Filed: Tuesday, 30th December 2014
By: Paul Walker
So we were expecting it to be all peace and light at Boleyn Towers amongst our bickering hierarchy, season of goodwill and all that. Yea, right, and pigs might fly.
There we were with one of our best season starts in history, fourth in the table, and looking pretty good, even if we all knew what was going to happen in the Xmas double header against Chelsea and Arsenal.
But as the departure of Mauro Zarate shows, it is never the season of goodwill to all men at the Boleyn. If anyone out there doesn’t believe there is a battle royal for the hearts and minds going on inside Upton Park, and that what we have been witnessing these past few weeks is anything but cleverly constructed battle stations for the war of words ahead, then you are living in cloud cuckoo land.
Big Sam can’t keep himself off the TV and in the papers, David Sullivan chose to go on Soccer Am in a ridiculous Krays T-shirt to blatantly undermine his manager and the transfer policy. Oh, and David Gold was on twitter again saying what a nice young man Ravel Morrison is and his future is very much in his own hands.
Now if being a nice young man means the Bill have dropped the charges of threatening to burn down his girlfriend’s house then I suppose the lad is ’nice.’ now. But that court saga has a bit more to go yet, so let’s leave that one there. Other than for me to politely suggest that virtually every time Ravel finds himself in trouble, of any sort, the same ex-girlfriend is somehow involved. Really sad that.
For the record, I still believe the lad deserves another chance. He was never fit at Cardiff; we all know he has bags of skill, but a crap attitude. And the fact that he crossed Big Sam over the ’agent dumping’ saga, has only produced one winner.
Which brings me to Zarate, who has been yapping away that Sam did not respect him and wouldn’t play him because he was a Sullivan signing. Tell us something we didn’t know.
I have always been of the opinion that Sam just tolerated the ‘summer showdown’ stuff and is now getting his own way. Zarate wasn’t his signing, but one I agreed with in light of previous regular transfer window sagas of failing to sign a proper striker. Sullivan wanted that sorted, and quickly, so we got Zarate.
The lad had a brief spell at Birmingham, even then a basket case of a club just waiting for a crisis, scored a couple of goals but couldn’t save them from the drop. Hard to blame him for that though. Then he was off to Italy to sulk around Serie A.
Sam knew all about him, and clearly didn’t fancy the lad for all his skill, clever mind and invention. Now I have only seen him fleetingly, like the rest of you, but in the Premier League you have to do more than just showboat and produce moments of brilliance. Running, covering, tackling and tracking are all part of every players’ role in this league. Zarate never really gave me the impression he really fancied all that.
Anyway, he’s off to QPR, and that’s the really interesting bit. It seems there is no sell-on clause and sources at the club claim they want to see him play a few more matches and then see if he fits into next season’s plans. But surely, if Sam is still around, there’s no chance of that.
Which brings me to my point. Just how much do the Davids really want to keep Sam. Yes, they are talking again of no negotiations until the season is over, and Sam has made it clear he isn’t bothered about that because he holds the belief that he would quickly be in employment again.
And he would. His CV of promotion and now the likelihood of three surviving seasons in the top flight, means he fits the bill for many other clubs. And, of course, he may not want to stay, he may want a big pay rise and more control over transfers (some hope there). He may also want to go out on a high and into retirement and never-ending TV work. Sky just love him.
I don’t go with the retirement bit, he loves the big bucks too much and seems likely that he wants to go on as long as his old mate Fergie.
So he is not grovelling for his job, and despite the rhetoric from on high, I don‘t believe he ever was even last summer. Are the Davids brave enough to look elsewhere with the Olympic Stadium move just over a year away? If you want my guess, I believe they are, and Sam probably knows it.
A team finishing, say in the top eight, with another season of massive TV revenue and owners who have taken on half of £100m of debt, plus the dream of 50,000 fans at the new stadium , would be a very exciting project for a really top manager, from home or abroad. We won’t be looking in the Avram Grant bargain basement, there will be more than a few really big names in the frame.
And then maybe, the club, owners and fans would get the image they really want. The West Ham way all the way to Stratford, the dream of big name players--Alex Song and a few more--and the prospect of European football.
If we concentrate and work together, that is possible this season, but I wonder if all the chatter from our rulers of late suggests that they know we are already safe from relegation and they can draw their battle lines in the knowledge that we will not be having a second half of the season in the usual relegation fight. Two, maybe three, more wins and we are nice and dandy.
Allardyce presents Ben Shephard with a birthday cake on breakfast TV
You sensed there would be problems ahead as soon as Sam launched his media charm offensive. He was everywhere in the fortnight leading up to the Chelsea defeat, from dinner in the City for Sky, to pie and mash on the Barking Road for a very interesting article by my old mate Matt Lawton of the Mail. With all those pics of him dressing down and lapping up the liquor. And there was lots of cosy chats with Jamie and Gary.
He has even been on Goals on Sunday with Chris Kamara fawning all over him. At least Ben Shepherd maintain a serious journalistic approach, because that’s what he is. A serious journalist, in contrast to virtually every other TV front man for a football show.
Sam’s rehabilitation as a considered, thoughtful man of the people was well under way. Last season he would have been defending his long ball tactics, this time around there have been meaningful discussions about the quality of Andy Carroll’s heading and the technical ability to produce the right crosses into the box.
Now I have no problem, really, with a lot of Sam’s style. Trying to play like Blackpool did after promotion gets one thing, the mess they are now in. Sam is pragmatic, making the best use of what he has to work with and is only concerned with getting points to achieve his brief of staying up. And this term, with better players, we have a mix of both with attacking style and aerial authority and finishing.
And a few days later, David Sullivan appears on Soccer AM
Then we had Sullivan on Soccer AM. It was what he said about the Diafra Sakho deal that stuck out. Sam didn’t want the player, but when he ran out of options in the window he was persuaded….“Oh all right, do it,“ was the gist of Sullivan’s version. Then we got his tired old view that he knows more about the game than many managers.
Sam must have just swallowed that one and looked for his revenge. Sullivan may well know all about the transfer market place, but managers are employed to pick players, not the other way around. Maybe you can get away with that sort of stuff when you employ muppets at Birmingham, but I bet Sam won’t forget that one in a hurry.
And you can tell there is friction between Sullivan and Allardyce over Sakho, when his upgraded contract was being discussed--and pictures appeared of the striker and Sullivan as happy buddies at the co-owners Essex mansion. Allardyce thinks Sakho has not done enough, Sullivan thinks otherwise, maybe to rightly ward of interest from elsewhere.
One goal in his last five appearances suggests our Senegal hitman is being more closely marked than in those opening games when he got eight goals and looked a world beater. But he has the pace, desire and drive to come through this, starting hopefully against West Brom.
Overall, we now need to get back on the right track after our Xmas defeats, beat Albion and start a decent FA Cup run. All the potential distractions of contracts (are you listening Winston Reid?), transfers, loans, who makes the decisions etc, must be put to one side.
The fans have waited for a very long time for a season like this, they will not forgive easily if they are now badly let down because too many people have taken their eyes off the ball.
I can only draw your attention to one of only three seasons when we started better than this one. That was the 1975-76 campaign when we ended up in a losing European Cup Winners’ Final in Brussels, a great achievement.
That season we were third on November 22, unbeaten in our first nine league games and losing only three of the first 18. We then contrived not to win any of our last 16, the European stuff going to our heads, and finished fifth from bottom missing relegation by six points.
It can all go very wrong. Careless talk costs points - don’t anyone in the Upton Park posh seats forget that.
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.
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