The recent history of West Ham has certainly been interesting. Already tagged with a reputation as a yo-yo club, there have been promotions, relegations and big changes in the board room. Stability is not a word you would associate with the club – it has not been since the late seventies – but things may be about to change.
David Sullivan and David Gold took a bit of a gamble last year. With the size of the squad and the wage bill, not to mention plans to move to a new stadium, the club could not afford to spend too long in the Championship. There was a feeling that if promotion was not achieved last year then some of the prize assets would have to be sold off and a period of consolidation would follow.
Sam Allardyce was brought in to replace Avram Grant, with the first aim to secure promotion immediately. It very nearly went wrong as, despite being in a strong position at Christmas, they finished the season in a playoff spot. A late Ricardo Vaz Tê goal against Blackpool in the final proved to be the winner and everyone associated with the club breathed a huge sigh of relief.
The first objective for Allardyce was completed, but it is the next stage he was really brought in for. Promotion was expected by Sullivan and Gold, but to move the club forward they must once again establish themselves as a Premier League side, and that is what Allardyce is tasked with achieving.
Like him or loathe him, Allardyce is the right man for the job. Although there were some very close shaves (with the closest ironically consigning West Ham to relegation), he kept Bolton in the Premier League for six successive seasons before departing for a new challenge. Maximising his resources and operating on a much smaller budget than his rivals, he continually succeeded in over performing. Bolton were hard to beat and although the football was not pretty, it was effective.
Similarly, his spell at Blackburn was also a relative success, despite being short-lived. The discussion about Venky’s ownership is one for another day (a very long day), but it is without question they would have fared significantly better than they have under Steve Kean. The instant downturn in form which ultimately led to this year’s relegation was as much about the removal of Allardyce as it was the appointment of Kean.
In no way am I suggesting he is perfect. Allardyce likes to think of himself as a progressive manager, based on his use of statistics and sport science. The truth is that he is not; he cannot be seen as progressive because he is not adaptable. At Bolton he had a very identifiable style, which was imitated at Blackburn and has already been seen at West Ham. He sticks with what he knows, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
There is no question he has his faults and the turgid football must eventually wear supporters down, but in the right context he is a valuable asset. It may not be enjoyable for the fans, but West Ham must once again find some stability as a top flight club again. Allardyce is one of the most capable at bringing that.