You have to feel for West Ham manager Sam Allardyce.
He did a very good job with an average Bolton side (as seen by their slide down the leagues after his departure), was better than most remember at Newcastle (and look at their slide after his departure, which has only just recovered in the last couple of seasons), and did another sound job at Blackburn (as seen by yet another slide post-Allardyce).
Only at Bolton did Big Sam, as he is known, move of his own volition - and he could be forced out of yet another club.
Under his charge, West Ham have played effective if not exactly eye-catching football. Allardyce was tasked with getting the Irons back into the Premier League, which he accomplished, and then keeping them there.
After Wednesday night’s 2-2 draw with champions-elect Manchester United, West Ham have all but guaranteed another season in the top flight. After their recent troubles, that is a good accomplishment for the east London side and, with a move to the Olympic stadium now sealed, the future looks bright for the Hammers.
However, questions need to be asked in the board room as to what is the best long-term decision for West Ham, manager wise. The collapses of his previous teams, post-Allardyce, indicates that Big Sam has a distinct but inflexible style. It is effective, there is no doubt, but it has its limits and requires a certain type of player that is largely unattractive to others. Once you go down the Big Sam route it is hard to turn back.
Allardyce’s contract expires in the summer and the manager is confident he will be offered an extension.
"We are going to be safe and playing in the Barclays Premier League next season so my planning will be done as quickly as possible and we'll get on to the contract, which I'm sure I'm going to sign." Allardyce said.
However, no contract is on the table, and several issues are popping up on the horizon that makes this the right time to change West Ham’s path. The massive TV deal kicks in for next season, filling the transfer coffers of teams up and down the Premier League. Also, Andy Carroll’s loan deal ends and a permanent move looks unlikely.
“The hardest thing is the overall package, the overall negotiation which needs to go on to make sure it can be sustainable in terms of what we can do," said Allardyce, whose side drew 2-2 with leaders Manchester United on Wednesday night. "I will still point towards financial restrictions being implemented next season – they could blow the whole deal in one go.
"Financially you are restricted to be able to do it. So in one fell swoop the financial restrictions mean Andy Carroll can't sign for us from Liverpool because it's too expensive, even if he wanted to."
Allardyce added: "Somebody will have a bigger budget than us somewhere. I might not be able to afford Andy Carroll, full stop, even if I wanted him, even if the chairmen wanted him, even if we all wanted him, which we do, it will not be allowed to happen."
Carroll is key to Allardyce’s style of play, and without the big Geordie West Ham turn to the much less impressive Carlton Cole.
Do West Ham owners David Gold and David Sullivan give Sam a new contract, a big transfer budget, all the while secretly pining for a better style of play? Or do they gamble on a new manager who, with the basics installed and a bright future on the horizon, will have the money to turn West Ham into a solid mid-table team (or better)?
It is a tough decision. Short-term stability, or long-term planning?
With West Ham’s recent financial woes, and the need for Premier League football when they do move from Upton Park, the case to retain Big Sam is strong. However, will the fans accept more of the same in terms of style and play? The longer the standoff goes on, the more likely it is a new man will be in the West Ham dugout next season.
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