Monday 23 February 2015

The Deification of Sam Allardyce

I never fancied Big Sam as a manager. Nothing to do with his ability. Just that for some reason at Bolton, my perception was that he knew how to get results against Arsenal. And that used to be so annoying and infuriating. Sam also enjoyed winding Arsene up.

Tony Pulis was on my list of mangers I don't fancy. He also had a measure of Arsene especially at The Britannia (nothing has changed there). I softened towards Tony when he took on the Crystal Palace gig as through a few friends, I have a soft spot for Palace.

Also in my 'don't fancy that' hall of fame is the great Satan himself - Jose Mourinho. The number one enemy of football according to UEFA. Still waiting for FIFA to confirm the UEFA award. Another one was Sir Alex. As he is no longer a manager, I can shamefully say that the man was a genius. He could turn eleven school boys in to a trophy winning side and he did this over and over again.

Back to Sam. Since he left Bolton,  he has managed Newcastle, Blackburn and now West Ham. Before Bolton, he managed Limerick, Blackpool and Notts County. Prior to Limerick, he was an Assistant Manager / Player at West Brom. In all Sam has managed for over 24 years.

Everybody who appears to know Sam in the football trade talks of his professionalism in a positive way. Also in the public space, Sam is hailed for his pioneering use of Prozone stats, his ability to get the best out of many ageing football superstars who made the Reebok Stadium thier home during Sam's time at Bolton. However of importance to many a English Premier League owner and fan is that Sam can (somewhat) guarantee your club Premier League survival. This last accolade is shared with the Premier League survival merchant that is Tony Pulis.

On the negative side however are the long ball tactics label attached to Sam's team and to a certain extent, the physicality of his men on the playing pitch. They are like an albatross on Sam's neck.

In addition, there is a perception of sorts that Sam is arrogant and full of himself. He has recently claimed he is the most sophisticated manager in the Premier League. Recently one of his good friends, Phil Brown said Sam was even better than Arsene Wenger.

Sam's somewhat derisory comments about the "West Ham way" and some of his comments dismissing the aggro he was receiving from the West Ham fans in their promotion year is perhaps further evidence or indication of Sam's alleged arrogance.

Last season, it was widely speculated that the owners of West Ham kept faith with Sam because the massive pay off clause in his contract. Having successfully navigated last season and now in the final year of his contract, it has been suggested that here will be a parting of ways at the end of this season. Many pundits and fans (especially of other clubs) have criticised this. They believe West Ham will suffer if they sack Sam.

I have a slightly different opinion and this is why:

1) Appointment of Teddy Sheringham as Forwards Coach. It has been speculated that this idea was forced on Sam. However both Sam & one of the owners have confirmed that this is not the case ( Please note that the West Ham owner clearly stated that the aspiration this season is a top 6 finish.

It would appear from that the owners wanted the idea of a forward coach implemented and Sam had to buy into it but was allowed to appoint the forward coach.

2) In July 2014, I was driving home late at night and David Sullivan came on Talksports Sports Bar and yanked the rug off Sam's feet by saying something different on Ravel Morrison to what Sam had said earlier at a News conference in New Zealand. If you missed it, here is the link ( That for me was an indication that Sam was on his way out. The fact that Sam has been proved right on Ravel Morrison notwithstanding.

3) Despite the fact that the season started brilliantly with the acquisition of Valencia, Sakho, Kouyate & Song, West Ham are currently 8th, 5 points behind the team in 7th. A poor performance in the last round of the FA cup and no wins in the last 5 matches. The owners will feel they have supported the managers with funds and with their desire to finish in the top 6 and challenging for a top 4 place, lying in 8th position will be considered not good enough.

In my opinion, the owners by above action & comments have made Sam's position untenable. This is the equivalent of the 'sleeping on a couch' moment in a marriage / relationship.

As a fan or a pundit, you might disagree with the West Ham owners and their reasoning. I have heard some people call them deluded. However what you can't disagree with is that the Davids and Lady Brady have put their money where their mouth is. They have invested in the club and are entitled to be aspirational. They did not become millionaires by aiming low. They no longer want fish and chips. They prefer foie gras.

As far as I an see, the owners of West Ham have decided that they want more than Premier League survival. They want to win trophies and become established members of the Premier League elite. Is this risky? definitely. Would it certainly end in pain? Nobody knows. Give it time and we will know if the decision of the West Ham owners is / was the right one.

For premiership survival they pay Sam a lot. He is reputed to be the 13th highest paid manager in the World. Yes nobody forced West Ham owners to pay him this salary but the end of a contract is the perfect time to look into what they are getting for the bucks they pay and to decide if it is time to change supermarkets. It is a relationship that appears to have run its course. Forcing both parties to stay together is a waste of of every body's time.

For someone with Sam's exalted level of self confidence selling him as a manager who guarantees Premier League survival is an insult. For the remuneration he commands and the experience he has, Sam should be delivering trophies and performances like the early season form of West Ham as a matter of course. I hasten to add that if Sam leaves West Ham, he will not be short of job offers and the wish of the deluded Arsenal fan who came on Talksports a few months ago might be fulfilled. Sam might be begged by Stan Kroenke to succeed Arsene Wenger. After all Sam is better and more sophisticated.

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