There haven’t been many bigger points of debate than whether Sam Allardyce should still be the manager of West Ham. If some reports were to be believed, he was very close to getting the chop in the close season.
It was a slight struggle to drag many positives out of last season’s performance in regards to league position. In fact, it was all a bit disappointing. With the squad we had it was not an unreasonable expectation to finish a bit closer to the top ten.
The club’s board demanded a more positive approach, with David Sullivan being his typically outspoken self and airing his frustrations. He even went as far as openly going against Big Sam’s opinion of Ravel Morrison – an undoubtedly gifted but troubled young player who has just today been released by the club.
But for all of Sam’s faults, his openness and honesty cannot be denied. He is under no illusions as to the precarious position that all top-flight managers are in, including his own. He was given the ultimatum of ‘promotion or nothing’ when he took the job. Ever since, it has been a case of ‘survival, or the sack’.
With the move to the Olympic Stadium just 500-odd days away at the time of writing, Allardyce will very much want to be a part of the transition. He has built a team that is proving itself worthy of a top-six finish. Those sorts of dizzy heights will be less of a luxury and more of a necessity when the kick-off to the 2016-17 campaign comes around.
No Hammers fan in his or her right mind would have expected the start we made to the current season, let alone holding our own with the top teams in the league – and beating a few of them along the way. How much of that is down to the boss is where the real questions are.
The squad was bolstered with some handy signings in the summer and Big Sam is reaping the praise. He is also getting some of the best football anyone has ever seen out of Stewart Downing – to the point where the former Liverpool man has been thrown back into contention for the national side.
Sam is famed for his man management and also his frank analysis of his teams’ performances. He suffers no fools; be they his own players or those from opponent clubs. It has been that approach which has endeared him to West Ham’s boardroom.
Out with the old?
In the brutal modern game, loyalty doesn’t count for much, especially for the top clubs. With big things in the sights of Sullivan, Gold and Brady, many a commentator would suggest a change in regime with such a big move on the horizon as not being a bad thing.
The likes of Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia will be firmly on the radar of clubs competing in the Champions League. Alex Song commented after his move to east London that the prospect of playing in Stratford would be a major factor in wanting a permanent move. I dare say it will lure other big name players to the club.
In other words – would it be a good tactic to replace Allardyce with a manager of international credibility? If we are looking at winning trophies, or at least competing in European competitions, do we need a manager with experience of it? A black-and-white analysis would suggest the answer is ‘yes’, but the only option in that regard is to look abroad. There are very few (if any) British managers with experience of tangible success domestically or otherwise. That is simply a poor reflection on the state of coaching if nothing else.
All in all…
As things stand, the club is certainly overachieving on the pitch. For the first time in a long while we have been going into big games with much higher expectations than fans ever thought possible. With that in mind, I personally find it hard to imagine Allardyce being given the chop. When most were calling for his head last season, I felt that a change wasn’t the right way to go about things. Having seen so many managers fail to stabilise the club in recent years, a period of positivity and balance has been all the proof I need that the big man deserves another extension. It’s only fair, isn’t it?