West Ham, manager Sam AllardyceWhen West Ham regained promotion back to the Premier League in 2004-05 I don’t think anybody can really say they expected the Hammers to suffer another relegation relatively soon afterwards. But this is exactly what happened under the leadership of Avram Grant in 2010-11. Grant was a disastrous appointment who was milking a reputation of sending Chelsea to the Champions League final and a faltering Pompey to the FA Cup final. With the club winning only seven games that season, the Hammers themselves were faltering. They hadn’t heeded the warning signs from the previous campaign under another seemingly average manager, Gianfranco Zola. With only 35 points in the 2009-10, they were fortunate to stay up in a poor league that season which saw Burnley, Hull and Portsmouth fall back into the Football League.

Needless to say, the 1st June 2011, was a joyous day for all Hammers fans when Sam Allardyce was appointed as the new boss at Upton Park. He was the saviour in a bad situation at West Ham. He made very astute signings. He used his contacts from his previous teams to inherit a squad that would inevitably be up there at the end of the season and removed the dead wood who failed so badly. In came his former Bolton possy in Kevin Nolan, Joey O’Brien, Matt Taylor and Ricardo Vaz Te (albeit in January). Allardyce also acquired dangerous players at second tier level such as Abdoulaye Faye, Papa Bouba Diop and John Carew. Out went Danny Gabbidon, Lars Jacobsen, Johnathan Spector, Luis Boa Marte, Manuel da Costa, Thomas Hitzlsperger and Matthew Upson who had messed up the previous campaign.

Simply put, Allardyce and West Ham were both too big in stature to be playing in the Championship. Therefore it was no surprise when they returned to the big time with the 2-1 victory over Blackpool in May. Although, you could argue that with the squad he had inherited that season, a third place finish was poor. However, I will grant him that the fact that the Championship is a difficult league to get out of and there have been countless examples of teams that are yet to return to the big time after spending so many years in the top flight i.e. Charlton, Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday etc.

So the Hammers are back in the big time for the 2012-13 campaign. And the club purchased wisely, most notably, importing the quality of Andy Carroll and Yossi Benayoun will surely ensure that the club will survive this season. But this made me wonder. IS survival good enough for a club like West Ham? I don’t think the expectations at West Ham are the same as they are at Reading and Southampton. I would argue that West Ham are just outside the top 10 in the biggest clubs in England, whereas Southampton and Reading are more likely just outside the top 20. Therefore, it seems to me unimaginable that the London club will be playing Championship football again.

And in fairness, I don’t think survival is the season goal for Allardyce as well this season, a mid-table finish is his target. This, of course, is perfectly amicable for a club’s first season back in the top flight. However, I wonder what the long-term aspirations of both Allardyce and West Ham are. I expect that once West Ham find their feet in the Premier League once again the expectations for a club of their size is to look towards cementing a European place. And after all, if similar sized clubs such as Everton and Newcastle United reach those levels, then there is no reason why a club with the following of West Ham can’t either.

And therefore, as a result of inevitable increasing expectations that will occur, I have doubts whether Allardyce has the credentials to take West Ham forward that next level. I think everyone felt that ‘Big Sam’ was harshly treated when he was sacked by Blackburn and Newcastle. Granted, the Venky’s dismissed Allardyce because they wanted a puppet to pull the strings with at Ewood Park. However, with giving it a lot of thought, I now find Mike Ashley decision to sack Allardyce an interesting one, especially given their recent success under Pardew. I wonder whether it was in Ashley’s thinking that Allardyce doesn’t have the ability to take the club to the next level.

Allardyce’s best managerial tenure was at Bolton where he guided the club to a sixth and then an eighth-place finish. That was a magnificent achievement to guide a small club like Bolton to those dizzy heights. But even then looking back I find it interesting that in spite of this, he was overlooked for the England job when the FA opted for Steve McClaren as a replacement for Sven Goran Eriksson.  Do the fat cats at the top just not rate Allardyce as a top manager?

Without the intention of being over-critical to who I incidentally think is a good Premier League manager, apart from the two seasons he enjoyed with Bolton, when you analyse his career in the top-flight, his league finishes haven’t been all that impressive. He endured two 17th placed finishes in successive seasons at the Reebok, when he was sacked by Newcastle the club were lying in 11th and in his one full season at Blackburn the club finished a disappointing 15th.

I think the expectations at West Ham may also change if and when they move into their new stadium. Often new stadiums provide a catalyst for increased expectations at a football club. Perhaps an increase in seats gives a delusion of club grandeur. But inevitably, once West Ham do move into their new stadium, and let’s face it it’s looking likely, both the stature and the expectations will increase. I reckon that if Allardyce is still in charge by the time the move to the new stadium is in place, whenever this may be, whether the pressure on him to provide more success at the club will suddenly occur.

Perhaps there are other factors as well that will prevent the club from finishing in the top 6 on a yearly basis. Can the trio of Gold, Sullivan and Brady realistically supply the funds to propel the club to that next level? Will they be willing to give Allardyce the kind of financial support he will need to maintain a challenge at the higher end of the Premier League table? Somehow, I doubt it, as they didn’t exactly splash the millions at Birmingham City.

To sum up, Allardyce is a good manager and he has done a good job as Hammers boss. I just question whether he has the credentials to cope with the increased expectations that will arise with managing a big club such as West Ham in the distant future.

