Spend just five minutes in the company of some West Ham fans, either in person or online, and you’ll soon realise Sam Allardyce is almost like an enemy.
You’d be led to believe he’s the devil, the man to have sucked the club dry of any personality. It really has become a depressing reality that we’ve all but driven the man out of the club.
Now that’s not to say that’s necessarily a bad thing – there is a method to our madness – but the significance of the job he’s done since taking the job four years ago is finally hitting home now it’s all coming to an end.
Many fans would argue that Allardyce’s arrogance and stubbornness has eventually led him down a dead end path. Everything from poor tactical decisions to his reluctance to take any responsibility when we lose has resulted in him having a non-existent relationship with the fans.
It’s like getting divorced but then still living with your ex – it started off brilliantly but has turned in to a sour relationship where neither of you are to blame, all while the kids are stuck in the middle, which in this case is the players.
And it did start well. Upon taking the job, Allardyce was told to get us promoted back to the Premier League at the first time of trying.
A percentage of fans will argue this should’ve been done automatically, but if anyone can tell me the last time West Ham did something the easy way I’d be all ears.
And I’d argue a last minute winner at Wembley to secure promotion is the very best way to go about it. Remember when we all sung Allardyce’s name to Coldplay’s ‘Paradise’ when the lads lifted the trophy? Those were the days.
That Championship season was a huge success. We had our blips, as expected, but on the whole Allardyce had us all on side and living the dream. We even broke the club record for the most away victories in a single season (13), which is still impressive even if it was in second tier.
We’ve since enjoyed three relatively decent seasons in the Premier League. The first two had a huge emphasis on consolidating ourselves in mid-table, which the Big Man did to near perfection, albeit with a few wobbles along the way.
Then the owners gave him the ultimatum we all called for – play a more attacking brand of football, or you’re on your bike.
‘No problem,’ said Allardyce, and we found ourselves living the dream in the top four over Christmas. The goals were flowing and Allardyce was being praised for the summer business he’d done to make it all possible.
Since then it’s been all down hill, though we’re still set for a top ten finish and a potential route in to the Europa League via the Fair Play League.
So after all that’s happened over the last four years – where it’s been nothing but progress for us – why is Allardyce about to leave the club in a plethora of celebration and euphoria from the club’s fans?
If you take a step back and actually think about it, you’ll realise none of it makes much sense. Why is it ending this way when it could’ve, and probably would’ve, gone the opposite way?
You’ll also realise that Allardyce has arguably been the most important manager we’ve ever had. During an era of financial instability Allardyce and general negativity, Allardyce picked us up, dusted us down and revived our great club. He got us back to where we belong and has set us up nicely for a bright future.
It is certainly time for him to move on as we embark on a new and exciting era, but it’s a huge shame that he will not earn the respect he deserves from the fans.
Out of all the managers we've have had in my lifetime Allardyce is right up there in terms of success, given us some much needed stability
— Alex (@lowerthan_alex) May 12, 2015
Over the last few months I’ve listened to both sides of the argument. There are still a lot of fans who would rather us stick with Allardyce until we move home, and they understandably cite the disastrous plight of all the teams he’s left throughout his career – Bolton, Blackburn and Newcastle were all relegated soon after he left.
Those that want him gone have differing reasons, though. One half want him gone because an arrogant, self-obsessed, tactically outdated dinosaur, and others want him gone because they truly believe he’s taken us as far as he possible can. I’m in the latter half of the group, for what it’s worth.
Will we get relegated next season? Not likely. Because there is a huge difference between the situation Allardyce leaves us in compared to his aforementioned former clubs.
We are on the up, we have a squad that needs only a few new faces this summer, and we’ve got stability. The others didn’t have all of that and were already on a slippery slope.
That’s why both the board, and Allardyce, deserve praise of the highest order. They could’ve sacked him last summer and no one would’ve batted an eyelid, but his history shows us that we probably would’ve got relegated this season as a result. That’s perhaps a bold statement, but one many would agree with nonetheless.
But we stuck with him and allowed him to finish the job he started. The mission was to get us up and keep us up, and all the while improving us year-on-year. Mission Accomplished.
If it really is the end of the road for Allardyce in east London and it’ll be his final game at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday, then he deserves nothing more than a standing ovation from every single Hammers fan in the stadium.
He’s not the most likeable manager we’ve ever had, but he’s the most important by a country mile.
It could’ve been oh so different without him, and now we’re in a better position realise our ambitions in the Olympic Stadium.
Thanks for the memories, Big Sam.