After constructive talks with the co-owners, it was announced earlier this week that Sam Allardyce will remain at Upton Park for the foreseeable future following what was a disappointing season, finishing just seven points off the relegation zone in 13th place.
The storm over Allardyce’s future began early in the season, as the fans probably thought they would have at least ten points by the end of September given the first six fixtures; but they could only managed half that total.
Having won the opening game at home to Cardiff City, the team must have felt hopeful of improving on the previous season’s position.
Although they came away from difficult places with a couple of respectable draws, they had to wait until October for the next win and this was one of the most impressive triumphs of 2013/14, as they kept a clean sheet at White Hart Lane playing an unusual formation. Allardyce tried to follow up the success in North London as he continued with the same plan in future home games, but it was clear that this wasn’t working and it was time for Big Sam to come up with another solution but this never materialised.
Then injuries to key players started to take their toll, meaning that the Hammers had only picked up maximum points once more before the New Year and by Boxing Day relegation looked a real possibility. Despite the poor run of results, the board remained loyal to Allardyce by continually reiterating that he had their full backing
After the acquisition of Roger Johnson in early January, the second league game of the month saw the team claim a top-flight double for the first time since the 2008/2009 season, as they went to Cardiff and took all the points back home with them, courtesy of a 2-0 win. They gained an unlikely point from Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and in February they managed maximum points from all four games in the month.
Although the team had managed a fourth win on the spin at home to Southampton in their final match of the month, there were rumblings from a minority of the crowd, as they told Allardyce in no uncertain terms ‘where to go’ as they were clearly unhappy with the style of play he was employing.
After a win at Sunderland, which took us to 37 points and to the brink of safety, another major downturn in form saw Big Sam’s men lose all their games in April including a crucial London derby against Crystal Palace. Again there was displeasure thrown in the manager’s direction and they, this time quite rightly in my opinion, booed the team off again.
The support that the club normally receives away from home is passionate but, in the game at West Brom, there were more calls for Allardyce to be sacked and the fans made it very clear with a ‘Sam Out’ banner in the Hawthorns away end. However, in the next game Allardyce worked his magic again as the Irons beat Tottenham for a third consecutive time to end the home campaign on a high.
That win against Spurs didn’t stop the press speculating that the final game of the season against Manchester City would be the end for Allardyce. Despite losing 2-0, the manager was still talking of how the team could move forward next season. The press rumours of crunch talks with the board, who were seriously considering whether they wanted him to carry on, continued.
David Sullivan and David Gold explained that the manager had agreed to follow their vision as they want to emphasise the ethos of the club and continue to bring young players through. They gave the examples of Mark Noble, James Tomkins and Winston Reid and they praised Allardyce for helping these players to flourish. They made it abundantly clear that West Ham should be looking to finish in the top half of the table, above the likes of Southampton, Newcastle United and Stoke City who achieved at least ten more points than the Hammers over the last 10 months.
Now that the questions over his immediate future have been answered, Allardyce is close to confirming his first signing of the summer and unsurprisingly it’s a forward, as a deal for former Birmingham City loanee Mauro Zárate is nearing completion.
I believe the board have reached a sensible outcome. Big Sam has a proven track record of keeping teams in the Premier League and it is essential that the Hammers keep their top-flight status as they look towards the 2016/17 campaign when the club moves to the Olympic Stadium.