Saturday, May 30

Boering Boering West Ham?

Latest managerial rumour is that West Ham have made a second approach for Ajax's Frank de Boer. Quite like the idea of a straight-talking Dutch manager in the mould of Luis Van Gaal at Man United or Ronald Koeman at Southampton. Though perhaps we should steer clear of Marco Boogers…

Meanwhile we've also signed a reserve keeper in Republic of Ireland international Darren Randolph from Birmingham. Sounds an interesting character, his dad was a US basketball player, and he's just had a good season for the Brummies, playing 45 times. Darren is also an Irish basketball international himself, which could come in handy should we ever need a slam-dunk in the last minute.

Wednesday, May 27

West Ham gaffer: the candidates

Still no hard news on who will be in the Upton Park hot seat. Some of the names mentioned were always wildly over ambitious, and it's hard to believe there was ever much chance of Rafa Benitez, Jurgen Klopp or Carlo Ancelotti coming.

The early favourite is Slaven Bilic, who I'm not so sure about. He was a great player and would be a crowd-pleasing choice — and the first West Ham manager to speak four languages and play in his own rock band. Bilic was a good manager of Croatia too, although international management doesn't involve buying and selling players. As a club manager he's not been so great, getting sacked at Lokomotiv Moscow for finishing ninth and coming third in the league at Besiktas, though clearly a strong character capable of improvement.

Steve McLaren wouldn't be that popular, but has won the League Cup and got to the Europa League final with Middlesbrough. After the England job he led FC Twente to the Dutch title, a big achievement, but was less successful at Wolfsburg, resigned at Forest and got Derby to the play-offs only to blow it. But an upgrade on Big Sam's CV and he has also worked at Man United with Alex Ferguson.

The Marseille manager Marcelo Bielsa, has also been mentioned. He comes from Argentina and would be an interesting choice, but would have to learn English and adapt quickly to the Premier League. Another name was Roberto Di Matteo, who has resigned from Schalke, who has won the Champions League at Chelsea, but then Avram Grant nearly did that too. There's also Dick Emery, sorry, I mean Unai Emery, the Sevilla coach, linked with WHU by the Daily Mail and Michael Laudrup, who won the League Cup at Swansea but was sacked after losing at West Ham the following season.

With European football coming in July West Ham need to make an appointment soon, as we don't want whoever gets it to feel like they were third or fourth choice. The board have been considering candidates for several months it seems, so let's get it done quickly. Though maybe we should rule out John Carver…

Tuesday, May 26

We're all going on a European tour!

West Ham are in Europe and all without an in-out referendum. It's been confirmed that WHU have qualified for the Europa League via the Premier League Fair Play Table. It's a bizarre way to get in, particularly as an Allardyce team should have been much nastier and picked up more yellows and red cards. Proof the players didn't compete enough after Christmas, but still, we'll take it. First game is set to be played on, gulp, July 2. Just when we thought it was safe to relax for the summer. Like a lot of fans, my holidays are already booked so not sure how many games I'll be around for. Will we even have a new gaffer by then? But it beats the usual slog of pre-season friendlies at Stevenage, though we need to add to the squad quickly.

Sunday, May 24

West Ham and Big Sam fail to survive Survival Sunday

Newcastle 2 West Ham 0

I catch most of the Survival Sunday game in the Famous Cock Tavern and it’s a predictable end to the season. West Ham are Newcastle’s ideal opponents. Downing has a shot against the keeper’s legs in the first half and Newcastle have a couple of chances scuffed wide. In the second half, Newcastle want to win it a lot more. 

Our performance is typified when Cresswell appears favourite to win the ball but is outpaced and outmuscled by Janmaat, who nearly creates a goal. Alex Song is often brushed off the ball, and also seems to sum up WHU’s season, brilliant before Christmas but either injured or not putting a shift in once he decided he’s not going to sign for us.

Once Sissoko shows the desire to get between two defenders to score it’s all over. Cole heads way over and Nolan has a snap shot wide and that’s it from the Irons. Newcastle manage to break with four players free, only for Adrian to somehow prevent a goal with a great one handed stop. Newcastle guarantee safety when Gutierrez cuts in from the left to score with a deflected shot.

It’s been an awful end of season and the players certainly deserve stick for being unprofessional and not motivating themselves once safety was assured. Ironically, the side has stopped doing what an Allardyce side was meant to do; be dangerous at set pieces, get crosses in, work hard and know how to close out a game.


BIG SAM OUT
Soon after the final whistle the club announce the worst kept secret in football, that Sam Allardyce’s contract will not be renewed. Have the players realised he’s been going since Christmas? Would they have been more motivated had Allardyce been given a new contract at Christmas when the club was fourth? Who knows? Big Sam himself looks relieved and at the age of 60 says he plans to take a break from football. Or is this just his spin on being sacked? Certainly his body language has looked tired in the last two months.

It was always an uneasy marriage and Big Sam was often disastrous at PR with the fans. Saying he didn’t know what the West Ham way was when he first joined was a huge mistake and dismissing criticisms as coming from “deluded” fans talking “bollocks” made things worse and added to a public image of arrogance, as did the infamous ear-cupping to the fans after the Hull victory. There were little things too, like referring to “the West Ham fans” rather than “our fans”. And bigger issues like the fact that he kept Kevin Nolan in the side long after his form had declined.

