Wednesday, 3 June 2015

West Ham's season of what might have been

The West Ham season can be season up as what might of beens. Fourth at Christmas , the club then entered into faltering run that saw just three wins secured on the way to a final 12th place in the Premership.

Manager Sam Allardyce paid the price, with virtually instant dismissal on the whistle of the final game against Newcastle. The rumours had been growing over the months that Allardyce was for the chop, so when it came the news was a bit of an anti-climax.

The manager had effectively been on probation since last August, when the club grudgingly gave him another one year contract, the conditionality being that he secure a top 10 finish playing attractive football.

Top players were provided: Aaron Cresswell from Ipswich, Cheikou Kouyate from Anderlecht, Enner Valencia from Mexican club Pachuca and Diafra Sakho from Metz. Alex Song, Carl Jenkinson and Morgan Amalfitano were taken on loan for the season. All went well up to Christmas. Song was pulling the strings, Sakho scoring the goals in an exciting new partnership up front with Valencia. Stewart Downing was rejuvenated in a new freer role to roam at the head of the diamond formation. At the back Cresswell and Jenkinson were a revelation, attacking down the flanks whenever possible.

After Christmas though it all fell apart. There had been high hopes of an FA Cup run but this crashed to a halt at West Brom in the fifth round. League form was no better, with just three wins after New Years Day.

Allardyce became particularly frustrated at his side’s consistent ability to grab defeat from the jaws of victory. Post match, he repeatedly cited the games at home to Manchester United and Everton and away to Spurs and Leicester, when the team were undone by goals in the last couple of minutes. He put this down to inexperience of some playing in their first season of the Premier League. Maybe so but the uncertainty around his own position can hardly have helped matters.

The constant speculation must have effected team morale and results. Without the speculation, could West Ham have finished two or three positions higher?

What does seem clear is that there were those who wanted Allardyce out whatever, maybe only securing Champions League football would have saved his job, what is for sure is that 12th wouldn’t.

Now, it is a new era, the speculation has begun over who will replace Allardyce, with former player Slavan Bilic a hot favourite. The fans will be hoping for better results and more entertainment. The sight of more homegrown talent. They will hope for a change of style from the game of aerial bombardment that often typified Allardyce teams. What they won’t want is a relegation struggle. It is a sobering thought that former Allardyce teams Newcastle, Blackburn and Bolton have all been in relegation trouble shortly after his departure – not something that West Ham or their owners will want on the eve of the move to the Olympic stadium.  

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