Thursday, February 25

The return of Big Sam

There's two pages on the return of Sam Allardyce to Upton Park in tonight's Standard, with Sam, never slow to promote himself, claiming, "I saved a broken West Ham." In footballing terms he has a point, though the problem was that in PR terms Allardyce, whose take-it-or-leave-it gruff persona might suit some northern underdog clubs, was never right for West Ham, where the descendants of hardened ironworkers still want a little fantasy and escapism. Saying that he didn't know what the West Ham way was got him off to a terrible start and the low point was cupping his ear to the fans after the unconvincing win against ten-man Hull.

But it's also fair to say that despite some West Ham fans refusing to admit that anything he ever did was of any value, Sam did save the club from going the way of relegated PL clubs like Bolton, Wigan and Leeds. It's very very difficult to get promoted first-time and Allardyce achieved that despite having to revamp the entire squad, giving us a great day at Wembley in the process. It wasn't always pretty but the finishes of 10th, 14th and 12th established the club back in the Premier League — though the post-Christmas fade last season suggested the time was right to change for both parties.

He made some unsuccessful buys in Matt Jarvis and — based on his injury record rather than ability — Andy Carroll. But it was also on Allardyce's watch that the core of today's successful side arrived, such as Adrian, Cresswell, Collins,  Kouyate, Song, Valencia and Sakho. He also coached Winston Reid and James Tomkins into becoming much better players. The players seemed to enjoy playing for Allardyce and at times his long ball reputation was exaggerated. Mark Noble would not have kept his place if the team was an exclusively long-ball outfit and we still score a lot of headers from crosses now, without any criticism of Bilic.

So I won't be joining in the boos aimed at Big Sam, though the time was right for both parties to part. Slaven Bilic is much better at saying what the fans want to hear. He understands the club and the fans' need for entertainment and glory nights. Allied to the genius of Payet, it seems we've got an upgrade and that Sullivan and Gold called it right. We could do without him yet again saying how over-demanding West Ham fans are, but Allardyce does deserve some credit for being part of that building process too.


Shane Barber said...

Sorry, Pete, but you or I could have got that team up - and probably automatically, rather than by a play-off final fluke - given the money spent and the opposition.

For me, there are two clear factors I of Allardyce's reign that can't be mitigated; firstly, he despised us and our aspirations - and made it abundantly clear. To him it was just a job, and even then not one he really valued.To bring up 'the West Ham way' and then state he didn't understand it (or know anyone that did), rather than offer to embrace it betrayed an arrogance I simply couldn't - and still can't - forgive.

Secondly, and even more importantly, he came close to making me renounce my season ticket and stop going to watch the team I'd been supporting for nearly fifty years. I simply lost all pleasure in watching the negative tactics; the 'respect the point' attitude, the hoof ball approach. What had kept me passionate for nigh-on half a century was being systematically ruined by a man who wasn't fit to be part of the heritage of alternating pleasure and pain that is West Ham. Greenwood, Lyall, Brooking, Bonds, Moore, Devonshire, the lunatic Di Canio, Dicks; all parts of a culture Allardyce couldn't (or wouldn't) comprehend. Even Macari and Grant had some minimal redeeming features, but to me Allardyce had none.

So as I won't be in the UK for tomorrow's game, my abiding memory of Allardyce will be a chilly night in Peterborough chanting 'We play on the floor' and that bloody ear-cupping after that dismal night against Hull. And that's enough. Allardichi, my arse.

Pete May said...

I'd agree he never understood what the club stood for Shane and was never a long-term solution, but he did a job. We could have carried on playing decent football but losing under Avram and ended up in league one. The season we went up he had to sell 18 players and bring in 15 so he has to take some credit for that. We then had to stay up by any means necessary and I'm not averse to WHU defending properly and scoring from set pieces. We had made some progress and played some good stuff up to Xmas last season. I don't like the way Sam picks fights with us fans either, but he did establish the club in the PL. Still, I guess BFS will always divide opinion and I'm sure my pal Fraser will give him a boo on your behalf...

mj said...

Hmmmm, I saw some terrible football under Lyall, Macari, Bonds, Redknapp, Roeder, Pardew, Curbishley and Grant. Sam did what his remit was, get us up and keep us up. It wasn't all terrible and he bought in lot of good players. Slav had said it was easier for him after Sam. Sam should get some credit.

Mark said...

I can't agree with the Sam-haters out there.

I couldn't agree more with you, Pete, in your third paragraph outlining the list of quality talent that he brought in: Adrian, Kouyate and Sakho at the lead (and good prices too). We shouldn't underestimate what he did to bring the team to where it is now. Yes, Bilic has guided the team to more exciting football, but in four years, a team that very well could still be in the Championship is doing well. Sam laid the foundation for Bilic and I think Slaven is absolutely right to encourage fans to give him his due.