West Ham: You Get What You Pay For...

You know what you get from a Sam Allardyce side and you know what you get from a wage bill in the lower half of the Premier League. But the clock still ticks for Sam...

Last Updated: 07/08/14 at 15:20 Post Comment

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Sam Allardyce West Ham

Sam Allardyce West Ham

LAST SEASON
Premier League
13th, 40pts, -11 GD FA Cup Third round League Cup Semi-finalists Top league scorer Kevin Nolan 7 Bookings 66 (sixth highest) with three red cards

Manager Sam Allardyce (since June 2011; age 59) Odds on being first out of his job 8-11 (1st)

Players in Enner Valencia (Pachuca, £12m), Aaron Cresswell (Ipswich, £3.75m), Cheikhou Kouyate (Anderlecht, undisc), Mauro Zarate (Velez Sarsfield, undisc), Diego Poyet (Charlton, TBC), Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal, loan)

Players out Joe Cole (Aston Villa, free), Matt Taylor (Burnley, free), Stephen Henderson (Charlton, free), Ben Sheaf (Arsenal, undisc), Raphael Spiegel (Crawley, loan), Jack Collison, Alou Diarra, Callum Driver, George McCartney, Jordan Spence (all released)

Club turnover in 2012-13 £91m, 8th

Wage bill in 2012-13 £56m, 14th=

Few managers have had as grim a close season as Sam Allardyce, though at least he can thank the World Cup for one thing: everyone now knows that West Ham were not the only team to lose a semi-final match by a six-goal margin in 2014.

Big Sam's summer started with a warning that he needed to offer more entertainment, something unintentionally provided by David Gold with his jetlagged Twitter endorsement of a message asking: 'Is today the day we get rid of BFS ?? fingers crossed.' The long-term injury to Andy Carroll is worrying enough in itself but is made far worse by David Sullivan saying loudly that his signing had been a mistake, and relations between manager and owners have hardly been helped by the developments regarding Ravel Morrison.

A disappointed Allardyce sent the former Manchester United next-big-thing out on loan to QPR last season and suggested he was surplus to requirements but Sullivan was on his soapbox saying: "Sam has said Ravel is not part of his plans but we do - as a board - see him as part of our plans. I think he said in a press conference, if I read it correctly, he's not part of his plans for this season. I think he said that in New Zealand but we don't agree with that. We would like to sit down and give him a longer contract." Allardyce relented and made space for the 21-year-old in his squad; since then Morrison has been remanded in custody after being refused bail over two charges of common assault relating to his former girlfriend and his mother.

Whatever the outcome of that legal matter, which is of greatest significance to the alleged victims, the incident adds to the sense of an inauspicious summer at the club. Allardyce does not even think that the trip all the way to New Zealand made much sense. But the biggest risk to his job is that opening salvo, the demand from his employers for more entertainment as they look towards the move to the Olympic Stadium. There would have been something truly reflective of a strand of British Sport had Danny Boyle's 2012 opening ceremony contained an overweight man sweating through the armpits of his suit while chewing a wasp, but it still seems unlikely that Allardyce will make it to Stratford.

Aside from the 6-0 Capital One Cup semi-final first leg at the Etihad, Manchester City winning 9-0 on aggregate, Allardyce also put out a side that lost 5-0 at Nottingham Forest in the third round of the FA Cup. Of the Hammers' seven league draws, six were goalless (albeit only two at home). There were five fewer goals than in 2012-13, and nine fewer goals and points at Upton Park. The number of bookings was down from 74 (fourth) to 66 (sixth) but red cards rose from one to five. This is not progress.

The cup thumpings all came in January; Sam may well not have lasted much longer but for an excellent February, when wins against Swansea, Villa, Norwich and Southampton gave West Ham maximum points, all by two-goal margins. But only three more wins, accompanied by eight defeats, followed in the 11 remaining games, hence that end-of-season chat with the board.

West Ham start the season with two derbies, at home to Spurs then away to Crystal Palace, before rounding off August at home to Southampton. A Monday night trip to Hull starts September and is followed by more TV action in the shape of Liverpool's visit, followed by a Saturday 3pm trip to Manchester United.

Enner Valencia will bolster the attack in Carroll's absence but Allardyce was trying to add to his attacking options rather than replace. Still, the Ecuadorian could make West Ham easier on the eye, but regretfully Joe Cole could not do the same and he could be back at Upton Park in Aston Villa's change from claret and blue in early November. Mauro Zarate has not been as prolific outside Argentina but should add to the spectacle, while defensively Cheikhou Kouyate is a potentially excellent signing from Anderlecht.

I used to make a habit of tipping whichever club Allardyce was in charge of for relegation, just because. But it is possible to summon up some sort of defence here. West Ham are historic underachievers who have nonetheless built up a sizeable fanbase; without the Abramovich millions at Chelsea, they would be the third largest club in the capital in terms of support. And this translated in 2012-13 into the eighth-highest income - yet Allardyce was operating with the 14th highest wage bill. The two Davids and Karren Brady must know that to a fair degree you get what you pay for.

They should also have realised that when they hired Allardyce in the first place, you get a few chippy jokes about Sam Allardici's Italian expertise and a whole lot of football of the kind they now complain about.

He was third favourite to go even before Gold's remarks sparked a flurry of bets on David Moyes as his successor. If he is fired it will only be a matter of time, though, before he is hired to do the kind of job he is good at.

Someone has to feature in the last game on Match of the Day, after all.

Philip Cornwall

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