If any West Ham fans were still hanging on to the shreds of the optimism that seem to be driving on manager Glenn Roeder, the last two days should have seen reality bite.
Hammers supporters usually take a perverse pride in singing “fortune’s always hiding”, but now it rings all too true.
Waking up on Wednesday to find that Joe Cole – the heartbeat of the team and true fans’ favourite – is being sold to Chelsea signals beyond doubt that the club is prepared to let anyone go.
Cole is said to have ruled out signing a new contract at the end of the coming season, giving West Ham “no choice” but to take the £6.6m on offer.
However, that will not appease supporters who were told by chairman Terence Brown only nine weeks ago that claims Chelsea wanted Cole for £5m were “derisory and not true”.
The Upton Park exodus has been dramatic, with 15 players heading out the door either to bring in transfer funds or get them off the wage bill.
And yet, as recently as 4 June director Trevor Brooking was calming the fans’ fears of a mass exodus of players.
He said: “By the start of the season I expect there will be one or two that move on but we want to try and keep the nucleus to give us a chance to bounce straight back.”
Brown added: “While one or two players may indeed leave in the summer, the outward movement of players will not be drastic – and it will be on our terms.”
Only now would it appear to be on the club’s terms, as they insist that Cole’s departure means no other players need to be sold for financial reasons.
All week, the club has been at pains to point out that there is no “financial meltdown” as has been reported.
But Jermain Defoe and, to a much lesser extent Michael Carrick, are the only players left who would attract any big sums.
INS AND OUTS
Paolo di Canio
Raimond van der Gouw
And Defoe, in particular, must be weighing up his options with a Champions League deadline day looming on Thursday, and reports circulating that Manchester United are interested.
After all, why would a proven Premiership goalscorer and England possible want to stay at Upton Park?
West Ham may remain favourites for promotion with most bookmakers but the team that starts at Preston on Saturday will bear little resemblance to that which got relegated.
For Cole, Glen Johnson, Trevor Sinclair, Freddie Kanoute and Paolo di Canio, read Rob Lee, Anton Ferdinand, Matthew Etherington, David Connolly and possibly Neil Mellor.
Short-term signings like Les Ferdinand and Lee Bowyer have left, as well as stalwarts such as Nigel Winterburn and John Moncur, leaving Roeder with few options.
Most supporters direct the blame at both Brown and Roeder.
Brown, who is an almost reclusive character and rarely gives interviews, is accused of under-investment in the team.
He admitted after the EGM in May that mistakes had been made, suggesting the club should have borrowed more to make signings last summer.
Roeder was considered by many to be out of his depth in the Premiership after an uninspiring record in charge at Watford and Gillingham.
Many fans doubt whether he has the personality to deal with highly-paid, highly-strung footballers.
But what has always been the case at West Ham, and looks to have really crippled them now, is a lack of ambition.
Cole would not extend his contract last summer, after the Hammers had finished seventh, because there was no immediate prospect of Champions League football.
“Naturally we couldn’t offer that,” said Brooking.
Former Hammers boss Harry Redknapp has, perhaps unsurprisingly, been quick to comment, but his thoughts will be echoed by most fans.
“To me Joey was priceless,” he said, “and what they are doing at that club is a disgrace. The fans deserve better.”
Brown will make a statement to supporters next week “detailing the transfer activity and its importance to the club”.
It may take more than three points at Preston for the chairman to get that one past the Upton Park faithful.