Mo demands more
Mohamed Diame says West Ham United need to produce an improved showing at Sunderland
Mohamed Diame says West Ham United will need to up their performance level if they are to gain another vital victory at Sunderland on Monday evening.
The Senegal midfielder earned the Hammers a penalty in their 2-1 Barclays Premier League win over ten-man Hull City on Wednesday, but admitted the home side had not been at their best at the Boleyn Ground. With another six-pointer up next at the Stadium of Light, Diame has demanded an improvement. "The result was the important thing," said the No21. "We didn't play well, but it was all about the three points. "I think at home we need to play as well as we do away, but the three points was the prize, so now we have seven games left and we have to take as many points as possible. "I just think we played badly. They had ten men and it is not normal that they kept the ball like they did, especially on our pitch, so I think we need to be better in the next game."
West Ham started Wednesday's game brightly and went ahead when Diame latched onto a loose ball inside the Hull penalty area following a strong run from Mark Noble. The ball struck two Tigers defenders and Diame himself on the right arm before he poked a shot past onrushing goalkeeper Allan McGregor.
The Scottish stopper brought down the Hammers player before Maynor Figueroa cleared the ball off the line. After a delay while referee Mike Dean consulted his assistant before giving the penalty and sending off the injured McGregor, Noble despatched the spot-kick past substitute goalkeeper Steve Harper. After a succession of frustrating decisions had gone against West Ham in their previous three games, Diame was happy to enjoy the rub of the green on this occasion.
"I think in the last games we didn't have the referee with us, but it happened for us in this game and it was good to get the penalty. "I think just before the challenge from the goalkeeper, I touched the ball with my arm. I was waiting for the ref to blow up, but sometimes it is good to have the referee with us. After the handball I could curl the ball in and it was a foul I think, so it was good for us. "Mark Noble is always good for these penalties. He always waits until the goalkeeper has decided which way to go and then he puts it to the other side."
Diame and company will hope for more good fortune when West Ham travel to the North East for Monday's meeting with Sunderland. For Hammers supporters who would like to watch the match in person, Standard and Disabled Adult tickets at the Stadium of Light are just £19. Over-65s can attend the match for just £9 and Under-16s get in completely free of charge. These low prices are due to the Club offering a £10 discount as part of the Premier League's Away Fans Fund, designed, in part, to reduce costs for travelling supporters.
Dev Squad 2-1 Middlesbrough FT
In-running updates from the Under-21s' meeting with Middlesbrough
DEVELOPMENT SQUAD v MIDDLESBROUGH
BARCLAYS U21 PREMIER LEAGUE
FRIDAY 28 MARCH 2014
Final score: West Ham United 2-1 Middlesbrough
FT: That's it and the Hammers see out the three minutes of injury time to seal their victory. Jordan Brown had a hand in both goals, scoring the first and then setting up the second after Lewis Sirrell had levelled for the visitors as they came into the game after half-time.
We'll have reaction from Nick Haycock to follow on whufc.com. Thanks for joining us this evening and we'll see you again on Monday when the first team take on Sunderland.
90: Boro win a corner down the right as the clock ticks over 90, but Tim Brown comes off his line to claim and relieve the pressure.
87: Just three minutes to go here and the Hammers have done well to come again after that strong period for Middlesbrough.
84: Before Boro can kick-off the Hammers make their second substitution of the evening, with Callum Driver coming on for Kyle Knoyle at right back. Meanwhile, the visitors replace Priestley Griffiths with Josef Wheatley.
83: GOAL! West Ham retake the lead. Jordan Brown shows good strength to receive the ball into his feet, turn, hold off his man and fire across goal for Kieran Sadlier to knock home from close range.
80: Ten to go here, the Hammers seem to have weathered the Boro storm. Can they push on and force a winner now?
79: Time for the visitors to make a change now as Junior Mondal enters the fray in place of Jordan Jones.
77: Nocerino's work for the evening is done as Danny Whitehead comes on to replace the Italy international.
75: It's all action now and Sirrell has another go, aiming for the top left corner with his shot from 20 yards, but Tim Brown reads it and gets across to pat down and gather.
74: Chance for the Hammers as the break and Jordan Brown finds himself through on goal all of a sudden. However, his final touch is too heavy and Leutwiler can race from his line to smother at the striker's feet as he enters the area.
73: Goalscorer Sirrell is on the hunt for a second and after his cross is headed clear by Potts, he collects the second ball and brings a save from Tim Brown with his right footed shot.
72: Middlesbrough have found another level of intensity to their game as they continue their search for a second. It looks as though space is opening up for Jordan Jones outside the box, but Harney reacts in time to charge down his shot.
67: The visitors are a whisker away from scoring an immediate second as they catch the Hammers dozing at a corner and Weledji can collect, turn and shoot. Fortunately for the Hammers, he can only hammer over the top. West Ham need to switch on.
66: Goal. Middlesbrough level it up as a free-kick comes in from the left and Lewis Sirrell gets across his man to flick a header home. 1-1.
64: That's not too far away for the visitors as Sirrell cuts in from the wing and unleashes a shot from 25 yards which takes a deflection and loops up and over the Hammers' bar. Tim Brown gets a little lost as the corner comes over, but it doesn't matter as his defence helps him out to clear.
62: Nocerino spreads play out to Sadlier in acres of space down the left flank. He takes on Halliday and beats the right back to give himself the opportunity to cross low. It's a teasing ball, but Brown isn't quite on the same wavelength as he pulls back to the six yard line and the ball travels through the six yard box.
60: Meling wins possession at left back and immediately passes into Jones' feet in the centre circle. He looks up and spots striker Fewster making the run, but he doesn't get the pass right and the ball runs through to Tim Brown in the Hammers goal.
58: Fanimo looks to have overrun it, but wins a free-kick from Meling. He delivers himself, but has definitely overdone it this time as the ball travels out for a goal kick.
54: Mix-up in the Boro defence and the Hammers almost profit. Meling nods over his goalkeeper Leutwiler, who had come off his line in a bid to deal with the danger. The keeper recovers however to prevent the ball from running out for a corner and the Hammers have to settle for a throw-in.
50: Close! Dan Potts wins a header on the edge of the box and the ball drops to Sadlier. He sees Harney steaming in to the left and lays off to the centre half who cracks an effort against the crossbar. Still 1-0 to West Ham.
47: Here's a pic of the moment Jordan Brown fired the Hammers into their lead. Let's hope they can build on it after the break.
46: We're back underway for the second period. No changes for either team.
HT: The referee whistles for half-time and the Hammers take their lead into the break. Jordan Brown scored the only goal so far, a neat finish into the bottom right hand corner to notch his third goal of the week for the Dev Squad. Join us in 15 minutes for the second half.
44: But the visitors maintain their pressure and Sirrell wins a corner off Makasi. It's a good delivery too, but Burke is vigilant to flick the ball away from Weledji, who made a decent run towards the back stick.
43: Boro enjoy their best spell of possession to date but Cullen nips in on the right to win the ball back and ensure a dangerous move comes to nought.
38: There's a break in play as Boro defender Burn receives treatment. I think he was clattered by his own keeper as he punched out a Nocerino free kick. He's ok to continue though and we're back underway.
37: Nocerino and Brown combine once more to feed the ball to Sadlier down the left. He looks set to take on Halliday, but take a heavy touch at the wrong moment and the Boro man can slide in to tackle.
35: More incisive play from the Hammers as Potts knocks the ball forward and Sadlier pokes through to Brown, who flashes a shot wide of the far post.
