West Ham: A Long-Term Plan...

The old cliché about taking each game as it comes is not true given the long-term plans that West Ham have, ending with the move to the Olympic Stadium in 2016...

Last Updated: 09/08/13 at 12:04 Post Comment

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LAST SEASON

Premier League 10th FA Cup third round League Cup third round

Manager Sam Allardyce (since June 2011) Odds on being first out of his job 33-1 (11th=)

Players in Andy Carroll (Liverpool, £15m, from loan), Daniel Whitehead (Stockport, undisc), Razvan Rat (Shakhtar Donetsk, free), Adrian (Real Betis, free)

Players out Carlton Cole, Gary O'Neil (released)

Club turnover in 2011-12 N/A

Handicap betting to win Premier League +36 points (10th=)

Despite the cliché, football is rarely about taking each game as it comes, or even each season. Sam Allardyce, more than most, is looking beyond this campaign at responsibilities that encompass what is supposed to be a momentous 2016.

London's East End will never be its most glamorous part: the lingering popular associations are crime, whether Jack the Ripper or the Krays, and grime, or at least Albert Square. Still, West Ham have long benefited from the capital's general allure, plus a pull on a swathe of highly populated Essex. Their fans are less well-heeled than those of Chelsea but within these shores more numerous; yet the capital's third club trail behind their western rivals and seemed destined to do so permanently thanks to Roman Abramovich's splurge and Stamford Bridge's proximity to some of London's most sought-after postcodes.

At times in their past, when sides full of talent got themselves relegated or struggled to win promotion, West Ham have been their own worst enemies. But David Gold, David Sullivan and Karren Brady are hoping that they can seize a unique opportunity in the club and their city's history, with the scheduled move into the Olympic Stadium in 2016.

It remains a controversial plan, not least because of its effect on Leyton Orient, who have the most vocal of spokesmen in Barry Hearn. Still, the Hammers website now has a video of how it should look, backed by Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters and Bobby Moore's daughter, Roberta. The dream portrayed is Premier League football at a once drab, now dazzling location and Allardyce is the man entrusted with ensuring that this is made real.

If it works out, if the revamped 54,000-capacity stadium draws in the requisite crowds, then the Hammers increase hugely in stature. Allardyce always wanted to manager a big club and got no closer than Newcastle; now he has the chance to make a big club, or at least a much more powerful one. Yet as well as Hearn's opposition there is disquiet among fans, worried about leaving Upton Park on grounds of tradition but also for fear that the club may be biting off more than it can chew.

Watch Allardyce chomping away on gum during a game, though, and you see a man who knows that he can chew with the best of them. His style of play may not match the misty-eyed reminiscences of those who remember Trevor Brooking and Alan Devonshire but his sides do mix skilful endeavour in with solidity. So at home do the Hammers look that it is easy to forget that last season was the first since promotion, and he has Joe Cole to set those Cockney hearts aflutter.

Aside from making Andy Carroll's move a permanent one, Allardyce has added the Romania left-back Razvan Rat and the Spanish goalkeeper Adrian, in a relatively quiet summer so far. Interest in Loic Remy came to nothing; it's Stewart Downing's turn to be mentioned in headlines. Allardyce is one of those managers happy to work right up to the window closing.

By then his team will have hosted Cardiff and Stoke, either side of a visit to Newcastle. With Southampton, Everton and Hull in September, Allardyce has six matches in which he can establish the club in the right part of the table before successive games against Spurs and Manchester City. It is the back end of the season that may cause disquiet - Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City are among the final eight opponents - but Allardyce will be confident he can keep building towards 2016.

Philip Cornwall

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