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Frozen in time


Filed: Sunday, 12th April 2015
By: Paul Walker


West Ham are suffering from football inertia of the very worst kind… frozen in time just waiting, begging almost, for something to happen.

Two wins in 15 league matches, plus a shocking exit from the FA Cup is the sort of form that gets any manager the sack, sometimes much less.

But we all know that is not going to happen. Our beloved board just want this season to end, quickly, so they can put into practice what we all know is going to happen, Sam Allardyce’s departure from these parts.

Nobody in their right mind now believes anything different, whatever we are told by the people that make the decisions - eventally - about the future of our club.

Us fans are being taken for something of a ride now because what we are watching isn’t worth the money we have paid for our season tickets, but of course the Davids are not bothered as long as it doesn’t cost them or the club any more money than absolutely necessary.

Nobody expects the board to axe Sam on the strength of this current dreadful run because he goes for nothing, as does his coaching staff I believe, on June 30 when his contract ends. Sack him now, or last summer and there’s all sorts of cash to be paid out.

So we are all frozen in time. Us, the players, the people employed by Sam and the club at Chadwell Heath, and it is those people I actually feel most sorry for. They are on ordinary money doing ordinary jobs and have wives, families and mortgages to worry about.

Those things don’t bother our players, who are ever-increasingly going through the motions. They don’t bother millionaire owners. And it doesn’t bother Sam. He knows he could retire now and never work again, or he knows he will get another job somewhere regardless. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was already lined up.

The owners know we are going to finish ninth, tenth or 11th. And the Europa League via the Fair Play league is just a red-herring. They wouldn’t want to start matches again in the first week of July, just days after Sam has gone, surely. David Sullivan will be hell-bent on too much wheeler-dealing to be bothered by matches to play.

A new man will not be in place, unless David Moyes has already got his eyes on Sam‘s docklands apartment, that is.

Sam is doing the rounds of his usual media haunts, the latest saw him doing his cuddly uncle bit on Clare Balding's new chat show. Must admit, I expected more, but it was very superficial, all the old stuff about clubs he leaves being relegated, and the fact that he has achieved everything he was asked to do.

Sam was his usual snug self, all jokes and arrogance. I’m a professional, doing my job, And that’s the bit every football professional understands.

Sam’s media friends have done their bit too, with a string of articles asking just why we want him long gone. But they are hardly going to write that he should be chopped; they wouldn’t want to upset him, now, would they?

The real piece of TV that said it all came when Sam was informed at his press conference last week that David Sullivan had suggested he was extremely disappointed with our current form. Sam’ s “Did he” was worth more than a thousand interviews.

The two just don‘t click any more, underlined by Sullivan’s remark that “the manager picks the team, ask him” when commenting on Nene’s very rare appearances on the pitch. Another player the co-owner had bought that Sam didn’t want.

I Don‘t know about you, but I am getting fed-up with being asked by fans of other clubs just what we expected, and what more we want from BFS.

Outside the West Ham world, fans cannot understand. Surely we are safe from the drop, there has been four seasons of first promotion and now steady progress. It looks that way from the outside.

I have had this conversation from a barman in San Francisco to a taxi driver in Cheshire these past weeks. (Had to get that bit in, sorry!) And the Yanks are the worst. None of their sports are really based on flair, the NFL for example is throwing, catching, running, stop. Basketball is end-to-end in the blink of an eye and used as non-stop wallpaper on US television.

And nobody can see the puck when ice hockey is televised anyway! Maybe I am being a bit harsh there, because the giants of basketball are amazingly skilled. But I am sure you get my point, the Yanks only really understand results and winning.

So isn’t Sam producing that? Well, no, not at the moment anyway. We score, defend and lose. Every time the fourth official holds up the ’Fergie time’ board, we seem to panic and throw away points.


Is this the end of the road for Big Sam?


It was the same at the weekend when Stoke came to town. Somehow we had hung on after Aaron Cresswell’s wonder free-kick, conceding 60 per cent plus of possession. Thanks to the heroics of James Collins - on a weekend when West Brom were remembering the brain damage that killed Jeff Astle, maybe Ginge could consider how much his head must have hurt against Stoke!

And yes, we ended up drawing in the 95th minute. We used to chant ‘ It‘s happening again‘ to Spurs fans, now the rest of the Premier League are singing that to us!

We brought young Maddie with us on Saturday, she is soon to become my son’s sister-in-law, about a month away now. (The wedding is on the last weekend of the season in Portugal. I ask you, who planned that?) She’s a Stoke fan, which probably explains a lot, and behaved impeccably. Not a flinch when we scored, likewise when two Stoke efforts were disallowed. And still not a reaction when the equaliser went in.

