Big Sam on: Manchester City
Sam Allardyce looks ahead to West Ham United's season finale at Manchester City on Sunday
Sam Allardyce spoke to the media at the Boleyn Ground on Friday morning ahead of West Ham United's final Barclays Premier League game of the season against Manchester City on Sunday. Big Sam discussed the latest team news, the chances of causing an upset on Sunday and his verdict on the team's performance this campaign.
Morning Sam, it's the last game of what's been a tough season for you. How would you assess your team's season?
SA: "I think it's been a very tough season. Everybody's found this season to be rather unique in terms of how it's panned out here and there. We've all had our ups and downs, but the bottom line is we've delivered the ultimate goal, to stay in the Barclays Premier League. We obviously wanted to do a little better than we've actually done, but 12th at the moment comes in around where we thought we might have finished in budget terms. After Sunday's result it may change a position or two depending on what result we get. "Sustaining our position in the Barclays Premier League was obviously critical for us. Yes we'd have liked to done a little better, particularly at home because our away record has improved compared to last season, but our home record hasn't produced as many points as last season. We had some extenuating circumstances that everybody's aware of, we overcame those and we finished the season on a high last week with a third victory over Tottenham which has never happened before in the history of the Club against our old rivals."
How much of a say do you think you can have on the destination of the title?
SA: "I watched the game against Aston Villa the other night and we all know that Manchester City in full flow are very difficult to play against. We've got to go out there and give a fantastic performance to stop them trying to grasp the title. It will be hugely difficult because they're the best team at home in the league, they've only lost once against Chelsea. Their goal record is fantastic and they have great players. Every player on top of his form, every player can go out and give everything they've got on the basis that they know we're in the Premier League next year, but let's try and spoil Manchester City's party."
Will Andy Carroll want to score the goals that could win Liverpool the title?
SA: "I'm not so sure he's thinking about that, I think he'd like to score the goals for West Ham. All we can do is concentrate on ourselves and concentrate on getting our tactics and performance right. The team will probably be at full strength and I think we have some very good players that we have to make sure that we cope as a team. Individually they're better than us, but as a team we can build a resilience, a frustration and then maybe create a chance or two when we have possession which is going to be critical for us on the day."
Who do you want to win the title going into the last day of the season?
SA: "From a neutral point of view, everybody would like to see Liverpool win it. From a personal point of view I'd like to see Steven Gerrard win it. It's the last thing for him which he hasn't quite achieved at Liverpool. He's been a one club man all his life. Obviously they've let it slip out of their hands. They had it to take, but they've now left it in the hands of Manchester City. On form and the position they're in, you'd have to say Manchester City are the favourites."
How much credit does Manuel Pellegrini deserve if City do go on to win the title?
SA: "Huge, I think. It's his first season and I think that anybody arriving for their first season at a football club and to achieve what he's achieved if he does win the Premier League and the Capital One Cup, means that they've done the double and there's not a lot more you can ask. There's money spent at every club, but everyone knows that this is the hardest league in the world to win and it's been shown this year more than ever before."
Do you think that some fans have been quick to forget what the team achieved last season?
SA: "No, not really. I think that what we have to do is plan to get better. Each season as we go along we've got to try and use the money that we have to find better players and make sure the team when it starts the following season is better than the season before. That's our main priority. There's an exceptionally good pre-season planned for us to get ready for next season and hopefully we'll have fewer injuries. That's the big key for us, the big key to this season has been to plan for next season and make sure that we don't suffer as many injuries as we have this season."
Have you discussed how much you'll have to spend in the summer?
SA: "No, not yet. That comes in the meeting next week, when we join up to discuss the way forward and discuss what's happened this season."
What's your evaluation of the season as a whole?
SA: "We're in 12th position and we know we have a strong squad that we need to build on. We know that when everyone's fit and available that we can compete at this level. Without any doubt the highs were the three victories against Tottenham. People will remember it for a long time because it's created a little bit of history as it's never happened before. It will go down in the history books as something which happened this season and people will not forget it as time goes by. People will remember that we've beaten Tottenham three times in one season."
West Ham: Sam Allardyce confident on managerial future
West Ham boss Sam Allardyce claims co-owner David Sullivan has not given him any indication he will be sacked. They lost every match in April and some fans want the manager removed, despite being 12th in the Premier League. But Allardyce, 59, says there are no signs he will be relieved of his duties at the end of the season.
