I have to admit, when West Ham announced that Sam Allardyce was to become our new manager in June 2011, I feared the worst. “We’re a club that has a tradition of playing passing football” were the cries from the supporters. Allardyce had the well known reputation of getting his teams to play long ball football. I could only remember Allardyce for his days at Bolton – and the times they come down to Upton Park and bullied us off the pitch with their tactics.
Gone are the days of attacking, passing football, and we were in for a long dark winter of hoofball and cold nights at the likes of Burnley and Hull. It has to be said that things looked grim.
18 months later, and I couldn’t be happier with ‘Big Sam’. His arrival brought an air of honesty back to the club. He quite rightly pointed out that for a club with a tradition of playing passing attacking football, where had it got us? Relegated under Avram Grant the season before, and hardly setting the world alight the seasons before that, we had a dysfunctional squad, littered with hangers on. Confidence around the club was low, team morale was shot to bits – I wasn’t proud of my team at all. However, Allardyce went about his work quickly, got rid of a number of players, reduced the wage bill and brought in players that he knew, and that could do a job in the Championship. Most notably, the signing of Kevin Nolan – a player I always loved watching due to his knack of popping up in the box with a goal or two. Between them, they galvanised the squad, bashed a few heads together, and gave us a team that not only played some very good football, but also fought for each other, the manager and the supporters.
Ok, we didn’t win the league, but Allardyces objective at the start of the season was to get us back to the Premier League at the first attempt – not only did he achieve this, but he gave the supporters a day out at Wembley at the same time! He also broke the club record for most away wins in a season…..for West Ham, that’s amazing.
That alone, means we should be thankful to Allardyce. But since our return to the Premier League, Allardyces team has gone from strength to strength. Obviously the backing of the West Ham board has helped him, but the signings that Allardyce has made have been very clever. Picking up Mohammed Diame on a Free Trasfer from Wigan is probably one of the best bits of business he has ever done in the transfer market. No doubt we have had a couple of blips (Swansea/Wigan away) but fact is, we sit 8 th in the table as I write, on 22 points, having just thrashed the European Champions 3-1. I would never have seen us getting this many points so early on. Yet despite this, I rarely hear supporters commending the tactics and style of play that Allardyce has adopted. Yes we sometimes play direct, but we have certainly had our fair share of passing, attacking football too. Defensively we are solid, our midfield trio have been immense, and the work rate of Carroll and Cole is incredible. It means that even if we lose, we know as supporters that our players have run their socks off.
We close the ball down, we hassle, we give the opposition a hard time and a difficult game. We are no longer an easy touch, no longer the West Ham that roll over at the first sign of pressure. What really brought home how good Allardyce is for us, is the half time substitutions he made on Saturday. He identified what we were lacking in the first half, made some very brave decisions, and they worked perfectly.
For the simple fact we got our first victory over Chelsea in 13 attempts, this should be enough for us to be singing Alla, Alla, Allardyce….wooaaahhhh! wooaaahhhh!
I for one, am right behind Big Sam, and I hope the chairmen are drafting up a new contract offer for him to sign in the coming weeks!