We’ve all read the stories about Alou Diarra’s wish to leave West Ham on bad terms and then we’ve heard the response from Sam Allardyce. Whilst we initially reacted angrily and couldn’t wait to get rid of the outspoken French man, I think now the dust has settled a little, it’s worth looking into the ins and outs of what Diarra calls a “waste of time”.
For anyone who is less up to date with this saga, Diarra has complained to French newspapers of no communication for Sam Allardyce, only “hello, goodbye”, being promised “bells and whistles” by an agent attracting him to the club and subsequently having too little playing time. To which Allardyce has amusingly replied: “Wasted four months of what? My time or his?”.
Diarra was brought in from Marseille in August 2012 in the hope that he could bring his experience to our midfield and strengthen what we already had. After promotion, it was never going to be easy to keep up with the rest of the Premier League, so we had to bring in some bigger names. At the age of 31, Diarra has played mostly in France and has very limited experience in England.
So now, Alou Diarra wishes to leave just five months into his three year contract, citing lack of playing time as his reasons. That’s fair enough. I wouldn’t expect any player at the back end of his career to settle for sitting on a freezing cold bench, instead of fulfilling a dream of playing 90 minutes of football every week. These days, the paper that contracts are written on is wasted. They mean very little, so he wouldn’t be the first to decide that he won’t see out the three years.
What doesn’t wash so well with Hammers fans is making a fuss. Regardless of whether Diarra had good intentions or not, it looks bad. From the outside, it looks like he has gone running to the French press to have a big moan and make no attempt at resolving any situation with dignity. When you analyse Diarra’s time at West Ham, he spent three months out injured, which seems to be why Allardyce is so baffled as to why Diarra can be unhappy with his lack of playing time.
He made his league debut in August as a second half substitute, he was then offered a start in the League Cup in August, and has since played in two FA Cup games and another league fixture. So that’s five appearances out of a possible 12. Allardyce has admitted to having trouble fitting him in to the side since his return.
Understandably, that’s frustrating, but Diarra cannot expect to be out injured for so long and just breeze back into a squad. All players have to remember that the manager is in charge. They have no automatic rights to playing time. The manager picks what he considers to be his best 11 and makes necessary changes throughout a match. That’s football. Whilst footballers should be more careful about what they let out to the press, readers such as ourselves should also be careful not to assume too much.
There are two sides to every story and whilst this unfortunate spat has been blamed solely on Diarra, he is probably telling the truth, but should have been more choosy about his words. I hope that Allardyce isn’t an unapproachable man and offers his players more than this suggests. Maybe he isn’t suited to all footballers, maybe he’s not much of a talker, but the manly way to settle this isn’t by telling tales. Diarra’s obviously not much of a talker either or else this could have been settled, maybe even with an earlier loan move. But this isn’t the first time Diarra has complained about a manager not playing him in his career.
He did the same to Gerard Houllier at Lyon back in 2007. Houllier was not playing Diarra regularly, but did order him to play for the reserve team, to which Diarra said no. Diarra then complained twice that he wasn’t getting enough playing time according to French newspaper L’Equipe and was dropped from the squad. He was offered a return towards the end of the season, in which he played three out of five games.
Earlier on in his career, whilst at Bayern Munich, he turned down a new three year contract, again citing limited playing time as his reason. He moved from Bayern to Liverpool in July 2002, only to play one preseason friendly and then go out on loan to Le Havre. His loan move began well, but he was soon to become a substitute. He then went on loan to a further two clubs before being sold to Lens. Diarra may well be unhappy at West Ham, he is after all not being played in his natural playing position, but in this case a footballer has to be willing to help out where necessary.
He’s not the first Hammer to use the press to voice his opinions and he probably won’t be the last. I would have wished him well in his future career if this incident hadn’t spoiled his exit. At the time of writing, he is still a Hammer, but if he doesn’t leave then I can’t see him having an easy ride with Allardyce or the fans, unless he lets his football do the talking.