Our club has changed

Sam Allardyce has been in control - and I mean real control - of our club for little over four months, and West Ham has changed dramatically and probably for ever.

We've all been watching to see just how much of a difference big Sam can make and there has not really been much point in assessing the situation, or trying to second guess the future, until the transfer window is out of the way and the season has started.

Mind you, we had to wait for the end of the later Turkish transfer window! That late, agent-contrived bid for Carlton Cole from Galatasaray could have wrecked all the plans. Funny, there were many fans who wanted to see the back of the big striker, but his start to the season and obvious enjoyment of playing for Allardyce has changed a few minds.

But I always wanted to keep him. He is big and quick and when he's in the mood can be a real handful and goalscorer. I also believe he was one of only a few players who had a contract clause that allowed his wages to be cut after relegation.

Sam took over on June 1, and set about cleansing the playing staff, as so much was obviously wrong at Chadwell Heath. The longer he has been here, the more evidence of last season's - and the previous one's for that matter - malaise became evident.

Sam has talked of clich?s, players wanting to leave and being unsettled. He's made it clear the fitness levels were a disgrace and there was a complete lack of collective team spirit and desire from many to even be bothered to play for us.

We could all see it before our eyes. There was no passion at times, no planning, no obvious tactics and a shocking lack of leadership from Avram Grant, and the now-departed Matthew Upson.

Sam wants us all to forget last season and concentrate on the future. But it's hard to put things aside when so much was wrong and loyal fans were being short-changed at every turn.

I recall writing last season that it is fans and clubs who get relegated, not players - and you only have to look at the new clubs of our departed heroes to underline that.

Only Lars Jacobsen has yet to find a club from the 20-plus who have left. The players mainly held responsible for relegation have all found new homes in the top flights of leagues across Europe.

Some have gone with the good grace to say nothing. Others have let slip some real nonsense. Upson, he of the total failure to lead from the front, had the audacity to join Stoke and then complain that their fighting spirit was far better than ours and if we had played with Stoke's desire we would have been OK.

Upson seems to be in denial and talking from a parallel universe. He forgets he was responsible for much of the lack of leadership and spirit; he was captain. Although many seem to never have known that. Sky continually called Scott Parker our captain up until the day he left. Many newspapers likewise.

Everybody jumped ship and maintained their wages and contracts in top flights. Dyer, Gabbidon, Hitzlsperger, Upson, Ba, Da Costa, Kovac, Boa Morte, Obinna are all in top divisions. Even Keane has wangled a huge pay-day in the States, while Bridge is still at Manchester City on mega-bucks but not in their Premier League squad.

Dyer had the nerve to complain about our medical staff, and Gabbidon left complaining of bad decision-making at the club. He may have a point, but he forgets that West Ham stuck by him for many months while he recovered from admittedly shocking injuries. We get him fit and he walks away.

Hitzlsperger too. He was never going to play in a lower division, and we again spent good money getting him fit after he was injured playing for Germany.

Notice the difference from Jack Collison. He has made a point of thanking the club for his medical treatment and signed a new deal pointing out he felt he owed the club something. Having witnessed his outstanding performance at Wembley for Wales against a very ordinary England in midweek, I couldn't be more pleased to see the lad still here and happy.

Mark Noble is much the same. Never a flicker of wanting to leave in the summer. He was hurt as much as we all were, so I plead with my fellow fans to get off the lad's back. He's a real asset and a good club man. He'll run until he drops for the cause, and his display at Doncaster showed that.

And while we are still on the subject of Upson (and Hitzlsperger) it should be mentioned that a lot of fans seemed to be happy it took them so long to find another club, as if it showed what a waste of space they were.

In fact, I believe the pair took us for every last penny. When contracts end in June, there is always a clause which says that if the player concerned does not find a new club within a month, he is entitled to anther four weeks money.

You may have noticed that Upson and Stoke didn't surface publically until August, much the same with Hitz's move to Wolfsberg. On the assumption that both men were on over ?60,000 a week, that's around ?250,000 a man they took each in extra wages before their final departure. Or half-a-million from the club's coffers, because moves looked to have been deliberately delayed to allow the contract clauses to kick in.

Upson wasn't unwanted, he had the whole thing planned. We all knew he was working down his contract with no intention of staying, he should have had the captaincy stripped from him immediately that became obvious.

Allardyce has had to sift through the wreckage, get rid of a multitude of players while finding exactly who wants to play for us. In that respect, Julien Faubert, Winston Reid, Robert Green, Collison, Noble, James Tomkins and Cole deserve credit. And in cutting through the rubbish, Allardyce has also saved the club millions. My rule-of-thumb estimation is around ?30million a year.

The bulk of our first team were paid over ?50,000 a week, some a lot more; players like Parker, Dyer, Robbie Keane, Wayne Bridge as well as Upson, Gabbidon, Boa Morte, Kovac and Da Costa.

If you include the lads out on loan, around 25 players have left the club and I reckon the monthly wage bill was around ?3million. So that's well over ?30million a year.