34: The Hammers keep the pressure on by winning a couple of corners down the Boro left and from the second Harney rises well to meet Fanimo's delivery, but heads wide of the mark as he stretches for it.
32: Nocerino gets it right on this occasion though and his delightful clipped ball picks out Brown who nips in front of Leutwiler to loft the ball over him, but Burn is in place to head clear before the ball can threaten the goal.
31: Nocerino nicks possession on the half-way line and looks for an immediate pass to release Jordan Brown. The Italian's radar is slightly off on this occassion though and centre back Weledji steps across to intercept.
28: A mistake from Halliday lets Sadlier collect possession and threaten to run in behind. The away right back does well to jockey and force the Hammers man to pass back to Nocerino, whose fierce effort is beaten away by Leutwiler.
27: Middlesbrough break and after Makasi and Maloney slide in for a 50-50, Kitching tries to slide in Fewster. Burke does well to cut out the pass and centre half partner Harney does equally well to block Sirrell's shot from range. Good defending from the Hammers.
26: It's West Ham's turn to win a corner as Fanimo's cross is blocked behind by Meling. He delivers himself, but goalkeeper Leutwiler gets a good fist on the ball to clear the danger for his side.
24: West Ham clear a second Boro corner by working the ball neatly downfield. Sadlier looks to make a run in behind his full back but Brown's through ball has too much juice on it and keeper Leutwiler can come out to collect.
23: Boro right winger Sirrell gets away down his flank and cuts a low ball back towards the penalty spot, but Cullen tracks back well from midfield and is able to clear the ball behind for a corner. The Hammers again stand firm to protect their lead.
20: West Ham push again and Fanimo retains possession well on the right before looking for Nocerino at the far post. The cross is cut out by a defender and Potts can't quite get it under control as he looks to pick up the pieces.
15: I should mention that Brown played a bigger role than just the finish in that goal, he received a pass from Nocerino in the left hand channel of the box and held it up well before laying off to Potts and haring back into the middle. Top forward play from the youngster.
14: GOAL! West Ham lead and it's Jordan Brown with the goal. Fresh from scoring twice in Monday's defeat at Arsenal he's notched again and it's a neat finish, placing the ball into the bottom right hand corner after Dan Potts is only partially cleared at the far post. Good start for West Ham.
13: The game has quietened down as it settles into a rhythm. Closely contested so far with Jones' effort for Boro the only shot of note.
9: Jordan Jones lets fly with a right footed shot from the angle in the left channel. It's arcing towards the top corner of the net, but Tim Brown sticks up a strong hand in the Hammers goal to block its route. Potts cleans up by nodding out for a corner which comes to nothing and it's still 0-0.
7: The Hammers are finding some joy attacking down MIddlesbrough's left hand side and Nocerino comes out better in a meaty block tackle with Halliday and looks to feed Cullen inside but his pass is cut out.
5: Sadlier gets the better of Halliday in his next chance to run at his man and wins a free kick on the edge of the box. Nocerino takes and goalkeeper Leutwiler beats away rather unconvincingly, but effectively enough to keep the ball out.
4: Middlesbrough break into Hammers territory for the first time and Bradley Fewster gets to the by-line before crossing low but Jamie Harney is there to blast the ball away and clear the danger.
2: The Hammers string some early passes together with Matthias Fanimo spreading play wide to Kieran Sadlier on the left. He looks to beat right back Bradley Halliday but it tackled and the move comes to an end.
7pm We're off and underway. Come on you Irons!
6.57pm Here come the team, the Hammers led by skipper Dan Potts. Middlesbrough will be in blue tonight, with West Ham wearing their traditional claret and blue.
6.55pm The teams have finished their warm-ups and are about to get underway as the Hammers look to re-ignite their push for the end of season play-offs.
6pm A very good evening to you from the Boleyn Ground for our live coverage of the Development Squad's Barclays Under-21 Premier League meeting with Middlesbrough.
Kick-off is less than an hour away and we'll be bringing you kick-by-kick commentary of the action right here.
Nick Haycock's men will be looking to bounce back from a 5-3 defeat at Arsenal on Monday and give their play-off hopes a boost.
Middlesbrough arrive in east London ten points behind the Hammers, so the home side will be going all out for victory.
They are bolstered by the presence of Italy international Antonio Nocerino and the full line-ups are:
West Ham United: Tim Brown, Kyle Knoyle, Dan Potts, Moses Makasi, Reece Burke, Jamie Harney, Matthias Fanimo, Antonio Nocerino, Jordan Brown, Josh Cullen, Kieran Sadlier
Subs: Nathan Mavila, Gines Guzman, Danny Whitehead, Callum Driver
Middlesbrough: Jayson Leutwiler, Bradley Halliday, Jonathan Burn, Kieran Weledji, Birger Meling, Priestley Griffiths, Jordan Jones, Lewis Maloney, Bradley Fewster, Mark Kitching, Lewis Sirrell
Subs: Jonathan Helm, Jordan Jowers, Josef Wheatley, Junior Mondal, Joseph Fryer
Roger Johnson blogs following his successful return to the West Ham United side
I was really happy to make my return to the first team in our win over Hull City on Wednesday night, even if I did end the evening with a black eye! I clashed heads with Shane Long, but that is just part and parcel of the game, though - I'd take a broken bone if it meant we got the three points! We're three points closer to the target we need to stay up. It was a scruffy win, but a win is a win at this stage of the season. It was a massive three points for us. I wasn't sure what was going on, but Ginge signalled to the bench that he had to come off. I wasn't pleased in one way because it's disappointing that we lost a player who has been superb of late, but it gave me the opportunity to play and we won the game, so I am happy in that respect. It had been a while since my last game at home to Newcastle in January, which seemed like an age away. It is always good to be involved and it is tough when you are not. I have been left out of the matchday squad a few times which is tough to take, but I have been given the chance to come here and I am still pleased that I did. West Ham is a great Club and the boys have accepted me well and I love it here.
I would certainly love to stay and performances like that against Hull will hopefully stick in the manager's mind and we will see what happens. We were put under a bit of pressure by Hull, despite them going down to ten men, but I thought we handled them well and restricted them to a few pot shot s and crosses into our box. Adrian certainly didn't have to make many saves. Sometimes you just have to defend and I thought we did that and it was pleasing to get that last-ditch tackle in on David Meyler in the second half. It reminded me of the Manchester City game when Yaya Toure was running at me and he scored, so it was nice to redeem myself and make a tackle! I understand why some people think we should have dominated the game when they had their goalkeeper sent off and went down to ten men, but I sometimes think it is because you are expected to press them and keep the ball, everyone gets in their head, especially after going 1-0 up, that is going to be an easy night.
That is very often not the case. We do it in training - 10v8, 10v9, 11v8 - and more often than not the eight or nine do well, so it is not as easy as everyone thinks. They were 1-0 down and had to push, but I thought we defended well with our two banks of four and we were tough to get played through. We got the win and now we can move on to the next one at Sunderland on Monday evening. Sunderland is another big game. The boys and the coaching staff and the manager have been saying to each other that these two games against Hull and Sunderland will push us over the line if we can win them both. I personally think 37 points will be enough. It has been a funny season, but I certainly can't see any of the bottom three getting to anywhere near to 37, to be honest.
We will just take each game as it comes and it starts again now with Sunderland. Have a good weekend and, for those of you travelling up to the Stadium of Light on Monday, have a safe trip.