Big Sam's West Ham record
"I spoke to David Sullivan yesterday about arranging our usual end-of-season meeting. I had no indication my position was under threat," he said. "As a whole it's been a tough season. But we've delivered our goals to stay in the Premier League." West Ham face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in their final match of the season. Liverpool need the Hammers to beat City if they are to have any hope of winning the title, and Allardyce has urged his players to ruin the day for Manuel Pellegrini's side. "We know we're in the Premier League next year, let's go and try to spoil Manchester City's party," said Allardyce.
Man City v West Ham
9 May 2014
Last updated at 13:11
By Guy Mowbray
BBC Match of the Day commentator
BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
Venue: Etihad Stadium Date: Sunday, 11 May
Manchester City top scorer Sergio Aguero is fit after missing the win over Aston Villa with a groin injury. Midfielder Fernandinho has been used sparingly recently because of a leg problem but could be fit enough to start.
West Ham have no new injury worries ahead of the trip to the Etihad Stadium. Marco Borriello is the only absentee with a long-term calf problem.
Yaya Toure's magnificent solo goal to seal Wednesday's 4-0 win v Aston Villa brought about the most emotional reaction we've seen yet from Manuel Pellegrini as Man City's manager - a turn, a broad smile, and two arms raised in triumph. As ever with the unflappable Chilean, nothing hysterical - but it did suggest acknowledgement of a job almost done. "I look at this fixture and, if there was not so much riding on it, I would say it would end up three or four-nil to Manchester City - but then I remember it is City, and how they always make things a bit difficult for themselves. "West Ham can be awkward, difficult opponents - ask Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho about what he called '19th-Century football'. They'll need to him to stay typically ice-cool on Sunday too. Yes, just one more point will secure the title, but though you'd struggle to find anyone who's not a City fan doubting them, long-in-the-tooth Blues know not to pop the champagne early. Underneath the new layers of glamour and gold, this is still Manchester City, the club that prompted former player and chairman Francis Lee to say: "If there was a cup for cock-ups, City would win it." West Ham won't make it easy. Actually, let's put it another way: Sam Allardyce certainly won't make it easy, especially with talk growing of this being his final game in charge. Nothing to play for? Well, he'll want to make sure of avoiding more humiliation at a ground where the Hammers lost 6-0 in January , and for the club overall, there's pots of Premier League prize money at stake. Defeat would mean a guaranteed drop of at least one place in the table. Every place lower you finish means £1.2 million less in the bank. Picture the scene: Liverpool are 2-0 up and cruising, whilst it's goalless at the Etihad. City - not programmed to play for a draw - are being held out by stubborn West Ham resistance. All the time there's the threat of pushing a little too strongly and offering a counter-attacking chance. One combination later between former Liverpool men Downing and Carroll...
That's how Hollywood would develop the story anyway, presumably with Sergio Aguero scoring a title-winning goal after 93 minutes and 20 seconds. As if THAT could ever happen.
City have beaten the Hammers twice already in 2014, putting nine goals past them without reply over the two legs of the Capital One Cup semi-final.
West Ham have not beaten Manchester City in their last seven league meetings (L5, D2).
City have won their last five home games against West Ham (in all competitions).
City have won their last four league matches.
Their only home league defeat so far this season came against Chelsea on 3 February. Sunderland are the only other side to have taken any points away from the Etihad in the 2013-14 Premier League campaign - they drew 2-2 there last month.
City have been top of the table this season for fewer days than any other of the teams in the top four.
Man City are only the second team in Premier League history to score 100+ goals in a single season (after Chelsea with 103 in 2009-10). They have exactly 100 goals, compared to the 40 scored by West Ham.
West Ham have lost four of their last five Premier League matches.
They have also lost four of their last five league matches on the road.
West Ham kept a clean sheet for the first time in 11 games against Tottenham last weekend.
The Hammers finished last season in 10th place with 46 points. They cannot match that performance in this campaign, even if they beat City.
Allardyce ignoring sack rumours
Filed: Thursday, 8th May 2014
By: Staff Writer
Sam Allardyce may have been tipped for the sack by at least one tabloid today - but that wasn't stopping him from continuing to plan for the close season.