Of course there has been outlay since. Allardyce has replaced one coaching and management staff with another while a dozen new players have arrived. Kevin Nolan is clearly on top money, Matt Taylor too, but I would doubt that many of the other new arrivals are on anything like ?50,000 a week. So an awful lot of money has been saved by the changes.

We hear that the Davids are pumping in ?3million a month of their own money to pay the bills and give us a genuine chance of first-time promotion - and they've done it without the usual tirade of rent-a-quote stuff. Even Mrs. Peschisolido has been pretty quiet by her own standards.

But I must admit to liking her put-down of Benni McCarthy. From the safety of South Africa, the fat one said that our Karen was an evil person with breasts. Her response was to suggest that least she, at least, is supposed to have tits.

It seems that Sam has changed the whole attitude at the club. How often last season did we see every player rush to congratulate a goalscorer?

We now have a manager who insists on team spirit and a manager who already has a rapport with the fans - fans who appreciate tough management (at last) and can see that we have a pattern and organisation to our play. We are scoring from set-pieces (I know, hard to believe isn't it?) and we are pressing opponents in their own half.

The shocking management of last season gets worse the more you delve into the relegation campaign. Winston Reid suddenly looks a player, while how on Earth was it that Sam discovered Pablo Barrera was in need of proper English lessons? Just what was being done last season?

We haven't quite got to grips with making sure the ball is in our opponents' half in the last five minutes where they can't score ridiculous goals from - especially at the Boleyn Ground. But Sam has clearly had a word or two on that one. I thought it was amusing to see us take the ball into the corner while 3-1 up at Forest in the last minutes. A bit over-the-top that, but the point seems to have got home.

And let's kill the long ball myth once and for all. Sam plays realistic football, he wants the ball accurately delivered into the box (well done Matt Taylor) and he wants us to score from set plays. Nothing wrong with any of that, just we haven't seen much of it.

But every free-kick or corner now has Tomkins as a real threat beyond the far post and the six-yard box full of players wanting the final touch. With Papa Bouba Diop (6ft 5in), John Carew (6ft 5in) and Abdoulaye Faye (6ft 3in) plus Cole and Reid also in the box for the knock-downs, we are actually looking dangerous in an area in which we have rarely excelled.

Too much lazy journalism regarding the 'West Ham way' just annoyed me. My old colleague and friend Ken Dyer, in the Leeds programme, reminisced about the '66 season when we beat Leeds 7-0 in the League Cup, put six past Fulham and four away at Spurs in a magical week. I saw all those games, stunning performances. But we finished 16th that season.

Our beautiful game was, and has, not been as evident as people think. We wouldn't be in this mess if it had been more effective. Sam, as I said, is a realist.

While working in the north west, I spent a lot of time at his matches and press conference and he made a lot of sense. He really enjoyed getting up the noses of Rafa Benitez and Arsene Wenger.

He is not always right, he can be arrogant and opinionated. But he is effective. And his teams are fit, strong and they fight hard. And don't we need some of that after the last two pitiful campaigns?

He also had some pretty entertaining midfielders in his time at Bolton, and classy strikers. Let's just see how it goes, so far so good. It's results we need now, not accolades and I just wish him all the luck in the world, because we haven't had much of late.

Sam has also brought in youthful promise. Sam Baldock is just the sort of hungry young man we should be signing, while Henri Lansbury has genuine class, pace and star quality. And if we can get the perma-tan and hair gel off of David Bentley, we may have a player who can be a real asset. He was once an England international who has since lost his way; he needs a manager like big Sam like never before.

It's good to see George McCartney back - he too had lost his way - while Joey O'Brien is a genuine bargain, a real plus point. Two seasons of injuries could have ended his career, but he wanted to prove to Sam he still had a future, and was there at the first day of pre-season, determined to win a contract.

The effort he has put in has won him that chance and we actually have a proper right back at last. Ok, so there is a long way to go and I'm still spitting feathers over the Cardiff and Leeds cock-ups. But importantly, I bet Sam is too, and won't let anyone forget it.

That's proper management. Fans don't worry too much about a perceived style of play, over-exaggerated as it was, if their team is winning. The tremendous away support at Doncaster, Watford and Forest underlines that. We are going to fill a few Championship coffers, hopefully for just one season.

It has been a tough summer. One in which we have all suffered after relegation. Realising that Sky just don't care about this division, the same as the newspapers. And Football First has now gone from our lives on Saturday evenings. TV clips of our matches are now reduced to about 30 seconds after midnight. West Ham TV and their radio feeds is the best bet now to see and hear about us.

Reading all the complaints from fans trying to find non-existent 'dodgy' TV feeds for the Doncaster game just rubbed it home that we have been pushed into the background. Even the Nolan transfer was turned into a Newcastle crisis by Sky (why didn't they try to keep him, was their approach) rather than a real coup for the Irons.

I didn't see us mentioned for two weeks by Sky at one point. And as for Scott Parker, he did great for two seasons but was always going to Spurs - his mate Jamie Redknapp made sure of that!

Now Sam has a squad set up for this division with strength and know-how. We all need to get behind the team, particularly at home where too much negativity is still in evidence. Our complaint last season was that nobody seemed to care; well they look like they do now. COYI.

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