At times during Sam Allardyce’s reign as manager, fans have questioned the morale of the players and the togetherness of the squad. Last season we heard stories about Alou Diarra that maybe made us question how much we promise players on their entrance to the squad and how they are let down along the way.
We’ve also questioned Kevin Nolan’s commitment to the team following his successive red cards. This prompted many to believe that Sam had simply lost the dressing room. I am a firm believer that as a group of fans we are the kings (and queens) of kneejerk reactions, and it looks as though this may have happened again this season.
That’s not to say that there aren’t many other clubs whose fans want Moyes out, Wenger out, Tan out, it’s just that I’m not as interested in them! In the situation that we found ourselves in before February, it was understandable that spirits weren’t particularly high. I think that’s understandable in any workplace if things aren’t going anyone’s way and the gods are against you. It’s how you pick yourself up after the fall that counts.
We do seem to have hit a bit of an upwards curve both in results and team spirit. I wrote in the last issue about Adrián and his contribution to positivity in the dressing room and following the victory at Villa Park, the players were certainly singing from the same hymn sheet in terms of post match celebrations.
I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but the official West Ham United social media pages posted out a ‘Tunnel Cam’ video that was taken after the match against Villa and it was a joy to watch. Some may think that we shouldn’t be quite so pumped up about a league win that isn’t over the so called big four (pick whatever four you like), but I loved to see the positive vibes coming from the away dressing room.
Players seemed to be congratulated as they entered the dressing room and all of those on film shouted their joy, some in the aggressive way that shows how much it means to them. This was a win without Andy Carroll, something that we’d thought might not be that simple following his red card and subsequent three match ban.
Perhaps the return of Andy Carroll from injury is what has sparked this positivity? It’s there for all to see that Kevin Nolan is on top of his game since his on and off-field mate is back.
Even though Carroll is banned for February, perhaps the overhanging shadow of his injury woes have lifted for the whole squad and they can see the light at the end of the tunnel, or March as it’s also known. I’d love to be a fly on the wall of our dressing room when Carroll is in it, because maybe there’s something in this. His larger than life character is pretty obvious on the pitch and we’ve read plenty in the papers over the years that tells us about his “joie de vivre”. Is he the life and soul of the dressing room too, and is his spirit and talent lifting the whole club?
I think in any club, in any country, there is an adjustment period for players. With the variety of nationalities, cultures, opinions and abilities within a team, there has to be time to become comfortable with one another the same as with any job and team. It seems as though the elements are coming together at the right time, and the vital February games are being played by a happy, relaxed and together squad of players.
Goal celebrations should be passionate, and I think those that we have seen in the last few games have proved that this does matter to our players – they want Premier League football and they’re going to make sure they play with a smile on their face to get it. We’re leaving it late, you say? Makes a change.