Macca looking forward to Sunderland
Assistant manager Neil McDonald believes the Hammers can go to Sunderland with freedom
Neil McDonald says Wednesday's 2-1 victory over Hull City will give the team a springboard to go and play with a bit more freedom against Sunderland on Monday night. All the signs point to a close encounter at the Stadium of Light as the Black Cats fight to get out of the drop zone, but assistant manager McDonald believes that victory over Hull - sealed with a Mark Noble penalty and James Chester own goal - will give his team a confidence boost at a vital time.
"The win against Hull took a bit of pressure off us. After going on such a fine run in February which saw us pick up four straight wins but then losing the last three games at the start of this month, it was vitally important we beat Hull. "Performance wise, of course we can do better, but it was all about winning the game and trying to get the three points and I believe on the back of that, we can hopefully play with a bit more freedom because of this result at Sunderland in what will be another hard-fought match on Monday evening."
McDonald said while there may have been an element of good fortune at times, it was mixed with the determination by the team to keep going to snare the win at the Boleyn Ground against Steve Bruce's men. "We will certainly take the penalty. Mark [Noble] has a fantastic record of sticking it in the back of the net from the penalty spot and as usual, he put the goalkeeper the wrong way which was great. "We were a little bit nervy, we just needed that second goal to take the pressure off a touch and that didn't happen and they [Hull] scored a deflected goal which puts everyone on the back foot. But we stayed together, we tried to keep everything simple, put the ball in the box and had some luck when their lad [Chester] put the ball in his own net under pressure and we won the game 2-1. "So it was all really about winning the game and if we can continue to put points on the board, then the performances will follow."
Gus Poyet's Sunderland side await Sam Allardyce's team on Monday and are currently nine points adrift of the Hammers. "We are in a bit more of a comfortable position yes and we are in eleventh place, but we know there's still work to do and games to win yet. A lot of teams though are in positions where they will have to do a lot of work over the coming games to try and catch us up, but if we can keep putting the points on the board then they can't catch us up.
"That is simply what we have to do between now and the end of the season, keep putting the points on there, whether that is three points or one point, the quicker we get safer the better."
Moses eyes big weekend
Moses Makasi would love nothing more than an weekend double for the Hammers
Moses Makasi is eyeing a big weekend for West Ham United's U18 and U21 sides. The defensive midfielder is set to make his Development Squad debut on Friday evening following a superb breakthrough season for Steve Potts' youth team. The second-year scholar has made 23 Barclays U18 Premier League appearances, shielding the back four as Potts' youngsters have stormed to the top of the South division table. On Saturday, the scholars will continue their title challenge with a trip to Everton. However, Makasi will not be at Finch Farm, as the 18-year-old's form has earned him a call-up for Friday's 7pm Barclays U21 Premier League visit of Middlesbrough to the Boleyn Ground "Hopefully we can put things right after losing at Arsenal U21s on Monday, and hopefully the youth team can win as well because we still want to get to the Play-Offs," said Makasi. "It's good to push on with the U21s because that's the aim, so hopefully we can get a win there. "I'm looking forward to playing at Upton Park in front of the fans, with the tradition and the atmosphere. It's a seven o'clock kick-off under the floodlights, so I can't ask for much more."
Aside from those supporters who venture down to Little Heath, few Hammers fans will be aware of Makasi's talents, so what is his background and what type of player is he? "I've been at West Ham since I was nine and I originally come from the Lewisham area of south east London," he revealed. "I'm a defensive midfield player who likes to break up the game, get on the ball and bring other players into the game. I don't go forward as much as the other players, but I like to break it up and tackle and let the other players shine - that's just my job. "It's been really enjoyable in the U18s. We went eleven games unbeaten in the league, but obviously our FA Youth Cup third-round game at Accrington wasn't too good as we suffered a loss there. "We have bounced back from that and we've got to the top and hopefully, if I do play a big part in that team, we can get to the play-offs at the end of the season. "I think our consistency has been around the solid base of myself and Amos Nasha sitting and the back four. I think we've only conceded 23 goals and that's the least in the entire Barclays U18 Premier League, so that's good."
Now, Makasi is hoping to take his game to the next level, starting with Friday's date with Middlesbrough. "You've just got to get used to the challenge of U21 football because, if you want to play first-team football, you've got to get used to playing against men who are stronger and quicker and wiser. "It's a big step up for me so hopefully I can get to grips with the game and play my normal game the way I know. "This will be my first U21 game, so hopefully I can put in a good performance and catch the eye and push on."
Champions League, we're having a laugh
Filed: Friday, 28th March 2014
By: Staff Writer
West Ham have averaged 1.73 points since Andy Carroll returned from injury - a figure good enough to guarantee European football at the Boleyn Ground for the last ten seasons. Since Sam Allardyce welcomed his main striker back into the fold following his lengthy injury, West Ham have accrued a total of 19 points from their 11 league games. Over the course of a season, that average points haul per game equates to a season tally of 66 points - a total good enough to guarantee either Europa League or Champions League football in each of the last five seasons. Carroll's return in mid-January coincided with that of several other key squad members including defender James Tomkins and James Collins. Meanwhile Roger Johnson, Marco Boriello and Antonio Nocerino were also brought in as cover to offer balance to a squad that was previously considered lacking in key areas - whilst Carlton Cole was also re-signed on an 18-month contract.
West Ham United in the BPL, post-January 11
Cardiff 0 - 2 West Ham
West Ham 1 - 3 Newcastle
Chelsea 0 - 0 West Ham
West Ham 2 - 0 Swansea
Aston Villa 0 - 2 West Ham
West Ham 2 - 0 Norwich
West Ham 3 - 1 Southampton
Everton 1 - 0 West Ham
Stoke 3 - 1 West Ham
West Ham 0 - 2 Man Utd
West Ham 2 - 1 Hull
Totals: P 11 W 6 D 1 L 4 F 15 A 11 Pts 19 GD +4
Where 66 points would have left us in...
2012/13: 6th (Europa League)
2011/12: 5th (Champions League)
2010/11: 5th (Europa League)
2009/10: 6th (Europa League)
2008/09: 5th (Europa League)
2007/08: 5th (Europa League)
2006/07: 5th (Europa League)
2005/06: 5th (Europa League)
2004/05: 4th (Champions League)
2003/04: 4th (Champions League)
The gulf that will never go away
Filed: Thursday, 27th March 2014
By: Paul Walker
Well, here we are again, right back at the beginning with the same unbridgeable divide with our manager seemingly as wide, if not wider, than ever.
Now before I start, I have never booed my side in well over 50 years of supporting the Irons. I have seen some garbage masquerading in a West Ham shirt over those years but I have never believed that booing players wearing our colours helps much.
I wish fans wouldn't do it, but I do understand the frustrations that generate such displays of annoyance.
And I also feel that when a manager turns on the fans anywhere, as Big Sam did on Wednesday night, then they are usually dead in the water with only one outcome.
The end product of the night is that the uproar only served to underline that West Ham fans and their manager do no see eye to eye on how the game should be played. It has always been that way.
Many of us over three years have understood the facts of life about football in this division. Winning is all, staying up all that matters and you have to cut your cloth accordingly. As our captain Kevin Nolan says, Sam is an expert at staying up and (eventually) building teams.
But there is a strong contingent of our fans who hate his style, hate the fixed, unbending system and will never be won over by Sam's lectures about reality. That has never changed, never will and the gulf between us and the manager is widening.
