by Rob Shepherd.
Sam Allardyce has lost the support of a big chunk of West Ham fans not just because of the dour, predictable, one-dimensional style of play he promotes but because of an ugly attitude.
Having done what he was brought into to do – get the club promoted back to the Premier League then stay there in the first season – there was a general acceptance that the ‘Bolton Way’ would do.
But the hope the team would kick on and play with a bit more style and verve has not materialised. The recent win over of Tottenham, to ensure safety, was very much the exception to the rule.
The season has been a long grim struggle and many of those who were prepared to see Allardyce’s way of thinking have turned against him because he has virtually laughed in their face and mocked their notion of the ‘West Ham way’. And 40 points with a game to go is hardly something to crow about.
Nor is the Allardyce approach the best way to woo new fans to the club when they move into the Olympic Stadium the season after next.
Now, in one sense Allardyce has a point, because there are some myths about the ‘West Ham way’ and the club’s status as the ‘Academy of Football’.
After all, it’s a long time since the Hammers have actually played anything approaching the ‘West Ham way’.
There was a spell under Harry Redknapp when the club did play some silky, thrilling football in the tradition of the teams he was brought up playing for in the Sixties and Seventies, but Redknapp left Upton Park 13 years ago.
Since then West Ham have hardly played with the philosophy Ron Greenwood brought the club at the start of the Sixties and John Lyall carried on through in the Seventies and Eighties.
In those days, even when the team struggled in the league, which was often, they did put smiles on their fans’ faces with a brand of football that was also often appreciated by the opposing supporters – although that was often because of West Ham’s soft centre, which ensured they often lost.
That is a point that Sam likes to make.
But with cultured stars like Bobby Moore, Trevor Brooking and Alan Devonshire, the Hammers did play with a special brand of football that made their fans proud that their smallish club had something special that some of the bigger teams did not. Soul.
So what is the ‘West Ham way’ meant to be ?
In an nutshell at its best it was a brand of football developed from the Hungarian model of the Fifties, quick movement and passing, with intelligent use of space, variety of movement, pace and final ball.
If there was one thing that showed West Ham at their best it was innovation of the near post cross.
This is best illustrated in this footage of Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst combing to score two goals, each setting up the other, in a 2-0 win over Manchester City in 1967. Greenwood then explains it in coaching terms.
Now, of course, the usual delivery into the box is just a high ball floating into Andy Carroll. It can cause damage but has become so predictable opponents know what is coming.
That Allardyce slavishly sticks to the same old routine and rigid formation is, combined with his miserable rhetoric, what has really turned so many fans against him because the most important part of the ‘West Ham way’ is, win or lose, to at least play the game with a smile on your face.
There were smiles aplenty as a league double was completed over Spurs but in almost smirking Sam didn’t help his cause to win over those who want their West Ham back.