WEST HAM UNITED have contributed to my growing confusion about the attitude of club directors by telling manager Sam Allardyce he’s still in a job, but adding the ultimatum: Play more attractive football next season – and finish in the top 10. I really do wonder where these people are coming from.
Sam Allardyce is as honest a manager as they come. He has been criticised throughout his career for the style of football played by his teams. But Bolton, who he kept in the top flight against all odds for many seasons, and Blackburn, who mysteriously sacked him, were soon relegated after he left. At Newcastle, he simply wasn’t given the chance to settle in and do his job before being axed. He has done everything he possibly could have done for West Ham since joining them in June, 2011, winning promotion back to the Premier League and keeping them there since, finishing 10th and 13th the past two seasons. His task this last season was made all the tougher because record signing, striker Andy Carroll, was injured for most of the campaign.
The top seven clubs have been set in stone for many years. The two Manchesters, City and United, Liverpool and Everton from Merseyside, and the three Londoners, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham. That isn’t about to change. There is usually a springer, a team that leaps from the pack and threatens that established group, and last season it was Southampton. In effect, the Hammers’ board is telling Sam that West Ham must be that springer next season. Well, even if they were to spend £30million on a midfielder and £40 million on a striker this summer – which they won’t – it would be a tall order.
It is laudable for clubs to be ambitious, but they must also be realistic. I think Big Sam has been put under unfair pressure by the Hammers fans and, now, by the board. In fact, I believe he is overdue some credit for the job he has done as a manager in the Premier League. Sometimes, directors and fans don’t appreciate just what they’ve got. Best of luck, Sam.