West Ham United are enjoying a great season. Sitting pretty in eighth place in the Premier League table, and despite a recent dip in form they've advanced to the fifth round of the FA Cup, with a favourable draw in hand.
This is a stark contrast to last season, which saw a relegation struggle and the majority of the West Ham fans calling for Big Sam to be sacked. However, the board showed faith in their manager, and it’s paid off, being an example to many other clubs who perhaps sacked their managers prematurely last season.
Despite this, a new contract has yet to be agreed (with Allardyce’s running out at the end of the season) and when the facts are looked at, it seems unlikely that he will be renewing it come the end of the campaign.
It is no secret that the West Ham fans are not the biggest admirers of Big Sam and his style of play, with them wanting the football to be played the ‘West Ham Way’. This was evident with a banner unveiled at their visit to The Hawthorns last season in a loss to West Brom which read: ‘Fat Sam Out. Killing WHU’: not flattering in any way.
Yet, a new motive was seemed to be taken over the summer. Teddy Sheringham was appointed as the new attacking coach and nine new signings were made. The likes of Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho were bought to boost the attack and provide more goals while Alex Song was brought in on loan from Barcelona to bolster the midfield - and what signings they have been.
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Aaron Cresswell was also signed from Ipswich to fill West Ham’s long-needed role of a good, attacking full-back, and what a revelation he has been, playing in all of The Hammers’ games so far this season and looking like getting deservedly called-up to the England squad.
These new signings, provided with other purchases made over previous seasons - such as Andy Carroll - have created a great foundation for the squad to build from, and it’s worked tremendously.
But the fans are not the only ones growing disillusioned with Allardyce, the co-owners, David Sullivan and David Gold - also fans of the club themselves - have lost patience. A lot of the summer signings were brought in under their advice and not Big Sam’s, including the Hammers’ top goalscorer, Diafra Sakho, whereas Allardyce wanted to sign out-of-form Sunderland man, Connor Wickham.
David Sullivan also made it known that he was disappointed with the manager's decision to sign club record signing Andy Carroll, stating that he would have much preferred Wilfried Bony and had a deal locked up.
David Sullivan and Sam Allardyce haven't always seen eye to eye
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Sullivan said: “I would have bought Wilfried Bony - £8 million and 40 grand a week. Swansea paid £12m. I had him bought for £8m”.
West Ham paid £15 million for Carroll and are paying him £90,000-a-week. There has also been the whole ‘Ravel Morrison saga’, the owners wanted to keep him but the player himself had a strong dislike for the manager and Allardyce wanted him gone - he has now been released and is joining Lazio in the summer.
Allardyce has undoubtedly done a great job at West Ham, firstly getting them promoted back into the Premier League, then solidifying their place in it and now pushing for a European spot.
The fans have grown to respect him this season, and rightfully so - even if they are in constant disagreement with the formation he decides to play. With that in mind, it may be the right time for him to go; to leave on a high. It will set him in good esteem for any future job he may want to take on - including the England job, which many are tipping him as a major contender for.
He may wish to stay, however, with perhaps one of the major reasons being that The Hammers are set to move into the Olympic Stadium after next season - a prospect which any manager would look forward to.
So who will replace him?
The first choice with the bookies for a replacement is likely to be Slaven Bilic. The former West Ham man has been tipped for the job every time there has been a vacancy in the last decade, but his duty managing his national team (Croatia) meant this was not possible.
However, he is now in charge of Besiktas in the Turkish League and is doing a great job with them currently lying in first place ahead of the likes of Fenerbahce and Galatasaray. If he wins the league with them this year then it will only boost the Hammers’ chances of getting him, as he will have achieved the highest honour in Turkish football and may be ready to move on.
Teddy Sheringham will certainly be linked with the job as he is already among the backroom staff and a lot of people are attributing the change in West Ham’s fortunes - certainly in the attacking respect - to him.
Personally, I think this will never happen as he has next to no experience at management level and the West Ham board will definitely want to bring an experienced, proven manager in.
Who could succeed Big Sam?
Paulo Di Canio is another name who is constantly linked with the east London club. He is seen as a legend to all the fans and is one of the most loved players to have ever played for West Ham, and has kept a keen interest in the club since he has left - often showing up to games.
However, his managerial career has not been as successful as his playing days and while he is likely to manage West Ham at some point in his career due to his connection with the club, he definitely will not be their next manager.
The last choice for me is Rafa Benitez. This may come as a surprise to some but one thing which the West Ham board do not lack is ambition, and what ambition this would show just a season before moving into the Olympic Stadium and the beginning of a new era for the club.
The former Liverpool and Chelsea manager is out of contract with Italian club Napoli in the summer and contract talks are constantly stalling. Furthermore, despite his move to Italy, his family have remained behind in England, perhaps a signal of intent to return to the Premier League.
We are yet to know what fortunes this season will bring for West Ham. Perhaps they'll go on an amazing run towards the end and qualify for the Europa League, bringing a new contract for Big Sam with it. Or perhaps they'll end just below those positions, still very respectable and a testament to the work Allardyce has done, and a perfect platform for him to leave on.
The truth is, anything can happen in the next four months and there will be many predictions and guesses about who will leave and who will stay. Yet whether Allardyce does the former or the latter, West Ham fans must remember what he has done for club and respect him for that.
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