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Surprise, surprise, here comes Two Phones!

Filed: Monday, 9th April 2012
By: Paul Walker

What surprises me as our seasons heads to itís conclusion is that I am surprised that Sam Allardyce seems so surprised by his treatment by fans and the media.

But at least he has discovered that West Hamís amazing away following have a sense of humour. He was treated to the whole agenda of chants as his players took Barnsley apart at Oakwell on Good Friday, and what a good Friday it turned out to be as the Irons set a new club record for away league victories in a season.

He seemed as if he didnít know whether to laugh or cry as he was serenaded by 2,500 in Barnsleyís north stand. Everybody had a good time, as was shown when the home announcer informed us all at half-time that there was no beer left in our end..we had drunk the place dry!

We played some lovely, controlled football. Much of it on the deck. To which the assembled Irons launched into the "We are West Ham United, we play on the floor" song. Big Sam didnít flinch.

But he might just have seen the joke when it came to launch a few long balls down the channels for the excellent Nicky Maynard to chase. The chant becameÖ "We are West Ham United, we play in the air".

SamĎs mistake clearly is that he believes the handful of folk who launch into foul-mouthed rants on websites speak for us all. Iíd love to see us play like Barcelona, but the key point is that we do not possess that sort of quality, and itís not always that easy.

It hasnít helped that Sam has now seemingly got the hump with the media, TV and radio. Because he always seems to bite when the questions get tough or the fans get angry, he has become an easy target for everyone.

Take his insistence that some of our number are "deluded" about what the West Ham way is. And then there was a misrepresentation of his midweek press conference when he went off on a chatty rant and claimed that some of the critics (I believe he mainly meant the media not just the fans) were talking "b*llocks".

Now that didnít take much time to be incorporated in a chant from our lot: "Weíre deluded and we talk b*llocks" rang around Oakwell. Sam walked the touchline to the players' tunnel at the break, right beside the away end, without his face cracking once.

By the end, with a great win in the bag, he walked that walk again with a smile, waving to the fans, punching the air and getting a very good reaction.

The key Sam, is that terrace chants and the stuff dished out by the fans should be taken with a pinch of salt. We are not all football geniuses, even if we think we are. Sometimes you shouldnít let the facts spoil a good chant.

But if the manager takes it all too seriously and bites back, complains to the media that the fans are being beastly to him and just donít understand, he is asking for trouble. Every Tom, Dick or journalist then sees him as an easy target, someone to egg-on with a few well chosen questions and the quotes just start to sing.

The classic example is the "b*llocks" story. Last weekís press conference, I understand, was attended by two men and a dog, the dog no doubt being the agency reporter responsible for all the fuss.

Iím told that Sam did a more than relaxed chat after the TV stuff was over, and used a few swear words. Now in my day, not too long ago, journalists never reported swear words, or they changed them to something acceptable, such as "rubbish" rather than "b*llocks".

Times have changed. Sam is a big target and an easy headline to the occasional visitor to our press conferences. He has been used to Premier League affairs with half a dozen cameras and a host of senior, experienced staff reporters.

In the north, where I have attended many of his press conferences, he would frequently chew the fat with a few of the lads, swear a bit (you should here some of the stuff other managers come out with) but not expect to have his words used in direct quotes.

That is not what happened last week ahead of the Barnsley game. An agency reporter, working for several different newspapers, went for it. His stuff was pushed round the media, and ended up in a few papers. The Sun used it, so did the Mirror, while the Mail were enough concerned to quote the Sun as the source on their website. Obviously Sky would have been unable to do anything with it, even if they had their tapes still turned on for this section of the event.

The solution is not the best way for my profession, but very effective. When Alex Ferguson was confronted with such incidents, he would ban the specific paper or organisation, not just the reporter. It happened to me twice, so I know how annoying it can be.

West Ham may well consider now banning the agency from press conferences. That would not damage the national media or TV because theyíd placed their orders for coverage elsewhere. The offending agency would think twice next time.

Sam, though, doesnít help himself. Take Sky (please, someone take them somewhere). Ahead of the Reading game they graced us with a camera and reporter. So why did Sam arrogantly stroll into the press room in dark glasses, and stand for almost a minute flicking through his messages on TWO mobiles. John Prescott was christened 'Two Jags'. If he is not careful, Sam will soon become 'Two Phones'.

