Like many other lifelong West Ham fans, I was slightly dubious when Sam Allardyce was appointed as manager last Summer.
His reputation did indeed precede him but after discussing the issue with many fellow hammers, we mostly agreed that it was the right appointment and the right time.
After a year of watching the side under Avram Grant, whose tactical naivety and many other negative attributes had turned us into the soft touch of the Premier League, we needed steel. A no nonsense approach that would make the side hard to beat.
That is exactly what Allardyce has delivered this season. West Ham in fact have only lost 2 games in 2012 (a 5-1 drubbing against Ipswich and a 4-2 home loss to deserved champions Reading). Allardyce is well known as a devout student of stats and an unwavering belief in his own abilities.
Although this can at times come across as arrogance, I think the best managers around need a thick skin and not bow easily to pressure from the terraces. When a small section of the West Ham crowd voiced their unhappiness at the direct style of football during an away game at Peterborough, Allardyce simply reminded the fans that we had the best away record in the league – winning 13 of 23 league games in the league, which was also a club record.
When you look at the top managers in the world, such as Jose Mourinho, Sir Alex and Arsene Wenger they have all at times taken criticism from supporters and the press alike but they always remain true to their philosophy.
Allardyce knew that this season, he was going to be judged on just one criteria – promotion to the Premier League, which is exactly what he has delivered.
West Ham took a big gamble on promotion this season when bringing in the likes of Kevin Nolan and Matty Taylor, experienced Premier League players on Premier League wages but it has paid off. Many commentators have criticised West Ham for not going up automatically with the squad they have assembled, but when you look at the final table they couldn’t have come much closer. If they had have won just 1 more game, then they would have been champions – very fine margins. In fact their final total of 86 points would have seen them promoted automatically last season.
Despite the big money signings, without doubt the best piece of business done by West Ham (perhaps the country) was the signing of Ricardo Vaz Te from Barnsley in January for just £500,000. Vaz Te’s 12 goals since signing, including the winner against Blackpool on Saturday have been crucial. Allardyce has to take huge credit for convincing the owners to gamble on a player who was released on a free in the Summer and had to go on trial at Barnsley to earn a contract.
The club knew that if they had lost to Blackpool on saturday, they would have to cut their cloth accordingly. Now instead, Allardyce can look forward to a Summer of adding players to his squad.
It’s far too early to start making predictions about how the club will fare in the Premier League next season, but there is no doubting that Allardyce has earned another chance in the big league and he will make West Ham much tougher opposition than under previous managers Grant and Zola.
They probably won’t be the prettiest team to watch, but I’m one West Ham fan who is proud to say that I really don’t care. In Big Sam we trust.