Solid but unspectacular is how I would describe Sam Allardyce’s time at Upton Park since his summer arrival, but the past month or so has shown every Championship follower the Hammers are beginning to mean serious business in the second half of this campaign.
A worrying lack of discipline has got to be the only sour note after a terrific few weeks in the East End that has seen them beat fierce rivals Millwall, draw with second place Southampton and demolish play-off hopefuls Blackpool away from home, all with ten men. With the business end of the season now in sight, teams can no longer park the bus against Allardyce’s side as they themselves need the points for different reasons, resulting in a more open game that is only ever going to have one winner with the squad that has been built at Upton Park.
January arrivals Nicky Maynard and Ricardo Vaz Te have settled in brilliantly to a new look, pacey Hammers front line that helped put four past Blackpool on Tuesday night, in a game that saw Arsenal loanee Henri Lansbury play over 30 minutes in goal after Robert Green was rightly sent off. Big Sam’s decision not to have a goalkeeper amongst his five substitutes seemed to backfire but the quality of the nine outfield players resulted in a comfortable victory, sending out a huge statement to the fellow promotion hopefuls.
After Southampton’s good early form has stuttered of late, West Ham have picked the perfect time to step it up a gear and now look favourites to win the Championship after spending much of the season behind the Saints in second place. Recent results have moved the Irons one point clear at the top of the table with a game in hand over second place, but more importantly six points clear of the third place Birmingham, which has to be the main objective for Sam and the club this season.
Although Kevin Nolan, Matty Taylor and Rob Green have all stupidly got themselves sent off in the last three games, the formation and individuals have settled into their roles now and finally some decent football and goals are starting to come for the patient fans. Any doubters of Sam Allardyce are now long gone and his 4-5-1/4-3-3 set up is working wonders against Championship opposition and I am confident they could give the majority of the Premier League a good game on current form after watching some very poor top flight football this season, especially from the clubs in and around the drop zone.
A blessing in disguise is what last year’s relegation is quickly becoming as the fans have enjoyed travelling around the country with half a chance of getting a result in the majority of games, Sam Allardyce bringing organisation, structure and passion that was lacking under Avram Grant and some new exciting players have come in to rejuvenate a depleted squad that saw wholesale changes in the summer.
It is currently a good time to be a Hammer and the promotion party is just weeks away, confidence is back around the club with the support of the owners on show and the squad now fully fit and impressing everyone in the country. If West Ham can keep ten men on the pitch at all times there is no reason they can’t win the majority of games from now until the end of the season, starting with Crystal Palace at home live on Sky Sports on Saturday lunch time.
Can West Ham return to the Premier League at the first attempt and stay there? Let me know on Twitter: @Brad_Pinard
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