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Some slack and less stick please

Filed: Tuesday, 8th November 2011
By: Paul Walker

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, itís 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. Itís 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 Iíve 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.

Iíve always respected Sam Allardyceís 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, BBCís Alan Green, saying on air once that he would not pay to watch Samís Bolton. Big Sam did not take it well. He doesnít 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 seasonís 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.

Weíve lost the sort of Premier League quality that is needed to play like that. Weíve 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, weíre 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 weĎll 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.Maryís, 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 doesnít need to do that, and he doesnít need to keep telling everyone heís 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 Samís 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 theyíd 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 OĎBrien and we havenít even seen Guy Demel yet.

But Samís 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 Showís 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 donít 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. Letís 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.

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 errol
07:51PM 17th Nov 2011
''Well said and couldn't agree more. Away from home the players know we're 100 per cent behind them but at home it's a different story. We need to stay with them and spur them on, come what may! I cannot remember a time where we looked as hard to beat as we do now; nice one Sam.''

by Deane
11:35AM 12th Nov 2011
''Still won't pay to watch a Sam Allardyce team. Sad but true.''

by Charles Flores
03:13PM 10th Nov 2011
''What a well-written, positive article. It is about time all Hammers fans show a united front.

KUMB is a wonderful site and should serve as a major tool by which this message is driven home to all young and not-so-young fans, and not as a source of division or derision.

I live in Malta and would give my right arm to be able to join you all at the Boleyn on matchdays. Sadly, I can't afford to be there that frequently, though the arm offer stays on as I happen to be left-handed!''

by dave
12:48AM 10th Nov 2011
''Pardew didn't arrive with such a bad press as Sam, but he had a very tough time as we stumbled backwards into the last play-off place. Most of his tactical decisions then were straight from the big Sam book, but once we went up, it was clear that he had assembled players who could fit straight into the Prem.

Ferdinand(A), Noble, Zamora, Konchesky, Gabbidon and Collins played rough and tumble in whatever the 2nd div was called then, but could knock it about once they had the chance and six years later continue to do so at a high level, as does their old boss!

Sam has to play it like he knows best, but will have an opportunity to move on up, all going well, next year. I've seen us get behind the manager much more often than not for nearly 40 years, let's keep it up!''

by kitthehammer
04:05PM 9th Nov 2011
''Even if we were trying to play pretty football, the opposition would stop us playing it.

Many fans at this club don't seem to get it, that to succeed these days you need to be able to switch tactics and win ugly sometimes. Allardyce and Curbishley used to change tactics for individual teams with success, Zola had no plan B to switch to winning ugly and subsequently we were appalling - yet who is the one given more praise?

And I think that the win at Hull was the perfect response to the Bristol City draw. I don't see how much more 'West Ham way' the second goal could have been? If nearly everyone with any creativity is injured maybe you need to hoof it a bit? And who assisted both goals at Hull? Carlton Cole who was previously injured.

Some fans really don't look at the whole picture and jump on the manager's back far too quickly. I still think that Sam Allardyce was probably about the best manager we could have got into this club at this time.''

by Steve Walker
01:51AM 9th Nov 2011
''Three points. First, Sam is doing what is required, he will get a big fat bonus for promotion, NOT pretty football. Second, Why don't you report the racist muppet to the old bill and get him thrown out? Third, there is one other team that have outplayed us this season but they are also inconsistent, Leeds...''

by Cumby
08:07PM 8th Nov 2011
''Spot on. The ignorant boo boys (particularly at home) know nothing about the realities of gaining promotion from the Championship. Against Bristol City on another day we would have won by three, albeit not playing great but we missed so many chances.

I have been 'on the road' three times this season and I will be at Coventry and Reading. The away support is nothing short of incredible, if only we could have that at home the Boleyn Ground would once again become a fortress!''

by steven torode
08:01PM 8th Nov 2011
''Thanks for the great article, I thought I was going mad at being happy with Sam's superb managerial ability.

I cant beleive that he is getting abuse when Grant never got any abuse at all. Sorry Sam from the grateful Hammers fans.''

by 50pence
07:41PM 8th Nov 2011
''Love Big Sam! Just the man to whip a bunch of under-performing primadonnas. Great piece by the way! Let's ALL get behind our boys and the manager and overtake Southampton in the coming months.''

05:55PM 8th Nov 2011
''Excellent piece, and spot on. This season is all about getting behind Sam and the boys and getting back into the Premier League. So let's all get behind 'em!''

by pony utd
04:10PM 8th Nov 2011
''53 years of age and using the term 'on the road'. You should know better! Very good piece by the way.''

by mick
03:21PM 8th Nov 2011
''Couldn't agree more. Big Sam is doing his best with the injuries we have at the momant. We are second, not middle of the table so we should all get behind Sam and the boys and give credit where credit's due.''

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