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We're 'big fat Samís claret and blue army' - and we might win away games

Filed: Thursday, 2nd June 2011
By: Paul Walker

After two terrible seasons of incompetence on the pitch and misery for the fans, times just have to be aí changing.

Many feel that some while ago we lost the right to dictate the type and style of football West Ham have to play, such has been the disaster of form, results and relegation.

Donít forget it has been 14 wins from 76 league games and just three away wins in those two depressing seasons. Trying to play pretty football without the tools needed to achieve such lofty aims, sees us back in the Championship after our second relegation in nine years.

Relegation is such a disaster these days in terms of finance squad decimation, there has to be a streak of reality through any club, you canít just whine on about playing passing football while accepting that we concede three goals a game. Thatís a recipe for disaster, as we have discovered.

When we went down in 1978 with a team including Billy Bonds, Frank Lampard, Alvin Martin, Pat Holland, David Cross, Trevor Brooking, Bryan Robson, Alan Curbishley and Alan Devonshire, all of those players were still at the club the following season. Times have changed.

So it falls to Sam Allardyce to take us back to the top flight before any further damage is done to our finances.

Look at what has happened to Sheffield United (now stop laughing) since the parachute payments have stopped, if not the ridiculous hand-outs we are still giving them.

Sam is clearly not everyoneís cup of tea, never has been. In my dealings with him working in the north west, he has been the most self-confident, driven, defiant, smug, infuriating, successful managers Iíve known.

Iíve listened to the likes of Arsene Wenger and Rafa Benitez - who just hated his snearing local rival - rant and rave about Samís tactics. They despised them, and that is because they achieved results.

Allardyce was never slow is saying that he didnít have the money to compete with Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea etc, so he had to devise a style that got little old Bolton enough points to stay up. But he could never hide a smirk when a big club were mugged at the Reebok.

He fell out badly with a friend of mine, BBCís Alan Green, who dared to say that he would not pay to watch Bolton. I understand what he meant. But then thatís an easy assessment to make from the press box, where lofty ideals do not have to pay the mortgage.

I recall one rant from Wenger about Boltonís time wasting and use of substitutions late in a game. Sam just said he didnít see anything in the rules that said a player has to sprint off the pitch!

It was a snearing, bloody-minded put down which probably upset Wenger even more. But then nobody questions that the Frenchman uses a nasty (but talented) hatchet man, Alexandre Song, in the Gunnersí midfield without a hint of apology.

Allardyce claims that his long ball label has come from criticism by top managers whose skin he has got under. We could have done with someone to get under the skin of top clubs at our place, league points against Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool have been pretty rare these past few years.

I had already renewed my season ticket for next season knowing it could be Big Sam, and what to expect. And that is I want to see far fewer goals going into our net because of disgraceful defending, I want to travel away believing we can get results. I was lucky this season, I saw us win at Blackpool, prior to that it was a league win at Stoke in May 2009.

It hasnít been pretty, nor was the football weíve played. I feel there is a large body of fans now who couldnít give a monkeys about the style debate, they want to see West Ham win and be taken seriously again.

It all ended painfully for Sam at Newcastle - where his style and reputation was not accepted. At Blackburn he had them in the top half when he was sacked .

The reason for that departure had much to do with the new Indian owners taking advice on players from agents Sam did not work with. Sounds a bit familiar, that! I heard he was given a list of six players the new owners wanted, and Sam didnít want any of them.

You would hope that Sam has enough about him, and nobody can surely doubt that, to make it very clear he handles transfers and dealings with agents (like Barry Silkman) and also that he knows clearly who his boss is. He canít allow himself to be answerable to Brady, Sullivan and Gold all at the same time.

Sam will have his own team, his trusted backroom coaches and technical staff and he will sign players he trusts to do a job properly. I hope too that Kevin Keen and Steve Lomas are retained in some capacity, and that Tony Carr at the academy is left alone to continue his work.

But there will be big changes, Sam has virtually a blank canvas now to sort out the mess we are in.

You can only hope that he does not privately see this post as one last big pay day where he has little to lose and a short(er) term contract than his predecessors. He is already a rich man and admitted to considering retirement or a job in the Middle East (much the same thing really).