Journalist Sami Mokbel claimed in the Mail this morning that Allardyce is set to be removed from his position after West Ham face Manchester City in the title-decider at the Etihad Stadium this coming weekend. However Big Sam, who celebrates three years in the job later this month is already making plans for next season, having previously decided who he wants to move on and and in which positions he needs to strengthen this summer. Several first team squad members - including fringe players such Joe Cole, Jordan Spence, Jack Collison and Jussi Jaaskelainen - are out of contract this summer whilst Alladyce has already said goodbye to Italian duo Antonio Nocerino and Marco Borriello, both on loan at the club since January. It is perhaps no surprise that the manager has identified a striker to support Andy Carroll as his main target for pre-season but Allardyce is also looking to improve his defensive options, with full backs close to the top of the list of priorities. With Alou Diarra also considered likely to leave the club this summer - if West Ham can find anyone to take the former Franch international off their hands, that is - Big Sam is seeking cover in midfield, with Stade de Reims' 24-year-old Grzegorz Krychowiak mooted as one possible target by Polish media today. Some of the other names the Hammers have been linked with during the past 48 hours include Chelsea's Demba Ba, Diafra Sakho of Metz, Portuguese striker Hugo Almeida (currently with Besiktas) and Gabriel Obertan.
Manchester City look to claim title against West Ham
By Rob Parrish - Follow me on Twitter @RobParrish75. Last Updated: 09/05/14 1:28pm
Manchester City are set to be crowned Premier League champions for the second time in three years if they avoid defeat in their final game of the season at home to West Ham United, live on Sky Sports 1HD. Manuel Pellegrini's men put one hand on the trophy with their resounding 4-0 home success against Aston Villa in midweek after challengers Liverpool suffered an untimely stumble, blowing a 3-0 lead at Crystal Palace to draw 3-3.
The Etihad Stadium side now hold a two-point cushion on Brendan Rodgers' men, who end their season at home to Newcastle, and with City's goal difference 13 better than Liverpool only a shock West Ham win will offer the Reds any hope. City have timed their run to the summit to perfection on the back of four successive victories, having so often been behind Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal during arguably the most enthralling title race of the Premier League era.
Pellegrini's men are odds-on favourites for glory, but in a campaign which has thrown up an endless string of shock results there can be no room for complacency. There are echoes, too, of the 2011/12 season when City were expected to brush aside relegation-threatened QPR en route to their first Premier League title, but ended up needing a last-gasp goal from Sergio Aguero to defeat their 10-man opponents 3-2 and pip Manchester United to the crown.
West Ham's only incentive is retaining 12th place in the table and a greater share of the end-of-season prize money as they are four adrift of Crystal Palace in 11th, but have Swansea, Sunderland, Aston Villa and Hull City within striking distance. The Hammers have not enjoyed their meetings with City this season, going down 3-1 in the Premier League at Upton Park and suffering a 9-0 aggregate drubbing over the two legs of the Capital One Cup semi-final in January.
Sam Allardyce, who has seen his position come under fire from sections of the West Ham fans in recent weeks, saw his side snap a four-game losing streak with a 2-0 home success against Tottenham Hotspur last time out.
Paul Merson's prediction
If Man City had to win it, then this would be a different kettle of fish, but they have to draw and I can't see them failing to win the league. Remember, West Ham went up there in the Capital One Cup a few months ago and got rinsed 6-0 and won't take much confidence out of that. I have got to go for Man City to win - but honestly, after what I've seen in the Premier League in the last month, it wouldn't surprise me if West Ham scored in the first 10 minutes and then suddenly it's game on!
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-0
A Villa (h)4-0
C Palace (a)0-2
West Brom (h)3-1
Manchester City are boosted by the availability of star striker Aguero as they go in search of the point they need to claim the Premier League title. Aguero, who secured the 2011/12 crown with virtually the last kick of the season, suffered a groin injury in the 3-2 win over Everton and missed the midweek victory over Aston Villa. But he has been passed fit to face the Hammers, although with Edin Dzeko having scored five goals in his last three games, Pellegrini has another in-form option, with Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic providing further back up.
West Brom (a)1-0
C Palace (h)0-1
West Ham boss Allardyce could be tempted to stick with the same players on duty for last weekend's 2-0 home win over Tottenham. The Hammers halted their four-game losing run against their 10-man London rivals and the starting XI may be rewarded with further action. Marco Borriello was the only absentee from Allardyce's squad against Spurs, with the on-loan striker still hampered by a calf injury which has troubled him since his January arrival.
Man City have lost just one of their last 13 Premier League meetings with West Ham (W9 D3).
West Ham have won just two of their last 25 away league games against Man City, losing 20 and drawing three.
Andy Carroll has scored five Premier League goals against Man City; more than he has against any other opponent in the competition.
