Allardyce: Blind To The Fact That He Could Be Bettered

Sam Allardyce holds an unshakable belief that West Ham and their fans are lucky to have him. That's an extremely dangerous mindset, especially as he's quite possibly wrong...

Last Updated: 15/05/14 at 09:34 Post Comment

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And so, Sam Allardyce has been given a stay of execution, West Ham's owners announcing that they will make a decision on his future before the end of the month. Not that they want to see if anyone else better is available. Oh no, not at all.

West Ham has not been a happy place these past nine months. Sure, they have survived, they are still a Premier League club, their heads are above water, but that's about all. There has been nothing to get excited about, nothing to make their fans actually look forward to games. Occasionally the mask of shrugging indifference has slipped to reveal naked annoyance, frustration at what this team have become, and that's when the problems have really begun.

In general, fans will accept most styles of play if games are being won, but if a team playing ugly football start losing, then faith and support disappears pretty quickly. However, even this only applies to an extent. Fans will accept negative, horrible football to get a point at Chelsea, but are a little less chuffed with negative, horrible football to beat Hull 2-1 at home, a game where the visitors were the better side despite having ten men, and the three points were achieved via a penalty and an own-goal.

That was the game during which the fans, expressing their displeasure at what tedium was unfolding, were treated to the site of Allardyce cupping his ear at their complaints, sort of like Hulk Hogan gone to seed, and mercifully wearing an overcoat rather than vest and tiny shorts.

"When we look at the table tomorrow when we get up, the performance hardly really matters," said Allardyce after the game, oblivious to the idea that fans might want something a little more for their time and money.

Allardyce is a bit like a hotel owner who feeds his guests stodgy, fart-smelling, school dinner cabbage for breakfast and dinner every day and provides them with a springy mattress on the floor, and is then outraged when they have the temerity to complain that they'd rather have something more tasty and comfortable. The cabbage provides them with the required nutrients for them to survive on quite a basic level and the mattress technically is a place for rest, but neither is especially enjoyable.

"I've delivered what I've been asked to deliver," said Allardyce before Sunday's final game of the season against Manchester City. "I could have done better this season. We all could have. But at the end of the day we are where we planned to be."

That, in a nutshell, seems to be Allardyce's problem. He is satisfied with the minimum, with the most basic expectation, and regards anything beyond that as a mild curiosity. He is very good at achieving a base level of competence, but not a huge amount beyond that.

He is also one of those managers who takes the credit and the glory when things go right, but not terribly keen to take the blame when they don't. This is perhaps partly down to his unshakable self-belief, which manifested itself upon his dismissals from Newcastle and Blackburn. It seemed that he was not merely confused as to why he had been sacked, more that he simply couldn't understand that these people didn't recognise how utterly brilliant he is.

One suspects that over this summer he and Tim Sherwood, another man pretty sure of himself, will meet many times to wallow in a collective pool of misery and confusion. They won't actually say anything, just sit there sadly shaking their heads, staring into their drinks, occasionally glancing up to give each other that 'I know! I don't get it either!' look.

So what now for West Ham? Previously the concern was that they had given Allardyce so much free reign to build a team in his image, that anyone else wouldn't have a great deal to work with. This is such an 'Allardyce' team that what the hell could another manager do with it? However, those worries might have been alleviated watching Mark Hughes at Stoke, who has taken a team built so much in Tony Pulis's image it might as well be wearing a cap and (allegedly) headbutting someone whilst naked. Hughes has trimmed it, added to it, massaged it, gently caressed it and produced, well, a better team.

There was life beyond Tony Pulis, and there is life beyond Sam Allardyce. Not that he thinks anything like that is possible, of course.

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