Whether he meant it or not, it was the height of bad manners and arrogance. Skyís predictable reaction to such a perceived insult was to transmit the whole thing, and then use clips from two different recent press conferences (in which Sam may have contradicted himself over the importance of the game) to suggest the big fella didnít know what he was talking about.

As I say. If you go down this route with the media, they will get you in the end, especially in London when very few of the press conferences are attended by people with much of an allegiance. Sometimes in the north, where Sam has previously worked well with journalists, this is not the case.

Fans feed off this stuff, hence the barrage of amusing stuff aimed at our beloved boss at Barnsley. If you donít want to take it, donít dish it our. Donít use terms like "deluded" and "b*llocksí and you wonít find the fans reminding you of your words.

The Barnsley game also provided the rarity of Sir Trevor Brooking, the best manager we never had in my view, doing TV work. And he explained why, very clearly, we can set records for away wins but are a mess at the Boleyn.

At Barnsley we pressed hard high up the pitch, Nolan, Noble, Maynard, Vaz Te, Taylor and OíNeil ran themselves ragged forcing errors in their opponents' last third. We then found space to play in and were able to put together a host of fine passing moves. On the floor.
Maynardís goal was classic example. A dozen passes, a fine one-two with Nolan and an even better finish from outside the box.

Sir Trevor pointed out that at home, where teams sit deep with two banks of four in front of us, there is no space to play in. That is why, he said, the ball gets launched long mostly to Carlton Cole, who has never, ever been a target man.

Now this is Samís problem. Southampton and Reading have overcome this situation with patience and width while avoiding daft mistakes that let the lesser sides into the game (Doncaster and Watford to be precise.)

And while Iím about it, I have a few words for Sam on the West Hay way, which he dismisses so annoyingly. These past weeks, to try to remind myself of the good times, I have been re-reading Charles Korrís excellent book, ĎWest Ham, the making of a football club.í

In it he suggests that the West Ham way was an expression invented by the media in the '40s and '50s, to try to explain our values. It was then conveniently adopted by the club. Sam should realise that the West Ham way is not just a style of play, it is the way the club was run, to do things properly, to represent the East End in a correct light and to show a responsibility to the game and the community we all come from.

So when Sam derides the West Ham way, he is not just questioning whether a particular football style is successful or not, he is casting doubts over our heritage, right back to the collective spirit of Thames Ironworks.

Sam may well think the supposed style of the our football from the past does not work or produce results. He has a point, itís a debate worth having, but donít talk about things you donít know anything about. Such as why this great, but little club, has punched above itís weight for over a century and produces such love and devotion from Irons fans all over the world.

At Barnsley, on a cold evening, it was a pleasure to stand amongst people who care passionately about our club. I could feel tears in my eyes at times (please no laughing lads) just watching and listening.

Now we have two home games on the trot against Birmingham and Brighton, where we have to solve this problem of home failure and win both games to keep on the tails of the top two. Neither can win all their matches because they must play each other. If we are close enough, whatever the result of that match is, it will help us.

Iíve been lucky enough to have seen many of our away wins this season, and been let down straight afterwards. Please lads, and Sam, give us what we want at the Boleyn this week, then there will be no more "b*llocks" talked by anyone.

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

by aidan
11:42PM 14th Apr 2012
''Great article.''

by West Ham Fan No32
11:47AM 9th Apr 2012
''Its a well written, thoughtful article - nice work. I notice that you mainly focus on the away support which is as are many of our home supporters magnificent. The trouble is that there is an element (which has always been present) of morons that come to our home games and boo the team when they have a less than satisfactory peformance, they are the same crew that lament us not playing "the West Ham way".

Well having supported the club for 40 years I can tell you that although we had a lot of pass and move play, we also had a lot of long ball rubbish throughout that. Ludo and David James were the two main protagonists in the '80s and '90s of just launching it long for no apparent reason and that was when we were playing "the West Ham way". The trouble for Sam is he inherited a team that was low on confidence, not up to Premier League standard and he has not been able to attract sufficient quality to raise us much above the level of the Championship.

If we are lucky enough to go up we probably only have three players that are Premier League level, four if you include Rob Green who will probably be leaving us at the end of season. Sam has done a brilliant job given the incredibly difficult circumstances and at times we have played decent football. I agree wholeheartedly that he shouldn't keep biting every time the press or supporters get on his back, he should just let it roll off him, it will help him and his relationship with all the good supporters of the club if he can find a way to do that.

Great article and lets hope we can turn in a winning performance against Brum today.''

by karl
11:11AM 9th Apr 2012
''And so say all of us!''

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