Gives us a smile, Sam

Well, it's fair to say I hadn't really seen this coming. And I bet that goes for a large amount of Irons fans.

But it's certainly welcome. Sixth in the Premier League, 18 points already from 11 games - that's not even a third of the season - and a big gap opening up between ourselves and the bottom three.

The outstanding victory at Newcastle has established us as a club of serious intent, well organised, supremely professional and full of commitment to the shirt.

Coming on the back of a confident, controlled, well planned point against Manchester City, suddenly our standing as a cause for serious debate has become apparent.

And don't forget it came the same weekend as we beat the mighty Arsenal at reserve and youth level to underlined the fact that the Academy is still running nicely, thank you.

All this might just bring a smile to Big Sam's face, well almost. Sam doesn't really do smiles, he just does what he keeps telling us he does best. Manage successfully in the top flight. And it's becoming hard to argue against his inbuilt arrogance.

In fact I bet he is quietly delighted at the sound of so many people eating humble pie. Sam arrived at the Boleyn with an image he didn't like, and one many of our fans didn't like much. Then he gave his old mucker Kevin Nolan - at 30 - an eye-watering five-year contract, setting the tough Scouser up for life, something Newcastle refused to do.

Too old. Too slow and not good enough for Pardew's upwardly mobile Newcastle, with their European aspirations, was a well worn theme.

None of this went down too well amongst some Hammers fans. But who can say now that the plan hasn't worked? Blimey, the old long ball merchant saw his team described as "stylish" after the deserved draw with champions.

Yes, I blinked a bit at that too. But it must be right because it was in the Sunday Telegraph! If that didn't make Sam smile he should have been laughing his little cotton socks off during last week of Champions League action.

Firstly we were told that Stoke, Newcastle and Everton play more long balls than we do (that's ones over 35 yards, not the 20-yard version of the stats that put us behind Real Madrid and Barcelona a couple of weeks ago. Oh how we laughed.)

Then we witnessed our betters using the same long ball so ridiculed when Sam uses it. I wish this long ball stuff would go away, it's been shown to be a myth because everyone uses it sometimes, and everyone knows how to mix it up. Jack Collison and Mark Noble both said as much in TV interviews recently.

Incidentally, it's good to see Collison nearing a return. His knee injury was a shocker and we should not forget that he put his career on the line playing far too many matches at the back end of last season to help us secure promotion.

TV viewers last week would have seen three goals that Sam would be proud of, but nobody complained. Firstly Liverpool - yes Brendan Rodgers' short-passing heroes - utilised a 70-yard long ball from Jose Enrique to Luis Suarez, who admittedly controlled it superbly as it fell into the box before tip-toeing round Tim Krul to net the equaliser against Newcastle.

Then there was Joe Hart launching the ball downfield for Mario Balotelli to flick on to allow Sergio Aguero an equaliser against Ajax. And of course there was the long punt from Celtic 'keeper Fraser Forster, missed by Javier Mascherano to allow teenager Tony Watt immortality with the second and eventual winner against Barcelona. Just imagine the abuse we would have suffered had Sam's side scored goals like that. But not a word.

Even Pardew was banging on about "the way they (us) play, all stop-start and set pieces into the box." As if our ex-manager had never ordered the ball to be pumped forward for Demba Ba.This is all getting really boring, don't you think?

My natural pessimism - come on, I've been watching the Irons for over 50 years - had me suggesting we would be fortunate to get six points from the 12 tougher games that followed our 4-1 win over Southampton. And we've already got four.

Yes, we still do need 22 more points to reach the accepted 40 point mark, but we are a darned sight closer to our goal than the bottom three.

QPR, winless with four points, need to take 36 points from their final 27 league matches to get to 40. Southampton need 35 from 27 while Reading need 32 from 28.

I still doubt we can hang on to such a lofty sixth place with Spurs, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal before the turn of the year. But we are growing into a confident, determined team who know how to shut-out games, who understand the system and shape that Sam wants and have an excellent, Nolan-inspired, team spirit.

Andy Carroll, who finished Sunday's game as a extra defender, Mo Diame, Mark Noble and Jussi Jaaskelainen are having fine seasons.

And if we do stay in the top half, Sam may well find that the January transfer window will be interesting. Last season we found it hard to attract our targets while in the Championship. This summer, it was just as hard to get top players to take the risk of joining a newly promoted club.

Now it may start to change. Nicholas Anelka and Joe Cole are already being linked with the club, and the more we look the part in the top flight, the easier it will become to improve our squad.

So far it has been an enlightening season, the only annoying bit has been the continued shambles of the Olympic stadium bid.

Part of me wants to tell the politicians and organisers that they are getting what they deserve. The stadium build was flawed from the start. The wrong design - why a circle? - and a total failure to accept that only top-flight football would provide a genuine future.

But no, the arrogant Coe-led athletics fraternity didn't want to rub shoulders with the over-paid (their view) world of professional football. They demanded an athletics-led stadium for the future.

And the man who designed such a nonsense was the one who complained to the EU about public money being spent on a professional football club's bid.

So now they have a stadium that is empty, with no hope that it can be re-structured for at least three more years. And it is public money that is being spent just keeping an empty shell ticking over.

The government don't want to spend money on refurbishment to allow top football to be staged there. But without retractable seating, corporate facilities and better toilets (I'm not sure I understand that last one, what is already there?) it cannot be used for football.

If we are only going to be tenants, why should we foot the bill? Would you pay to have a new bathroom put into a council house, surely not.

Now the authorities are in a mess. Just like they were over the Dome. Motor racing will not pay the bills, Orient certainly won't and there are only so many world class rock stars who can fill 80,000 seats.

Athletics certainly won't fill the stadium three times a month, and this is the shambles you get when politicians with no real knowledge of professional sport (yes, I mean you Boris) are involved in such decision making.

We have been mucked about, we should sue the government and the Olympic legacy people for the waste of our money in the bidding process. A binding process that Boris seems to be prepared to allow any Tom, Dick or Yankee sport to muscle into.

I should want them all to stew in their own juices, the victims of their own stupidity right from the start. But I still believe we can progress in the Olympic stadium, if we ever get the chance to prove it. If the Government are ever prepared to get their hands dirty with football.

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