|Sam Allardyce (Picture from The Guardian)|
You watch your team put in a sluggish and wasteful performance on a dreary Tuesday night and see the gap at the top of the league widen to five points.
With 22 minutes left, your in-form striker Sam Baldock – four goals in four games – is hauled off in favour of Carlton Cole, who is searching for his first league goal since 10th September.
You boo this decision, knowing that it will not help Cole, Allardyce or the team in any way, but you are voicing your discontent in the only way you can. The game finishes goalless despite numerous chances for your side. The performance has been of a high quality but no goals have been scored.
And then the manager goes and insults your intelligence with a throw-away comment in a post-match interview.
Sam Allardyce was always going to be put under pressure. Perhaps, because of how he has instructed his clubs to play in the past, he always will be. It is easy to dislike Big Sam: his football is direct bordering on aggressive hoof-ball; despite his reliance on technology and modern science, he rarely comes across as a particularly intelligent man; he appears to be ambitious but this can sometimes translate as egocentric, arrogant and oblivious to his own deficiencies.
The days of West Ham United playing attractive, expansive football are long-gone but that does not make the square passing around the back-line followed by the punt upfield any more entertaining to watch.
But, as Allardyce hints at himself, winning is what really matters in football. If you don’t play a fluid passing game, then you must at least win the match. And that, mostly, is what West Ham have been doing this season.
Only losing three of their fifteen Championship games so far – Cardiff and Ipswich at home and Southampton away – the Hammers are soaring in a league full of quality. Last season’s relegation and the disappointment from the last few seasons appears to be behind them – they are bouncing back.
Of course, nothing is perfect. The Olympic Stadium issue is yet to be resolved, with a move away from Boleyn still a source of much debate between fans and club officials.
On the pitch, West Ham were embarrassingly knocked out of the League Cup by Accrington Stanley back in August, while some tame performances this season have worried fans, especially as their injury concerns continue to deepen.
Last night’s performance was promising in terms of the chances created but worrying in that they failed to score past a side staring relegation in the face. It was not, by any stretch of the imagination, ‘outstanding’and to say so makes one wonder what sort of performance would be seen as a disappointment by the former-Bolton and Blackburn manager.
On the whole, the season has been a promising one for West Ham and they are on of the clear favourites to reach the Premier League next season. On the face of it, Hammers fans should be much cheerier than they appeared last night.
Anger, pain and displeasure are all relative, though. There are teams in worse positions than they are, but that will hardly make fans of the claret and blue feel any more comfortable with a disappointing performance against a poor – albeit resilient – Bristol City side.
Allardyce refused to acknowledge the frustration at dropping two points in his post-match interview with BBC Radio 5Live when he was questioned on the clear dissatisfaction coming from the stands.
“I don’t really think the fans reaction is worth talking about” he said. “The crowd doesn’t know better than me.. if they did they’d have my job.”
This is the sort of comment that can infuriate fans of any club up and down the country. Instead of solving the problem or at least discussing the issue, Allardyce brushes the criticism aside. He is by no means under any obligation to discuss the issue there-and-then in the interview, but to insult the fans with an irrelevant quip such as this helps nobody.
Many managers have made the mistake of aggravating their own fans in a minute yet significant way, most recently Roy Hodgson at Liverpool and Steve Bruce at Sunderland. As seen time and time again, it is a dangerous path to take.
Allardyce, next time, would be better off saying that the next performance will be better and then move on – do not defend yourself or your team by attacking the fans. It only serves to antagonise the supporters who can either push you on or push you out.