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Our club has changed

Filed: Friday, 9th September 2011
By: Paul Walker

Sam Allardyce has been in control - and I mean real control - of our club for little over four months, and West Ham has changed dramatically and probably for ever.

Weíve all been watching to see just how much of a difference big Sam can make and there has not really been much point in assessing the situation, or trying to second guess the future, until the transfer window is out of the way and the season has started.

Mind you, we had to wait for the end of the later Turkish transfer window! That late, agent-contrived bid for Carlton Cole from Galatasaray could have wrecked all the plans. Funny, there were many fans who wanted to see the back of the big striker, but his start to the season and obvious enjoyment of playing for Allardyce has changed a few minds.

But I always wanted to keep him. He is big and quick and when heís in the mood can be a real handful and goalscorer. I also believe he was one of only a few players who had a contract clause that allowed his wages to be cut after relegation.

Sam took over on June 1, and set about cleansing the playing staff, as so much was obviously wrong at Chadwell Heath. The longer he has been here, the more evidence of last seasonĎs - and the previous one's for that matter - malaise became evident.

Sam has talked of clichťs, players wanting to leave and being unsettled. Heís made it clear the fitness levels were a disgrace and there was a complete lack of collective team spirit and desire from many to even be bothered to play for us.

We could all see it before our eyes. There was no passion at times, no planning, no obvious tactics and a shocking lack of leadership from Avram Grant, and the now-departed Matthew Upson.

Sam wants us all to forget last season and concentrate on the future. But itís hard to put things aside when so much was wrong and loyal fans were being short-changed at every turn.

I recall writing last season that it is fans and clubs who get relegated, not players - and you only have to look at the new clubs of our departed heroes to underline that.

Only Lars Jacobsen has yet to find a club from the 20-plus who have left. The players mainly held responsible for relegation have all found new homes in the top flights of leagues across Europe.

Some have gone with the good grace to say nothing. Others have let slip some real nonsense. Upson, he of the total failure to lead from the front, had the audacity to join Stoke and then complain that their fighting spirit was far better than ours and if we had played with Stokeís desire we would have been OK.

Upson seems to be in denial and talking from a parallel universe. He forgets he was responsible for much of the lack of leadership and spirit; he was captain. Although many seem to never have known that. Sky continually called Scott Parker our captain up until the day he left. Many newspapers likewise.

Everybody jumped ship and maintained their wages and contracts in top flights. Dyer, Gabbidon, Hitzlsperger, Upson, Ba, Da Costa, Kovac, Boa Morte, Obinna are all in top divisions. Even Keane has wangled a huge pay-day in the States, while Bridge is still at Manchester City on mega-bucks but not in their Premier League squad.

Dyer had the nerve to complain about our medical staff, and Gabbidon left complaining of bad decision-making at the club. He may have a point, but he forgets that West Ham stuck by him for many months while he recovered from admittedly shocking injuries. We get him fit and he walks away.

Hitzlsperger too. He was never going to play in a lower division, and we again spent good money getting him fit after he was injured playing for Germany.

Notice the difference from Jack Collison. He has made a point of thanking the club for his medical treatment and signed a new deal pointing out he felt he owed the club something. Having witnessed his outstanding performance at Wembley for Wales against a very ordinary England in midweek, I couldnít be more pleased to see the lad still here and happy.

Mark Noble is much the same. Never a flicker of wanting to leave in the summer. He was hurt as much as we all were, so I plead with my fellow fans to get off the ladís back. Heís a real asset and a good club man. Heíll run until he drops for the cause, and his display at Doncaster showed that.

And while we are still on the subject of Upson (and Hitzlsperger) it should be mentioned that a lot of fans seemed to be happy it took them so long to find another club, as if it showed what a waste of space they were.

In fact, I believe the pair took us for every last penny. When contracts end in June, there is always a clause which says that if the player concerned does not find a new club within a month, he is entitled to anther four weeks money.

You may have noticed that Upson and Stoke didnít surface publically until August, much the same with Hitzís move to Wolfsberg. On the assumption that both men were on over £60,000 a week, thatís around £250,000 a man they took each in extra wages before their final departure. Or half-a-million from the clubís coffers, because moves looked to have been deliberately delayed to allow the contract clauses to kick in.