Sam Allardyce: I want Steven Gerrard to win Premier League and spoil Manchester City's party
Last Updated: 09/05/14 2:00pm
Sam Allardyce says West Ham will give everything to upset Manchester City on Sunday and deliver the title to "neutrals' choice" Liverpool. Allardyce and his players are now all that stand between City and a second Premier League in three years, and a point at the Etihad will be good enough barring a 13-goal victory for Liverpool over Newcastle. The omens are good for Manuel Pellegrini's side - in three previous meetings with West Ham this season they have won three times and scored 12 goals - but Allardyce has a personal motive for spoiling City's title party. Sam Allardyce has played down reports that he could leave West Ham at the end of the season. He said: "From a neutral's point of view I think everybody would like to see Liverpool win it, and from a personal point of view I'd like to see Steven Gerrard win it. "It's the last thing for him which he hasn't quite achieved at Liverpool. He's been a one club man all his life. Obviously they've let it slip out of their hands. They had it to take, but they've now left it in the hands of Manchester City. "We all know Man City in full cry are very difficult to play against. We've got to go out there and give a fantastic performance to stop them trying to grasp the title on that day. "Of course that will be hugely difficult - this is the best team at home in the league. They've only lost once, against Chelsea, their goal record is fantastic and they've got great, great players. "So every player on top of his form, every player can go out and give everything they've got from the basis we're already in the Premier League next season. "Let's try and spoil Manchester City's party."
West Ham will have to contend with the threat of Sergio Aguero who returns from injury. The Argentina international missed the midweek victory over Aston Villa after suffering a groin strain during the first half of last weekend's 3-2 win at Everton. Aguero, City's top scorer this season with 28 goals, was also rated doubtful for the visit of the Hammers to the Etihad Stadium but Pellegrini has revealed he will have a fully fit squad at his disposal. "The whole squad is fit," said Pellegrini, whose side need only a draw to secure the Premier League crown. "It is very important. If you have your whole squad you can choose between all your players - that is the most important thing for a manager."
Pellegrini has attempted to play down the importance of the game as City look to pip Liverpool to the title. He said: "It is a very important weekend because it is the last game - it is the work from the whole year - but also it is a normal game because I think the best way to do it is to repeat what we did the whole season so far here. "I think it is very important for the manager to be calm, to try to repeat what we did the whole year preparing for the games here at home.
The 60-year-old Chilean, whose side are two points clear of the Reds, insists he will be able to control his nerves on Sunday. He said: "After so many years I think it is very important to control your emotions because when you have to take decisions under emotion, normally you will do it in the wrong way." Pellegrini also insists he has no interest in playing for a draw against West Ham. "Every team must play every game to win," he said. "It doesn't matter in which conditions they are playing, every team must want to win."
Premier League sides linked with Marseille's Alaixys Romao
Last Updated: 09/05/14 2:58pm
A host of Premier League clubs are tracking Marseille midfielder Alaixys Romao, Sky Sports understands. Marseille are thought to be ready to offload a number of players after a disappointing season in Ligue 1. Togo international Romao has been a regular in the Marseille side since arriving from Lorient in January 2013 and a number of top-flight English clubs have been keeping tabs on the all-action midfielder for some time. The likes of West Ham, Everton, Sunderland, Newcastle and Hull City are all thought to be admirers of Romao and are keeping tabs on his situation at the Stade Velodrome. Romao, who still has two years to run on his current deal at Marseille, is thought to be available for a fee in the region of €3million (£2.4million) and the player is understood to be keen on a move to England.
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce: I've had no word my job is under threat
Last Updated: 09/05/14 12:56pm
Sam Allardyce says he has had no indication he is about to lose his job as West Ham manager. Allardyce has faced speculation over his future for much of the season amid persistent criticism from some of the club's supporters. One newspaper this week claimed West Ham's owners have already taken the decision to seek a new manager once Sunday's final game at Manchester City is out of the way. But Allardyce is on the brink of delivering a second successive mid-table finish and is continuing to plan for next season until told otherwise by owners David Sullivan and David Gold. He said: "I spoke to David Sullivan on Thursday about us arranging our usual meeting to go through pre-season budgets and what's going to happen next season, and I had no indication about my position being under threat. "That's all I can say, that's all I know, and he's the boss. That's the bottom line for me. "I rang him up, spoke about what was being bantered around, and under those circumstances we talked about getting together and having our meeting next week. "Has the speculation undermined my position? I'm not so sure about that. People in the game have to write speculation about what's happening at certain clubs because they have to sell papers.
"Whether it's right or wrong only time will tell. Speculation's part of the game, whether that speculation becomes a reality at this moment in time we don't know. I will find out next week."
