If this were any other year, West Ham would be one of the biggest stories in the Premier League. Here’s a club playing some of the prettiest soccer in the league, paced by hidden diamond Dimitri Payet, and has performed so well so consistently that they are still pressing for a Champions League spot. And yet, because of the real-life fairytale playing out over in Leicester, the Hammers haven’t enjoyed the attention and praise a season like theirs typically deserves.
Because of this, it’s not totally surprising that West Ham’s largest shareholder, David Sullivan, feels sort of like Jan Brady to Leicester’s Marcia. His assessment of the Foxes campaign, while not totally off-base, is flavored with more than a hint of saltiness. From FourFourTwo:
The Foxes have been congratulated in many quarters, including by Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane, but the Hammers’ co-owner was somewhat less effusive in his praise.
“I know how they’ve done it,” Sullivan told Sky Sports.
“They’ve got 11 penalties, lady luck shined on them. They’ve had virtually no injuries. They’ve only used 18 players all season.
“They’ve had two players [Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez] who’ve played out of their skin, scored more goals than they’ve ever scored in their entire lives.
“They signed a fantastic midfielder [N’Golo Kante]. One of their big signings came good, and that’s how they’ve done it. You don’t see them being massively better than you [West Ham] are.”
See, he’s not too far away from a reasonable take here. Leicester have undoubtedly been lucky, as is any team that wins trophies decided by such small margins. The penalties have helped (Leicester have nine goals from spot kicks, the most in the Prem; five teams are tied for second place with five pens), and Vardy, Mahrez, and Kanté have been better than anyone predicted. But those players are legitimate stars and themselves deserve credit for developing into what they’ve become, and the club deserves credit for spotting their talents and cultivating them, and the lack of injuries and number of penalties and everything that’s gone into creating this perfect storm isn’t all just blind luck. Thus, to use it all to discredit Leicester’s achievement—even going so far saying the Foxes aren’t much better than his Hammers—smacks more of animus than steely eyed truth-telling.
(This is especially rich when considering that West Ham themselves have benefitted from some of the very same types of unsustainable, flatteringly deceptive goal-scoring luck, as explained here.)
Sullivan went on to again express something close to an opinion we actually agree with, before shading Leicester one last time:
“Man City and Tottenham on a good day are real good teams, better than Leicester,” he said.
“[But] the table doesn’t lie and Leicester are the champions.”
I imagine most Leicester fans, if they weren’t too busy celebrating their Premier League title to pay attention to the jealous words of a rival, would respond to Sullivan’s claims with a single word: “scoreboard.”