Why I Was Wrong About The Hammers and Big Sam
It’s just as well this is column is only carried online because otherwise I’d feel duty bound to eat my words.
Like many West Ham United fans I have taken every opportunity to complain about Big Sam Allardoyce’s appointment at the helm of a club with such a treasured tradition of playing attractive football.
The truth was that the Hammers hadn't lived up to the soccer 'academy' reputation for some years but we all lived in hope and memories.
When a group of supporters unfurled a banner a year ago reading, ‘Fat Sam Out: Killing WHU,’ I may have taken some issue at the unkind reference to the manager’s waistline but I agreed wholeheartedly with the sentiments.
So I guess it’s finally time to hold my hands up and admit I was wrong.
As a long-suffering Hammers fan I’ve resisted writing these words for weeks, fearing I’d jinx the club’s incredible changing fortunes. Truth be told I still didn't want to believe that a leopard could change his route one spots.
A few weeks ago comedian Russell Grant crashed Allardyce's post match conference following the landmark win over champions Manchester City to kiss the flushed manager and insist he deserved more credit.
Even then I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. My heart plumeted when Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho, two new buys who hit the ground running after summer moves, got injured and I waited for the inevitable collapse thankful I hadn’t written too hastily about West Ham’s rebirth.
But two tough wins over Newcastle and West Brom have kept the team in 5th and I'm even finding myself having warm thoughts about Andy Carroll' s return from injury.
So what the heck, I'm going to stop wishing I was born east of Madrid instead of East of London in Essex and embrace the great Upton Park renaissance.
I'm officially on the bandwagon and I'm going to ride it all the way to the Olympic Stadium!
"We’re gonna win the league, we’re gonna win the league. Hey-ho we’re gonna win the league.” That's what West Ham fans were singing on Tuesday night at the Hawthorns.
Okay, so winning the league maybe a little optimistic. A top four place is nigh on impossible when you consider the other teams simmering below the Hammers. Even in the golden days of Moore, Hurst and Peters, we’d make a scintillating start only to crumble around Christmas when the pitches turned muddy and wet and the tougher, more prosaic teams came into their own.
But Big Sam has been true to his word when he vowed at the end of last season that his team would be going all out to play more adventurously.
The club’s disgruntled owners certainly forced him into it, he may have just been trying to hang onto his job. The point is that he has managed to transform a long ball machine with little or no imagination playing what Jose Mourhino called '19th century' football into a team the fans can really get behind.
Alex Song, once of Arsenal and Barcelona, and Aaron Cresswell, formerly of Tranmere Rovers and Ipswich Town, were terrific additions in what is a vital year for West Ham.
It's the last season at the Boleyn Ground and if West Ham can attract more fans to its bigger stadium next year it truly will be able to compete financially with the big boys. For too long it has been a Premier League feeder club. The list of former players who have been raised and sold include Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole and Jerome Defoe. Carlos Tevez had one fabulous season saving the Hammers from relegation virtually single handed and he was off to Manchester United.
But if the team keeps playing like this and the success spills through the winter and into next season, perhaps Champions League football won't be such an impossible dream.
Then again we're probably getting ahead of ourselves. A few bad results and we'll be back calling for Big Sam's head again!