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Monday, 12 December 2011

West Ham United: Will Allardyce ever entertain the fans?


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West Ham United owners David Gold and David Sullivan want to get back to the Premier League at all costs. Despite their 3-0 drubbing at Reading on Saturday, the Hammers remain second and Sam Allardyce looks like fulfiling his goal of winning promotion at the first time of asking. However, there are not a lot of happy Hammers around, particularly when the subject of their style of play comes up.

The Hammers have traditionally been a great passing team who get the ball down and try to play their way through teams. This season that tradition has been turned on its head. I’ve watched the Irons twice – at Coventry and Reading – and they have been terrible. Against Coventry, George McCartney in particular was no better than a schoolboy. His main aim appeared to be to get the ball and hoof it aimlessly up top. It was dreadful stuff but at least it keeps Big Sam happy.

This weekend, with Southampton drawing in the lunchtime kick-off, West Ham had the chance to go top. When you think that the Hammers had made their best start to a season away from home for decades you would have thought Allardyce would have sent a team out to attack from the off. His decision to leave Carlton Cole and John Carew on the bench would have given the home side a huge lift. At the end of the day, even when Cole and Carew did come on they did very little. Cole’s head probably dropped after being placed on the bench while John Carew is about as mobile as the WWE character the Great Khali.

West Ham started brightly and on another day could have been two up, but with only three shots at goal and only one on target all game, you can understand the frustrations of the West Ham fans. There was a lack of creativity in midfield and when you have players like Collison, Noble and Nolan at your disposal that is disappointing.

I know, you know, everyone knows, the Championship is a tough, tough league to get out of. Teams like Nottingham Forest, Leeds and Charlton have all been victims of the Championship and ended in League One. While there’s no chance of that happening to West Ham under Big Sam’s win at all costs policy, the fans still want to be entertained.

Against Coventry, Allardyce got out of jail with two of the most fortunate goals you’re ever likely to see. But that was just papering over the cracks of what was a Kieran Dyer of a performance. I know promotion is the key for the Hammers and that you don’t get a moment’s piece on the ball in this division but you can still try to play football the right way. The West Ham fans are honest ones. If you put in a shift on the pitch they will get right behind you, even if you end up losing. What they can’t stand are lacklustre displays like at Reading.

It also hurts the fans when they see the likes of Swansea City, Norwich City and QPR all playing decent, attacking football in the Premier League. They are scoring goals and taking teams on. They don’t care about reputations. They play their football their way, they are getting results and winning over the neutrals. West Ham may be second but they have now lost two on the bounce and some of the fans are beginning to lose hope.

Their home form has been particularly poor with just five wins to their name. Even Portsmouth and Birmingham have a better record than that.

Allardyce did of course lead West Ham to convincing wins over Watford, Nottingham Forest and Blackpool, where the goals flowed like water from a tap, but how many more displays like that are the Hammers likely to see before now and the end of the season.

Sam Allardyce was hounded out of Newcastle for his style of play, while the Blackburn fans ended up staying away at his boring displays. If he’s not careful he may end up doing the same at West Ham.

The two Davids knew what they were doing when they appointed Allardyce. He has a track record of winning games. It may not be pretty on the eye, but it generally tends to be effective. But what do you, the West Ham fans, really want? Would you prefer to see your team express themselves on the ball and entertain you for a full 90 minutes, win or lose, and possibly missing out on the play-offs or be bored out of your skull hoping that a long ball or a set piece may come off and winning promotion?

Talking to some fans after the game they would rather lose 4-3 than win 1-0. But is that the general feeling or do you believe that the Hammers have to be in the top flight at all costs to safeguard the club’s future? Whatever your views, we’d love to hear from you.

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The View From Outside the Premier League: Southend fall at Cheltenham while Crawley and full advantage


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Colin Illingworth

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