If team morale’s low, don’t know where to go, who you gonna call? Sam Allardyce. Amongst some football purists, the appointment of Sam Allardyce as new England coach has drawn the response ‘has it come to this?’. To which the answer is yes. And to West Ham fans, it all feels very familiar. Rewind to 2011, and the Irons were in a similar position to that in which England are now.
Anyone leafi ng through the West Ham history books is sure to zip over the 2010- 11 season as quickly as possible, because it was the one wretched campaign under the stewardship of Avram Grant. The team’s second relegation in seven years plunged morale to an all-time low, as years of patching up had manifestly failed to cure the team’s problems. Drastic action was called for. Enter Big Sam
Safe to say, Allardyce was by no means the most popular of choices, and he began by ghostbusting – rejecting the idea of the ‘West Ham way’ and taking down pictures of past triumphs at the training ground. ‘I’m in charge now. Get over your past, think about the present, and the future will be better.’
The next four years were not the smoothest of rides – booed off at home aft er beating Hull, cup humiliations at Manchester City and Nottingham Forest, and a relationship with fans which rarely left the freezer. But when he left at the end of his contract, even Allardyce’s harshest critics, of which there were plenty, had to admit the club he had primed to complete the journey to the Olympic Stadium was a far healthier one than the smouldering wreck he had inherited from Grant. Th e ghosts had been well and truly busted.
In summer 2016, England are the new West Ham. Euro 2016 was by no means a classic but England’s dismissal at the hands of Iceland was a stand-out low point. Even ITV’s commentators struggled to hide their disdain. What would the Boys of 66 make of this, 50 years on? Send for Sam, it’s Ghostbusting time again.
The Allardyce way may favour function over fl air but when teams are at rock bottom, the most important thing is the speed with which they pick themselves up, not necessarily the style in which they are achieved. Allardyce does not get hung up on the past glories of others. His priority is his own team’s present.
Talk to West Ham fans now, and they will recognise that the era of positivity and excitement the club is in now owes a major debt to the man who helped them get there. Big Sam may not have been what most supporters wanted, but more importantly, he was exactly what the club needed. So maybe it is time for fans of the Th ree Lions to swallow some of their pride too. Banish the ghosts of the past, focus on the present and the future will sort itself out. BBM