I also sense that there was something of a significant change in atmosphere at the Boleyn in the wake of the awful display that saw a patched-up Manchester United side look like world beaters just a few days before their front line troops were utterly destroyed by Manchester City.
Various blogs and fanzine writers seemed to have got wind of an attitude of frustration from the hierarchy. Unattributed 'source' quotes talked of a need for a change of direction. And I noticed today that David Gold's Twitter reaction to fans wanting Allardyce out, spoke of sticking together, getting safe from the drop, backing the team and going to the Olympic Stadium debt free.
No mention of support for the manager. It may have been a slip of the tweet from our co-chairman, but it may also be significant.
And then we have Sam's belligerent defiance, almost sneering, which smacked of an attitude of not caring what people thought or said any more. You sense that the manager, too, may have noted that same change from above. He has seen Michael Laudrup and Malky Mackay already linked with his job in the last 24 hours.
Let's face it. If he goes he knows there's a pay-off. He is a very, very rich man with cash in property and high-risk but profitable speculation. Losing his job is not something he fears like you and I. And he would go with his CV enhanced by his time at the Boleyn.
He has won promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking, he has helped ease the financial pressures that threatened to take us under and he has, now barring a miracle, kept us in the top flight for two seasons. That is a tremendous achievement for any manager and he would get another job tomorrow.
So maybe that ear-cupping reaction at the end of the win over Hull City was just another of his clever manipulations of the media. It was done for their eyes, just under the press box, and for the cameras. It shifted the post-match talk away from the performance and onto Sam himself, so he could do his 'nobody likes me,' little boy act we have seen so often. Poor me, all this abuse and I am such a great success as a manager here, seemed to be the general theme.
He is a sort of Nigel Farage of football, all bombastic opinion, black and white verdicts with no grey areas and an ' I tell it like it is' attitude.
Now he is right that crowd abuse does affect players and makes them frightened to even touch the ball. Mark Noble, trotted out on the club's official website the morning after the game, talked sensibly of how players react in such circumstances, how he would like to get the ball down and play, and how important it is for everyone to stick together.
And I accept his words, no doubt re-written for him by the media department, were sincere. He is one of our own so he deserves to be listened to.
But I do resent Sam's view that the fans--and that I assume includes me--decided to stop supporting the team. The booing only came at the end, there was plenty of frustration during the game, but no real outcry.
I travel a long way to support my team, I am nothing special in that respect. Now, even midweek, it is possible to get from Manchester to Euston and back in a day--thanks to a very helpful new late, late Virgin train. I do not do that, and my fellow fans no doubt feel the same from wherever they come from, not to support the team and to boo them instead.
This has been a dreadful season, with plenty of unfulfilled expectation after Andy Carroll's signing. Sam has blamed injuries, but it is more than that. Too many players have been below par for long spells and what we have been watching has been poor for months and months now, and very predictable.
Even the run of four wins in February did not produce much genuine entertainment. In all those games we were clearly second best when it came to possession, and against ten-man Hull it was the same. They had more chances and greater possession and passing figures.
No wonder the fans got annoyed. I accept it is not easy to play against ten men and we have won twice with ten men this term against Cardiff and Swansea and we stopped Hull doing the same to us.
But eventually the patience of fans runs out. They want to be entertained and that is not happening. Liverpool have taken a lot of money from us for Carroll,. Stewart Downing as well as getting Joe Cole's wages off their budget. And Brendan Rodgers had a lot of financial problems himself to contend with at Anfield, but his team are stunning.
Can anybody see a time when Sam would field a team with Joe Allen, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling in the same side? No, neither can I.
But our fans long to see our team play with that sort of flair. Southampton can manage it, Stoke--under Mark Hughes--have changed their style, Everton are worth watching while Manchester City can be a real joy to watch these days. Ravel Morrison has got flair, so I recall.
I am not suggesting we can compete with the talent of some of these clubs, that costs vast amounts of money. But while the rest of football is attempting to embrace a more open, attacking passing style, Sam seems deliberately determined to be just the opposite. Belligerently so, and that is what annoys the fans most.
He constantly abused the theory there is a West Ham way, and having seen the sides of the '60s and '70s play pretty football and lose, I tend to understand his view. Sometimes we can live a myth from the past that the vast majority of our fans these days never witnessed, but just hear about as if it was some divine gospel from on high.
Sam calls it 'pass and lose' which is cutting and once again is too black and white, no grey. But I do recall enjoying the football back then. Sam's sides do not lift the collective spirit.
So here we are. Divided from our manager once again, but maybe four points from being safe. He will say he has almost done his job. Fulham, Cardiff and now Sunderland all have to make up nine points (plus one for the goal difference) to catch us with a maximum of nine games (in Sunderland's case) or eight, left to play.
I am not sure any of those three are capable of winning three games each from their final games, and even that would not be enough to overtake us unless there is a goal difference calamity of biblical proportions.
So, I am sure Sam is saying, privately at least, that he has completed his task, so what is anyone moaning about. He is a realist and only concerned about points, not how they are attained. He pointed out that people will look at the league table on Thursday morning and not care about the performance, only the win.
For a moment, maybe, he is right. But as one of my sons pointed out, the test comes if season ticket sales drop or slow down in the summer. Our fans love our club, but you are beginning to hear some of them talk of falling out of love with what they are watching. I am sure our owners are very, very aware of that developing attitude.
Frankly, I will be amazed now if Sam is still here next season.
Relationships are complicated animals. Just when you think you've got it all figured out.....you don't
Filed: Friday, 28th March 2014
By: David Hautzig
Sam Allardyce loves to talk about all of the cutting edge tools he embraces as a manager. Statistics, video technology, and psychologists to name a few.
Not so long ago he gave an interview in which he recounted the first time he experienced sports psychology here in North America, and how he was among the first managers in the UK to embrace it. Two of my oldest friends are psychologists in Manhattan.
One of them introduced me to my wife. I've even donated money to an institute that provides counseling to people on a sliding scale based on what they can afford. So I understand the value as well. At least I think I do.
That's why what happened after the Hull game surprised me so much. Not from the supporters point of view. I understood that completely. It may not have been the best use of vocal energy, but I can see where it came from.
The booing was NOT simply a case of the supporters being angry that we didn't score loads of goals against a ten man team. We are clever enough and have watched enough football to know that ten men can sometimes be more difficult to break down then a full eleven.
The booing was the first real fight in a relationship that is probably heading for a break-up somewhere in the not too distant future. And I am not taking a side here.
To be fair, I'd rather stay up and play ugly than go down and be more free flowing. As frustrating as it can be at times, I would do anything it takes to retain our Premier League status until we occupy the Olympic Stadium.
It's like what Tony Cottee said to journalist Hugh Southon in a phone call a few weeks ago which he talked about on the KUMB podcast. TC basically told Hugh to stop moaning about the style of play because the EPL is all about survival outside of the mega rich clubs.
I've also read Cottee beg for a second striker to play with Andy Carroll, so it's not like he doesn't scratch his head at times either. But the pragmatic view he laid out in front of Hugh was noteworthy to me while listening.
It's like being yelled at for not putting the top back on the toothpaste, or leaving the toilet seat up. Really? You're really that worked up about it? You're yelling at me for that? Why don't you take a minute, sit down, and tell me what's actually bugging you?
When you call the supporters deluded within a month of being hired, you're going to upset some people.
When legions of supporters and journalists wonder out loud why a second striker playing off the big man is seemingly akin to the Ebola virus to you, you're going to upset some people.
