Some slack and less stick please

I never thought it would come to this, but I find myself saying that we really really do need to cut Big Sam some slack and get off the backs of our team.

This division is so tough, so erratic, so unpredictable, that it is difficult to make snap judgements over just a couple of games, it's best to wait for sensible periods of matches to pass before making assessments.

So I have bitten my tongue a few times recently. After the Southampton and Bristol City games to be more accurate. It's so easy to launch into manager and players after disappointments, such is the nervous tensions and frustrations that come with being an Irons fan these past few years - in fact all the 53 years I've been coming to the Boleyn if I am honest!

Now I find myself calling for understanding and support for Big Sam (I know, not really what I expected to be saying) after a third of the season has passed.

I've always respected Sam Allardyce's ability and knowledge as a manager of great experience. But not always liked much the way he goes about things some times, as I might have explained in the past.

I recall a good friend of mine, BBC's Alan Green, saying on air once that he would not pay to watch Sam's Bolton. Big Sam did not take it well. He doesn't take criticism well.

But he gets results, organises a side well, can make telling changes and will not stand for anyone not pulling their weight. And that is what is needed ahead of anything else in this division. The outstanding away wins at Brighton and now Hull underline that.

So to be second in the table and on course for his pre-season targets at this stage is a pretty decent achievement considering the whole-sale rebuilding of a dysfunctional squad that had been needed since last season's relegation debacle.

But 31 points from 16 games and 28 goals coming from 13 different players sees us in second spot. The gap between us and seventh placed Leeds is a healthy six points and it has all been achieved despite an injury crisis that has seen us regularly without half a team.

Anyone who thought this season was going to a breeze, with us being allowed to play pretty, passing football while cruising to the top of the table was living in cloud cuckoo land.

We've lost the sort of Premier League quality that is needed to play like that. We've had to make up for the loss of quality with effort, experience, hard work and team spirit. It was never going to be pretty.

Which makes me wish the support at the Boleyn is not so quick to be critical. You can feel the tension, hear the abuse and cut the frustration with a knife at times. None of that helps the side.

Maybe I notice it more even this season because the lads I watch the games with have been joined, unfortunately, next to us by a thick, fat, bald, tattooed muppet who does nothing else but hurl abuse at the team.

His one song is that annoying, self-depreciating "How sh*t must you be, we're winning at home". Trouble is he thinks every word he utters is comic genius, and his depressing attitude spreads to others around us.

If Anton Ferdinand felt he was badly abused at Loftus Road recently, God knows what he would make of the flow of racist nonsense that flows from the mouth of this clown.

The general abuse of our own players spreads like a plague. He seems to hate everyone, Mark Noble being his constant target. The fact that Noble is playing out of his skin for the team, never hiding when things go wrong and running himself into the ground clearly escapes him.

I mention this only to underline the need for the home support to be a touch more understanding of what is going on in front of them.

Our away support, in their marvellous numbers, is a different animal. We are filling the coffers of this division. Over 4,000 regularly now are travelling, and their attitude to the team is very different. There is a bond between fans and players on the road, the away support feels that we are flag bearers, all in this together and we'll get out of this godforsaken division together.

There will be well over 6,000 fans at Coventry for our next match. I really am hoping I enjoy the day better that the trip to St.Mary's, and then the long drive home after the bitter frustration of the Bristol City game.

Big Sam was clearly annoyed enough with the crowd after that one to say, "what more do West Ham fans want" in a radio interview I listened to on the M1. He then felt the need to release the full statistics of the game to prove a point be felt was not getting across.

He doesn't need to do that, and he doesn't need to keep telling everyone he's been a manager for 20 years and knows best. But he also deserves praise for the way this squad has been turned around into a fighting unit.

At Southampton we did not play well and still should still have won. Watching us play Sam's tactics badly just rubbed it in. But the noise and support never wavered. I left the ground very upset because Southampton are not a great team.

They celebrated their win as if they'd won the Champions League. They are organised, settled and have an excellent new stadium and solid support behind them.

Ipswich are the only team I have seen outplay us this season, but they are not consistent enough. But even though, in my view, we have not hit top form yet this season, we are grinding out results, sticking to the game plan and working as a team. The current run of 13 points from 18 is praiseworthy considering the constant injury problems.

Yes, there is a lack of creativity, the ability to unlock a defence. But having lost Scott Parker, that was always going to be the case. Big Sam brought in David Bentley and Henri Lansbury on deadline to at least try to address that problem, and both are sidelined.

Matt Taylor, an outstanding acquisition, has likewise missed matches as has Joey O'Brien and we haven't even seen Guy Demel yet.

But Sam's side have coped with the disruptions. He talked of 80-90 points and 60 odd goals this season as promotion targets, and we are on course for that.

The average points for a second placed promotion place these last ten years has been 86, with an average of 71 goals.

Last season Norwich went up in second spot with 84 points and 83 goals. Previously the recent totals have been West Brom 91/89; Birmingham 83/54; Stoke 79/69; Leicester 92/77; WBA 86/64; Wigan 87/79; Sheffield Utd 90/76; Birmingham 86/67; WBA 89/61.

On several occasions the gap between second and third has been quite large, as much as ten points sometimes, so Big Sam would no doubt argue that we might not need 86 points this time around.

But knowing us, the team that were relegated from the top flight with the highest-ever points tally recently, we need to be sure. If the final 30 games sees us taking 55 points with 43 more goals, that should see us promoted.

The Football League Show's Steve Claridge, that ex-Millwall expert, reckoned that West Ham had disappointed him most in the Championship this season, but we had found a way to win matches.

He actually made a sound point, while seemingly also expecting us to play classy football. But you don't get out of this division expecting to play fancy football, the so-called West Ham way. You get out by matching the ferocity and pace of the division, and by working your guts out.

We are a third of the way there. Let's all keep our nerve, keep the faith, get off a few backs and go up together. No team plays well when they keep getting stick.

* Like to share your thoughts on this article? Please visit the KUMB Forum to leave a comment.

More Opinion