Upson wasn't unwanted, he had the whole thing planned. We all knew he was working down his contract with no intention of staying, he should have had the captaincy stripped from him immediately that became obvious.

Allardyce has had to sift through the wreckage, get rid of a multitude of players while finding exactly who wants to play for us. In that respect, Julien Faubert, Winston Reid, Robert Green, Collison, Noble, James Tomkins and Cole deserve credit. And in cutting through the rubbish, Allardyce has also saved the club millions. My rule-of-thumb estimation is around £30million a year.

The bulk of our first team were paid over £50,000 a week, some a lot more; players like Parker, Dyer, Robbie Keane, Wayne Bridge as well as Upson, Gabbidon, Boa Morte, Kovac and Da Costa.

If you include the lads out on loan, around 25 players have left the club and I reckon the monthly wage bill was around £3million. So thatís well over £30million a year.

Of course there has been outlay since. Allardyce has replaced one coaching and management staff with another while a dozen new players have arrived. Kevin Nolan is clearly on top money, Matt Taylor too, but I would doubt that many of the other new arrivals are on anything like £50,000 a week. So an awful lot of money has been saved by the changes.

We hear that the Davids are pumping in £3million a month of their own money to pay the bills and give us a genuine chance of first-time promotion - and theyíve done it without the usual tirade of rent-a-quote stuff. Even Mrs. Peschisolido has been pretty quiet by her own standards.

But I must admit to liking her put-down of Benni McCarthy. From the safety of South Africa, the fat one said that our Karen was an evil person with breasts. Her response was to suggest that least she, at least, is supposed to have tits.

It seems that Sam has changed the whole attitude at the club. How often last season did we see every player rush to congratulate a goalscorer?

We now have a manager who insists on team spirit and a manager who already has a rapport with the fans - fans who appreciate tough management (at last) and can see that we have a pattern and organisation to our play. We are scoring from set-pieces (I know, hard to believe isnít it?) and we are pressing opponents in their own half.

The shocking management of last season gets worse the more you delve into the relegation campaign. Winston Reid suddenly looks a player, while how on Earth was it that Sam discovered Pablo Barrera was in need of proper English lessons? Just what was being done last season?

We havenít quite got to grips with making sure the ball is in our opponentsí half in the last five minutes where they canít score ridiculous goals from - especially at the Boleyn Ground. But Sam has clearly had a word or two on that one. I thought it was amusing to see us take the ball into the corner while 3-1 up at Forest in the last minutes. A bit over-the-top that, but the point seems to have got home.

And letís kill the long ball myth once and for all. Sam plays realistic football, he wants the ball accurately delivered into the box (well done Matt Taylor) and he wants us to score from set plays. Nothing wrong with any of that, just we havenít seen much of it.

But every free-kick or corner now has Tomkins as a real threat beyond the far post and the six-yard box full of players wanting the final touch. With Papa Bouba Diop (6ft 5in), John Carew (6ft 5in) and Abdoulaye Faye (6ft 3in) plus Cole and Reid also in the box for the knock-downs, we are actually looking dangerous in an area in which we have rarely excelled.

Too much lazy journalism regarding the ĎWest Ham wayí just annoyed me. My old colleague and friend Ken Dyer, in the Leeds programme, reminisced about the Ď66 season when we beat Leeds 7-0 in the League Cup, put six past Fulham and four away at Spurs in a magical week. I saw all those games, stunning performances. But we finished 16th that season.

Our beautiful game was, and has, not been as evident as people think. We wouldnít be in this mess if it had been more effective. Sam, as I said, is a realist.

While working in the north west, I spent a lot of time at his matches and press conference and he made a lot of sense. He really enjoyed getting up the noses of Rafa Benitez and Arsene Wenger.

He is not always right, he can be arrogant and opinionated. But he is effective. And his teams are fit, strong and they fight hard. And donít we need some of that after the last two pitiful campaigns?

He also had some pretty entertaining midfielders in his time at Bolton, and classy strikers. Letís just see how it goes, so far so good. Itís results we need now, not accolades and I just wish him all the luck in the world, because we havenĎt had much of late.

Sam has also brought in youthful promise. Sam Baldock is just the sort of hungry young man we should be signing, while Henri Lansbury has genuine class, pace and star quality. And if we can get the perma-tan and hair gel off of David Bentley, we may have a player who can be a real asset. He was once an England international who has since lost his way; he needs a manager like big Sam like never before.