POYET NOW THE FAVOURITE TO BE NEXT WEST HAM MANAGER
By Iain Dale 9 May 2014 at 13:43
West Ham Till I Die
If I were a betting man, I would save my money on Sam Allardyce departing West Ham next week. I do think at least one of Brady, Gold and Sullivan would like to see him go, but the compensation that would have to be paid is truly eye watering. But the newspapers seem to think the decision has already been taken and it is just a mater of time before it is announced. By this time next week we will know.
What is interesting is to see the shift in the betting markets. Gus Poyet is now the favourite to be the next manager at Upton Park. A few weeks ago he was 66/1. Do dthe bookies know something the rest of us don't?
I am a big fan of Poyet and I suspect he would fit in very well in all sorts of ways. He apparently has some sort of get-out clause in his current contract and is unhappy at the level of control over football matters he enjoys at Sunderland. Mind you, if I were them I'd move heaven and earth to keep him.
GIVE US OUR FOOTBALL BACK
By Tony McDonald 9 May 2014 at 09:10
West Ham Till I Die
WHEN the long-awaited celebrations following Big Sham's impending dismissal finally subside and we recover from our hangovers, the next big question will soon sober us up: 'So who's next?'
Naturally, I'll be delighted to see the back of Allardyce, who is without doubt the manager who has presided over the worst football witnessed at this club in living memory, but there was a depressing inevitability about where we're at now.
Much as I have protested bitterly from day one of his reign almost three years ago that Allardyce was the wrong choice for West Ham United, the fact is the owners must shoulder their responsibility for where the club finds itself now . . . a couple of lucky results away from the brink of relegation.
David Sullivan, David Gold and Karren Brady chose to ignore the evidence of Allardyce's previous 25 years in management – a quarter-of a century in which he'd failed to win a single meaningful trophy while consistently playing probably the most wretched football ever seen in the English top flight – when they rescued him from the dole queue in the summer of 2011.
In trying to salvage the disaster they had inflicted on the club with their implausible appointment of hapless Avram Grant a year earlier (just after he had taken Portsmouth down), they carelessly turned a blind eye to irrefutable widespread evidence that they were putting the club in the hands of a tactically inflexible managerial dinosaur with a well-deserved reputation as the biggest long-ball advocate in the history of the Premier League.
Those negative tactics from the dark ages served him well for many years at Bolton Wanderers but they were never going to be tolerated for too long at West Ham, where we have a tradition of expecting a little more creativity from managers and players.
Allardyce and West Ham are incompatible and the owners should have known better. I was pleased to hear that David Sullivan stood up at last week's awards dinner to puncture a few egos and bring a sense or harsh reality to the swanky proceedings, but it should never have come to this. Hopefully, another costly lesson has been learned.
But what did any of us really expect from Allardyce? While I was surprised that even he had the front to mockingly cup his ears at a relatively small group of angry, frustrated fans who had the temerity to boo him (yes Sam, make no mistake, it was YOU they were jeering at, not your players), the way West Ham have played under him has been as woefully predictable as his 'tactics'.
"He'll do a job for us," came the defiant cry from the BS defence committee whenever any of us questioned his suitability to the top job at Upton Park. True, he did deliver on his mandate from the board by returning us to the Promised Land at the first time of asking, although maybe the delirious scenes following the play-off final – our first day out at Wembley since 1981 – papered over a few cracks. West Ham had failed to beat either of the two teams that finished above them, Reading and Southampton, and in all honesty Blackpool were the better side at Wembley, where a late Vaz Te goal against the run of play clinched promotion and probably saved lucky BS his job.
The counter-argument to BS being acclaimed as some mythical go-to man of clubs in distress is that quite a number of other half-competent managers, given the depth of squad and financial resources he inherited compared to his second tier rivals, would have equally got the club promoted from the Championship.
Using the same rationale, and as I've had to repeatedly remind those who've been blinded by BS's bull**** and his sycophantic mates in the media, winning football does not have to be ugly. Do you really believe that hoofing endless high balls in the general direction of our big lump up front, in the vain hope that someone might feed off the scraps, is the ONLY way to Premier League salvation? Look at Swansea and look at Southampton – two clubs much smaller than ours who have both relatively recently been promoted to the top flight and stayed there without compromising their footballing principles. In his first season in English football, Michael Laudrup arrived from Getafe in Spain to guide the Swans to ninth place, won the League Cup (their first trophy in 100 years) and qualified them for Europe. Oh, and he didn't do too badly with the signing of star strikers Michu and Bony either.
It would be hard enough to swallow BS's long-ball dogma and negative tactics – putting greater emphasis on keeping clean sheets than trying to score goals – if it actually produced results. But when it repeatedly ends in tedious goalless draws and defeats . . . well, who in their right mind wants to pay good money to watch that?