Well done, you can come again. Certainly if you buy your rounds like you did. But to be fair, it would have been an insult to everyone’s intelligence if Stoke had left without a point, at least.

We were plain awful, and it‘s not going to get any better with Manchester City next. But Sam will just amble on to the end of the season when he, and us, will be put out of our misery. Hopefully there will be an end to the vile bickering on fans’ websites, the split in our support and the insidious campaigns to get the manager out.

I had actually stopped recently trying to write constructive, balanced stuff which put both sides of the case for Sam. Anything you say even slightly in his favour is met with a barrage of abuse, a lot of it sneering, patronising and from a self-established high moral ground. Anyone who does not share the anti-Sam rhetoric is considered anti-football and defiling the soul of the game.

Just look at the forums and social media after Saturday. Disdainful stuff. And the pro-Sam lot are no better, preaching on about stability and a job well done. The word pragmatic gets used a lot and detractors don‘t know what they are talking about. I took a few weeks rest from it all.

So who do we get next? Forget Glenn Hoddle, his name only comes up when Sullivan cannot find anyone else, and he’s his mate. And I don’t really believe Rafa Benitez will come, we will have to pay him twice what Sam is getting, and our board won’t stomach that.

Mind you, Benitez still wants Liverpool and fancies Manchester City. He is deluding himself, I feel. His family still live in Wirral and the kids go to posh schools in Chester, I recall. But does anyone think that Liverpool will go back to him, however well he did in winning the Champions League for them?

And City can have anyone they want. Pep Guardiola would do nicely. Surely they wouldn’t want someone axed by Liverpool. Rafa for us, I doubt it. He doesn’t get out of bed for a transfer kitty under £100million these days, much like Louis van Gaal, another from the big league.

So it’s Moyes, you would think. Tony Henry must be bending his ear daily by now. And I don’t go along with the stuff that Moyes is just a cheap version of Allardyce, although that would impress the Davids.

Back in my former life, I spent a decade working with Moyes, and he has plenty of impressive qualities. A very good, organised coach and a man who is capable of building a club slowly and soundly without vast sums of money. What we must have is someone who does not cast out all the good progress we have made,that is key for me.

We have put up with Sam because the progress has been there, if not very pretty. After the bumbling nonsense of Avram Grant (well done you Davids for that one) and the indecent haste that saw Lady Brady sacking Gianfranco Zola, longevity is needed.

All that meant a huge turnover of very average players and absolutely no progress. My lad pointed out at the weekend on our slow train back north that he has had enough of us not being able to compete, to give him something worth watching instead of constant dismantling of the club at every level.

So Moyes would be trusted with that. Just ask Bill Kenwright, someone our owners think highly of. Bill did not have bottomless pockets and Everton had to work and struggle to build what they have now. They were once a financial basket case like us, but not now.

And Moyes is credited with much of the good stuff that came to Goodison Park. Yes, he can be as long-ball as anyone, even Sam, but there is variety and the ability to adapt. He certainly isn’t long ball in Spain, and if given the sort of money Van Gaal has been allowed at Manchester United may well have made a better fist of things there.

The other name that keeps coming up is the Argentinean looney tunes, Marcelo Bielsa, currently at Marseille. He has won praise from the very best, Carlos Tevez and Pep for a start.

There was an interesting, if highly pretentious piece in the Guardian about Bielsa by Barney Roney last week. When I had managed to batter my way through the arty stuff about Braque, Picasso and obscure American artists (believe me, you couldn’t make it up) Ronay was suggesting Bielsa and West Ham were made for each other.

The problem, for me, is that he doesn’t speak a word of English - so how on earth would Mark Noble make himself understood?

Seriously, though. Bielsa has plenty going for him. He is a total advocate of attacking football, is prone to great success (at Athletic Bilbao) and spells of sheer nonsense. He can also rant with the best of them.

But if we wanted a Latin hero, who loves attacking and has no idea about defence, and can rage away with sheer nonsense at the drop of a hat (plus ruin the knees of a few expensive suits) why not give it to Paolo Di Canio? Now there’s a thought.

But our owners do not want a gamble like that, so maybe Bielsa is a step too far with the very delicate matter of the Olympic Stadium just around the corner.

No, for me, Moyes is the best bet. Young, safe hands, capable of decent signings--that’s where Henry comes in again--and capable of working with what he finds and bringing on the youth. And he won’t want Sullivan buying players for him that are unfit, too old, or already in retirement in Qatar.

Now that’s not such a bad thing, is it?


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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