by Josh Green
On the 1st of June 2011, Big Sam Allardyce was named as the successor to Avram Grant, as West Ham United’s manager, causing much debate. Some fans of the self-proclaimed “Academy of Football” were up in arms, certain that their new gaffer wouldn’t play the traditional “West Ham way”.
Allardyce still had many doubters as his campaign to get the Hammers back into the Premiership began. A number of the Upton Park faithful, who were unhappy with the appointment, decided to self-righteously chant “We’re West Ham United, We play on the floor. ” This was to protest at the possibility of becoming a long ball team, denied by Allardyce upon appointment.
Fast forward to the 19th of May 2012, the former Bolton manager led the East London club to victory in the play-off final against Blackpool. After an impressive season in the Championship and promotion secured, Allardyce had the West Ham fans on side. However on return to the Premier League, Big Sam and his team encountered intense football snobbery and were branded a ‘typical Allardyce long ball team’.
Many thought West Ham would struggle in the Premier League this season and you could get good odds on their manager being the first to be sacked. The Hammers though have since dispelled the myths they could only play long ball tactics and have put in some very impressive performances, including beating fellow Premier League new boys Southampton 4-1 this weekend. They currently sit proudly 7th in the league, have provided some very entertaining football for their fans, and it looks set to continue as confidence grows within their squad.
The loan signing of Andy Carroll was an astute one. The doubters said he was just another big man who would be the target for aimless long balls. Carroll has proved his worth as a footballer with intelligent running and neat link up play and I would imagine Brendan Rodgers is deeply regretting this poor piece of business.
Another player brought in on loan this summer was Israeli international, Yossi Benayoun. After an abundance of new talent arriving at Chelsea, it became apparent, Benayoun would become available and Big Sam took advantage of this. The attacking midfielder is often not given the credit he deserves and is the complete opposite of a ‘long ball player,’ possessing great skill and vision. A huge but fair compliment would be to say he is in the same mould as Manchester City’s David Silva. In addition to Ricardo Vaz Te and Matt Jarvis, Yossi Benayoun provides a powerful West Ham team with some flair and craft.
Of course I am not giving West Ham the accolade of playing Total Football and hailing Sam Allardyce as a tactical messiah but there’s no doubt they are playing very well and deserve some credit. I’m sure the Upton Park regulars have enjoyed themselves so far this season and may possibly even be dreaming of a Cup run or snatching a Europa League spot. All achieved by playing on the floor.