may prove that the Scot can build on his short time in charge with a new season to work with, but you would forgive the Hammers faithful for being sceptical.