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West Ham: It Ain't Pretty, But Sam's Hoofball Is The Key To Survival

by Tom Shaw
25 October 2012 6 Comments

We might not have the most possession, we might not be particularly subtle. But when we're battering teams 4-1, who cares?

When Sam Allardyce took charge at Upton Park in the summer of 2011, the reception from the West Ham fans, at best, was lukewarm. After having to endure a farcical season under Avram Grant, in which the team finished bottom of the league with a ‘save our season’ billed match in November, spirits were low and questions were immediately raised about Big Sam’s style of play being in contrast to the ‘West Ham way’. What a lot of people had missed however, which was correctly pointed out by Allardyce, is that West Ham haven’t played the West Ham way in about ten years. The nearest comparable style of play was under Zola, which resulted in a seventeenth position in the table, the waste of £10 million on Savio (although this fee was never fully paid), and ultimately, the dismissal of the tiny Italian.

During the 1-0 win at Peterborough last season, the away fans defiantly cried out: “We’re West Ham United, we play on the floor,” a chant that has continued into this season. While the course of West Ham’s stint in the Championship was littered with loose long balls aimed at either John Carew or Carlton Cole, promotion is a prize that is blind about the method of success.

I imagine the thoughts of the neutral seeing West Ham come back to the Premier League were something like “so you can hoof the football back to front in the Championship and put a few past Barnsley, try that in the Premier League”. While calling West Ham hoof ball merchants is an unfair tag, the acquisition of Andy Carroll with his glorious ponytail (and some footballing ability) sidled up with the experience and prowess of captain and good mate Kevin Nolan, West Ham sit a point behind 4th in the league. Allardyce can be sitting at home right now gladly telling everyone to shove their Barcelona tiki-taka football up their arse.

 There is  a skill in playing to your strengths and Allardyce has certainly utilised all of his tactical and transfer acumen to build West Ham into a respectable Premier League side

Prior to Allardyce’s arrival, West Ham had tinkered with the management set up for about ten years with varying degrees of success. Glenn Roeder took us down, Alan Pardew acrimoniously left Reading to steer West Ham to promotion at the second attempt through the play-offs. West Ham’s first season back in the Premier League, and Pardew’s first ever in management at the top, was an undeniable success. A strong mid table finish with the high profile 3-2 win over Arsenal in their last season at Highbury, coupled with the FA Cup final appearance; it was going swimmingly indeed for the Hammers.

Cue the debacle of the 2006/07 season, the list of demeanours include: the Tevez/Mascherano affair, the sacking of Pardew, Icelandic biscuit billionaire Eggert Magnusson taking over the club and the signing of Roy Carroll. Alan Curbishley came in and somehow avoided relegation thanks to Carlos Tevez and the final day 1-0 victory over Man United at Old Trafford. As mid table mediocrity seemed the inevitable future for West Ham, Curbs resigned in protest of the board and Gianfranco Zola was appointed. A similar story unfolded, good first season, poor second season, ergo, sacking. In this inatance however, p*rn gurus David Gold and David Sullivan had taken over and wanted to appoint a manager who could steady the East London ship. Avram Grant anyone? Thought not.

Allardyce therefore did not have much of an act to follow after the toad from toad hall, I mean Avram Grant, was sacked before the end of the season with relegation already confirmed. Yet he wanted to restore good voice to the Upton Park support, and HAD to achieve promotion; secured with aplomb thanks to mohawked nomad Ricardo Vaz Te. Unfortunate with his departures at both Newcastle and Blackburn, Allardyce had a point to prove and he has gone about rebuilding his reputation with gusto. West Ham’s latest 4-1 win over Southampton has added credence to Allarydce’s direct style of play. I am not denying Allardyce plays long ball football, because he does, and quite obviously. The most successful pass completion for West Ham last weekend was Jaaskelainen to Carroll, completed eleven times. West Ham only had 38% possession and only completed 192 out of 283 passes. The same day Arsenal completed 587 out of 699 passes and had 72% possession against Norwich with no success to show for it. This isn’t to say West Ham are a better team than Arsenal. They’re not. There is however, a skill in playing to your strengths and Allardyce has certainly utilised all of his tactical and transfer acumen to build West Ham into a respectable Premier League side.

Allardyce’s job at West Ham is not complete. There is still the small business of making sure West Ham are competing in the top flight again next season as well as convincing some of the West Ham faithful to his football, a job he most likely will never accomplish. West Ham play Stoke City on Monday November 19th under the lights of Upton Park. You would only be lying to yourself if you think you won’t love it.

Enjoy this? Check out these great West Ham reads…

West Ham: How Allardyce’s Half-Time Switch Created Space For Arsenal’s Forwards

Ex – West Ham & Liverpool Psycho Julian Dicks And 9 More Overlooked By England

Breaking Vaz: The Gruelling Rise of West Ham’s Ricardo Vaz Te

West Ham Legend Sir Geoff Hurst: “Agents Have To Help Players Beyond Their Careers…”

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

Phil Whelans 1:47 pm, 25-Oct-2012

Tom! Shame on you for trotting out the lazy journalist's go-to myth that "West Ham avoided relegation thanks to Carlos Tevez's goal in the final day 1-0 victory over Man United." If Tevez hadn't scored that goal, the match would have ended 0-0, West Ham would have one point instead of three and would STILL HAVE STAYED UP. This is an incontrovertible fact, yet a legend persists that belongs with Bob Holness playing sax on "Baker Street" and Bogart saying the line "Play it again, Sam" in Casablanca.

Tom Shaw 3:10 pm, 25-Oct-2012

The Tevez point is merely a summation of a tumultuous season, the goal epitomised the remarkable comeback of West Ham. Lucas Neill, Mark Noble and Bobby Zamora all had a part to play but none quite more than Tevez and the symbol of ups and downs he represented. I'm also aware that a 0-0 would have done the job having calculated nearly every single possibility the night before the game in hope of seeing West Ham stay up.

JMan43 3:54 pm, 25-Oct-2012

Can't agree with anything you have written about Sam, you have fallen in to this old myth about him being hoof all when that just isn't true. He will play direct when he needs to but it's interesting when we hit a long diagonal ball to AC it is called hoofball but when Man Utd et al do the same it is called a cross field raking pass. He has had us playing some great passing football as well. Sam is a practical manager and will set us up to combat the opposition. You really must get away from writing this hoofball nonsense cos it just isn't so

Tom Shaw 4:17 pm, 25-Oct-2012

I'm not denying that teams Allardyce display good build up play, the 3-0 win over Fulham was a great example of that, but to say it isn't direct football is nonsense. As for your point about when Man Utd do it it's called something different, I don't disagree with this whatsoever. The article also agrees with your point about Sam being practical and shrewd, I actually state that calling West Ham hoof ball merchants is unfair. The game against Southampton is case in point, but more often than not the only target is Carroll.

Cantona7 7:14 pm, 26-Oct-2012

I quite like Sam Allardyce, although that's mainly because of his parody account on Twitter.

Ian Griffiths 4:43 pm, 8-Nov-2012

Please don't ever sack Big Sam. I would give anything to get out of the Championship, except Big Sam. I'm glad the Hammers are doing well but, please don't ask me to watch.The Human body isn't designed to tilt the head so far back for 90 minutes.

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