The Death of The Target Man (Part 2)


Sam Allardyce signed a two year contract with the Hammers on the 1st of June 2011, after a very disappointing season which saw West Ham relegated to the Championship. David Gold and David Sullivan believed that Sam would bring stability to Upton Park and were delighted that the former Bolton Wanderers and Newcastle United manager would come down to the Championship to take the reins at West Ham. Sam’s appointment was met with mixed reviews, as many fans were glad that the club had brought in a manager who has a successful record of gaining promotion (Bolton in 2001) and stabilising a club in the Premier League, which is something Hammers’ fans were desperate to achieve, following several ‘yo-yo’ seasons. However, Sam’s success comes with the price of unattractive football. Many fans were worried that Sam’s double edged sword would slay the dragons of disappointment and underachievement, but at the same time, cut down the attractive football which has been part of the Hammers philosophy for generations. The “West Ham Way”was mentioned in every interview, every article and by every fan in the lead up to the start of the Championship season and Sam’s signings were signals for an approach based on physicality and aerial domination. Even Sam’s sweet words promising an attractive game weren’t enough to convince the fans as we saw the arrival of Abdoulaye Faye, Papa Bouba Diop and John Carew along with set piece specialist Matty Taylor and the sale of talented youngsters Junior Stanislas and Zavon Hines to Burnley.

Looking for experience? Just want to be heard outside of the Boleyn? We are currently looking for writers, drop us an email at for more details

However, as this season begins to reach its climax, we have seen a change in Allardyce’s tactics. Whether due to pressure from the fans or a distinct change in the English game, Sam’s philosophy

has changed. The changes may have only been subtle, but they are a significant signal of intent. In January we saw the signings of Nicky Maynard, Ricardo Vaz Te and Ravel Morrison, all players whose games are not based around physical presence, but technical ability. We have seen in recent games either Maynard or Vaz Te leading the line in a 4-5-1 formation, where long balls have not been as effective as when either Cole or Carew has played as the attacking focal point. What has also been the case is that we look to play more expansively from the back, rather than to just go long to the front man. To play a short and expressive game takes time and dedication from both players and backroom staff, but don’t be surprised to see more of the same styled signings from Sam, as he looks to please the Hammers’ faithful and create a different style of attack, since the long ball football has been disappointing this season, shown by the lack of goals compared to fellow title challengers Southampton. The Hammers have scored 54 goals this season, compared to Southampton’s 63.The evolution of the English game is leaving behind the classic ‘Long Ball’ style of football and in a few years time, it would not be a surprise if long ball football became obsolete.


The EPPP (elite player performance plan) is a new regime brought into English football by the FA to produce highly talented British players and to be financially viable. The EPPP’s main objective

is to produce more talented players so that the English national side will be able to compete with the likes of Spain and Germany, whose rapid footballing development has left us trailing in their

dust. This system involves a classification of academies and Centres of Excellence, so that there are four categories. The different categories define which age an academy can sign a player. The first two categories can sign players from the age of 9, the third, can sign players from 12 and the forth category from the age of 16.

Tony Carr, the Academy Director at West Ham, recently talked about the new EPPP and how the club is determined to keep its status as one of the best in the country. Carr said that the board

are “fantastically supportive” of achieving Category One status for the academy. The benefits of having a Category One status is that training is “more intensive and more staff would be required”

said Carr. “A boy coming into the EPPP system at the age of nine or ten would have more than doubled their coaching hours.” The owners have clearly shown their desire to keep the West Ham

tradition of producing home grown academy players, with the ability to play at international level. I for one am delighted at the owner’s dedication to the club but also, their intent to show that this is a long term investment for them at West Ham. Also, longer coaching hours will require more highly qualified coaches. In Spain there are 12,720 UEFA A licensed coaches, whereas in England, there are 1,078 UEFA A licensed coaches. The change in the youth system is designed so that there will be more highly qualified coaches, to keep up with the Spanish youth development.

But what philosophy will these young West Ham players be brought up with?

The fastest growing Hammers website is now on Facebook, click the link to be entered into our up and coming competitions


Barcelona’s youth development program at La Masia has become world famous, with seven players who came through their academy making up the Spanish national side that won the World Cup in 2010 and not forgetting Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest player of all time. Barça’s youth development program is based on the Ajax youth development program, the legacy laid down by

Johan Cruyff, that footballers should be based on their technique not physical presence. Johan Cruyff took over the Catalan side in 1988 and in his time there won 11 trophies and implemented his philosophy of football. Cruyff is credited for his ‘Dutch Influence’ and the beginning of the Tika Taka era.

There is something special about academy graduates. Players who have come through the famous West Ham academy have a special connection with the club and with the fans. Academy graduates

are players who understand the importance of rival matches, who have a desire to pull on the claret and blue jersey and to play for the club which they have grown up with. More importantly, there is a connection between players who have matured together and have come through the youth teams side by side which is unrivalled. The evidence of this is clear for us to see whenever Barcelona are playing. Messi, Cesc and Pique all played in the same youth sides together. For these three, playing together is a dream come true, as they all grew up in the famous La Masia, dreaming that they could one day play together at the Nou Camp in front of 90,000 people. They are a prime example of players whose friendship comes out on the pitch. They are players whose have a desire to win matches but there is no greed, no self indulgence, they play for the team.

Another advantage to academy graduates is the level of understanding that they have of each other. Watching Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets retaining possession and mesmerising other teams with their quick one touch passing is a joy to behold. Xavi always knows where Iniesta is and vice versa. For Xavi and Iniesta, it comes from playing together for years and the philosophy that they have been brought up with. Look for space, pass and move. The basis of Tika Taka is the simplest form of the game, however, it is the most difficult way to play.

Apply now for the dream job – Read about West Ham and YOU get PAID

Tika Taka takes determination, dedication and hard work. Generating players with the technical abilities to be able to play an expressive short passing game, with the mental abilities to read the

game, see the moments to turn possession into devastating attacks, but most importantly players who play without fear. The Hammer’s team in recent weeks have been playing with the fear of losing, the fear of playing expressively. To win games you have to take risks. The fans aren’t happy with the team’s recent performances and the ‘boo boys’ have been in full voice. The trouble with playing an unattractive style of football, is when you don’t win, the fans will get on your back. When you play an attractive, expressive game and lose the fans are more understanding, as at least the team stuck to the philosophy in which they play. Sometimes when you play good football, you will lose to the more physical teams, but this is happening less and less.

The death of the Target Man has lead to the birth of the small genius. If you want to be a contender Sam, you better keep up.

Have a different opinion? Tweet me @TollyCoburn

Share this article


  • Jon Edward says:

    What a superb article. Best I’ve read on here.

  • milne says:

    Target man? – Drogba or Terry – tonight?
    How about Sturridge as a “Graduate”?
    We all have Good N Bad days!
    You do tend to conplicate footy over at the “AMMERS” lately.
    Im a “Neutral” watching tonights game at “The Bridge” – but the 2 teams tonight produced something special that we would all love to see from our teams very often!
    PS – Fear of losing! – They were 3 – 1 down?
    Like i say – Good days – Bad days!

  • Lorita Peary says:

    Thanks for one’s marvelous posting! I actually enjoyed reading it, you might be a great author.I will always bookmark your blog and definitely will come back later on. I want to encourage you to continue your great posts, have a nice evening!

Comments are closed.