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West Ham United are looking at the new Premier League season with renewed optimism following an eventful summer at the club.
The Hammers begin the campaign with a local derby away to newly promoted Queen's Park Rangers and secretary Bill Robinson recalled a period of time in which they had gone from an uncertain future to obtaining a high profile manager and recruiting new players to a rejuvenated squad.
"Its May 25th 2014, we are travelling back on the coach after being humbled to embarrassment by Portsmouth going down 6-2," he said. "It was the last match of the season and the sense of relief was fully evident in the atmosphere.
"We had completed a very poor season finishing second from bottom with just enough points to fight off the threat of relegation.
"But where do we go from here. I feared for the survival of the club, we had a caretaker manager in place, no money in the bank, we had lost three key players to other clubs at the tail end of the season, there was a real danger that we would lose even more during the break.
"Over the next week or so social media came to our rescue, our club captain asked West Ham Supporters if Julian Dicks should be the next West Ham Ladies manager. One of the replies came back from Julian himself saying he was keen, further discussion with the Ladies and the men's club followed and on June 19th it was confirmed that Julian Dicks was our new manager.
"For obvious reasons, the whole club got a huge lift and with pre-season training just two weeks away the emails kept coming asking for trials and existing girls confirming their attendance."
The first pre-season game was scheduled for 27th July away at Maidstone United, so the players trained three times every week leading up to the game.
"We signed five new girls, Nakita Runnacles and Emma Sherwood from Millwall Lionesses, Ruby Baxter from Bristol Academy, Alma Donohoe from KIKK United and Vicky Kinsman who had taken time out from football and previously played for the Hammers over eight years ago," added Bill.
"With the nucleus of last season's squad still with us, training sessions were passionate and exhausting as Julian worked the girls hard to get fit and play his unique style of football.
"Our first competitive friendly was against Brentford on 20th July and we sent down a development squad which included a few potential first team players and new players on trial whilst the manager kept his squad back for more intensive training at Chadwell Heath. We played well at Brentford and enjoyed a 8-2 victory with both teams enjoying the day.
"Julian had his first game in charge away at Maidstone and plenty of West Ham supporters made the trip to see the ex-player that still means so much to all Hammers fans. The game went well for us, winning 5-0, we played some good football and two of the new stars opening the scoring, Alma Donohoe opening the scoring followed by Emma Sherwood."
The first real test would be the following week away to C&K Basildon, local rivals who still hadn't forgotten or forgiven the Hammers for knocking them out of the FA Women's Cup and County Cup last season, both times on penalties.
"We always enjoy a good competitive game and are made extremely welcome at C&K Basildon. The opening twenty minutes we looked good and by taking the lead after 12 minutes in the glorious sunshine we were optimistic.
"Basildon are a good team and fought back to level the scores and then just after the break they went in front. The signs were not good for the Hammers now as the pressure mounted on our goal. A splendid strike from our Vicki King looked to have evened up the game but once again C&K Basildon determination found them a winner late on.
"The following weekend we travelled to Denham United with a similar squad. After the C&K Basildon game, Julian had spoke at length to the players giving them a very clear message that they need to start performing or don't bother to come back.
"The girls got the message through midweek training sessions - if not the words of the manager - and the results shone through in what was one of the best "team" performances by a West Ham side for some time. A hat-trick by Emma Sherwood and one each for Vicki King and Sasha Kelly saw us run out 5-0 winners.
"The manager said "it was a lot better" and now with just under two weeks to the start of the league season, which starts with an away trip to QPR followed by Tottenham at home, it's a case of being consistent on a regular basis.
"The team spirit that Julian has created has rejuvenated some of the senior players who are playing their best football for many seasons so keep an eye on the Hammers this season, we are hoping for lots of exciting football."
It promises to be a very interesting season ahead for West Ham United.
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