Saturday’s win over struggling Sunderland was West Ham’s first Premier League win since January 18th, putting an end to a dismal run of form that was in stark contrast to the Hammers’ start to the season. More importantly though, it has put paid to their hopes of European football for next year.
The West Ham fans have never warmed to manager Sam Allardyce. His style of football doesn’t match the Hammers fans’ expectations of how their team should play. Maybe this is fair enough, though it’s possibly a picture of Allardyce that is coloured by his time at Bolton and his pragmatic approach to getting the teams he inherits to achieve their objectives.
Either way, the locals aren’t happy, and now even the club’s top brass are starting to pile pressure on the manager.
Karren Brady, who is West Ham’s vice-chairman, is reported in the Telegraph to have written that West Ham are ‘underachieving’ and that it is up to Sam Allardyce to ‘identify the reason and rectify it.’ Clearly she is not happy with West Ham’s current form, and she feels that the high league position that West Ham occupied until Christmas was not overly inflated for their current squad.
Sam Allardyce responded to these comments after the win on Saturday, telling Sky Sports that although his team haven’t been getting the results, their performances have been very good. He said: “We’re not under-performing, we’re under-results-getting so she’s wrong in what’s she’s saying.”
Big Sam’s comments seem to rest on either a misunderstanding or a misquotation of what Brady said. She didn’t say that the team were ‘underperforming’, but that they were ‘underachieving.’
Allardyce is probably right to a certain extent – West Ham’s performances in defeat haven’t been terrible of late, though they haven’t been at the same level as they were before Christmas. But Brady did say underachieving – nothing to do with performance. If they are playing well enough to win and not managing to do so, that is almost a perfect definition of underachievement. If the team has been performing well, only one win since mid-January is definitely underachievement.
But there’s a bigger issue at stake here, and that’s Big Sam’s contract and his future at the club.
The mirror are reporting that Eddie Howe, the manager of (maybe overachieving?) Bournemouth, is being eyed up by the West Ham board as a replacement for Allardyce in the summer. Howe’s team have been wonderful this season in the Championship, playing attractive and attacking, passing football, retaining possession when they can and looking to release strikers with through balls. Surely that’s the kind of football Irons fans have in mind for their team, and the principle reason that Allardyce is unloved is because he doesn’t provide that. With Big Sam’s contract up in the summer, this move makes a lot of sense.
But in that Sky Sports interview, Allardyce seemed to drop a hint that he is eyeing new recruits in the summer. He suggests that the poor run of results recently is down to the size of the squad he has at his disposal, and that means they need to strengthen in the summer.
Maybe Allardyce is simply stating a truth here. Maybe he’s not looking to buy in the summer, and instead will just leave at the end of his contract and find somewhere new, though it is strange that he’d say something like that – it’s the kind of thing managers say when they’re looking for the owners to dig into their pockets and stump up some cash. But maybe he’s just defending his record and defending his players.
Either way, there is certainly much intrigue at the Boleyn.
Sam’s position doesn’t seem to be a tough one, though. If the board and the fans are both against him and his contract is up in the summer, what does he stand to gain by staying?
A solid end to the season would keep his stock as a Premier League manager high, and ‘the most sophisticated manager in the league’ may well himself have some new suitors come May.