Itís good to see George McCartney back - he too had lost his way - while Joey OĎBrien is a genuine bargain, a real plus point. Two seasons of injuries could have ended his career, but he wanted to prove to Sam he still had a future, and was there at the first day of pre-season, determined to win a contract.

The effort he has put in has won him that chance and we actually have a proper right back at last. Ok, so there is a long way to go and Iím still spitting feathers over the Cardiff and Leeds cock-ups. But importantly, I bet Sam is too, and wonít let anyone forget it.

Thatís proper management. Fans donít worry too much about a perceived style of play, over-exaggerated as it was, if their team is winning. The tremendous away support at Doncaster, Watford and Forest underlines that. We are going to fill a few Championship coffers, hopefully for just one season.

It has been a tough summer. One in which we have all suffered after relegation. Realising that Sky just donít care about this division, the same as the newspapers. And Football First has now gone from our lives on Saturday evenings. TV clips of our matches are now reduced to about 30 seconds after midnight. West Ham TV and their radio feeds is the best bet now to see and hear about us.

Reading all the complaints from fans trying to find non-existent Ďdodgyí TV feeds for the Doncaster game just rubbed it home that we have been pushed into the background. Even the Nolan transfer was turned into a Newcastle crisis by Sky (why didnít they try to keep him, was their approach) rather than a real coup for the Irons.

I didnít see us mentioned for two weeks by Sky at one point. And as for Scott Parker, he did great for two seasons but was always going to Spurs - his mate Jamie Redknapp made sure of that!

Now Sam has a squad set up for this division with strength and know-how. We all need to get behind the team, particularly at home where too much negativity is still in evidence. Our complaint last season was that nobody seemed to care; well they look like they do now. COYI.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

03:32PM 19th Sep 2011
''AMAZING read. So much truth.''

by jca
11:31AM 16th Sep 2011
''Spot on; great read, well done.''

by Kevin
04:05PM 15th Sep 2011
''Excellent article... very well written and spot on.''

by g portugal
10:17AM 13th Sep 2011
''I agree strongly with the references made in the article to ex-players running their gobs such as Gabbidon, Upson and Dyer. All three had a major role in our relegation by failing to perform and by not living up to their responsibilities, in certain cases.

We had a horrific manager. In hindsight, one of the most inept to ever manage at West Ham or anywhere else in the top flight. But the fact remains that despite that inept manager, last season's squad had no excuse to be relegated. The talent was there, but the desire and determination were not, in part due to the fat contracts that many were on from the previous owners.

A soulless group,weak in character that lot were - but not lacking in talent. They can live with their own failures, especially Upson, for the rest of their lives. In the end, these players did not get it done when players with lesser at talent at Blackburn, Wolves, WBA, Wigan, Sunderland and Fulham did. A pretty nasty stain to have on your CV.''

by ritchi smith
08:04PM 12th Sep 2011
''What a great read; it's actually given me butterflies. I have a real sense of optimism this season, everyone who has stayed and come in seem to have a determination to succeed. We have a proper manager and a true leader in Nolan; I'm glad Carlton has stayed and shown that he is committed. To be fair, he has said as much all along.

I think Scotty was a good servant to our club and I, for one, will always welcome him back.''

by Lasse (A Danish Hammer)
08:37PM 10th Sep 2011
''Fantastic reading. Well written and hits the nail spot on. Thanks for a great site!''

08:19PM 10th Sep 2011
''This is the most realistic article I have read about West Ham in a very long time! It explains everything down to a tee. It's great to see someone in the West Ham ranks talk sense and see the club exactly how its meant to be seen. Love it!''

by Sam
10:36PM 9th Sep 2011
''As an Australian and a WHUFC fan it is hard enough to view games televised live from England. Foxtel (pay TV) does show every EPL game live across three channels - with an interactive option to view any EPL game on at that time - though this makes for very long nights as they start quite late with last kick off around 4am!

Previous seasons have seen only one Championship game broadcast every fifth or so fixture round, prior to the big boys (EPL) kicking off at 11pm. You mentioned that no media in Britain seem to care about the lower divisions which is sad, though I was surprised to see - possibly for the first time in a long time - a Championship game (WHUFC v Forest) televised as an alternate viewing option to three or four EPL games!

