Last weekend West Ham suffered a “hammer blow” to their promotion aspirations after another dismal home defeat, this time at the hands of promotion rivals Reading. Recent home results have been in stark contrast to their away form and perhaps this has been due to the expectations of the Upton Park faithful.
The previous summer West Ham owners Davids Gold and Sullivan faced a moral dilemma. Having invested a significant amount of money in the side after the awful mess left by the previous Icelandic owners, they had to watch the team slide meekly into the Championship. The two owners had to choose between hiring a manager that would uphold the traditions of West Ham and play attractive passing football, or hire a results focused one that would guarantee promotion at the first time of asking. In the end Gold and Sullivan turned to Sam Allardyce to lead the side back to the promised land of Premier League football.
Many supporters wanted youth academy director Tony Carr to take over but he was considered too inexperienced to lead the rebuilding process. The fans believed that Carr would be able to use some of the club’s youth talent to build a side to play attacking expansive football and thus uphold West Ham’s traditions. They thought that this style of football would be too much for the weak sides in the Championship. However in reality West Ham haven’t had much success recently playing an attacking expansive game, and the youth academy hasn’t produced many first team players lately with the exception of James Tomkins.
For a man like Allardyce phrases such as “West Ham way” and “good football” are too intangible to have any relevance.
For a man like Allardyce phrases such as “West Ham way” and “good football” are too intangible to have any relevance. For him good football is winning football. He believes that football is a results based business and it’s hard to be critical of that attitude when a run of bad results will see him get the sack. His methods have worked for him at Bolton so you can’t argue that he doesn’t know what he’s doing.
After the debacle of last season under Avram Grant, West Ham were in a serious crisis. The players had complained that Grant didn’t discuss any tactics with them and there were reports that it was Scott Parker who was giving the half-time team talks. One of the most difficult things in football to do is reverse a club’s fortunes after they are relegated. Often the teams that do well in the Championship are the sides that have been promoted the previous season from League One. This year Southampton are top of the league having just come straight up from League One and last year newly promoted Norwich went up.
The financial state of the club has meant that it was imperative for West Ham to be promoted straight away, and another season in the Championship could have dire consequences for the team. It was understandable that in their plight Gold and Sullivan would pick the battle hardened Allardyce over an inexperienced manager.
So far Allardyce has successfully managed to shore up a defence that was conceding goals at an alarming rate last season. He has also improved their set piece taking to such a degree that they look dangerous from every corner taken. He is slowly rebuilding the confidence of the side after two campaigns where wins were at a premium. These things take time to come about, but unfortunately time is not a commodity that’s readily available in football and the West Ham faithful are becoming increasingly restless.
One of Allardyce’s most difficult tasks was always going to be winning over the fans who were never fully in support of him. He has received much criticism from the supporters who perceive that the team aren’t playing the West Ham way. Allardyce has defended the methods he is employing, questioning when was the last time West Ham played anything close to good football.
Most opposing managers know that if you can score early against West Ham the fans will do the rest.
Away from home West Ham have been impressive with 11 wins already collected, which breaks a club record. It’s at Upton Park where the problems have arisen for the side. Most opposing managers know that if you can score early against West Ham the fans will do the rest. Once the team goes behind every misplaced pass is met with a groan. The supporters will argue that if they pay for the ticket they are entitled to boo, however it’s clear that the negativity is having an adverse effect, with the team winning only 9 games at home this season. In comparison league leaders Southampton have won 15 of their home games.
The supporters of Spanish side Sevilla are renowned for creating an intimidating atmosphere for opposing sides and the fans at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan will rarely boo their own side during a game. However if they feel the team’s performance was below par, at the end of the game they will let them know about it and the white hankies will come out. If West Ham are to avoid another catastrophic season in the Championship the supporters should follow the Sevilla fans’ example and focus on the novel concept of supporting the team.
John Paul O’Donovan writes at http://thetrueball.com/
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