When you banish a young player that has a quality that nobody else on the team has under dubious circumstances, with a mysterious groin injury that disappears the moment he goes out on loan, you're going to upset some people.
And when you cup your hands around your ears and then again publicly criticize the supporters, you're going to upset some people.
For all of the talk about psychology, I'm getting the feeling Sam doesn't understand a thing about it. This may sound melodramatic, but the supporters have a relationship with the club. And thus they have a relationship with the manager.
Many of the supporters have felt completely misunderstood, and often ignored, by their partner in the relationship. That's why they booed, big fella. And at that moment he had two choices.
He could have said something like "this has been a very frustrating season, and playing against ten men we all would have expected to be more dominant, which didn't happen. We all want to do better and we will continue to try".
Do that, and the argument is likely over. The same supporters that booed will still be pissed off, but the story gets written from a totally different vantage point. The narrative would have changed, and mostly in Sam's favour.
Or he can decide to antagonise, patronise and provoke everybody by cupping his hands over his ears. If Sam has his own psychologist, I have a pretty good idea what they will be discussing in their next session.
WEST HAM APPOINT ANOTHER ARSENAL DIRECTOR
By Sean Whetstone 28 Mar 2014 at 14:41
West Ham Till I Die
West Ham will soon announce the appointment of Felicity Croft as their new Commercial Director. Felicity fills the gap left by Barry Webber who left West Ham last year to become CEO of Stevenage Football Club. She is currently the partnership and development director at Arsenal FC and is based in Singapore looking after their Asia operations. Her appointment will be seen as further proof of the Arsenalfication of the West Ham management team. I am told this appointment has nothing to do with Karren Brady being a self confessed Arsenal fan and everything to do with the experience many of the Arsenal management team gained in their move to the Emirates stadium. Felicity previously worked for the corporate games and Octagon Sports Marketing. She is a graduate of the University of Birmingham but was brought up in Peterborough so possibly she is a 'Posh' fan. Earlier this year her colleague Angus Kinnear joined West Ham as Managing Director responsible for the club's current and future Commercial and Sponsorship operations together with overall responsibility for the Stadium migration. He was the former marketing director at Arsenal and supports Luton Town. Tara Warren is promoted to the role of Executive Director of Marketing and Communications responsible for all marketing and communications including those relating to the Olympic Stadium Project.
WHY RELEGATION MIGHT NOT HAVE BEEN SUCH A BAD THING
By Tony McDonald 28 Mar 2014 at 08:43
West Ham Till I Die
THE three flukey points scrambled at the expense of 10-men Hull City at the Boleyn Ground last night has probably secured the club another season of Premier League football – and we'll all drink to that.
Or will we?
To be totally honest with you – and I know this will not go down well, but I'm going to say it anyway . . . I'm not so sure relegation would have been quite as bad as the majority of supporters feared.
No, Big Sham has no yet driven me to the asylum, the men in white coats are not banging at the door just yet. Please bear with me.
Yes, West Ham would have had to take a drop in revenue for at least one season in the Championship but we've done that before and nobody died, did they? Along with many reading this now, I've seen us relegated five times since I first started attending games in 1968. You sulk for a few weeks, then you pick yourself up, go on holiday to forget about football for a while, and come back refreshed to the news of a promising new managerial appointment and summer signings. OK, so that wasn't quite the case after gormless Grant was given the boot, but you see where I'm coming from.
It can't happen now, you say. There are millions of pounds more on the line these days, the stakes are so much higher due to the obscene amounts Sky pump into the game and relegation two years before we are due to decamp to the Olympic Stadium is something the current owners dare not contemplate.
I say 'current', because I have serious doubts about their long-term ambitions and motives for ignoring the obvious option to rebuild and increase the capacity of the East Stand at the Boleyn. But that's another story for another day – let's wait and see on that one.
The immediate downside to staying up does is like being handed a 38-day season ticket at your dentist's. I'm talking about the strong likelihood that BS will somehow retain his ludicrously overpaid position as manager (what, the 13th highest paid in world football, do me a favour) for at least another season. When the dust has settled on this awful campaign, I imagine the owners will be patting themselves on the back and rejoicing in their loyalty to BS and how splendidly he ultimately justified their faith in them.
But had we gone down, they would have had no choice but to wield the axe.
Who knows, this crazy game throws up so many ridiculous things these days, they might now decide to extend his contract by another 10 years, or build a bronze statue in his honour.
And being the modest, humble man that he is, BS will revel in yet another notch to add to his CV in which the dreaded 'R' word has not yet featured. By Christ, he has had another good go at changing that but, as dismal as the Hammers have been on far too many occasions again this season, there will be (barring a miraculous escape for those currently in deepest trouble) three teams with less points than us come May. Not necessary less skill, and certainly not less entertainment value. But definitely less points.
It makes me laugh the way so many people have fallen for the PR line, perpetuated by his mates in the media, that BS is the go-to man in a crisis, and just the man you need to avert one. "He came in and did the job he was asked to do, he got us back up and then he got us to 10th in his first season back in the Prem" . . . blah, blah, blah. So people are paying 40 quid and more to watch crap week in, week out, because there really is no-one better or more qualified than BS to take us to such lofty heights? Do you really believe that?
Neil Humphreys wrote this in EX magazine the other year and, sadly, I often find myself repeating it to the head-in-the-sand pro-BS brigade, albeit a now dwindling group: "Winning football does not have to be ugly."
Generally, teams that win most football matches play the best football. No-one wins anything anymore playing hoofball. The John Beck/Graham Taylor coaching manual has long been consigned to the scrapheap.
Harry Redknapp never gets the same credit as BS, yet (putting aside for a minute what did or didn't happen between him, the board and Billy Bonds almost 20 years ago) he was never relegated in his seven seasons as manager at Upton Park and, of the two, I know which style of football I'd much prefer to watch every day of the week.
The question is: how much longer can BS get away with flirting with relegation, testing the fraying nerves of his employers and alienating fans who, slowly but surely, have woken up, smelt the roses and finally coming to the conclusion that what West Ham produce under him stinks of s***.
I can say, without hesitation, that BS is guilty of employing the most negative, predictable and archaic 'tactics' and putting out the least entertaining teams of any other manager in West Ham United's history. Yes, of course, there were disasters and drab performances under Greenwood, Lyall and Redknapp, too. But those three, and the others that came before and after them, have not served up the low level of dross that BS and his team has inflicted on our long-suffering support. Not over such a sustained period of time. How he had the bare-faced cheek to cup his hands to his ears as the boos from despondent and disillusioned fans rang out around him at the final whistle last night . . . well, it's another sure sign of his arrogant belief in his own self-worth.
He should be grateful there were still thousands of hardy souls paying to watch the game, contributing to his grotesquely inflated wages and those of his sub-standard players. To mock and criticise people who have shelled out their hard-earned to watch a pile of poo home and away for most of the season, who had paid upwards of £42 for a ticket to see the mighty Hull, was nothing short of disgraceful.
Afterwards, he should have simply come out and told the press and TV: "It was another disappointing performance (to put it mildly), especially given the fact they were down to 10 men for such a long period . . .we created very little, rarely threatened . . . yes, I fully understand the fans' frustrations. They pay their money and are entitled to express their views. No-one likes to hear booing but we've got to take it on the chin and given them something to smile about in the next game. At least we got the three points but there is a lot of hard work still to be done here . . ." And leave it at that. More bull****, yes. But at least it would have been a more acceptable response.
