Within weeks of the Premier League ending Sam Allardyce escaped the West Ham axe after agreeing to produce a more adventurous team true to the attacking principles of the club.
Under pressure Allardyce was summoned to a meeting with the board and emerged with his job after accepting certain objectives, including a change of philosophy and a top-10 finish. He has agreed to add to his staff an ‘attacking coach’, someone who will have responsibilities for creating a more cavalier and entertaining side, and will also be expected to develop more youngsters from the West Ham academy.
In a poll of more than 11,000 West Ham fans, less than a quarter said they wanted to keep the manager who took them back to the Barclays Premier League and has kept the club there ever since, last season finishing 13th.
Despite the fierce opposition from supporters, David Sullivan and David Gold have stayed loyal to the manager, who has a year left on his contract.
So as we are getting close to the season kick off let’s look at a few questions as to where West Ham are and if the loyalty the owners have shown is going to pay off or is the managers reputation at stake.
- Will the manager change his style of play and move towards the West Ham way of an entertaining and passing style?
- Are the owners pushing their own agenda by insisting on these changes in the hope they don’t have to pay off the remainder of the manager’s contract by pushing Sam to walk away?
In six pre-season games, Sam Allardyce has played the same system with one up front despite the signings of Zarate & Valencia (who played in three games in the World Cup but apparently is three weeks away from being ready?). Elliot Lee has been knocking on the door for a chance and of course Carlton Cole, who the manager was happy to release for presumably not being good enough only to be signed back after no other team thought he was up to Premier League standards.
Big Sam has had a successful career playing his own style of football and for most times getting the results to keep his board and supporters happy. The chances of him changing his football philosophy or being happy to do so after being told to by the owners doesn’t add up and by all accounts it doesn’t look like there is much change from last season going on pre-season games.
Surely this is the time to try new formations with new players we all know what Nolan, O Brien, Demel, Downing, Cole, Jarvis & co. can do but it looks like the same dreary unattractive football we long suffering fans are watching for the last few seasons.
Some might be happy with that but the owners have pushed this issue with their statement after meeting Sam and the manager has also pushed this by agreeing to the change and being quoted as experimenting with the team but in fact he seems the only person who believes that.
Has the manager being involved in the buying of players or are some of these signings the board’s choice? If so we will probably see Mauro Zarate & Enner Valencia start on the bench against Spurs.
Is this playing in to the owners hands? Are they playing bluff with the manager in the hope he goes rather than axe him? If so it looks like we are going to end up in a standoff, as Big Sam could easily stick to his formula and grind out draws and the odd win but do enough to keep us above the relegation zone. Or will the owners finally pay off the last year of his contract and employ a manager who plays the style the fans and owners seem to agree on.
Does the manager risk his reputation on changing his style and failing or does he keep his record of keeping teams in a safe position in the league in favour of playing the West Ham way? Will this scenario be good enough for the Olympic Stadium project? Probably not but who will play their hand first, the owners or the manager?
Another scenario is the owners relieving Sam of his duties and trying to get out of paying compensation by saying he went against the deal they made and broke a verbal contract. After all, they said after the meeting: “Sam was asked to give us a detailed presentation on his vision for next season and during this he assured us he can deliver that ethos to West Ham United and we have agreed to support him with the resources that he needs.”
We will know how this plays out soon if the Hammers don’t get off to a flying start in the first month of the season. The pressure from fans on both the manager and the owners will be red hot and it will be a case of who cracks first.
Or come the day we play Spurs with a hot atmosphere maybe, just maybe, we will see the West Ham way and all will be forgotten…
The Green Street Soap Opera that is West Ham United is back for a new series in a few weeks and it’s sure to be a rollercoaster, and would we have it any other way.