It's Time to Go For the West Ham Manager Who Dreams of Being at Manchester United
At first glance, Sam Allardyce’s thinly veiled application for the non-vacant manager’s job at Manchester United seems optimistic at best.
After all, it’s odds on he will be sent packing from Upton Park when his contract runs out at the end of the season largely because his teams haven’t played attractive enough football.
So he’s hardly likely to be welcomed at Manchester United, another team known and loved for its free-flowing footballing traditions (which, unlike West Ham, actually helps them win trophies) in spite of his TV confession earlier this week that the Reds would be his dream team to manage.
However, Sam may be big but he’s not daft. Perhaps his description of “long-ball Manchester United” after the two sides drew in February was just part of his carefully choreographed audition.
While most people took it as a criticism, Sam may have simply been admiring the possibilities of hoofing it from one end of the pitch to the other using world class players rather than James Collins and Carlton Cole.
He could also save on Man Utd’s exorbitant wage bill by playing the ball direct from David De Gea to Wayne Rooney who would pass the ball to Kevin Nolan for a tap-in (where goes Allardyce, so too goes Nolan) and do away with those pesky makeshift wing backs like Ashley Young, Luke Shaw or Antonio Valencia who are always giving the ball away on the half-way line. Mata and Herrera would quickly get stiff necks watching the ball sail over their heads.
One option open to Sam if he has a bunch of free weekends next season is to offer to stand-in for Louis van Gaal while the Dutchman pops back across the channel for a break. Few people would tell the difference; they both sit there looking slightly irritated and like they’d rather be somewhere else. Now at least we know that somewhere else for Allardyce is Old Trafford.
Quibbling over the team’s failure to play the “West Ham way” has been the blight of most post-Ron Greenwood Hammers managers. Big Sam’s thug ball tactics have never sat well with the Hammers faithful despite the brief respite earlier this season when the team decided to pass the ball around a little and made it up to fourth in the league before the manager’s baser instincts kicked in again.
You’ve heard the fable about the scorpion and the frog? Well the long ball is in Sam’s nature. He can’t help himself.
As West Ham’s once promising season dwindles into mid-table oblivion, the only real question mark hangs over who will be managing the club next summer.
Judging by his adoring comments about Manchester United, I suspect Allardyce knows already that co-chairman David Gold and David Sullivan won’t be bringing him back.
The former Bolton and Blackburn man was perfectly suited for saving the Hammers from Championship hell but he’s never going to give the club the leg-up they need to compete with the big boys.
While the manager dreams of moving back north, West Ham have some big dreams of their own. Next season will be the last at the Boleyn Ground and it will be absolutely crucial that the next campaign goes well.
On one hand it’s sad to depart such a storied East End stadium that crowds the pitch and enables a fabulous atmosphere for players and fans alike. But the bigger capacity at the Olympic Stadium could also attract the bigger players.
Yet next season’s success is more important in many ways than the inaugural year up the road in Stratford. It would be unthinkable for West Ham’s new era to begin in the second flight of English football where they would be lucky to hold onto Mark Noble let alone figure into the plans of the likes of Ronaldo and Messi (I know, I know, but we can dream…)
If we are assuming Big Sam will be off – more likely to Sunderland than Manchester – then who are the top candidates?
David Moyes tops the list apparently, although nothing in his background suggests he wants to play more expansive football. Then there’s an old Hammers favorite Slaven Bilic, now managing Besiktas in Turkey, and Marseille’s Argentinian manager Marcelo Bielsa.
But I would like to see the Davids back up their big talk with another big signing to send a message. Rafa Benitez may have his critics but he’s been there and done that with Liverpool, Inter Milan and Chelsea and is currently at Napoli.
It’s possible he could be more tempted by Manchester City’s millions, but moving to a new stadium with the prospect of writing a new chapter into West Ham’s history could be appealing to the Spaniard.
Either way, it’s time for Big Sam to head back up the M1.