Is it better to be in the Premiership dissatisfied or the Championship satisfied? That’s the problem currently confronting West Ham fans.
They’ve appealed to the devil in Allardyce and gained all the glory that comes with success.
Now they’ve got the money, the fame, their games on Sky Sports, and the benefit of Alan Shearer’s analysis on Match of the Day. They’ve got away trips to Old Trafford, to Anfield and to St. James’ Park, the London derbies against Arsenal, Chelsea and Totteham. They’ve got a new ground in the Olympic Park. They’ve even got Andy Carroll.
But are they happy? Not one bit.
When Sam Allardyce took over West Ham, they had just been relegated to the Championship. Their financial situation was dire and they needed an immediate return to the Premier League to stem the blood flow. A season out of the Premier League was a bad. Two would be a disaster.
Allardyce met the expectations of a return to the promised land in his first season. In his second, he exceeded expectations. More than simple survival, Allardyce achieved mid-table mediocrity.
Standards set, it was always going to be hard for Allardyce the third time round. The West Ham fans had got a taste for safety. And it tasted boring. With their peril long forgotten, the fans wanted excitement. Is that so much to ask? I mean, what’s wrong with a little fun?
But excitement is not Allardyce’s thing. It’s never been Allardyce’s thing. The Hammers fans were willing to accept this when the future of the club was at stake, but now their prospects appear safe, they want to taste the danger again.
Anything would be better than this. Anything that would end the monotony.
And they may just get what they wished for. It looks increasingly unlikely that Sam Allardyce will not be the manager of West Ham next season after the heckling that followed victory over Hull.
And there are few managers available who would represent as safe a pair of hands as Allardyce. West Ham fans may insist that they’d accept relegation to the Championship if it meant that could go back to playing the ‘West Ham way’. But the desperation to hold onto such vague ideal seems ludicrous in modern football.
Remember ‘boring, boring Arsenal’? Remember when Liverpool’s philosophy was pass and move, and then about keeping it tight, and now about pass and move again? Remember when Stoke’s whole game plan seemed to be about taking long throw-ins, and then they stopped taking long throw-ins, and now score the least amount of headed goals in the Premier League?
Remember when Manchester United were good?
Things change in football.
When West Ham appointed Allardyce, they were in danger and needed stability. Now they’ve got stability, they’re bored, and want danger again.
But this isn’t something that is idiosyncratic to West Ham, or West Ham fans, or the fans of clubs whose ‘ethos’ is to play attractive football. It’s part of the very nature of the football fan. To support a football team is to exist in a permanent state of dissatisfaction, punctured only by brief moments of ecstasy.
The West Ham supporter’s need for safety has been satisfied, but only to be replaced by a new need for entertainment. Unfortunately for the West Ham fans, their insatiability may just take them back to the Championship.
When back in the Championship, most would again trade their ideals for glory.
And then the process starts again.