If promotion didn't quite dupe the board into fully believing that BS was the second coming, then a 10th place finish on Hammers' return to the Premier League surely did. They will now begin paying hefty compensation to a man who, despite never having won anything in his 25-year career, was inexplicably elevated to the status of 13th highest paid manager in world football when awarded a new two-year contract worth an annual salary of £2.95m at the end of 2012-13.
On the surface, to finish halfway up the table was no mean achievement. But scratch beyond that gloss veneer and you'll see that only five points separated the ninth-placed team (Swansea City) and 16th (Newcastle United). The directors only had to make a cursory glance at Hammers' recent history to see a dangerous recurring pattern of managers enjoying one satisfactory season followed immediately by a disastrous one, as this table illustrates:
Glenn Roeder 7th (2001-02) 18th (relegated in 2002-03)
Alan Pardew 9th (2005-06) 18th (when sacked in Dec 2006)
Alan Curbishley 10th (2006-07) 10th (2007-08)
Gianfranco Zola 9th (2008-09) 17th (2009-10)
Allardyce can't complain about being sacked now. He has been handsomely rewarded throughout his three-year tenure and he'll sail off into the sunset much richer than when West Ham short-sightedly plucked him from obscurity and gave his ego a new lease of life.
His team has gone backwards and this season the entertainment value has been zilch, absolutely dire. It would be easy for him to blame what has been a season-long struggle on injuries to key players but the fact is his one-dimensional approach to every game is built around one lone target man whose fitness remains questionable.
There is clearly no Plan B, the manager and the players are bereft of ideas and let's face facts . . . save for an unprecedented run of four straight wins in February, we could be back in the Championship by now. That we are relieved to still be clinging on to the Premier League's TV riches to clear our bank debt owes much more to the ineptitude of the teams who ended up in the bottom three than anything BS and his players have done beyond those three results against Spurs.
Whoever follows BS, it will not be a seamless transition. If we assume that the new incumbent will be asked – no, make that implored – to follow clear terms of reference to re-introduce a traditional passing game that will at least raise entertainment levels and give the long-suffering fans some semblance of value for their hefty admission money, then that will mean trying to implement fundamental changes to the 'style' of the team he will inherit.
Whilst some players will be offloaded this summer, it won't be easy to shift the big earners towards the exit door. In several cases, it will prove impossible.
If Andy Carroll isn't the new man's cup of tea, then we'll have a big problem in more ways than one. Who will want to take an injury-prone, one-dimensional player who cost £17m-plus in transfer fees (how Liverpool have missed him) and a reported £80,000 per week in wages over a six-year contract? Remember, in the period before BS turned Carroll's loan period into a full transfer last summer, absolutely no other club showed any interest in signing him. It was only at this point that the England striker finally accepted that it was either West Ham or wilderness and belatedly pledged his allegiance to the claret and blue flag. Yet we still went ahead and smashed the club's record transfer fee to get him.
Which club will be even remotely interested in the ageing legs of Kevin Nolan, who still has two years left on his original five-year contract and is reportedly on a basic of £50,000 per week? Much as BS and Nolan appear besotted with each other, this high-earning captain of rapidly diminishing value is very unlikely to walk away and accept less money elsewhere any time soon. He will be 32 at the start of next season; 34 when his contract is up.
And then there is the crazy issue surrounding BS's cosy long-term relationship with his favoured agent and pal Mark Curtis, dating back to at least 1996, which journalist Daniel Taylor highlighted with a piece in a recent issue of The Observer. As Taylor pointed out, at the last count the controversial Curtis now has under contract or links to not only the departing West Ham boss, but nine (yes, NINE!) of his first team squad: Carroll, Nolan, Jarvis, Tomkins, Adrian, Demel, O'Brien, Collison and Jaaskelainen. It's wishful thinking to hope that BS and Curtis will bugger off and take their unwanted players with them. I read somewhere that 27-year-old part-time right-back Joey O'Brien is on £33,000 a week but the website concerned must have added an extra '3' in error. Surely not even Curtis can be that persuasive, nor Gold and Sullivan that gullible?
At a hugely inflated combined cost of an estimated minimum £33m in transfer fees alone, Carroll (only two league goals in 14 matches this season), Downing (one goal in 34 games) and Jarvis (four goals in 26 games) are probably worth barely half as much today. Downing will be 30 at the start of next season; 32 when his four-year contract ends.