With a large support base and seemingly a lot of Australian West Ham supporters, these people seem to know how important it is to show Hammers games whichever league it may be in! Four live Hammers games to start the season was not what I was expecting in the Champtionship.... so far so good here in Oz!''

by hhammerhead
08:40PM 9th Sep 2011
''Good read, thanks. Here's to a decent atmosphere over there tomorrow. I believe it'll be the real start of a very good season for us ... but what do I know? :) ''

by Robert Skidmore
08:18PM 9th Sep 2011
''What an excellent article and so true;
Upson as our captain was an absolute disgrace. Billy Bonds would have eaten him alive. When he was injured at Man City at a critical time early in the game he couldnt wait to get off the pitch. So much so, he sprinted!

by Razor
08:17PM 9th Sep 2011
''Great piece son and put in the right context for all to agree it's onwards and upwards now. Feel we are actually spoilt for choice now in all positions and Sam can now have a headache every week - luverly eh?''

by ken pearce
07:51PM 9th Sep 2011
''What a brilliant article. Just about sums up the situation, hesitant at first, but put that down to players get to know how each other play. A work in progress so far, it will be interesting to see what system Sam uses now that he has new players at his disposal.

Also, managers do make a difference as it is interesting to see the same players now that look and act completely different to when they had Avram Grant as a manager. Still, let's not get carried away just yet, a few more wins sitting on top of the table at least six points clear and we can celebrate. Just have to make sure that injuries do not start to make the difference.

The other thing I believe that it's worth commenting on is the shrewd transfers that Sam has made. It's interesting that nothing gets written about it. Whilst others in the Championship complained, Sam just got on with it. Would those players have come if it had been anyone other than Sam? I doubt it.

So let's give credit where it is due. So far he's been good and changed the attitude of the players - and even managed to keep the board quiet. So Sam, all the best - and long may it continue.''

by Alexander Nielsen
06:38PM 9th Sep 2011
''Some of the best reading I've seen for years :)''

by John @ croydon
03:07PM 9th Sep 2011
''Great article Paul, I don't think a single thing you said caused me to disagree in the slightest. I had misgivings about BFS and his (alleged) long ball game, but I totally agree that he has added the management professionalism that we have lacked for far too long. I hope that when Capello finally goes that Redknapp - and not Allardyce - will have caught the attention of the press and influence the FA's decision on the next manager for England.

I then foresee that West Ham's rise back to the Premier League and into the Olympic Stadium will coincide with Spurs' fall from grace and that they'll return to their rightful position in the shadow of far superior north London neighbours.''

by Col
02:37PM 9th Sep 2011
''A very good article. The likes of Upson I can only refer to as 'leeches' can go elsewhere and ruin other clubs. We have had a pathetic run of managers, none of whom were hard-nosed enough or even capable enough. Is any player at West Ham expendable? Yes they are. If they are not interested in playing then sell them on - same as any work place. If the employee refuses to fit in or is not interested in working there you move them on. Football is no different.''

by Matt Loughlin
12:12PM 9th Sep 2011
''Great article Paul. For the first time in a long time I am truly excited about the future of our club! ''

by TC
11:38AM 9th Sep 2011
''I don't disagree with most of your comments but you're over-egging his impact and you need to leave the glorifying till the end of the season.

On the common sense front he's only doing what most of us fans would have done and Hitz and Upson should be ashamed by what you describe above.

But he has limitations, and he sets out negative formations (irrespective of the long ball nonsense which just comes about when the team gets frustrated). 4-5-1 at home is an invitation for the opposing team to attack.

So I'll wait till the end of the season thanks - he's done some good stuff but he's not won me over yet.

The real insult though is the reference to the '66 season. So in just over 18 months we had become the second English team to win a European competition, giving probably the best West German side a football lesson and never looking like they would get anywhere near us, our three best players had won with the World Cup with England as captain and two scorers with the only hat-trick to be scored in a World Cup Final. AND our team came home and gave a few top teams football lessons ... the match against a full strength Leeds in particular should be remembered as Johnny Byrnes greatest.

