In an interview with the Guardian newspaper on Saturday, West Ham’s new manager Sam Allardyce said that his side would ‘at least’ make the play offs next year ‘unless I become the worst manager ever overnight and the players become the worst there has ever been.’ Now it’s one thing to be bullish and supremely confident, and another to be arrogant and underestimate the task ahead of you. The West Ham side that toiled dismally through the entirety of last season, at or incredibly close to the foot of the premiership table, has been stripped of 12 of its senior players and could still potentially lose Robert Green and Carlton Cole along with Scott Parker before the season begins. It seems foolish to take a return to the Premiership for granted even if the board are throwing money at it.
Allardyce signed Kevin Nolan from Newcastle United to lead this charge straight back up, an astute purchase. Nolan was talismanic when Newcastle faced a similar task, no doubt his experience will be invaluable. Alladyce has also signed Matthew Taylor and Joey O’Brien from Bolton as well as Abdoulaye Faye from Stoke. He is building a strong core for his new side but to turn this West Ham team around Allardyce needs more. He needs his optimism to be infectious.
The necessity for success in no way guarantees it but it is clear that the West Ham owners are desperate for an instant return to the top flight. Attracting Premiership players to a championship club must require some fairly reckless wages, (Nolan is rumoured to be on £55,000 a week) and Sullivan and Gold evidently feel the short-term gamble is the best approach. They have only two attempts before the move into the Olympic stadium.
West Ham are currently the favourites for automatic promotion in a very competitive Championship, but Allardyce has yet to do the hard work. The chairmen are applying the pressure just through this impressive spending and West Ham certainly did not respond well to pressure last year. Allardyce has to change the mentality at the club and he has to shake off a season of underwhelming performances. Somehow, he has to convince this squad of his genuine belief that he can take West Ham into Europe, that will not be an easy task. Having a strong squad is not enough.
If Allardyce fails to convince Green and Cole to stay he could face a very difficult season in the Championship. The last time they were relegated it took two years to come back up, with the reckless spending of this summer, that could cripple the club this time.