After Zola and Grant, West Ham were in a mess. The next appointment would be vital, so this was not a time to take a gamble, it was time for a no-nonsense, solid decision.
And few people in football can be described as being quite as no nonsense as Sam Allardyce.
As uncompromising a manager as he was as a player, Allardyce’s approach was as far removed from the West Ham Way as it is possible to get, as he was quick to point out. But much as many fans may have pinched their noses at his appointment, in that moment, he was precisely the dose of salts the club needed.
His first season saw a huge turnover of players, but his tactics paid off as the Irons won the play-offs to return to the top flight at the first time of asking, and stay there with a degree of comfort.
After several years of scratching around loan signings under the last two managers, under Allardyce, West Ham showed considerably more ambition bringing in players such as then record signing Andy Carroll.
Reasons for fans to be cheerful? Er, no. Allardyce made no apology for sticking to the style that had made his name at Bolton, and was clearly more interested in winning points than friends, a situation which endured the whole time he was at the club.
Banners such as ‘Fat Sam Out – Killing Our Club’ told their own tale, but the image that summed up Allardyce’s reign came in March 2014, when after a run of three straight league defeats, the Irons needed a penalty and an own goal to grind out a laboured 2-1 win over 10-man Hull, and the manager responded to the crowd’s boos of disapproval with cupped ears. The message ‘We won – what’s your problem?’.
Allardyce was never going to be loved by the home fans, and evidently it was not something that bothered him. The fact that this incident occurred shortly after back-to-back FA Cup and League Cup defeats at the hands of Nottingham Forest and Manchester City, 5-0 and 6-0 respectively, meant that fans had plenty to feel unhappy about, but as far as he was concerned, you’ve got the points – what more do you want?
By the time Allardyce entered the final year of his contract, the move to the Olympic Stadium was on the horizon.
His style of football was never going to fill a 60,000-seater stadium, so the campaign was all about keeping things steady for someone who could.
This he duly did, and having been fourth in November, the team finished the season in 12th. Contract up, mission accomplished, after the final game, Allardyce was released.
There was never any love lost between West Ham and Sam Allardyce, seemingly either way, but like him or loathe him, at that stage, he was what the club needed.