Clearly not good enough for you though, and obviously you think that Allardyce would have turned over Greenwood just like he stamped out - as he claims - Brooking, Devonshire and Bonds when he played against them due to the pressure and West Ham 'wilting'. Except he never even played against them as he only played in the Second and Third Division, and they would have destroyed him. His worst character trait is the incredible amount of bull he speaks and you do us and him a disservice by not calling it out.

I would rather be on the terraces watching the '60s/'70s/'80s teams than watch any of the PL teams we've had and I would bet them against any of the modern stuff every time, including the Redknapp teams. The reasons are not only the technical abilities of the players but the tactical giants that were Greenwood and Lyall. When it mattered, they out-thought most managers. Allardyce has a long way to go, and I'm not sure he can get there.

We may have been in the equivalent of the King/Paynter years in the PL, but Allardyce is only just about dragging us back to the Fenton years. Whether he can complete the job is still an open question. But he's nowhere near the Greenwood/Lyall years and by his record probably can't take us there.''

by jak1935
11:19AM 9th Sep 2011
''Very well written, and factual with no embellishments. Oh, you're so right about Upson and co. yet they have the brass neck to critisise WHU. If they had put in as much effort in playing as they have in their disparaging comments, we would still be in the Premier League.''

by Andy
11:03AM 9th Sep 2011
''Good balanced assessment of the situation. Thanks for these updates.

It seems like the necessary work's been done to overhaul the squad, now we've got to keep going in the right direction. Like the comment about the negativity at home. This needs to be looked at. As does the fan's definition of the right kind of play. Frequently criticising the wrong things. ... And as you say, nothing wrong with big strong lads scoring from corners, nor having a target man. The modern game is moving in this direction, we need all round athletes in all areas.

But as Barcelona has shown the world, there is also another way and you don't need to be big to win. Athletes yes, tall no. And what can we learn from Barcelona? (If i dare) ..That short passing, triangles, wall passes, control, balance, accurate passing and speed can unpick any defence.

The 'project' in my mind should be to employ or develop players who can compete in all areas. Players that can play short passes and even artists capable of designing an attack. Players that have the desire to win, for the team they are playing for. Yes. That are physically capable. Yes. But also a group of intelligent players who can unlock the door in a variety of different ways and different styles.

In my view, we need to be this ambitious. Especially as we are still in a restructuring phase.''

by David Endersby
10:34AM 9th Sep 2011
''What a fantastic article Paul. A lot of good sense. I too believe that Sam has done a lot of good work and long may it continue. We need to get back into the Premier League as soon as possible and hopefully we now have the squad to do it.''

by Ben Rolison
09:45AM 9th Sep 2011
''Great article. I think that about sums up how most West Ham fans feel at the moment. A real cause for optimism at LAST!

Sam has come in and really sorted the place out, got some good players in, a real mix of youth, experience and quality. The best bit of business is clearly Kevin Nolan, a true leader on and off the pitch and you can tell by the celebration after his goal last week all the players look up to him in a big way.

Just need that home win and I think I'll be in dreamland!''

by paul osborn
09:42AM 9th Sep 2011
''Great story and well written. I am getting a smile back on my face...''

by Suffolkhammer
09:35AM 9th Sep 2011
''Excellent article Paul.

The point about Matthew Upson is that he clearly wasn't captain material. I actually quite liked him as a player - an unspectacular but hardworking defender but clearly not a motivator - and I suspect that he didn't really relish the role. The big error was that he didn't own up to that fact and that it wasn't recognised or acted upon by the management.

However it is a new regime at West Ham, a new style of management and, as you write, a squad of players which blends proven ability, experience and realistic potential. It is going to be a long, hard season playing against a number of very good teams in the Championship. But the air of optimism reinforced by vociferous support, even when results occasionally go against us, should motivate the squad and the management to achieve what we all hope for.''

by Kippax Hammer
09:30AM 9th Sep 2011
''Excellent article - was I meant to be working?! I somehow missed that Karen Brady retort, but thanks for putting that in - it has set up my weekend with a big smile.''

by michael buckley
09:28AM 9th Sep 2011
''What a great - and true - write up; superb. Come on you Irons.''

by Brian Storey-Smith
08:58AM 9th Sep 2011
''Excellent review of the past and current state of the club. Well done!''

by no6
08:53AM 9th Sep 2011
''Great article...''

by Tony Elvin (Elf72)
08:51AM 9th Sep 2011
''Great article. Don't disagree with anything you have said. I read a lot of the fan sites and feel like topping myself at times with all the negativity.

