West Ham’s £20.5m acquisition’s English adventures reverse a year but have brighter prospects this time
By: Sammie Frimpong
This time last year, Ghana international Andre Ayew had moved to a club which appeared comfortably seated in the top half of the English top-flight and which seemed capable of only aiming higher.
Swansea City were not the biggest in the land to covet the then Olympique Marseille forward — his boyhood club Liverpool were — but, for a start in England’s often unforgiving landscape, there couldn’t have been a better fit than Garry Monk’s modest yet impressively high-flying unit. The beginning was all bliss, with Swansea initially doing well enough to inspire the kind of form which powered Dede to a Player of the Month prize in the 2015/16 season’s opening weeks. For much of the ensuing period, though, Swansea went the other way, battling relegation and only surviving with minimum fuss after a late resurgence. Ayew’s role in that recovery was noteworthy, with his dozen goals — some of which came against heavyweights like Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool — topping the club’s scoring charts.
That sealed Ayew’s slot alongside Iceland’s Gylfi Sigurdsson as a starring figure in Swansea’s escape but, as he’d be the first to admit, it wasn’t really what he signed up for. With the Swans only finishing a relatively disappointing 12th, the substantive appointment of Italian manager Francesco Guidolin and some potentially telling transfer business implies Swansea are now seeking to rebuild from the scraps of the ultimately failed Monk-led experiment. It’s far less than Ayew deserves, of course, ambitious as he is. Clearly, he is worth better — and that’s just what his new employers, West Ham United, offer.
In many ways, the Hammers are the Swansea Ayew joined a year ago, with the two clubs almost swapping places within the year the Ghanaian has been around. Seventh in last year’s Premier League campaign and with a Europa League ticket in hand (finishing just four points shy of a Uefa Champions League spot, in fact), West Ham are closer than Swansea to the standards Ayew is accustomed to and are generally the more traditionally successful club. Fresh off what’s statistically their finest season yet in Premier League history, West Ham look to grow even stronger, with several other summer acquisitions and the retention of the club’s key men from 2015/16 fuelling that desire. And in Ayew, the club’s new record signing, boss Slaven Bilic has made a solid statement of intent, one that the deputy Ghana skipper certainly believes in.
“The club have a lot of ambition and have a great manager,” Ayew told West Ham’s official website. “They want to become a bigger club every year and. . . you can feel they are moving onto another level and I want to be part of this project.”
West Ham themselves are roaring off to what is, in many ways, a fresh start. The London outfit is putting down roots at a new home ground, namely, London’s Olympic Stadium, and Ayew would likely prove vital in writing the opening paragraphs of this new chapter.
First, though, his bow which, bar any unforeseen glitches, would come away to Chelsea when the new term kicks off on August 15, at the same venue where he enjoyed a scoring debut exactly a year to the day he signed for West Ham.
Ah, why does so little of this feel altogether new?