After another frustrating game at Upton Park, the fans are yet again reaching for the throat of Sam Allardyce and calls for his head are relentless. David Gold and David Sullivan must maintain their support of Allardyce until the end of the season and beyond if we are ever to gain promotion; bowing to fan-power will achieve nothing for West Ham United.
Hammers fans continue to label our contract with Allardyce as a Faustian pact, suggesting we have sold our soul to Allardyce and the long-ball, deeming him incompatible with the mystical ‘West Ham way’ which is constantly referenced. As much as he denies it, there is no doubt that Allardyce’s style is unattractive, but if it gets us promotion, it’s success will speak for itself. If it doesn’t, West Ham are in a very precarious situation.
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Paolo Di Canio’s romantic relationship with West Ham means he will be continually linked with the manager’s job until the day he dies. As a huge admirer of Di Canio, his image is still plastered across my bedroom wall, I would love to see him manage us successfully in the future. But he must prove himself in management first or his spell could end in disaster; and six months at Swindon is not sufficient.
A successful season for Di Canio and one that sees us remain in the Championship under Allardyce will see the board under more pressure than ever to appoint him as our manager. We must hope that they do not give in to this pressure in an effort to support their image as supporters of the club who are ‘in touch with the fans’.
This situation has arisen at many clubs before, Newcastle United are one in particular who are often compared to us in terms of the loyalty of their vocal fans. Newcastle fans took issue with Allardyce’s style of play and forced him out after ferociously protesting to chairman Mike Ashley. Ashley eventually submitted and, by popular demand, appointed club legend Kevin Keegan as Allardyce’s replacement.
Keegan’s return saw the club go without a win for his first eight games and he eventually survived three games less than Allardyce with an inferior record. Keegan’s rapport with the fans meant that his resignation created further tensions between the fans and Ashley in an already strained relationship.
Keegan’s departure sparked turmoil at the club and a lack of managerial stability saw them in the depths of a relegation battle. Ashley yet again looked to appease the fans by appointing Newcastle hero, but completely inexperienced manager, Alan Shearer to the club. The script was written for Alan Shearer to drag the magpies to safety in a blaze of glory, however realism intervened and Newcastle were subsequently relegated with Shearer winning only one of his eight-game stint.
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Of course the relationship between Newcastle and Shearer remains mostly intact, but his short managerial period is certainly an embarrassing tarnish on his story with the club. There is nothing to
say something similar wouldn’t happen to Di Canio; it would certainly be a depressing picture to see the supporters who had previously worshipped him, reluctantly wishing for him to leave.
Since Shearer, Ashley has asserted his authority at Newcastle and they are now reaping the rewards. After backing Chris Hughton for the entirety of their campaign in the Championship, Newcastle
were promoted as champions. Following promotion, Ashley ruthlessly disposed of Hughton and surprisingly replaced him with Alan Pardew, a familiar face at Upton Park.
Pardew’s appointment was met with howls of protest from whining supporters, but this time Ashley remained faithful to his decision and Pardew has remained in charge ever since. Newcastle currently sit fifth in the Premier League and are challenging for a Champions League spot with a minute budget compared to those around them.
Who’s to say that if Newcastle hadn’t decided to stick with Allardyce in the first place, they wouldn’t have met this stage much sooner? Admittedly, we can all agree that Pardew’s team was far more exciting to watch, but Allardyce’s record at the likes of Bolton Wanderers suggests that he could’ve been successful at Newcastle, and he can be successful at West Ham.
As much as we reflect on Pardew’s reign at West Ham with nostalgia, we must remember that in his first year with us he failed to gain promotion, and in his second we scraped into the play-offs with a win at Watford on the final day of the season. His team never really threatened automatic promotion, and so Allardyce has surpassed him in that department.
If we don’t finish in the top two spots, we fall back into the play-offs and have a better chance of winning it now than the last time we did. So as supporters of West Ham, surely we must stick with
Allardyce until the end of the season at the very least.
This is not to say that Allardyce is completely innocent, if he is to ever be fully accepted at West Ham he must learn to treat the supporters with a little more respect and take responsibility for poor performances. At the end of a disappointing game we don’t want to be bombarded with statistics of how much possession we had in the opposition’s half and we certainly don’t want to be told that we’re “talking b***ocks”.
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The relationship between Allardyce and the fans is certainly going to have to take some compromise from both parties but if we can do this there is no reason as to why a successful era is not in store for West Ham. I have no doubt that a run of form will silence many of the more fickle critics, but those resolute anti-Allardycians will have to accept that he is our manager and, to be honest, is doing a decent job.
Our dire home record in comparison to our fantastic away form is no coincidence; Upton Park can become very hostile as soon as a fruitless long-ball is cannoned towards Carlton Cole. Perhaps a little more acceptance of Allardyce could change this and transform the Boleyn Ground into the fortress it should be.
These tactics are not forever, Allardyce is not forever; Swansea are the exception to the style of play which gets teams promoted from the Championship, those who want to do it quickly generally play
a direct style. Once we return to becoming a secure Premiership side we can consider attractive football.
You are probably laughing at the expense of Liverpool at the moment. An undeniably great club, who appointed club legend ‘King Kenny’ Dalglish, spent a great deal of money and are now sitting in eighth position, one space below their arch-rivals Everton who have stuck by their manager for ten years. Don’t laugh too loudly, as the more you try to run the club, the more likely it is that West Ham United will suffer a similar plight.
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