Friday, 9 March 2007

Skippy The Skipper?

The chaos unfolding at Upton Park has been so unrelenting, and the slide towards the Championship so inexorable, that when a player suggests "the only way is up for West Ham" you tend to wonder whether he is deluded or in denial. Yet, according to The Telegraph, that is what defender Lucas Neill is claiming after months in which depressing results on the pitch have been accompanied by equally depressing reports off it. Despite rumours to the contrary, Neill insists "A line has been drawn under everything in the past. The club are very professional and there is no rift in the dressing room. We are very much together and you saw that on Sunday [in the 4-3 loss to Tottenham]."

Although it was widely assumed that the Aussie, along with fellow January arrival Matthew Upson, would leave the club in the event of relegation, Neill has become the first player to indicate he may be willing to stay and fight should we be playing Championship football next season. "I came here to further my career - I’m committed to the club and until they tell me otherwise I’m happy to stay here long-term," he commented. "I don’t want to be a failure, I want to be a success." For a player derided as a money-grabber when he made the decision to join the Irons from Blackburn ahead of Liverpool, the club he supported as a boy, these are powerful words. Is it possible he actually believes some of the rhetoric he was spouting when he put pen to paper just two months ago? Indeed, if Neill's actions back up his words and he really does want to "stick around and help the youngsters coming through" then we may just have found the future captain of this club. Whatever the truth, the sight of him standing in the tunnel on Sunday, palm pressed hard against the image of Bobby Moore as if channelling the spirit of our erstwhile leader, may have caused even the most misanthropic of claret and blue hearts to question their cynicism, if only for the briefiest second.

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