Filed: Monday, 22nd September 2014
By: Paul Walker
There are defining moments in every manager's career, and Saturday’s stunning victory over a Liverpool club that has become too cocky for their own good will go down as one such moment for Sam Allardyce.
For Alf Ramsey, it was probably the moment he opted to axe Jimmy Greaves and play Geoff Hurst, for Alex Ferguson maybe the decision to risk £1m on a decidedly unpredictable Eric Cantona. For Rafael Benitez it was his half -time team talk in Istanbul, and our own Ron Greenwood’s was Wembley 1965 rather than ‘64.
You would assume BFS was not quite expecting to have another such moment in his long career, he the old school boss, the one that says ‘ I will do things my way so the rest of the can just bog off, because I always know best!’
But surely any thought the Davids had of getting rid of the grumpy old boy has gone now. How can you be sacked after reducing Liverpool to dust in one of the best results West Ham have achieved in many a year? I’d be interested to see what readers think compares to this, certainly in terms of performance as well as the victory.
Liverpool have been portrayed as some sort of 'second coming' by a fawning media, captivated and talking in hushed, reverent tones about Brendan Rodgers as a near biblical, high morale ground manager.
Me, an old cynic as I am, have never been totally convinced. He’s always been a lucky manager. Lucky to have worked under Jose Mourinho, lucky to have taken over Swansea after Roberto Martinez’s hard work, and lucky to go to Liverpool with Luis Suarez already there.
But he doesn’t seem to know how to coach defenders to defend, maybe that’s just too much dirty work for football’s new attacking messiah. Liverpool have been a mess at the back all season and a shambles in the air. And they have forgotten how to be humble.
They lost the title last season not just because Steven Gerrard fell over, but because they were so, so cocky in the run- in with fans already wearing ‘Champions 2014’ tee-shirts after they had beaten Manchester City with four games to go. That over-confidence seemed to rub off on the players.
Fans were wearing the tee-shirts the day Chelsea beat them at Anfield, it showed everyone was just too far ahead of themselves. And then Rodgers did not know how to manage a side 3-0 up at Crystal Palace with 20 minutes to go. I recall thinking at the time that, love him or hate him, Sam would never have allowed that to happen.
Now Rodgers has spent £130m on new players and still managed to buy a donkey of a centre back in Dejan Lovren for £20m. He was awful against Manchester City recently, and equally as bad against us.
Frankly Rodgers is just the sort of upstart that BFS just loves to take down a peg or six. Sam had been winding them up all week, dragging up the Gerrard (was he actually out there on Saturday?) rubbish from last season of long grass, too hot dressing rooms and the coach driver who was unable to back Liverpool’s team bus into the gap every other coach driver who arrives at the Boleyn manages without any problem.
Oh, and Sam made sure Liverpool didn’t forget how tired they were after a Champions League match in midweek, and how many years they had not been in the competition. His words were quickly transmitted to Anfield so that Rodgers had to answer questions about them at his pre-match press conference. Anything to knock them off their stride.
Sam has delighted in winding up Liverpool over the years, I can recall Benitez and Gerard Houllier fuming about the antics of BFS on many an occasion. Liverpool's demise on Saturday was the story, and I understand that, for the media. But surely it was a pivotal moment for us, too.
There had again been talk in the build-up that the club’s owners would assess Sam’s first six league games before making a judgement on his longevity at the Boleyn. The fact that the last two of the six were against Liverpool and Manchester United was the sort of poisoned chalice you wouldn’t give your worst enemy. The attack dogs have been on his scent all summer and into the new season.
I have had plenty to say about Sam and his style of play, as has everyone else. But what do you say when he produces a master class like that of how to beat a top club? It wasn’t all backs to the wall, it wasn’t only about long ball barrage.
Saturday was a triumph of substance as well as style. There was no doubt who deserved to win, and the manner of that victory contrasted with many of the charmless victories Sam as managed anywhere in his career.
Stewart Downing in a central, attacking midfielder was outstanding. Alex Song brought Champions League quality, while Cheikhou Kouyate is becoming an awesome midfield presence - or was, until he was ruled out for up to six weeks.
Diafra Sakho, out of the French second division, is a frightening handful for defences. He is so obviously desperate to take this chance of a profitable career while Enner Valencia has pace, movement and guile.
Walking the walk: is the future looking bright for Big Sam?
It is a long time since I witnessed a West Ham side play with such desire, aggressive intent and attacking confidence.
I am sure there are still many West Ham fans who don’t want Sam at any price. But even if we get stuffed at Old Trafford next weekend, there is surely no way the owners are going to find a way to axe Sam now.
What was then interesting was to listen to Teddy Sheringham on Ben Shepherd’s Goals in Sunday show. Teddy looks such a calm, confident man aware of his own talents and role at the club. He spoke of how he phoned a few West Ham players for advice after Sam offered him the attack coaching role, and he maintained he had never asked who actually wanted him in at the club, Sam or the owners. He couldn’t really be bothered to know.
He talked of how the players enjoy working for Sam, of his man management qualities and how he now also wants to be a manager (is he being groomed for the role once Sam does go, I wonder?)
He would say all that, I hear you say. But, no, he doesn’t. He is very much his own man and doesn’t need the money. If he wasn’t happy with the role or what he was told, then he would have walked away. No doubt.
So those who still want Sam gone had better get used to the idea that it is highly unlikely to happen this season, certainly with the side playing like this.
That assessment will say that we were better than Spurs and should have won. We battered Sheffield United and should have won well before the penalty lottery. We were excellent at Crystal Palace and rubbish against Southampton. But the draw at Hull showed signs of things to come.
Now we have made Liverpool look mugs, only our third win in the last 23 games against them. Above all, the players are gelling and look as if they are enjoying themselves and the new men look desperate to be successful. I really cannot see the Davids and Lady Karren wanting to rock the boat just now.
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