Although I’ve broadly supported Sam Allardyce this season - albeit with some reservations - the campaign’s final game against Manchester City was another of those matches where the manager’s tactics could only be questioned; Sam seems to enjoy making it difficult for people to love him.
Nevertheless, such is my faith in West Ham’s ability to defend and frustrate, backed by the seasons admirable 14 clean sheets, I’ll admit to having been tempted by the 28/1 odds given by one bookmaker to pull off an unlikely win at the Eithad and deny City their worthy Premier League trophy.
After many years of following the claret and blue through thin and thin though, I really should have known better. There were to be no heroics similar to that of QPR two seasons back, rather those Liverpudlians and managers happy to congratulate City on their second title in three seasons even before the game kicked off on the final day, were found to be totally correct in their assessment that it was barely worth West Ham turning up.
In fact, you could argue they never actually did.
It seems ironic then that the players are all behind Sam, believing that Allardyce ‘has a vision’ and that the dressing room will be ‘very disappointed’ if the manager is relieved of his duties. Surely the players must have been aware of Sunday’s shortcomings?
For I can see the point of pulling back two banks of four or five players, frustrating Manchester City, getting to half-time at 0-0 and then feeding off the concern from the stands, hoping to hit on the break and force the home side into a panic.
After all, when you’re facing the richest club side in the world then trying to outplay them is probably not worthwhile. Once behind though, it was desperate to see no other discernible plan – and replacing like for like with Carlton Cole coming on for Andy Carroll just seemed to sum up the paucity of ideas on display.
Where I disagree with many supporters though is the belief that Allardyce sees no other way. It’s interesting to hear criticism of his supposed ‘arrogance’ on one hand, yet his seeming tacit acceptance of failure on the other.
I believe Sam knows he needs more, realises sometimes he needs to take the game to the opposition and would be happy to have the players to do it. In fact, I actually don’t believe the board’s concerns this season are necessarily over the results, the fans' ire or the mid-table finish.
My belief is that, still under massive debt, the owners are more concerned over Sam’s lack of success in the transfer market highlighted by the fact that most of this season’s best performers have been players already at the club when Sam arrived; Mark Noble’s deserved Hammer of the year award being a case in point. The board have a difficult decision to make but I’m still not convinced sacking a man who has provided exactly what was required is the right move.
For if this was Sam’s last hurrah, there will be one utmost certainty for the close season – and that will be the utter panic trying to find a suitable replacement that will provide the one thing that Sam Allardyce guarantees. And that is Premier League football.