Sam Allardyce is everything a West Ham manager shouldn’t be. He is synonymous with long ball football; West Ham like to play the fancy-pants way. He is dour and northern; West Ham are relentlessly chirpy and insatiably Cockney. He is a bit self important; West Ham pretty much know their place in the grand scheme of things and are generally happy with it as long as Upton Park’s still rocking and we slay the odd big name there once or twice a season. He has a gritty and determined approach to winning; West Ham are flimsy, casual and find other’s clubs ugly preoccupation with victory to be slightly uptight, not to say a little vulgar.
Hang on a minute, maybe Sam Allardyce is just the manager West Ham needs.
When our owners set out to identify a new boss a few weeks back, they announced that they would be looking for someone who understood the traditions of the club. But when they finally appointed Sam Allardyce this morning, he betrayed a deep ignorance of what West Ham is all about by promising to make the team: “Tough, hard to beat and utterly resilient.”
Allardyce is what the club has lacked for so long: a big fat Northern bastard who wants to win by any means necessary
I’ve seen some great teams come and go in my long and happy life as a Hammer. The Trevor Brooking and Billy Bonds side that captured my imagination as a lad in the early eighties; the Cottee and McAvennie side that nearly won the league in 1986; Harry Redknapp’s traveling circus of pandemonium that lit up the nineties with its array of skilful yet insane foreign imports. And, of course, Alan Pardew’s young promotion side of 2005 that went within a whisker of winning the FA Cup final the following year. All those sides had flair, dynamism, a spirit of adventure and a smattering of dipsomaniacs. But the one thing that linked them above all else was their abject lack of resilience.
Everyone knows the jokes. West Ham are a soft touch away from home. We always come down with the Christmas decorations because, after decent starts to the odd season, we get all scared when the prospect of real success rears up on the horizon. West Ham get nosebleeds north of Watford when we are confronted by grizzled teams from industrial towns with their flailing elbows, hobnail boots, soot-caked faces and incongruous insistence on smoking pipes on the field of play. The trouble is, West Ham fans have never been too bothered about this reputation. Give us an Alan Devonshire, a Paolo Di Canio or a Scott Parker to light up our lives every few seasons and we’ll keep on coming regardless. Now Sullivan and Gold, as ludicrous as they may be, have made a serious pledge to break those sorry traditions of spineless capitulations and tearful what-might-have-beens.
They’re always banging on about how they’re both lifelong Hammers and, in a sense, this appointment proves that. It shows they have an understanding of what the club has lacked for so long: a big fat Northern b*stard who wants to win by any means necessary, doesn’t give a f*ck about our pretty football pretensions and isn’t afraid to tell the players, the fans or the bosses what they can do with their East End traditions.
I give it six months before he walks, gets sacked or explodes.
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