West Ham United: Back as if they'd never been away

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It seems like it never happened, that day back in May 2011 when a late rally from a Charles N’Zogbia inspired Wigan saw a 3-2 defeat of West Ham and consequently the Hammers’ relegation from the top flight and the removal of Avram Grant as manager.

The club was in disarray, with all sorts of financial problems and the prospect of losing key players, there was a genuine concern that West Ham may become another fallen giant of English football. Fast forward 18 months and West Ham sit in a very respectable 11th place in the Premier League, having given Manchester United a real fright in their FA Cup tie, whilst their fellow promoted clubs Southampton and Reading languish in 17th and 19th respectively.

Despite finishing third in the Championship last season and having to gain promotion via the play-offs, the London club have certainly reacclimatised to the Premier League more successfully than their promoted counterparts. This is in no small part down to the effect of Grant’s replacement, Sam Allardyce.

The former Bolton, Newcastle and Blackburn boss has certainly made his mark on the West Ham team and his ethos can be seen throughout the club. Having favoured a big target man at Bolton in Kevin Davies it was no surprise to see Allardyce utilise Carlton Cole in the Championship and then sign Andy Carroll on loan this summer.

His Bolton connection doesn’t stop there however as Allardyce has brought in two former stars at the Reebok, Jussi Jaaskelainen and club captain Kevin Nolan. The latter in particular has been instrumental in the Hammers’ rebirth as a top flight club with the attacking midfielder scoring 12 goals in the promotion campaign and a further five so far this year - including their first of the season.

Allardyce’s knowhow when it comes to keeping teams in the Premier League is second to none and shrewd signings such as Matt Jarvis and Mohamed DiamĂ© have really shone as West Ham have shown other newly promoted teams how it’s done.

This season West Ham have been tough to beat at home and solid if not spectacular away and wins at home to Chelsea and away to Newcastle can count alongside a devastating home win over Southampton as memorable moments from the season so far.

There was nearly another on Saturday as only a Robin van Persie stoppage time equaliser could prevent West Ham knocking out Premier League leaders Manchester United from the FA Cup. One moment to savour for a lot of fans will have been the return of local lad Joe Cole.

A hero at Upton Park he has never really shone anywhere else in the same way and both he and West Ham fans will hope Allardyce will prove to be the man to resurrect his career. This would not be without precedent as, at Bolton, Allardyce managed to get the best out of both Youri Djorkaeff and Jay-Jay Okocha - so perhaps a similar revival with Cole is on the cards?

Regardless, both Allardyce and West Ham should be very proud of their results at the halfway stage of the season as many were predicting the more attacking Southampton or the Championship champions Reading to be further up the table at this stage.

The club seems to have sorted itself out financially (on the surface at least) and with a strong squad, a fierce support at Upton Park and a very tactically astute manager they will hopefully never again have to endure the misery of relegation.

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