This week has been doom and gloom for Sam Allardyce; a combination of various things has conspired to place us firmly in the lower half of the table, sapped of confidence, effectively dumped out of both cup competitions and with an injury list amongst the most extensive in the league, West Ham were seemingly a club in crisis.
Regardless of what has come before this season, lets be clear about one thing: no one is better at battling a relegation dogfight than Sam Allardyce.
Whilst at least some, if not most of the blame for our current position can be laid at his door, the remainder of this season must be focussed on only one thing: retaining Premier League status.
West Ham cannot afford to look back and think what might have been or look at greener grass and make a rash decision. Sam’s record speaks for itself – and comes into its own – when judging his previous experience in the bottom half of the table.
He has never been relegated, and yet clubs that ditch him in search of more attractive football tend to go down within two seasons of his departure.
There is of course another way to look at this, that Big Sam’s squad building and tactics aren’t necessarily sustainable in the long term, especially when another manager comes in, inheriting the squad that he has constructed and attempted to play a different brand of football.
Sam buys players to fit a very specific style of football and, whilst “route one” as it is often described is a little off the mark, he could never be accused of playing the beautiful football seen at Camp Nou.
Bringing someone in like a Malky Mackay or a Billy Davies would almost certainly seal Championship football for us next season. Not because Malky or Billy are bad managers – far from it – but rather they would naturally try to play to their managerial strengths, which are not the strengths of West Ham’s current squad and set up.
In the off season, once Premier League safety has been secured, Sullivan, Gold and Brady will need to sit down and plan out the pathway to the Olympic stadium and beyond. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sam Allardyce isn’t a part of this plan.
If that is the case, they will need to look very closely at the squad of players currently on our books, look at the dead wood and the players that can make an easy transition into a different playing style.
From there they need to work out how many new players are required and, therefore, what it would cost to play under another manager. Even before then they will need to ensure that the manager they pick is capable of meeting their expectations and if the money required to do so is even available.
One of the strengths of our current squad is that at its core there is a group of very talented footballers: Diame, Jarvis and Downing can all perform far better than they have this season; Noble never gives less than 100% and clearly loves the club; Joe Cole is capable of showing that form is temporary but class is permanent; Winston Reid’s stature will only continue to grow and our young goalkeeper Adrian needs a little confidence but is far better than our defence has conspired to make him look recently.
What this means is that it wouldn’t cost an awful lot to transform the squad, only a few special players would be required.
Last season Michu proved that special doesn’t have to equate to expensive (a £2million transfer fee), whilst Lukaku proved that special players can be had through the loan market.
With or without Sam Allardyce our current players are capable of stepping up a level from the lower table mediocrity that has been on display this season.
Yet, among the talk of a club crisis and certain relegation, the bottom half of the Premier League table is seperated – from 10th placed Hull to 20th placed Crystal Palace – by just six points. Our win against Cardiff yesterday took us out of the relegation zone and just four points from 10th.
Andy Carroll came back into the squad yesterday and made a great contribution in setting up Noble to put the tie beyond doubt.
Our squad will get stronger as the injury list reduces. The next two matches are tough, against Newcastle and Chelsea, but February sees four very winnable fixtures, three of which are at home, and it is this period that will define West Ham’s season.
Sam Allardyce might not be the man to take us into the top half of the table, perhaps that is extending his reach too far, which is something that will have been recognised by Sullivan, Gold and Brady this season.
What Sam is, however, is the very best manager available – employed or otherwise – at beating the drop and he is at OUR club.
Sacking him now for his weaknesses in the first half of the season would completely ignore his strengths, which we desperately need, in the second half of the season.
All Sam needs to prove is that we are not one of the three worst teams in the league – something well within his grasp given how tightly packed the teams are this year.
I would welcome a review of the coaching staff at West Ham at the end of the season once safety has been secured, players are more open to moves at sensible prices and a full pre-season can be utilised to bed everything in.
Making wholesale changes before then would be madness.