Jarvis will be 30 when his current deal expires three years from now. The two under-performing wingers are reportedly receiving a weekly wage of somewhere between £45-50,000 a week. Good job they're not performance-related deals tied to goal bonuses, or else they'd both be selling the Big Issue this summer.
Quite how this ludicrous situation where a manager and his agent friend have assumed such power and influence at a Premier League was allowed to happen is incomprehensible. Talk about a conflict of interests. It's a tangled web that the club will do well to extract itself from without too much financial pain.
By sacking BS, the owners have transferred the spotlight and pressure back onto themselves but I very much hope that they will not allow the fact that the move to the Olympic Stadium is just two years away to cloud their judgement when it comes to choosing his successor. Knee-jerk appointments should have no place in a club that has serious ambitions to be playing European football in the next five-to-10 years. Now is the time to build a solid platform that will serve the club well for generations to come.
So back to our original question: who's next?
Rumours that the hierarchy are to focus their attention exclusively on British candidates will hopefully prove unfounded, if you consider the dearth of quality coaching talent out there. The abysmal treatment Malky Mackay – one of the early front-runners, if the bookies are to be believed – received at the hands of the lunatic Cardiff owner earlier this season should not camouflage the fact that his team were no joy to watch and already looking doomed well before Solskjaer was brought in to perform the last rites. A nice guy who understands the 'West Ham Way', but we should be setting our sights much higher.
OK, so we are not going to lure a Pellegrini, a Wenger or a Mourinho (Heaven forbid) to East London but Michael Laudrup has proved himself very capable in all areas of management in a very short time at Swansea, while Spain's La Liga has several potential candidates, notably Luis Enrique. The former Spain, Barcelona and Real Madrid captain looks ripe to follow in the impressive footsteps of Martinez, Poyet and Pochettino by making his mark in England's top flight. Our board would do well to consider why fewer and fewer British managers are not being offered good Premier League jobs. It's no mystery. The vast majority simply are not good enough.
Whoever comes in should be heading up a restructured football management set-up that promotes long-term continuity and understand that he must follow clear guidelines laid down by the owners, not given carte blanche – as seems to have been the case with Grant and BS – to do whatever he chooses in terms of playing style. Don't appoint a manager and tell him to "do whatever it takes to keep us in the Premier League". Allardyce was a short-term fix; his replacement should be a man with a clear vision of the long-term future and how best to achieve it.
The new Head Coach should be presented with a clear blueprint that looks much like the following:
*Set the team up in a way to always encourage attacking, enterprising creative and entertaining football in the best traditions of the club. Of course it's not always possible to play offensively (other teams impose themselves on you, so tactics must always be flexible and applied and adapted to different situations), but there should always be a natural INTENT to go forward, as teams produced by Greenwood, Lyall, Bonds and Redknapp always did.
*If we are going to lose, let's at least do so in a little style – not go out cautiously hoping for a draw, looking to nick a goal on the break, only to then losing without even having had an attempt at goal.
*Although the pressure on modern managers to produce immediate results is paramount given the game's obsession with money, he must not ignore the need to keep half an eye on the development of young players. While vowing never to throw them to the lions in the horrific manner BS did in the FA Cup debacle at Forest last January, he should be expected to slowly but steadily integrate them in the first team squad as quickly as possible, for the long-term good of the club.
*Appoint at least one, ideally two, coaching assistants (if necessary, in addition to his preferred first choice if he already has someone in mind to be his No.2) with past West Ham connections who understand the ethos of the club and what it means to the supporters. They should be coaches who have the talent and ambition to aspire to the top job themselves one day – not just put out the training ground cones and behave as mere 'yes' men around their boss.
*Adopt the American football and cricket coaching philosophy by bringing in specialist part-time coaches who will command respect and who have played the game at a high level – for example, Tony Cottee or Stuart Slater/strikers, Alvin Martin or Julian Dicks/defenders – to come in and work on an occasional, affordable ad-hoc basis to support the head coach and his full-time assistants. Fresh faces can also help to give the players a lift and provide variety to training routines.
*Understand and respect the club's history and the important people who helped shape it. The 'West Ham Way' is to be jealously guarded and cherished, not mocked and ridiculed as it has been by BS. This should always apply to the manager, players and, yes, the owners too.
Above all, the next manager of West Ham United must promise us all one thing: to give us our football back.
