West Ham demonstrate their new found unity on a perfect day as Declan Rice joins the big boys
At the other end of the London stadium, fans cheered as midfielder Lucas Paqueta’s adorable little son sprinted away and scored the goal, the fourth player in burgundy and blue to do so that afternoon.
Across the pitch they sang while Jarrod Bowen’s face was mischievously beamed onto the big screen and the final bars of ‘Freed From Desire’ rang out as the winger strolled around the pitch with his heavily pregnant partner Dani Dyer and the West Ham fans’ rewriting of this song that alludes a little too explicitly to the root of their joyful burden.
And in the silent midst of it all stood David Moyes, fists balled in the air in salute, then finger open to point in the air, presumably a nod to the number of games between his team and immortality for the Hammers Next month the Europa Conference League final against Fiorentina takes place in Prague.
The trip to Leicester next Sunday, when a turbulent Premier League season finally comes to an end and avoiding injury will be the primary objective, is also yet to come.
But the notion that West Ham’s home season could end on an afternoon like this – the sun shining on a club united, three welcome but not crucial points on the board, players scolded and a manager about to die Sack is standing and together in front of them an almost always full house is parading – seemed improbable just a few weeks ago.
Not when the accompanying Brighton squad were rightly furious after their side’s miserable 4-0 defeat on the south coast. Not even at Fulham, where a crucial victory in the relegation battle, which at the time looked like it was drawing to a close, still drew calls for Moyes’ head.
However, after Thursday night’s famous triumph at AZ Alkmaar, all grievances have been shelved – and many remain, despite what could be a historic end to the season – Pablo Fornals’ late goal in Holland and the horrible scenes in full swing. Time to contribute in different ways to bring a club together that has felt like a broken club at times this season.
There was a celebratory atmosphere here from the start: Declan Rice joined the greats – Billy Bonds, Bobby Moore and Trevor Brooking – to win the club’s Hammer of the Year award for the third time, while “Knollsy”, the Hammers fan , calling him a hero for keeping the Alkmaar ultras at bay during their shameful assault on players’ families, received less formal recognition in the form of a standing ovation when he took his place.
That Rice would score in West Ham’s colors in his very last appearance at the London Stadium seemed inevitable. The midfielder admitted he had an inkling himself after sending in Bowen’s cross to compensate for Rodrigo’s opener.
With arms outstretched in celebration, there was perhaps a taste of the spread of the wings that will come with a £100million move West Ham are hoping for.
Other poignant moments of appreciation followed: first, during a second-half injury break, when the 24-year-old seemed to pause for a moment, taking it all in and gathering himself; And once again long after regulation time ended, when Rice had joined his teammates for the traditional season-ending round-robin tournament, he started a second solo round to applaud a dwindling home crowd.
With a European final still to come, there was no overt acceptance or acknowledgment of what we all know, no wave of farewells, no farewell declarations, but the explicit farewells of Manuel Lanzini, whose stoppage-time goal from the bench tipped the scales in a 3-1 draw -Win after Bowen deftly completed a pass from Danny Ings.
Lanzini is out of contract at the end of the season and in a sign of the Argentine’s limited involvement this season, Moyes couldn’t help but point to his comeback strike in the 3-3 draw with Tottenham in October 2020 his contribution to the cause.
That goal, scored in the sombre atmosphere of an empty stadium at the height of the Covid pandemic, inspired as instinctive joy as this era could offer. It was the culmination of an afternoon that was about as perfect as West Ham have enjoyed all year in the Premier League.
https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/football/west-ham-declan-rice-transfer-b1082823.html West Ham demonstrate their new found unity on a perfect day as Declan Rice joins the big boys