Can West Ham survive Payet’s parting?

It wasn’t that long ago that players couldn’t leave clubs, even if they were out of contract, without that same clubs permission. My oh my, how times have changed.

Dimitri Payet

Dimitri Payet has left West Ham for Olympique Marseille Source: Getty Images

Dimitri Payet is not the first player to try and force a move away from his club, and by no means will he be the last. But it’s hard to remember such a callous, desperate attempt to drive through a move.

Instead of suiting up for the resurgent Hammers in their huge game against a crumbling Manchester City side (live on SBS, Thursday 6:15am), he’ll be far away from London Stadium.

First things first, I’m a big advocate for players and their rights, something that is often misunderstood in the public eye, or at least broadly overlooked.


But the actions of Payet this past month – refusing to play for West Ham in an effort to force a move to Marseille – do the cause of players everywhere more harm than good (even if his £25 million move was finally sanctioned on Sunday).

What better way to reinforce the unfortunate misconception that players are greedy, spoiled, self-interested and disloyal to act in a way that is, well, greedy, spoiled, self-interested and disloyal?

Players go through all manner of hardship in their careers, but the actions of a select few make it that much harder for, say, a struggling young professional to get his overdue wages paid in time as he attempts to pay his mortgage.

Indeed, while they are separate issues, the public has a habit of conflating them, thinking most players are only in it to extort money from the industry. The reality for most professionals is starkly different.

Nobody chains Payet to the East End, forcing him to play. Of course, he is absolutely entitled to submit a transfer request. But there is a moral contract that players and clubs need to buy into equally, not to the mention the one that exists with his teammates.

By not training, separating himself from his colleagues and withdrawing himself from the club – despite agreeing to a professional contract that he signed just 18 months ago – he breaks that moral contract.

Sure, there are mitigating circumstances – it’s arguable that Manchester United’s handling of Bastian Schweinsteiger could have led the German legend into a similar response. That he kept going and never complained (even forcing his way into FA Cup contention this past week) says much about his professionalism, and, conversely, Payet’s complete lack of it.

The question now is how West Ham will respond to losing their talisman, one of the standout players of last season’s English Premier League and then at the European Championships.

If their recent form is to go by, the squad has galvanised in Payet’s absence. Their past six matches have yielded 12 points, bettered only by five others clubs. That alone has taken them from the relegation slug-fest to mid-table safety. Kudos must go to their wonderfully charismatic manager, Slaven Bilic.

The attacking load of Payet has been gradually absorbed by the excellent Michail Antonio (eight goals), Andy Carroll (five) and Argentine youngster Manuel Lanzini (four).

And teammate Aaron Cresswell believes it is the 23-year old Lanzini can step up to directly fill Payet’s boots.

"We always knew ‘Manu’ was capable of that, and we saw it last season as well," Cresswell said this week. "We know the whole team had a bit of a dip in the first 10 games of this season but he is starting to show what he showed last season. Hopefully for us he will continue that, take the number 10 role and take chances and make chances."

Also on hand to help out is Robert Snodgrass, the new £10.2million signing from Hull City, picking up a cool £65,000 per week for his services.

But although they may seem like big figures for a player of his age and calibre (29, with a career mostly forged at lower levels), Snodgrass already has enjoyed a peach of a season – nine goals (seven in the Premier League) in 24 games in all competitions.

That should give Hammers’ fans some silver lining as City make the journey south. Still, one wonders how much they’d rather be singing that unforgettable song about “Super Slav’s man”.

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4 min read
Published 1 February 2017 at 11:13am
By Sebastian Hassett