Bullish Sam Allardyce claims he has ''more ambition'' than West Ham as future remains uncertain
May 09, 2014 22:30 By Neil McLeman
Sam Allardyce has claimed he has "more ambition" than West Ham as uncertainty continued about his future. The Irons boss claimed yesterday he has not been told his job is in danger and he is already planning for next season. Club sources insisted no decision has been made about the manager before a scheduled meeting on Tuesday. Allardyce said yesterday he had "delivered what I have been asked to deliver" by getting West Ham promoted and keeping them in the Premier League for two seasons at they plan the move to the Olympic Stadium. He has been fired twice before - and Blackburn and Newcastle were subsequently relegated. And Allardyce said: "The past two jobs I only left as new ownership told me to. If you look at the one before that (Bolton) I was there for seven or eight years and I left there as there was no ambition left at that club for me to achieve what I wanted to achieve. "That was not good enough for me. I want to get better. "I have more ambition than West Ham ever has - I have more ambition than them. Or the same ambition as them.
"I want to get into Europe. I want to get into the new stadium. I want to win a cup. If I don't have ambition I don't do this job. I have seen it all before and you use your experience to try and achieve that ambition." But Allardyce, 59, added: "You have to accept what owners do, whether you like it or not. We've had more (managerial) changes in the Barclays Premier League than ever before and one never knows when it's gong to happen to you."
Sam Allardyce handed West Ham players a FOUR-DAY BREAK ahead of title decider at Manchester City
May 09, 2014 22:30 By Neil McLeman
Sam Allardyce gave his West Ham players a four-day break ahead of tomorrow's title decider at Manchester City. Liverpool need the Hammers to beat the Premier League leaders to have any chance of being crowned champions. However, after confirming their top-flight status by beating Spurs a week ago, West Ham had a warm-down on Sunday and only returned to training yesterday. The players were at the club's annual awards dinner at a Park Lane hotel in London on Tuesday night. Allardyce said: "It was a little motivation by me before the game – beat Tottenham and you will have a few days off to spend with your family and get ready for this day. "We had lost four on the trot. I wanted to make sure our last home game would be something we could all enjoy and remember. It was a little teaser for the lads. "You don't need any training now. We can't be any fitter than we are. We can rest and come back in fresh.
"Our minds are clear, we're looking forward to the game and we're getting ready to go to plan our tactics against a team that is trying to win the Premier League."
West Ham have conceded 12 goals in losing three times to City this season, including a 6-0 thrashing at the Etihad in the Capital One Cup semi-final in January.
City need just a point to clinch the title but Irons boss Allardyce said: "From a neutral's point of view, I think everybody would like to see Liverpool win it.
"From a personal point of view, I'd like to see Steven Gerrard win it. "It's the one thing he hasn't achieved for Liverpool, but obviously they've let it slip out of their hands. "On form and where they are, Manchester City are the favourites. "But every West Ham player can go and give his best because we know we're safe in the league, so let's go and spoil Manchester City's party." Allardyce has his critics among sections of the Upton Park faithful, but the club yesterday insisted no decision had been made about his future as manager. A meeting on Tuesday will clarify his position. Allardyce added: "I have more ambition than West Ham ever has – I have more ambition than them. Or the same ambition as them." Gus Poyet, whose job as Sunderland boss is in doubt, has emerged as the new favourite to replace Allardyce.
'It's not over': Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers backs West Ham to deliver title race twist
May 09, 2014 15:06 By David Maddock
Brendan Rodgers is backing West Ham to deliver one last dramatic twist in a roller-coaster Premier League season. The Liverpool boss seemed to have surrendered the title race on Monday night, when his side blew a three goal lead at Palace in a crazy final 10 minutes. But after hearing Hammers boss Sam Allardyce promise that his side will not lie down and roll over, the Reds coach believes that anything can still happen and the tension fuelled final day. "It's certainly not over. We know it is a tough game for us. For City, West Ham have some talented players and if they can go to Tottenham and win 3-0 then they can certainly go to City and win," Rodgers said. "We will fight to the very end. If we win the game and don't win the title, then to finish second to the richest team in sport is a huge compliment to what we are doing. "They've got Big Andy up front, and they can cause real problems. The expectancy is City will win, but it won't be easy for them. West Ham know they have the players who can cause problems. Whatever happens, Rodgers insisted his side will be better for the experience. "I think we will improve dramatically again next season, the young players will be better for what they have experienced this season," he added. "I want to congratulate my players on this season - we have had a remarkable season and put Liverpool on the road-map again. Rodgers also confirmed he has an agreement in principle over a new contract, which he hopes will be signed when the season concludes. "I've been in discussion with the club and there is the framework of a deal in place," he explained. "It is something I've always said will be resolved in the summer, and I hope we will be able to sort something then."
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