Ironically, in suggesting the fans were booing the team, he was in effect transferring more pressure on to his beleaguered players. When the fact is, 99.9 per cent were booing HIM and his crude methods. Is he really too thick-skinned to realise, too detached from reality?
History may well come to signal the Hull game as the beginning of the end for BS. I hope so. We shouldn't have to put up with this rubbish for much longer.
Anyone who has read my occasional depressing ramblings over the past three seasons will know that my views on BS as a football manager are deeply entrenched and, like him, they will never change. I didn't want him from Day One and all my fears about hoofball have, of course, come to pass, so the sooner he is gone the better.
Yes, relegation would have been a step backwards, but sometimes we all need to do that in order to go two steps forward, and that's how I see it with West Ham now.
Let's bring in a younger, ambitious and inventive coach, a tracksuit manager who respects West Ham's history but, at the same time, has a sharp eye on the future and is willing to help develop young players and give them a chance in the right environment – not throw them to the lions in a winnable cup tie that effectively killed our season stone dead. What BS did at Nottingham Forest in January was unforgivable and I couldn't believe the board let him get away with it.
Michael Laudrup and Roberto Di Matteo fit the bill and are available, although I suspect the cheaper option of Malky Mackay will be nearer the top of any provisional future target list the owners might get round to drawing up. And there are also some good men in Spain, who I've mentioned before (Luis Enrique for one), who would bring a new, more skilful dimension to our play and tactics. Mackay is a nice guy, he knows West Ham, but the prospect of appointing a former player of international class, though no guarantee of success (what is?), would be a shrewd move. How could players fail to respect what Laudrup achieved as a player and also the good work he did in his first job in England at Swansea, where he won them a major trophy in his brief time in charge? Or fail to admire what Enrique did for Barca, Real Madrid and Spain?
In his long career as a player and 25 years as a manager, BS has won no major trophy.
Bring in a manager who will send the team out with positive intent to try and win EVERY game; not set the stall out for a cautious point and hope to nick a goal on the break. Greenwood, Lyall and Redknapp lost many games, some of them horrendously so, but I don't recall many (if any) times when their teams played negatively. Under BS, the players often look scared to express themselves; shackled by a joyless dogma ingrained in the manager's psyche.
Bring in a manager who will assemble and coach a team that will give the fans back their pride in the club in which they have invested so much of their money, time and emotion over countless years. Allow them once again to come home from a game and think: 'OK, so we didn't win today, but it was a cracking game, I saw plenty of good things and we played our part. We tried to play the game the right way and I'm looking forward to the next game'.
Remember the epic 5-4 against Bradford City when Di Canio lost it, then won it for us? We were bloody poor for much of that game but you stuck with the team and the manager because they kept fighting back, kept playing the 'West Ham way' and trying to do the right things with the ball on the deck.
Does anyone honestly actually look forward to watching West Ham under BS? If you do, you must be very hard-pressed to find enjoyment in your life.
We're not Bolton. We're West Ham. We play football. Or should I say we used to.
Would men of the calibre of Laudrup, Di Matteo and Enrique even entertain the notion of working for our current owners? Probably not, but we can all dream. As I said earlier, who knows how much longer they will hang around.
In the short-term, I really pray the board don't just look at the league table in May, see us nine points or so above the drop zone in 11th or 12th place, forget all the abysmal, unwatchable performances and decide to stick with BS for another torturous season, convinced that he represents the future.
As more and more of us are now coming to realise, he most definitely does not.
Tony McDonald is editor of the retro EX magazine
Sam Allardyce needs West Ham to give him better players if they want better football
Mar 28, 2014 21:05
OPINION BY KENNYDALGLISH
Sam Allardyce was booed on Wednesday night after his West Ham team beat Hull City. The win moved West Ham up to 11th in the Premier League and pretty much guaranteed them safety with seven games left to go. So it's worth asking a question: when West Ham start playing at the Olympic Stadium in 2015-16, do they want to be playing in the Premier League with Allardyce in charge? Or would they prefer to be entertaining their fans in that big arena by playing what they describe as 'good football' in the Championship instead? As far as I can see, Allardyce has got his team playing the type of football best suited to the players at his disposal. If the owners want to give him more money to buy better players, then Sam would get them playing better football. It's not as if he is incapable of doing that. Correct me if I'm wrong but when he was at Bolton, didn't Jay Jay Okocha play for him? Didn't he pick Ivan Campo in his teams? Didn't he pick Youri Djorkaeff? The point is that Allardyce can get the best out of good players. Talk of him being sacked for keeping West Ham is foolish. West Ham should be proud of their tradition of playing good football but if they want to see it again, give Sam some more money to buy better players.
Angry West Ham fans don't need a change of manager... they need a change IN the manager
Mar 28, 2014 12:33
OPINION BY DARRENLEWIS
Even now it seems strange to have been there to see it. West Ham fans booing the team that had earned them all three points against Hull on Wednesday night. Before the match, as some journalists tucked into lasagne and chips, Sam Allardyce was not even the talk of the press room. He certainly wasn't on the radar in terms of managers under pressure. Liverpool were expected to dominate the back page headlines by seeing off Sunderland to maintain their shock title challenge. Arsenal and Manchester United were the other candidates for the back pages with the wheels coming off for both Arsene Wenger and David Moyes.
West Ham versus Hull was expected to be a page inside the paper but no more than that with both clubs thought to be safe even before they'd kicked off.
Yes, the Hammers had been beaten in their three previous matches, but before that they'd put together of run of four victories in a row to take them from the bottom three to apparent mid-table safety. In the space of those messy, underwhelming, uninspiring 90 minutes on Wednesday night, however, that all changed. Allardyce's reaction, cupping his ear to the fans that pay his and his players' wages, was not the best PR move. Nor was his decision to go in hard - and he did - on the supporters in the subsequent flash interview to TV and the press conference. The fans, with their financial and emotional investment, have every right to voice their displeasure at what they are seeing. On top of that, regardless of what some may say, this is an entertainment as well as a results industry. On the basis of what we'd seen on the pitch, Big Sam was hardly talking from a position of strength. Yet he seemed genuinely hurt and stunned by the reaction.
He may have chuckled in his initial responses to the questions being fired at him but he then talked about not having gone through what he experienced on Wednesday night in over four decades in the game. Things are different these days, though. With social media to mobilise short, snappy opinion and blogs for irate fans to articulate their views it is not as easy to laugh off opinion in the papers as it used to be. If Allardyce didn't realise that on Wednesday he will do now as it has taken just two days for his job to suddenly be on the line.
Frankly, it is ludicrous. West Ham played badly on Wednesday night. But they do not have a bad style of play. They lacked energy, purpose and enthusiasm on Wednesday night - but they didn't as they dismissed the likes of Swansea, Aston Villa and Southampton. It was a bad day (night) at the office. We all have them. Reason to throw the man who got them up and has kept them up overboard? Not for me. Cardiff, Fulham, Sunderland and West Brom would love to have a man of Allardyce's organisation and expertise steering their clubs to safety. The sense of entitlement that had Norwich fans demanding the head of Chris Hughton before last week's Sunderland win has seeped across to London when there should be perspective.
West Ham are in that half of the table that has first to fight every season for their right to stay in the top flight and only then are able to think about artistic impression. If they want to win that fight every term - and they need to with their move to the Olympic Stadium drawing ever closer - then Big Sam, with his record of never having been relegated, has to remain their man.
