Manager Sam Allardyce has revealed that even he is taken aback by how quickly West Ham’s summer signings have gelled and transformed a team who struggled for so much of last season into the dynamic, new-look attacking side who have made such a positive start this term. Strike duo Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho may have been the ones to grab the headlines but throughout the team there has been substantial change, which have resulted in hugely improved performance and results.
‘We’ve brought in nine players, and whilst fans may like that, from a manager’s point of view, really it’s too many – we like to have a settled squad and to bring in maybe two or three because too many new arrivals only bring disruption,’ Allardyce told Blowing Bubbles’ new columnist Bianca Westwood. ‘There’s lot of elements you have to try and get right, but we’ve managed to do it very well and at the moment we’re really reaping the rewards. The new boys have hit the ground running, scored lots of goals, they’ve entertained and they’ve made the whole team better, so long may it continue.
After last season’s traumatic flirtation with relegation, some fans have queried how many of the new arrivals have been Allardyce signings, and how many the picks of club co-owner David Sullivan. But the manager took advantage of the Sky Sports interview to put the record straight. ‘There’s a lot of rubbish that has said about this,’ Allardyce explained. ‘Everyone had an input, and decisions were made between the two of us. There were lots of players we looked at where one of us said yes and the other said no, but that’s what it’s all about – you need to have open, honest discussions to make proper decisions, and that’s what we do
Over the course of a frustrating 2013-14 season, there were many times when Allardyce seemed to be favorite to become the next managerial casualty, but co-owners Sullivan and David Gold stood by their man and have seen their loyalty rewarded this season. Allardyce clearly values their support. ‘If something has to be said here, it is, and we get on with it and move on,’ he said. ‘They move quickly, and there are no lingering problems between us. There are some owners at this level who act like children and sulk when things don’t go their way or you have a row with them. But that’s not the case here.’
West Ham’s revitalized approach this season has won admirers as well as points, but suggestions the boss was given a specific instruction to produce more entertaining football are, he says, once again somewhat wide of the mark. ‘I’ve never been told by the owners that I’ve got play entertaining football – ever. Not since I was here from day one,’ he said. ‘Of course they want me to improve the team and to get better results, but at the end of the day this job is all about getting in the Premier League, staying in it and improving in it. What we’ve done, year by year, is get better players in, and that’s why we find ourselves now in a position where we’re getting better results – which also means more entertaining football. And that, of course, is what we all want.
Allardyce’s appointment in 2011 divided opinion amongst Irons fans, a situation which only grew worse when he publicly questioned the treasured idea of ‘the West Ham way’. Three years on, he is still unwilling to fully endorse the concept. ‘There’s a certain flair we want to play with, but it’s got to produce a win – if we played what other people think of as being the West Ham way and lost every time, I wouldn’t be in a job,’ he explained.
‘If you play that way and win, and the perception is that you’re doing that more often and you’re better at it – if you want to call that the West Ham way, then that’s fine by me. For me, this club is about commitment, bravery and having pride and passion in the shirt. If you put those things together and want to call that the West Ham way, then yes, I do believe in it. And if my teams can deliver it then I’d be delighted.’ So far this season, West Ham’s performances certainly seem to be living up to that billing, which bodes well for the future at Upton Park – and beyond. With less than two seasons remaining before the Olympic Stadium move, Allardyce is aware of just what a vital time this is in the club’s history.
Going there could be one of the biggest positive moves the club has ever made,’ he said. ‘Everything about the place is spectacular, so we’ve just got to make sure what we produce on the pitch matches it. Let’s see how this season goes first. If we finish 10th or above, then that’s a goal achieved, and by the time we get to Stafford we have to be better than that. If we can manage that, then we’ll be creating a new modern day history for this club. It’ll be very exciting when it comes around.’