On the other hand, disliking a manager is not necessarily a reason for getting rid of him. Nigel Pearson can be weird and unpleasant to journalists but has done a fantastic job at Leicester, while Sir Alex Ferguson had, at times, a distinctly nasty side to his character.

ESTABLISHED IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE
For his results, Big Sam deserves some credit and respect. It’s often underestimated how difficult it is getting out of the Championship. Only two out the last 12 clubs relegated have managed to come straight back up. Allardyce was left only Noble, Tomkins, Reid (who looked poor under Avram Grant) and Cole from the relegated side to build a team around. Had the team not gone up we might have ended up in the lower regions of the Championship like Bolton or relegated again like Wigan. Yet we saw West Ham win a final at Wembley for the first time in 32 years, so I’d like to thank Big Sam for that great day.

The football was never purely long-ball, otherwise the likes of Noble wouldn’t have been in the side. The side often played with two wingers, which was in principle exciting, though the likes of Matt Jarvis rarely found his man. At times it was rudimentary though, with the main game plan being the hope that Andy Carroll can win the ball and Kevin Nolan pick up the pieces. Yet there was a big improvement in the first half of this season, with some good signings, two strikers up front, and Downing a revelation in the midfield diamond. And perhaps the point was, we had to establish the team in the Premier League by any means necessary and now we’ve been there for three seasons.

Had say, Slaven Bilic, managed to get West Ham promoted, then finish tenth, thirteenth and twelfth, most fans would be saying he was a very good manager. It’s been a terrible end to the season, for which Allardyce must share the blame, but he has certainly left the club in much better shape than he arrived; in the Premier League, with a decent first eleven and Noble, Tomkins and Reid signed up to new contracts.

Yet what Sullivan and Gold will have also noticed this season was that whatever Allardyce does, some fans will never accept him. Some of the same fans who blamed Allardyce entirely for the club being in a relegation struggle and losing 6-0 at Manchester City in early 2014, then argued that the club’s rise to fourth was down to the influence of Teddy Sheringham and Big Sam getting lucky with injuries to Carroll and Nolan. If the manager takes the blame he should surely get the credit when things go well.

WHO'S NEXT?

What the club now needs is a unity candidate. Someone who has looked up the West Ham Way on Google and will have all the fans behind them. Next season could be very difficult if West Ham are in the Europa League and it affects league form. We have to disprove the statistic that Allardyce teams go down after he leaves (like Bolton, Newcastle and Blackburn) and ensure we go into the Olympic Stadium as a Premier League team. 

Realistically, even if we play to our maximum potential, we will not finish above seventh without throwing massive sums of cash at the team. But with that stadium and the potential of the fanbase it’s also an enticing club for an ambitious manager. Sullivan and Gold once recruited Avram Grant; let’s hope they make a much better choice this time.

Fans' Verdict in the Observer

My Fans Verdict on West Ham is in the Observer today… click on the link to read my verdict on a pretty bizarre season. And now Hull City's whole season is depending on West Ham — which should give Steve Bruce a few more worry lines.

Thursday, May 21

Sam Allardyce's transfer record analysed

It's very easy to waste money in football. Liverpool's infamous transfer committee might have purchased Sturridge and Coutinho, but last summer wasted £100 million on Balotelli, Lovren, Lambert, Markovic, Manquillo, Lallana (who might come good) and co. Manchester City have also made lots of mediocre buys such as Mangala, Jovetic, Sinclair, Rodwell and Johnson while Man United are still trying to solve a problem like Di Maria. 

The manager of a club like West Ham has to be able to play the transfer market well to get an advantage over the top clubs. So it's interesting to see how Sam Allardyce's transfer record stacks up during his four seasons. Ignoring loan signings — and Jenkinson and Song certainly made a difference this season —  I've come up with the following, completely unscientific analysis: 

GOOD SIGNINGS: Nolan (first three seasons only), Taylor, McCartney, O’Brien, Demel, Vaz Te, Jaaskelainen, Diame, Collins, Adrian, Downing, Carlton Cole, Kouyate, Amalfitano (probably), Cresswell, Sakho. JURY OUT ON: Valencia, Poyet, Henry.

BAD SIGNINGS: Carew, Baldock, Maynard, Morrison, Maiga, Diarra, Jarvis, Carroll (on fitness record not form), Joe Cole, Rat, Zarate.

So it's 16 good signings, 11 bad and three inconclusive. You can't blame any manager for taking a chance on the talent of Ravel Morrison, even if it hasn't worked out. Enner Valencia  has undoubted skill, and will be a success if he can score more goals next season, while Andy Carroll, if he's ever fully fit, might yet become a good signing. The best value for money signings have been cheaper players like Cresswell, Adrian, Jaaskelainen, Vaz Te, Collins and Sakho. Sam's biggest clangers have been spending £9m on Matt Jarvis, £4 million on Maiga and £2 million on Diarra. Not a brilliant record, though considering most other managers drop a few rickets too and BFS had to rebuild the entire squad when he arrived he's not done that badly either. Any views on this?

Wednesday, May 20

Big Sam moving out

Big Sam's flat at Canary Wharf has been sold and he's moving out on Friday, tonight's Evening Standard reports. So either he's an astute player of the property market and he's decided that this is the top of the market, or he's anticipating the tin-tack after the game at Newcastle…