If they want to take a leap of faith in the hope that it will bring the brand of football that Brendan Rodgers regaled us with first at Swansea and now at Liverpool, then good luck. But the Hammers hierarchy are known to be unconvinced by Michael Laudrup, even though the Dane steered the Swans into Europe.
Sunderland are still in trouble (with games in hand running out) despite being seduced into snapping up Gus Poyet. And while the likes of Ronald Koeman are sniffing around the Premier League jobs that he thinks might be available, there is no guarantee that he will be able to combine defensive stability with creative flair at Upton Park.
The bottom line is that West Ham need to buck their ideas up. Midfielder Mark Noble practically begged the fans not to turn on the players in an interview on the club's website on Thursday.
In order to do so, however, the players need to get the fans excited again. Allardyce's job depends on it.
West Ham bow to fans and target flair players in summer window
Owners will target flair players when they sit down with Sam Allardyce
Published: 28 March 2014 Updated: 12:40, 28 March 2014
West Ham's owners, shocked by fans booing at the end of the victory over 10-man Hull, will make the signing of more creative players a priority when they sit down with Sam Allardyce at the end of the season.
The club's move to the Olympic Stadium in 2016 will also dominate the agenda when co-chairmen David Gold and David Sullivan meet with manager Allardyce for a review of the campaign.
Allardyce, who was bewildered by the negative reaction at the end of Wednesday's 2-1 victory, also understands the need to build a more expansive squad next season and is already looking at potential signings.
He wants to make his squad is more attractive by the time the club move to the 50,000-plus capacity stadium in Stratford but will need substantial financial backing to achieve that goal.
There was speculation today that Sullivan and Gold are considering a managerial change this summer, with contenders being Malky Mackay and Michael Laudrup, sacked by Cardiff and Swansea respectively this season.
However, there has been little sign that the owners are dissatisfied with Allardyce and they stood by him following the 5‑0 defeat against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup and when they dropped into the bottom three at the turn of the year.
The Allardyce conundrum
Posted by Peter Thorne
Sam Allardyce has heard all the criticisms, but he'll continue to manage West Ham his way, which will always be enough to escape relegation.
It would be too grandiose to say that there is a battle for the soul of West Ham going on -- that one was fought when Terence Brown introduced the Bond Scheme during the tenure of Billy Bonds -- but there is at least a definite movement in place; one that would appear to the outsider to be something of an oddity.
Fans are often turning on the board and the manager -- there's nothing strange about that and, in fact, a rather high-flying example is going on right now over in the North-west of England -- but the one at Upton Park is something of a curiosity to anyone not involved in the club.
Hammers fans, many of whom have never seen any major success bar a cup final runners-up place and a couple of nail-biting Play-off victories, are striking out at a manager who has the temerity to bring them something fans of many other clubs have hankered after for a long time: Premier league mid-table tedium. Sound harsh? Perhaps, but let's look at the real facts.
West Ham United are a club built around a foundation laid in the late 1950s. Promotion under Ted Fenton in 1958 and the Academy ideals under the coaching of Malcolm Allison -- including the mentoring of a young defender named Bobby Moore -- led to the revolutionary ideas of a forward-thinking manager called Ron Greenwood. When the Hammers won the 1964 Cup final and the 1965 Cup Winners Cup -- the latter playing an entirely new brand of football -- they were part of the zeitgeist, even before they provided the backbone of the 1966 World Cup team.
Only the second team after Spurs to win a European competition, West Ham were at the forefront of a new social phenomena, where working-class kids suddenly become celebrities, role models, men to be admired and feted. With it came advertising, sponsorship and world-wide fame. The Sixties was a defining decade and West Ham were its glamour club.
The football though, strained through the beliefs of Fenton, Allison, Greenwood and then John Lyall, provided a legacy that generations of east Londoners have never forgotten. Although that first line of heroes eventually retired, the likes of Trevor Brooking and Alan Devonshire simply took up the mantle and later came Tony Cottee and Alvin Martin, Rio Ferdinand and Joe Cole. The idea of the Academy legacy became so ingrained that even neutrals would speak of imports like Trevor Sinclair, Paolo di Canio and even Carlos Tevez as being 'West Ham players' playing 'the right way'.
The long-term league table
Yet the Hammers have no real league success to speak of. In a league table of clubs who have played the most seasons in the top division, West Ham sit 22nd with 56. Almost out on their own in many ways, they loiter just below Nottingham Forest (European and League winners under Brian Clough), who they will overtake next season. The Hammers closest rivals in this table are teams like Birmingham (20th - 57) and Stoke (19th - 58), winners of a League Cup or so but nothing else. Bolton in 12th are the only club with comparable cup success but no league title -- and they have never won a European competition.
But it's at the other end of this scale where things get interesting. Leeds United (24th - 50), Aston Villa (2nd - 103), and Manchester City (6th - 85) are all clubs that have won the league, a European trophy and have lost their top tier status relatively recently. In fact, all have sunk even further.
When the Hammers have dropped out of the top flight they have always returned in a couple of seasons, always in the running for a quick reinstatement to 'where they belong' even when they have fallen short. They've never dropped into the third tier, never even come close. It depends how you measure your success, of course -- supporters of some clubs may snicker behind their hands here -- but West Ham have been moderately successful for a long time.
But how would some from outside the club view this? Someone from Chelsea or Newcastle or even Bolton, for example? Would they see West Ham as a 'big and successful' club ? Or a middleweight club that once punched above its weight? Of course it doesn't matter what anyone thinks, and there's an excellent argument that says West Ham have suffered historically from poor decisions at the very top and chronic under-investment elsewhere -- they could and should be bigger than they actually are. But the truth is that West Ham's real status is very much what they can expect from their board and manager. Let's not forget that financially, Upton Park is still very much in the pocket of the bank.
I'd argue that as it stands the Hammers are a mid-table team -- comfortably so with the right manager in charge -- and the board are only asking one thing of that man. The remit here is pretty simple. West Ham United are leaving their home of the last century and are moving into a smart new pad down the road. Some want to go, some don't -- but that's another argument. What is certain, though, is that the Hammers need to go into their new stadium in Stratford as a Premier League club and to do that they need to avoid the type of seasons that occurred only too recently under Glenn Roeder and Avram Grant. And if Roeder can claim he was unlucky to be at the helm when the club were relegated with a record 42 points -- just pipped ironically by Sam Allardyce's Bolton -- then Gianfranco Zola might have to admit he grabbed some of that luck back by surviving with 35 points. When you factor in Alan Curbishley's Tevez-led Great Escape, you have to admit there's something of a trend here.
Sam Allardyce was bought in to get the Hammers back to the Premiership -- something he achieved at the first time of asking albeit via a Play-off -- and to make sure they stay there. Allardyce is a pragmatist who plays a percentage game. He's always looking to make sure his teams score more points than games played because he knows 40 odd points normally secures safety. If his team are 2-1 up with five minutes to play, he will not want his players chasing a third to make sure -- something West Ham fans of all ages would have grown up with -- he knows that under his coaching his team should be able to defend for that time and that almost guarantees three points.
There's nothing inherently wrong with this, and in fact it's something any successful manager would instil into his players. It's also the reason I have more time for Big Sam than some. I like to see a side defend well and I'm wearied by years of watching good positions thrown away in a kamikaze attempt to blitz opponents off the pitch with superior skill and tactics -- not because I wouldn't want to see that, you understand -- but rather because West Ham have rarely had the players to do it.
