When West Ham were relegated in 2010/11 with one game of the season remaining following the 3-2 defeat at Wigan Athletic, their Premier League status wasn’t the only thing they lost, as the clubs’ hierarchy dispensed with a the services of then manager Avram Grant immediately after the match.
David Sullivan and David Gold’s aim was to get the club back into the top-flight at the first attempt, so they turned to Sam Allardyce hoping that he would deliver what all connected with the club wanted; an established Premier League side .
Many of the fans didn’t agree with the appointment, as Sam had built a reputation for getting results and not necessarily playing the best football but, given that he managed to attract big-name signings such as Kevin Nolan, Matthew Taylor and John Carew, things were looking up for the club and after his first two seasons Allardyce had quietened his critics. But this season, and especially in recent games, the doubters have found their voices again.
Sam made his name at Bolton Wanderers after he was appointed as manager in 1999 and, despite a slow start, managed to convince the fans who weren’t happy with his style of play once they saw what he brought to the club.
During his time at the Reebok Stadium, Big Sam managed to attract some of the world’s big-names to come and play for the club. Wanderers finished in the top half regularly and in March 2004 he got them to the Carling Cup Final and they competed in the UEFA Cup the following season.
When he eventually left Bolton in 2006, stating that he wanted to win silverware and he didn’t see Bolton achieving those heights, the Trotters were at their high-water mark whilst the Hammers were desperately fighting for their Premier League survival.
Life after Bolton took Allardyce to Newcastle United. As you can imagine, the Geordie fans were really against this appointment having seen the style that Big Sam employed during his time in Lancashire and given that the Tyneside club had previously been involved in European football competition; Allardyce knew he was going to have a job on his hands.
That summer, he again managed to attract some top players to the Magpies including Mark Viduka who was persuaded to join the club from local rivals Middlesbrough, Allardyce then did a similar job on Manchester United’s Alan Smith and as well as making some top foreign talent aware of his vision. He also managed to persuade his captain at Bolton to rejoin him.
Having built his side, Newcastle enjoyed a steady start to the season until results took a turn of the worst around the Christmas period and the fans became disillusioned with his style of play, prompting huge protests after matches to remove him from the post. His position eventually became untenable in the North-East and the fans got their wish. Newcastle then worked their way through three managers and eventually finished up relegated at the end of the 2008/9 season.
Allardyce moved back to Lancashire in 2009 to take charge of Blackburn Rovers. Once again the fans didn’t like the club’s decision to move him in as manager particularly with his Bolton connections and his infamous style of play but, as per usual with Big Sam, he set about getting results and his first game ended in a 5-0 victory. Despite his seven-year connection with the Trotters, he was working his magic again as Rovers suddenly went on a nine-game unbeaten run. He then led the team to seven more wins but only two came away from Ewood Park. He also achieved some credible results over the so-called “Big Four” in the Premier League which helped Rovers finish in a comfortable tenth place.
The next season he led Blackburn to a magnificent run in the League Cup but the arrival of the Indian chicken farmers signalled the end for Allardyce. What is indisputable is, that, after Sam’s departure Rovers fortunes went into steady decline from which they have still not recovered.
When Big Sam joined newly relegated West Ham in June 2012, the length of his contract was for two years with the option of a further two-year extension if he cemented the team’s position in the top division should he get them promoted. Having achieved promotion he then led them to a tenth place Premier League finish which is some achievement for a newly promoted club.
This season however, things haven’t gone quite as well as the majority of the fans would have hoped. Despite confirming the permanent arrival of Andy Carroll in the summer, at crucial periods in the season Allardyce has had to deal with injuries in key areas of the squad.
The club owners have continually reiterated this season that it would be a disaster if West Ham were to be relegated, as the club prepares for the big move to the Olympic Stadium for the start of the 2016/17 season.
In the recent home games against Hull City and Crystal Palace however, the reaction at the final whistle hasn’t been good and it is not as if the players, individually, have played badly, so it has to be down to the system that Allardyce is currently employing. It seems they are completely bypassing the midfield and hoping the long ball will find the striker to produce a goal. This is not seen by the fans as entertainment and they certainly don’t think it’s worth the prices the club are charging.
Personally I don’t agree with the amount of booing that can currently be heard at the end of matches and think that the club should back Allardyce, although on the other hand, I can fully understand that if the fans have paid a considerable amount of money, then they are entitled to show their disapproval.
If history teaches us anything, then fans have to be careful what they wish for. The lessons of Bolton, Newcastle and Blackburn suggest that this might not be the time for a step into the unknown as the Olympic Stadium move draws ever closer.