The smell of relegation

That nasty stench of inevitability is enveloping our club. If we keep going the way we are we will be relegated and there will be a new manager in place before the start of next season, one way or another.

More and more fans believe that Big Sam should go now, others - and I am still in this camp (just) - believe that changing manager mid-season never really works out well.

But Allardyce would help his case if he stopped blaming officials, stopped naming and shaming his own players after mistakes and stopped putting all the blame for our current position on the absence of Andy Carroll.

There must be far more to it than that. I don't do knee-jerk reactions, preferring to wait and analyse situations over a few weeks before jumping on the 'Sam out' bandwagon. But as one shocking performances follows another, that is a hard line to maintain at times.

For one thing, getting rid of Allardyce would be a nasty, bloody exercise. Our wonderful (but very silent recently) owners have made two very bad mistakes since they took over. (Only two, I hear you say? But that's a matter of conjecture.)

Firstly they allowed themselves to be talked into appointing Avram Grant as boss, probably by his highly-influential agent, on the assumption that we would get some decent players in return for the favour. (Freddie Piquionne anyone?)

Then our leaders decided not to sack Grant in January 2011 when they had the chance. But Martin O'Neill wouldn't make his mind up(no surprise there then) and we were left with Grant to oversee a shameful relegation.

The Davids know they must get it right, there is no margin for error this time around. Relegation would be catastrophic for their dreams of moving to the Olympic Stadium, the loss of revenue from the enhanced TV deal a frightening burden to cope with.

But the owners now find themselves locked into life with Allardyce. He manages to construct a web (tangle maybe) around himself and his staff that is hard to break. His mate and agent Mark Curtis has several of our players on his client list - Matt Jarvis, Kevin Nolan, James Tomkins, Jack Collison and Andy Carroll - as well as Allardyce, and the problems all that will cause doesn't bear thinking about.

His close relationships with Joey O'Brien, Jussi Jaaskelainen, Matt Taylor and Ricardo Vaz Te also underlines the upheaval his departure would cause.

I know that should not be the sole reason for keeping him, but to embark on such a policy mid-season would destabilise the whole club, with coaches, the assistant manager and various backroom boffins to consider. And look at the mess Bolton and Blackburn find themselves in post-Allardyce.

But any more performances like the one we have all just witnessed at Crystal Palace will force the Davids to do something.

And this is NOT just about Carroll. So much is missing from the performances of last season. The drive, desire, team ethic, willingness to run and confront opponents, where do I stop? At Palace you could see players arguing with each other, complaining about passes. Too many, sadly, looked like they were going through the motions.

Possession was continually lost, passes going astray, plus the fact that we never seemed to win the second ball. The manager then blamed players for Palace's winning goal (it could have been O'Brien, Nolan or Noble who was at fault) does not go down well in the dressing room.

Then it was the linesman who got it in the neck. There was lots going on in the box for our disallowed goal but the official saw O'Brien tugging a shirt, even Sam admitted our full-back was doing that. So the official flagged for what he saw, and that's the end of it. Other times we may have got away with it, it is the way it goes.

Blaming Jussi at Norwich and Guy Demel against Chelsea is also not the way. Both have been sterling performers over many months. Although I understand fully why Joe Cole was hauled off after 40 minutes against Chelsea, he wasn't doing anything, while Collison looked to have picked up an injury a few minutes earlier.

But then to attack Cole later - the Sun headline of 'There's no I in teamwork 'summed up Sam's attitude. It never seems to be his fault.

Don't blame me: Big Sam fends off his critics

After the Palace debacle he launched into an "It was on the (black)board, the number and the player to mark at set pieces, they knew their jobs" rant, which suggests he is shifting blame to players who are always likely to make mistakes under the pressures and emotions of a big match. Nobody s perfect.

Except Sam, that is. The night before the match he was on Sky's Footballers Football Show involved in a debate about statistics in football, and he had that smug, I know it all, look on his face. He continually gives the impression that he is some sort of managerial guru for the lesser, younger, of his kind. And he's on the committee at the managers' union you know, he never fails to keep telling us.

But he is not above all this. He picks the team, plans tactics and makes the decisions. This is happening on his watch and it's nothing to do with Andy Carroll, it's about leadership and not making enemies by slagging off his players.

The facts he should take note of are clear. After 14 games last season we had 19 points, so we are six points worse off. If you compare the like for like games so far, we had 17 points from 14 games last term. Now it's the 13 from 14 we have at the moment.

When Grant was in charge the last time we went down, he had nine points from his first 14 games. We are too close for comfort from that figure already.

With Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal to come before Christmas and Sunderland at the Boleyn on the 14th, things are not going to get much better any time soon.

And there's also the little matter of the League Cup quarter-final at Spurs on the 17th to negotiate. We played 4-6-0 there last time and won handsomely. That system has been consigned to history now, it only worked once, but you know Spurs will be looking for revenge.

We are hearing much noise about new players in January (that's three weeks away, folks) and Carroll's return by then. You would hope that clear plans are already afoot and that we will have a new centre-back and two new strikers in place by mid-January. Anything less and the patience of our fans will be exhausted.

But you know us; it will be a long saga to the last day of the deadline, but at least our beloved vice chairman Karen Brady will be back by then from China, where she has been trying to impress David Cameron on a trade delegation.

Our most recent accounts suggest she is being paid around ?400,000 by us. I do hope this desperate attempt to become an MP has been carried out on her lieu-days!

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