West Ham United supporters calling for Sam Allardyce’s dismissal is nothing new - some were doing it when they were in contention for promotion and having a good run in the Premiership – but this has obviously intensified in recent weeks with undoubtedly more calling for his head with the club second from bottom, and two heavy defeats in the cup competitions fresh in the memory.
In this day and age of managers lasting an average of 1.4 years in the same job, it seems fans have been brainwashed into thinking that this hiring-and-firing business is the way forward. It is only recently that I’ve heard people in this country saying that only in Britain do we insist on giving managers time, citing the frequent changes at clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona and also our very own Chelsea where they have sustained success despite the constant changes in personnel.
One slight problem there: West Ham are not a Real Madrid or Barcelona where they have the history and financial clout to be able to afford to do so. Those clubs are never in a re-building process as they are big enough to attract the players that will keep them at the top level for years to come whoever is in charge. As Harry Redknapp said, ‘‘anyone could manage Barcelona with the talent they’ve got.’’ And so the cycle continues.
Chelsea and West Ham may have had a similar standing in the game before Matthew Harding’s fortune started coming to fruition for the Blues in the 1996-97 season - when they came sixth and won their first major honour for 26 years in the FA Cup - but the team from Stamford Bridge are now at a point where, with a few sensible purchases and the lack of a need to get rid of their best players in order to make a few bob, they will always, like Barcelona and Real Madrid, be there or thereabouts in the running for major honours. This is because the best players will want to go to west London, and not just for trophies, but also the area, lifestyle, and of course, money.
A team in West Ham’s position, however, needs a skilled person who knows what they’re doing. And despite the Hammers’ current form, Allardyce is more than capable of putting a stop to it and progressing once they are out of this difficult patch. Every team that Allardyce has managed have been in a better position by the time he has left, so that should bode well for the future should he be kept on at Upton Park.
After getting Bolton Wanderers promoted, Allardyce and co had a couple of skirmishes with relegation, which is only to be expected of a newly promoted side. Imagine if the Bolton board expected them to be challenging for honours straight away so sacked him? They certainly would not have finished in the top six and qualified for Europe in 2005 having completed the campaign level on points with a Liverpool side that won the Champions League that season. It is an incredible achievement when you think of where they are now and where they were before Allardyce took the reins at the Lancashire club.
There’s no getting away from the fact that West Ham’s performances in recent matches have been dire, but the way some of their fans are talking you would think that they were challenging for Europe every year. For a relative yo-yo club like West Ham, Allardyce has been a success so far – getting them promoted in his first campaign then not just keeping them up last season, but finishing in the top half of the top-flight.
All sides get beset by injuries, but Allardyce’s has been affected more than most with all his central defenders forced onto the sidelines in recent weeks. The Hammers’ most successful manager, Ron Greenwood, had World Cup heroes Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst at his disposal and often finished in the bottom half of the league table at a time when it was arguably easier to break up the monopoly at the top. Seeing the amount of different teams making up the top six in this period, or any period up to the late 1990s for that matter, is staggering. It’s much harder now that’s for sure.
People go on about the ‘West Ham Way’, but what has this yielded in their entire history? Three FA Cups and one Cup Winners’ Cup that’s what. Some were singing ‘we want our club back.’ Oh, the one that will not have won a major trophy in 35 years by the time their next opportunity comes round? Okay, sack Allardyce and see the mediocrity and relegation battles continue. Stick with him, however, and the Hammers could well be hosting European football come the 2016-17 season when they move into the Olympic Stadium.
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