Home form will fall into place as soon as we can drop the collective groan whenever we lose the ball. Our negativity is almost willing the team to fail and heaping on more pressure. It might take a heroic and thunderous home performance to dispel the negativity but we'll get there soon.''

by The Old Man of Storr
08:11AM 9th Sep 2011
''A very well written piece showing up the good and the bad traits of the modern day footballer.

Out of all the players who could have left, unless nobody came in for him, the one I'm genuinely pleased who has stayed is Faubert . He has never showed us what he is truly capable of because of that nasty injury and being played out of position, possibly because of the injury or poor managerial decisions. I really hope he is physically capable of reliving his days of TGV standard; well done to Sam for giving him the chance to do so.

Of the players who left, I think it was only Upson who was of Premier League standard and I thought it was a shame the way his career at West Ham finished.

I gave up my Sky subscription as soon as we went down and I see their marketing people have been trying hard to wean us back by showing a couple of games early on in the season - but I'll settle for the BBC titbits and the odd 'live' showing.

I feel we have the best manager possibly since John Lyall now in Sam and I look forward to a bit more stability and, dare I say it, success.''

by brian
08:06AM 9th Sep 2011
''First class intellegent article. We have got rid of so much dross in the team, like Upson, and have some good looking replacements. With luck a very good season beckons. ''

by steven tor
07:41AM 9th Sep 2011
''What a top-class assesement on the Hammers. Superb article and so spot on.''

by Nelly
07:14AM 9th Sep 2011
''Brilliant article.

I've always wanted Big Sam and think the majority of fans did, it was always the papers and media stating that we didn't want a long-ball merchant. As for that idiot on Talksport (Adrian Durham), he is always spouting off about West Ham. Let's hope the team can gel together and hit the floor running with so many changes to the squad.''

by Richard Smith
07:00AM 9th Sep 2011
''Could not agree more. For the first time I can remember I am really looking forward to matches. If only Big Sam had been appointed last season.''

by Keith Alder-Barber
06:52AM 9th Sep 2011
''Great article. I agree with all your comments and observations.

All too often we criticise before we give somebody a chance. This year we are going to see some interesting and competitve football and I am sure we WILL be back in the Premier League next season.''

by Mike
06:44AM 9th Sep 2011
''Top analysis and top comments.

Big Sam is working major miracles at the club and is showing everyone - even though it's early days still - what a top, top manager he is. He also seems to be in for the long-haul Don't overlook the way he has restructured things in the club and the development squad - so now the younger players have a structure and platform to develop and move to the top level. Big Sam knows his stuff - the best thing I have seen written about him is that the staff at Chadwell Heath compared him to John Lyall. If Sam is half the man John was he will do sensational things for the Hammers.

I believe he will outstrip what John achieved for us. He and all the players at the club deserve every encouragement from all the Hammers fans - and long may it continue. Good on you Big Sam, you are bringing pride back to the East End of London and uniting us as a club again.''

by Bulldog SLC
05:57AM 9th Sep 2011
''After watching the last few years of weak performance, I agree with you 100 per cent. Goodbye to the grifters and rubbish and all hail the new era. I'm actually excited to be relevant again. To actually be competitive again! Big Sam is actually leading the club....win, lose or draw. It's a good time to be a Hammer!''

by peter
05:55AM 9th Sep 2011
''Interesting piece.

Looking back at the 85-86 season, people forget that the success of that season was built not just on Cottee's and Macca's goalscoring but on Phil Parkes' goalkeeping and Alvin Martin and Tony Gale at the heart of the defence. But two other players worked very hard that year and never really get a mention. Neil Orr and Geoff Pike.

We were mean that year over 42 games; only 31 goals were conceded. Remember that when people waffle on about the West Ham way we - as Sam said at Watford - earned the right to pass the ball. It's early days but I'm enjoying watching us WIN and that's better than what's been dished up for a few seasons at West Ham.''

by ironsmith
05:07AM 9th Sep 2011
''Your observations have confirmed that after the recent disappointing seasons West Ham fans can now enjoy the comforting thought that at last we have a true, no nonsense guv'nor in charge!''

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