West Ham: Big Sam Is A Festering Wound That Is Killing Our Beloved Academy
I often wonder what it'd be like to support a normal club.
Not necessarily a successful one - I appreciate the moral fortitude supporting a lower league side requires and the respect it garners sounds quite nice, too, if I'm honest - but just one where supporting them doesn't feel like being bullied.
When I've written about West Ham before, comments have ranged from "idiut, u dont desrve west ham" to more expletive-strewn proclamations but always in support of West Ham and of our manager, 'Big' Sam Allardyce. It smacks of Stockholm Syndrome. He's not even actually that big. I saw him walking around Mayfair once and he's all head.
Going a goal up against Arsenal sent a shudder down my spine. I read the Tweets of ecstasy, the texts of joy, the look on the face of my Dad as cheers woke him from his stuffing-and-turkey-induced coma. I knew it wouldn't last. Apart from an initial flurry headless chicken flurry of attack, we sat back and invited pressure, like a boxer who's covering up and waiting for the bell to save him.
We were never going to be able to hold on - Arsenal just had too much quality and took advantage of our negativity. Had they had any striker other than Ollie Giroud upfront they would've been out of sight before half time, such was the dominance of the opposition. Just the sight of fantasy football denizens Özil and Cazorla running rings around Jameses Collins and Tompkins felt surreal. It looked like the two teams were playing different sports at times.
With that said, there were a few reasons to be positive: Carlton Cole, for example, was a breath of fresh air up front. The man with the longest arms in football looks to be a far more reliable option than Modibo Maïga, who has proved himself capable but not in the centre-forward position where his style of play can only be compared to that of toddler who's just gotten off a playground roundabout. Noble, too, was impressive - his passing and tackling proving invaluable once more.
Our main problem is two-fold: Kevin Nolan is the first part and he's only being enabled by the second.
A team's captain should be the best player or at least the hardest working. At present Nolan looks like some bloke strolling about a Sunday league match the morning after a big night out. Gone is the player whose late-runs into the box would provide his side regular goals: he's been slow, arrogant and ineffective. He's playing like a man who knows his place is safe no matter what. He is the professional equivalent of the classic Sunday league manager's son archetype. He's even got the haircut.
The second part of the problem - you might have guessed - is our manager but he's a wound that's been allowed to fester thanks to the board. Signing him to a long term contract on a massive salary has allowed Allardyce to find himself in a similar situation to Nolan - West Ham can't afford to replace him so there's little impetus for the guy to give a s***.
It's not that we're playing particularly bad football or that we've got particularly bad players, but as it stands, West Ham lie nineteenth in the league and we'd be lucky to sign anyone of note in January.
But what happened to the famed West Ham academy? How are players like Lee, Moncur, Lletget, Tombides et al supposed to progress when they're barely in the same conversation as the first team? Sam seems intent only on damage limitation and covering his own a***, while West Ham's U21 squad are smashing all comers under the tutelage of Ian Hendon.
Upton Park's former favourite son Harry Redknapp might've done a lot of damage to the club but his ethos of experienced buys interspersed with youth always saw us well. Big Sam's policy of "Did them there lads play f' Bolton? Aye? Well bloody well GERRIM IN, THEN" seems to have worked less well.
While it will always be a risk, sacking a manager in mid-season, it's one that needs taking. Giving Hendon a bump up would be a risk but if it doesn't work, at least we can say we tried.
If we go down under Hendon it'll be better than going down under Allardyce because at least we can hold our heads high instead of looking down at over-priced programmes and pies and pretending it's not happening.