Reports this week have suggested that West Ham will not try to sign Liverpool’s Andy Carroll at the end of the season, but will instead turn their attention to Southampton striker Rickie Lambert. This shift in focus highlights the Hammers’ current culture of caring only about the here and now.
The amount of goals scored by Carroll and Lambert so far this season – three and 12 respectively – suggest the move would be a wise one for West Ham, for whom finding the net has proven to be persistently problematic.
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The price tags of Carroll (estimated at £17m) and Lambert (estimated at £6m) also indicate signing the latter would be better business for the debt-ridden east Londoners.
However, although Carroll’s precociousness makes it difficult to realise at times, the long-haired loanee from Liverpool is a young player with a bright future still ahead of him.
Carroll has only recently turned 24, making him over seven years younger than Lambert, who, at 31, cannot be expected to play at the top level for many more years.
Carroll does, of course, have his critics. They are quick to say that the striker does not score enough, and, with a goal ratio of less than one in every four games, they may be right. But Carroll is the kind of player who provides more for the team than just goals; his hold-up play is superb and gives West Ham a viable attacking option as well as a ‘get out’ when needing to relieve pressure at the back.
Shelling out £17m for a goalscorer who does not score many goals and is regularly sidelined is not a wise move though, especially for a club in the Hammers’ precarious financial position.
But for West Ham – the supposed ‘Academy of Football’ – to turn its back on a young English talent really does show that the culture shift Sam Allardyce has brought to Upton Park extends well beyond the pitch.
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Some may say this is a good thing. They will back up that suggestion by referring to the way Big Sam got West Ham back into the Premier League at the first time of asking, before sealing their argument with how the Hammers boss appears to have secured another season in the top flight with the win at Stoke last week. They may even throw in a few derisive remarks about the shaky pre-Allardyce West Ham; mentioning Avram, Zola, et al, while they’re at it.
Nevertheless, fans should realise that Allardyce is West Ham’s short-termism incarnate. He was, after all, brought in to get the club ‘back where we belong’ and steady the ship once it has sailed away from the shark infested waters outside of the Premier League.
And that is all.
There has been little or no indication from the board or Allardyce about what will become of the manager if and when he has managed to establish West Ham as a club that is to remain among England’s elite.
Big Sam is nothing more than a stop-gap for the Hammers. Once his target has been met, it is almost guaranteed that David Sullivan, David Gold and Karen Brady will not hesitate to replace Allardyce with a manager that will get the team back to playing the ‘West Ham way’.
Why then, should West Ham shell out a frighteningly large sum of money for Andy Carroll, who is Big Sam’s ‘kind of player’? A permanent deal for Carroll would surely show that Allardyce, or at least his culture of football, has a long-term future at the club, wouldn’t it?
The answer is, quite simply, no. It would merely show that the gap Allardyce is stopping is wider than first thought.
The fact that Carroll was brought to West Ham on a loan deal shows the initial idea behind getting the player was a short-term one. There was the saving grace, however, that the deal had been made with the intention of making it a permanent one, thereby offering West Ham fans the belief that the future of their club was in safe hands. Now that the permanence appears to have evaporated, the Hammers look like they do not know where they are going.
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West Ham have gone from being the club with the excellent youth policy and grand designs for the future, to the one that is too scared to look beyond its own nose.
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