FAN'S VIEW: Allardyce compromise works out for Hammers fans (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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West Ham fan Vinny Ryan says the decision to retain Sam Allardyce with conditions will work out for supporters either way
I cannot recall such discussion about a West Ham manager as there has been about Sam Allardyce in the 20 years I’ve been going.
Even managers such as Glenn Roeder and Avram Grant were not so intensely disliked. Both took the club into the Championship, yet there was almost a sympathy attached to both their tenures.
Allardyce was a manager most West Ham fans disliked before he came to the club. He had a reputation for playing a certain way and whilst it is perhaps a little lazy to just label his style simply as ‘longball’, the fact is we have seen first-hand negative defensive tactics are the cornerstone of his footballing ideology.
When his position was first called into question by certain supporters they were often criticised for being unnecessarily harsh when reflecting upon the tenure of a manager who had got the club promoted in his first season and then kept the club up with relative ease in the following campaign.
But as time has gone on the minority of fans constituting the “Anti Allardyce” camp has grown significantly and it all came to a head in the away game against West Bromwich Albion a few months ago with a banner being displayed which called for his sacking.
I have always found it difficult to take to Allardyce. The moment he was appointed he pointed out that the “West Ham way” was the losing way and that he would produce a style of football which won football matches. He put up a sign in the changing room stating that “Winning is what we are here for”, which confirmed his stance that substance over style was his only way forward.
But even in a season that ended with promotion via the play-offs, the relationship between the fans and the manager had begun to turn sour.
It is over two years since West Ham played Peterborough United at London Road in a game which finished 2-0 to the visitors. Despite winning the game the chants from the West Ham fans were all about playing on the floor and even the irritating “We want our West Ham back”.
Allardyce reacted to these comments by saying that the West Ham fans were deluded and that we were talking... well you can guess the rest.
Since this game the relationship has not improved and I have always felt that it was a matter of time before fans began to turn on him.
And this season they have.
The problems began when all our eggs were put in the Andy Carroll basket. Failure to bring in another striker and strengthen key positions in the team led to a poor start to the season and the pressure was already on.
The pressure was then cranked up a notch in the FA Cup defeat at Nottingham Forest.
What Allardyce did at the City Ground I still find hard to forget; he had made comments a few weeks prior to the game saying that none of the club’s young players were good enough for the first team, yet still selected a youthful side.
Those youngsters were hung out to dry and some may never get over their first team debut in which they were taken apart 5-0 by a side in the division below.
It is worth noting that West Ham have never won an FA Cup game under the management of Allardyce.
I thought the board might sack him at this point. The fans had begun to turn and the team’s form was extremely poor.
I always feel the absence of Carroll was a major factor in keeping him in the job as the board had backed him publicly with this signing and the fact he was unavailable meant that Allardyce could not be judged fully without his star striker.
At the time I felt this was a smokescreen and this proved to be the case as Carroll had little impact on the club’s survival. In fact, during the four-game winning streak West Ham went on in February, Carroll was sent off the in first game and subsequently suspended for the next three.
Sections of the media and certain pundits have been vocal in their criticism of West Ham fans regarding Allardyce. The club are spoken about in a condescending manner and the fans are labelled as being ‘unrealistic’.
The question is often asked of me: “What do West Ham fans want?”
From a personal point of view, I want a manager who doesn't appear to have contempt for the club he is managing and one who shows the history of the club a little bit more respect.
This “West Ham Way” may not be practical but it is an ethos the club has attempted to adhere to over the years and clubs like Swansea City and Southampton have proven you can be successful whilst playing a good brand of football as a smaller side.
I have never understood the way some believe West Ham and Premier League football and inextricably linked with Allardyce. They aren’t.
West Ham might go down if Allardyce was sacked but then it’s no more likely than any other club outside of the top seven.
I am told that the “West Ham Way” has never helped West Ham be successful but then I look at a period of the club’s proud history and have to disagree.
From 1964 to 1981 West Ham won three FA Cups, a charity shield, and a European Cup Winners’ Cup, as well as reaching the League Cup final and finishing as runners-up in another Cup Winners’ Cup final. Not to mention the Second Division title won in the same period.
For a club West Ham's size, I don't think that was a bad haul. So to dismiss or disrespect the history of the club is something that doesn’t wash with me.
The most interesting part of the statement from earlier this week was the board will be effectively signing the players and not the manager.
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in that meeting because even for someone as thick-skinned as Allardyce, agreeing to the statement put out by the club must have hurt.
With a year left on his contract I can only presume he was unwilling to leave without a big settlement and therefore the club had no choice but to keep him on but apply conditions that would effectively undermine him.
Is this really a way to take the club forward? Time will tell of course but I guess from a West Ham fan’s perspective we are in a win-win situation.
If Allardyce fails to secure a top ten finish and/or fails to provide effective entertaining football then he won't be managing the club the following season. If he does somehow achieve these goals then as supporters we will all be delighted.
My concern is the division amongst the supporters. I don't want to get into the situation that every time West Ham go a goal down there are anti-Allardyce chants and negativity being spouted by the crowd.
I also fear a few bad results at the start of the season will see him sacked anyway and the season could be a write-off.
Whilst many might think the protests against the manager did not amount to anything I would firmly disagree.
The only reason his position was called into question is because of the discontent from the fans. I think West Ham fans can be proud that their voice has been heard.
It is possible to play good football and win football games. Anyone who says different has been brainwashed by the media myth this cannot happen.
West Ham doing well is all I want to see and if Allardyce can provide that then he has my support.
But having seen how stubborn the man is over the last three years, I think I can be forgiven for wondering just how things are going to change.
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