West Ham Fans Have To Grow Up And Accept A Physical Approach Is Best

There was a mixed reaction from fans when Allardyce joined, but for West Ham to make progress, they have to play to their strengths and forget the West Ham way...
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There was a mixed reaction from fans when Allardyce joined, but for West Ham to make progress, they have to play to their strengths and forget the West Ham way...

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Pretty much every fan likes to have a superiority complex. Tottenham fans over Arsenal, Chelsea over Tottenham, Man United over everyone: it feels good to gloat at success and leaving scorched earth behind you as you wade into teams like Tom Huddlestone at a buffet. But not every team has it so lucky.

West Ham United, “glory invited” should you believe the chants that rise up from The Boleyn Ground on a Saturday afternoon, have a rampant inferiority complex. Look at the fans: you either get the blissfully ignorant or the sober bastards who are painfully aware of the situation they've found themselves but supporting anyone else would be unthinkable. Mid-table rival fans get the opportunity to laud it up over neighbouring teams but us Hammers can barely even muster that anymore, what with Millwall reaching the FA Cup semi-final, leaving us only the lowly Leyton Orient to bully about but who wants to pick on the footballing equivalent of that poor asthmatic kid from school? In the end it leaves fans asking the question just how much more time can we milk out of saying “We won the World Cup”?

The imminent move to the Olympic stadium is one that has threatened to take the Hammers in the right direction; with that direction being 'left', across a few post-codes to the regenerated Stratford, down the Romford Road and away from the stab-happy rat-hole that currently houses our beloved Boleyn Ground.

But while the move has given rise to hope, those hopes are continually dashed by a team whose ideology is so in contrast to their football: West Ham are a team scared of moving forward.

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The initial appointment of Sam Allardyce was met with a mixed reaction. Here was a manager known for anti-football coming to take charge of a team apparently renowned for its penchant for the beautiful game. Playing football “the West Ham way”, the term bandied about in opposition of Big Sam's arrival, was a notion that was hard for me to understand: quite when we decided that we were the leagues preeminent purveyors of total football, I have no idea.

The thing that really rankles with me that we're stuck sitting on the fence, tactically. While we have (relatively) great footballers in the side – with Noble and Diame continually covering themselves in glory – the team as a whole seems totally terrified of the game they're there to play. With nothing but two lanky centre-forwards to choose from upfront (besides the near-anonymous Modibo Maiga who is one faked-kidnapping away from being the new Savio Nsereko) and divisive chicken-man Kevin Nolan in behind them, you'd forgive West Ham for really committing to the kind of physical, direct football that was so successful for Big Sam in the past. Anyone would. But it would appear that terrace pressure (or at the very least, pressure from the press) to “play football” has scuppered those plans, leading to a slow, ambling game of build-up play that is admirable in theory but unnatural to those in the squad and, ultimately, with no end product. Not only is it often unsuccessful, but it's also quite boring.

For those not yet in agreement, think about it like this: in Matthew Taylor and Matthew Jarvis, West Ham have two of the best crossers in Premier League football. This is coupled with the fact that starting striker Andy Carroll is a player whose sole purpose is to win headers and that Kevin Nolan and Mohammed Diame are also two of the best late-run-into-the-box midfielders in the league. Why wouldn't you play a game that worked to their strengths? You wouldn't make Nani try to play rugby, so why make Andy Carroll try and play a watered-down Tika-Taka?

The times when West Ham have quickened the tempo, become combative and direct, have been amongst the most successful. The mind casts back to wins against Fulham and Chelsea and even the first sixty-minutes against Liverpool: all games at home, all games that were dominated by a physical approach. The fact is that Hammers fans have to grow up and accept the situation that the club is in, with the players that it has and know that if it wants to survive or, better yet, compete in the top half then it's time to play to our strengths.