Allardyce Ready for Upton Park Hammer Blow

Sam Allardyce becomes the latest man to take up the mantle at Upton Park, the second appointment by the fearsome Gold, Brady, and Sullivan combination.

But is it a match made in heaven? When assessing the ego of Mr Allardyce, one would assume not. During his days at Blackburn, several rather outlandish statements were made by the man himself that he would succeed at the top teams in the world.

In September 2010, he stated: “I’m not suited to Bolton or Blackburn, I would be more suited to Inter or Real Madrid. It wouldn’t be a problem to me to go and manage those clubs because I would win the double or the league every time.”

One could only imagine the likes of Inter Milan and Real Madrid would be hot on the pursuit of a gentleman who promised a “double or league” every season.

But two months later, Allardyce was sacked by the new trigger-happy owners of Blackburn and left to ponder what direction his career would now take. For now it is the bright lights of Newham instead of Milan or Madrid for ‘Big Sam’.

In fairness, Allardyce, however much he wishes to deny this, is suited to a club hoping to make it back to the big time. Bolton fans may still have grievances with his departure, but will testify to the club’s great progress during his tenure.

On a superficial note, Allardyce’s job is clear – get West Ham back into the Premier League. But this will quite obviously be much harder in practice.

There were few positives to take from a dreadful season just passed for the Hammers, with only the performances of captain Scott Parker and January signing Demba Ba providing little consolation for the long-suffering claret and blue faithful. Both are expected to leave Upton Park in the summer, however, and Allardyce has his work cut out.

On paper, it was a team that should have never been anywhere near the drop zone, with a spine comprised of England internationals: Robert Green, Matthew Upson, Parker and Carlton Cole and the added attacking threat of Thomas Hitzlsperger and Robbie Keane.

But with Hitzlsperger injured for much of the campaign and Tottenham loanee Keane hugely disappointing, West Ham’s plight for success was marred throughout.

The main problem which Allardyce needs to address is the mentality of his new team. There were a number of matches last season where West Ham simply stood aside for their opponents to claim victory. To be 2-0 up at half time against Manchester United only to produce a limp second-half performance and lose 4-2 was typical of their season, opening the trap door which never looked like closing from that point onwards.

Allardyce needs to toughen this side up for the much more physical nature of the Championship and turn Upton Park into the fortress and intimidating venue it used to be.

Success also depends on Big Sam’s ability to convince the likes of Parker to stick around and help the cause, whilst adding hardened Championship players to the squad. But keeping hold of those prize assets may just be a bridge too far.

From the evidence of last season’s performances one would be foolish to predict a quick and straightforward return to the Premier League.

But Allardyce’s teams typically have a reputation for being hard-working, tough and difficult to break down – crucial team characteristics in the Championship which could just prove to be the winning formula for the Hammers next season.

James Hilsum

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