But deep down he is still a determined man. He has been brushed aside by England, dumped by Newcastle and Blackburn and labelled as just a long ball merchant.

But he knows the game, the market and how the wheels of football turn, which is more than could be said for the likes of Roeder, Zola and Grant.

If he could prove everyone wrong at West Ham, make us hard to beat, resilient and competitive (when did any of us see much of that) then he will win over the Boleyn fans.

What must not happen is that he arrives with a fractious support awaiting him, people who believe West Ham somehow hold the rights to entertaining football.

Certain things have to be sacrificed to get this club back where we all believe we should be, despite so many shocking performances to the contrary in recent seasons.

But we must be organised in defence, adhere to a team plan, be tactically aware (are you watching Avram Grant), work for the team and know how to stop opponents from being effective.

Even the best team on the planet last weekend showed how to play when they didnít, not often I accept, have the ball. Barcelona hunted down Manchester UnitedĎs men in possession in packs. Three, four players swarming around an opponent to reclaim the ball.

I didnít see much swarming by our lot last season, and if nothing else, Allardyce can restore pride and belief right through the club.

We must all give him a chance, a fair crack of the whip. Trying also to understand where we are and what is now needed. I didnít like Sam much when his team were kicking, snarling and confronting opponents - and thatís just him on the bench - but a bit of fight and desire in our team would not go amiss.

Good luck, Big Fat Sam.

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 HAMMER 50
07:19PM 17th Jun 2011
''Well written, I just hope the casual supporter will join the emotionaly battered season ticket holders and get behind the team instead of getting on the teams back if things go wrong. Whole season not just one game, I believe Sam is the man to get us back!''

by Mr K
06:48PM 9th Jun 2011
''Plenty of Hammers fans won't like his playing style, myself included, but we all know that as soon as we manange to turn over one of the top four at their place, all that will go out the window! And anyway, you can't play fancy-dan football in the good old style unless you have the players and the confidence to pull it off - and some bite to go with the bark. If all Fat Sam does is stop us being an away day walkover, and restores some pride in the team's acheivements, that alone will be worth his salary...You gotta bake the cake before you can ice it.''

by keith cockayne
05:11PM 3rd Jun 2011
''I agree with every word of this article. I might not have chosen Sam but I back him to the hilt and hope that he will stand absolutely NO nonsense from the owners and the players. Oh, and get us a DEFENCE !''

by Devo's tash
04:30PM 3rd Jun 2011
''Well said. All we need now is 35,000 fans to concur. That is my only concern. Oh, and how about having a fiver on winning the FA Cup? Who said romance is dead!''

by Kieran
03:58PM 3rd Jun 2011
''Many have pointed out that the Irons have been playing basically direct football for the last five to six years. To a large extent this is true. However, I cant support the idea that BSA is a good appointment based on the idea that he is better at playing direct football than Grant, Zola etc.

Sure, we will close down the opposition and word hard etc under Allardyce, that's all commendable and be harder to beat away from home etc. All of that would be a big plus. But are people really saying that you cant do all of that and still play good, constructive, attacking football with the ball on the deck?''

by g portugal
05:34AM 3rd Jun 2011
''It's pretty simple. Allardyce will:

1- reduce the goals we concede from set pieces

2- get us to close down the opposition all over the pitch

3- maintain a fit squad with no tolerance for lazy or uncommitted players

4- motivate players

5- pick a starting eleven that is reasonably consistent week in and week out,without constant chopping and changing

6- make useful and timely substitutions

7- make us hard to beat

That makes a welcome change from Roeder, Pardew in his final days, Zola and Grant.''

by Chris Sawtry: Happy Hammer
07:13PM 2nd Jun 2011
''A good well balanced piece. I concur. ''

by Malcolm Featherstone
04:35PM 2nd Jun 2011
''Absolutely spot on!''

by Tuckshop
01:17PM 2nd Jun 2011
''Well said.