I would love to know your thoughts on how far you think Allardyce can take the club. Am I being overcritical on ‘Big Sam’ and just scaremongering? Or is there a genuine belief that Allardyce just isn’t a top 6 manager?

 

Don’t forget to follow me @Matt_of_the_day

 

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  • Max
    2 years ago

    this article isnt very accurate but i get the general gist of what you are trying to say. But i despise these questions of ‘how far can he take us? we’ve just been promoted so the aim is survival. Of course i would be delighted if we finish in the top half of the table, but it is too early to be asking the question: ‘How far can he take us?’

    Reply
  • Nik
    2 years ago

    Your being very harsh on big Sam. Where did Blackburn end up when he left ( relegated ). Where did Newcastle end up when he left ( relegated).. So he’s done a decent job at Westham so far…

    Reply
  • Matt Read
    2 years ago

    Thank you both for your comments. In fairness, I rate Sam Allardyce as a manager and I alluded to that in the article. My point was he has done a good job at West Ham, but do the club see him as a long-term manager who can bring top 6 football to what is a big club?

    Reply
  • jason
    2 years ago

    Sam allardyce is a decent manager
    but he is not a top 6 manager but he has done a great job at west ham no doubt about it

    Reply
  • Colin Williams
    2 years ago

    Sorry, West Ham are not a similar sized club to either Everton or Newcastle. Allardyce is a lardy fish in a small pond. When he left Bolton to go to a bigger club (Newcastle) he was given a lot of money, and failed. His signings were also abysmal. Alan Smith, Claudio Cacapa, Abdoulay Faye (a clogger who he’s bought twice), David Rozhenal, Geremi, Mark Viduka. The only two who were decent were Jose Enrique, who didn’t get his game before Fat Sam was sacked, and the disaster that is Barton, who was either in jail or injured.

    Reply
    • deiler
      2 years ago

      Everton! your havin’ a laugh pal..big in half of ‘pool thats it!

      Reply
  • Liam
    2 years ago

    I decided a few years ago after watching Bolton at
    Stamford Bridge that I would never watch a big Sam team live again.Playing for throw ins free kicks and gaining extra yards every time and nothing has changed whatsoever only the club.Terrible to watch.

    Reply
    • AnyOld Iron
      2 years ago

      I take it that wasn’t Mourinho’s Chelsea they were playing then, otherwise the phrase “Pot meet le kettle noir” might spring to mind!

      Reply
  • Simon
    2 years ago

    West Ham have suffered as club due to poor ownership over the last 7-8 years – it has also cost them dearly with regard finances which has also correlated with poor management decisions, squad options and relegation – the Tevez affair backed up with Icelandic owners bankruptcy from the GFC left the club in a perilous position which they are still paying for now albeit under new owners who have the clubs best interests at heart and have put the club back on track – Allardyce is exactly what the club needs to consolidate the clubs future ambitions in the top flight – he got them promoted at the first attempt – he may not be everyones cup of tea and his direct style questionable at times but he is a very capable manager where results are concerned which is all that will keep the club in the PL – until hammers get themselves back into a financial position they can benefit from then Allardyce is the best man for the job, at that time they can look at the bigger picture and make decisions accordingly, but i believe Sam given the chance could take the club to greater heights, he is very astute at building a squad that meets his needs and when he has finances to speak of to play with he will find the more capable players to refine the sqaud but not pay over the odds – he is also great at spotting talent which the academy has in numbers – i think criticisms of Sam are harsh, especially from those who support clubs with greater levels of stability – i think hammers would be mad to do away with Sam before hes been given a realistic chance prove himself when the club can back him financially to lift their stature and the finishes in the top flight – Sam is a fighter, not a complainer, a great man manager and isnt scared to bring players in and blood them at the right time or tell those who underperform, regrdless of reputation, to pick their act up. The longer Sam stays at this club the better their prospects imo, my point is unless some multi billionaire rocks up to buy the club to throw money at the place then Sam is a very stable option to keep the club in the top flight.

    Reply
  • Patrick
    2 years ago

    have to agree with Simon here, i hated BFS’s style of football last year (yes we had a few good games, but were generally awful), however the difference in my opinion between Blackburn and Newcastle is that he was not given time, and nor would we have if we were a premier league club when he took over. But, simple fact is we were a crap side that needed an overhaul. He did this and now has a team built around his ideas. I think we will see a much better team continue to develop and the signings this year have been top draw. Diame is class, Jarvis, Carol, Yossi, diarra all have great potential that I don’t think we have seen the best of…but the jury is still out Collins, maiga and jussi

    Reply
  • steven
    2 years ago

    It’s interesting to read how far can Sam take us. I think you touch on what will be the main factor on where West Ham can get to and that is finances. This in turn depends on the Olympic stadium, only if West Ham can get the Olympic Stadium with additional sponsorship, additional revenues from larger gates and all the add ons that a bigger and modern stadium generates. This will allow Allardyce extra cash to invest in the squad. If he has that cash he will do as well as any other manager out there. The Premier League is all about getting to the next level, at the moment we are on the bottom level in the Premier League and need to try and get to mid table before looking up to finishing top half and so on.

    Reply
  • trevor
    2 years ago

    I have no problem with Big Sam he has unloaded 40 player since he arrived. 90% of those were dead useless. He is building a good squad and we have to be realistic in our aims unless some mega rich owners come in, top 6 is really as good as it can get.

    Reply
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