So if Sam has instilled a sound defensive mentality, what is everyone complaining about? Well, the problem is that the defensive aspect seems to have overridden everything else. The Hammers only route forward seems to be a high ball and there were times against 10-man Hull on Wednesday night when it looked as if the home side were the team a man down. Hull found men in forward space frequently, West Ham only looked behind them.
In fact, some players seem utterly incapable of finding someone with a forward pass and it's awful to see. The fans decided to show their displeasure at the end of the Hull game and, though I can understand Sam's shock at the reception, I'd never deny any fan the right to show what they think. Too many people forget that the only people who actually pay in football are the supporters, and managers, board and players would do well to remember it.
Is the alternative worse?
But is dull, 'successful' (bearing in mind what I've said above) football good enough? What do West Ham fans want? Well, surprisingly, it's not European football. Everyone knows the club is not capable of achieving or sustaining that. Rather I suspect most supporters are casting their eyes just a few places further up the division at Southampton, who have very much become the old-style West Ham equivalent; attractive flowing football, young players coming through the ranks and a forward-thinking manager.
But let's not forget that in the years after the Dell closed and the Saints moved to St Mary's, third-tier football was the order of the day on the south coast -- and that's the very thing West Ham are trying to avoid. If the club continue in mid-table -- dull football or not -- and are still there a couple of years after moving to the Olympic Park, then I think the fans can look at Southampton and think 'at least we didn't have to sink that low to rise up'.
A headline in a London newspaper perhaps unwittingly summed up West Ham's plight: 'Can the Hammers sack Allardyce and survive?' Notice that -- it's not sack and prosper, but survive. Because survival is what it is all about, and I simply don't understand anyone who wants to see relegation in order to get 'better football'.
Firstly, who says it will come? Really, apart from the 2006 season under Alan Pardew, have West Ham played much 'Academy football' since Harry Redknapp was sacked? And secondly -- and this is an important point -- how is losing football entertaining or better? I was frustrated on Wednesday night, but if I could replay that game in some type of X-box style world, would I have felt worse if West Ham had drawn or lost? I sure would have.
So when Sam Allardyce says "But we won!", I'm fully behind him because I've seen a lot of the rest and it's no fun either. Anyone who thinks Hammers teams of the past would have torn Hull apart haven't been watching the same side I've seen season after season.
So is there a way out of this conundrum? I believe there is, because, though Allardyce will always build his teams around a solid, defensive base, I genuinely don't believe he wants to see the type of inability to get forward he saw in mid-week. He knew Hull couldn't score from 20-30 yards out, but he also knows that given enough space at that distance a killer ball is likely to find its way in, and the pragmatist in him won't want that. It's also painfully obvious that -- cupped ear aside -- Allardyce has been extremely annoyed this season at his side's inability to get forward.
So I believe the two Davids will stick with Sam. Allardyce protects their investment and it's simply good business sense. But money will be made available for the manager to buy a couple of players who can use the ball in those situations. Despite what some fans seem to think, wholesale changes aren't required. I believe a forward with some pace and midfield player comfortable on the ball would make all the difference to the side that struggled so woefully against Hull. Even two wing-backs who could break up play and get forward would stop the type of thing we saw in mid-week.
There will be many then who will disagree, but my argument for sticking with Sam Allardyce is pretty much the same as it was when he was appointed. He's not a West Ham man and he doesn't play Academy football, but no-one else has played it either since Paolo last threw a strop. So if I get angry, frustrated, and want to show my dissatisfaction about the poor return for my financial outlay -- and that's my prerogative -- I'm at least doing it against a man who is likely to get results, however unpalatable.
When West Ham are ensconced in the Budweiser Bobby Moore Stadium and Pep Guardiola is playing the new-style Academy football, then I might look back at dear old Samuel and laugh. Right now, though, I believe -- ironically, it seems -- Sam Allardyce is the only way forward.
West Ham United are lining up an end-of-season raid on Championship outfit Leeds United for captain Ross McCormack
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A source close to Upton Park told FDN that the Scot is highly-regarded by manager Sam Allardyce and his club spies, who have watched the striker on several occasions this term. However, they face a fight to secure his services as the 27-year-old is passionately loyal to Leeds boss Brian McDermott, and is thought to be reluctant to leave while the ex-Reading manager is at the Elland Road helm. Sunderland are also monitoring the situation with interest, but a Black Cats insider revealed he is one of a number of attacking targets being watched by head coach Gus Poyet. McCormack has been in unstoppable form for the Yorkshire club this season, netting 27 goals despite his side's struggle for consistency. The former Cardiff City man could fetch a fee of at least £5million if Leeds decide to cash in this summer.
Hull City goalkeeper Allan McGregor wins red card appeal
MARK STANIFORTH Friday 28 March 2014
Hull boss Steve Bruce will take scant consolation from the news that goalkeeper Allan McGregor has won his appeal against his sending-off in Wednesday's Barclays Premier League defeat at West Ham. McGregor is set to be ruled out for the rest of the season with kidney damage following a clash with Mohamed Diame in the first half at Upton Park which also saw him red-carded by referee Mike Dean. The Football Association reversed the verdict late on Friday, saying in a statement: "Hull City's Allan McGregor has had his claim for wrongful dismissal upheld following an independent regulatory commission hearing today.
"McGregor was dismissed for denying a goal scoring opportunity during the game against West Ham United on 26 March 2014. "The player's standard punishment, therefore, has been withdrawn with immediate effect."
But the decision will come too late for Bruce, who believes McGregor's dismissal cost his side the chance of claiming the victory which he believes would have all but secured top-flight survival. Speaking at a press conference prior to the news of the successful appeal, Bruce admitted he has been left frustrated after a campaign he claims has been blighted by refereeing inconsistencies. "I will speak to (referees' chief) Mike Riley again but I seem to have called him more this year than I have in my whole career," he said. "It is happening on too many big occasions. It has cost us at Tottenham, Swansea and West Ham and that for me is far too many. "I know it's a difficult job but we have to improve it and for me a bit of common sense has got to come back into it. "I think referees are put under too much pressure. They can't seem to referee like they used to - with a bit of common sense - and that's the disappointing thing for me."
Steve Harper will return to the starting line-up in place of McGregor, who is expected to remain in the high dependency unit of a London hospital for at least another four days. Bruce added: "I went to see Allan yesterday and the kid is still in a lot of pain. "Overnight the observations have been better but it certainly looks like he is going to miss the rest of the season. "Allan is as brave as they come but he has taken a horrible knock to his kidneys and badly damaged one of them. "We expect Allan to stay in the high dependency unit for another three or four days, then three or four more days in a normal ward."
Bruce has recalled Eldin Jakupovic from his loan spell at Leyton Orient and the Swiss is expected to understudy Harper at the Britannia Stadium, while Bruce does not expect any more injury concerns. Hull's win over West Brom last Saturday had edged them closer to safety and Bruce remains convinced that one more win will be enough to put the seal on a highly successful season for his club. But he expects a tough game against a Stoke side still looking to secure their own survival and heading into the game on the back of a thumping 4-1 win at Aston Villa last Sunday Bruce added: "We're all looking to get to 37 or 38 points and there's big games everywhere you look, and if we play like we did last Saturday, I think we'll be fine. "It's difficult with back-to-back away games in the Premier League, especially when you've been down to 10 men for an hour, but the resilience and attitude was there for all to see the other night and you just have to dust yourself down and get on with it again."
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