There is a saying in rugby, that you have to earn the right to play an exspanive game. It is just as true in football. You have to put in the hard work before you can play the pretty stuff. Our last few managers never appreciated that. It's still the bit that Wenger doesn't get.

Some weeks ago I commented that Big Sam was tha man I wanted to take us up again. I do think he has a bad rap, but he will make us motivated, fit and hard working. That's what we need first and then we can start decorating the park a bit. Long ball? Yes, short term, if thats what it takes to get us into the Prem again.''

by tc
12:43PM 2nd Jun 2011
''What has distinguished West Ham since Redknapp is playing exactly the same football advocated by Allardyce, and it's THIS that has got us into all sorts of trouble. He might organise it better but it's gonna be a disaster.

What we need is investment in the youth and reserve teams and the infrastructure - that has been neglected since Redknapp. In fact he started the neglect, that is why he wobbles on about how 'lucky' he was with Rio, Lampard, Cole, etc. There was no luck in it.. It was what we did. It has been neglected and undermined and now we have a manager that will be 'ruthless' in rooting out 'inefficiency'. Translated that means we will no longer have any infrastructure at all and no youth setup.

What true fans would do if they owned West Ham would be to study the continent - look at Ajax and Barcelona and their setup, and take the best bits with a manager with vision. Instead we get yet another 'name' manager on a massive salary whose ideas are about to be surpassed.

It was Barcelona that won the European Cup, not Man U. ''

by deno
12:27PM 2nd Jun 2011
''Newcastle were also in top half of the Premier League when he was sacked. When he took over Blackburn they were in a relegation battle, after leaving Newcastle they plummeted (fans' fave KK was hopless). After leaving Blackburn they also plummeted and were lucky not to be relegated.

This is a fantastic coup. I'm looking forward to seeing us win, that's when I'm happy and have never been dissappointed when we win because we played bad, on the other hand I've never been happy when we lose because we played well..!''

by GizziM
11:36AM 2nd Jun 2011
''Great, well written piece. I must say I'm pleasantly surprised by the positive posts regarding this appointment. I was expecting a massive backlash, and while there are still dissenting voices over Sam, I've read a lot of reasoned (and not so reasoned) supporting pieces.

As you rightly point out, this is a result of at least three years of total dross being served up and non-existent tactical and man management from previous managers (we only played two proper full backs from January last year being a classic example).

I've written this elsewhere but I hope it's also recognition of two things - firstly, we haven't been the bastion of pass and move football for years. This is romanticised nonsense and even if it were true, hasn't equalled results or even losing performances we can be proud to watch.

Secondly, Sam Allardyce is the master at making the very best of the resources he has. If he is playing Arsenal and has Kevin Davies as CF. Of course he's going direct and look to bully them off the ball. That's how you beat them. If he has a midfield of Collison, Noble and Stanislas for example, I'm sure he'll want to play through them and use what they are good at but also instil some discipline and determination in them to stop the opposition playing. Sounds great to me. What's the problem?''

by John J
11:28AM 2nd Jun 2011
''Well said, I agree entirely. I agree that BFS will have a point to prove and improving our fortunes is the way to do it. I'm glad we didn't go for O'Neill - we wouldn't be able to afford the players he'd demand. I'm looking forward to a fit, disciplined WHU, working hard together and doing the simple things right. When we've got the basics right, then maybe we can get some of the flair that we've come to want and expect.

Welcome Sam. Hope you're not offended by the 'Big Fat' prefix that comes with your name: if you turn us around, you'll be slimmer than Lampard in my eyes!''

by J-Mo
10:25AM 2nd Jun 2011
''With so much emphasis on results and position in the Premier/Champions League few teams really have the ability to dictate their own style of play. Yes there are one or two notable exceptions, but generally all teams (from top to bottom) now need to know how to grind out a result - unfortunately the good old West Ham way no longer cuts the mustard in terms of yielding results in the modern game.

Much as I dislike Big Sam from his Bolton days I felt for the guy when he was shafted out of Newcastle. If he can keep our very promising youngsters at the club during the summer, bring in some seasoned veterans/mercenaries to bolster the squad and get the team 'winning ugly' then we will be in with a great shout of promotion.''

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