Ambition has been in no short supply since “Big” Sam Allardyce came into the picture at West Ham. There is never a shortage of complaints regarding the system he plays with many feeling that his focus on the long ball and set pieces is blasphemous, a traitorous style not respecting the traditional “West Ham Way.” Fair play on that, his style certainly wouldn’t be described as attractive football.
But ambition is something the club has been lacking for a long time and Big Sam has brought it in spades. For too long owners and managers were fine with striving for mediocrity with no care for moving West Ham above our traditional place in the table. Big Sam doesn’t appear fine with that and David Gold, David Sullivan and Karren Brady seem willing and able to help Allardyce continue to build his squad into a serious threat.
A warning shot was sent across the bow last summer when Sam convinced our current captain, Kevin Nolan, to drop down to the Championship. Not something many Premier League caliber players would be willing to do with no guarantee of going back up at the first time of asking. He made the right choice. Sam’s signings over the summer have proven that.
The ambitious outlay started on the very first day of the transfer window this summer. Robert Green had decided he no longer wanted to stay at the club, a disagreement over wages apparently forcing him out. He stuck with West Ham through relegation and helped us get back up, so certainly no fellow Hammer can begrudge his decision when he felt he wasn’t getting what he deserved. Not many wanted to see him go but the very same day Juusi Jaskalainen was brought in on a free. Maybe not quite at the level of Greeno but Juusi has been a top ‘keeper in the EPL for years. Barring a mistake at Swansea, he’s looked just as good as always so far.
Another signing on the first day of the transfer window was Momo Diame and what a pickup that was. Diame is one of the most talented central midfielders in the EPL as far as we’re concerned. Able to win the ball and go forward with it as well as possessing an eye for a pass, he’s a threat in the midfield we lost with Scott Parker. Not as dominant a force in the middle of the park as Parker but he certainly hasn’t looked a slouch either. George McCartney was also brought in from Sunderland full time, doing enough on loan to warrant a full time gig in East London.
The first day of the transfer window was to be a template for the rest of it. The chairmen were not going to be held hostage over footballer wages that have ballooned in recent years instead searching out bargains to keep the clubs finances in order. Over the next week Freddie Sears, Ollie Lee, Marek Stech and most disappointingly Pablo Barrera all left. Sears looked a bit special and letting him leave might prove to be a mistake. Barrera never settled at West Ham unfortunately, his pace being a real threat. Although he had shone for Mexico while on national team duty he was never able to replicate the form at club level.
Modibo Maiga was the next player to be brought in after a bit of a drawn out saga. He’s a bit of a wildcard and we’ve only been treated to glimpses of him. He looked great against lower league opposition and in his appearance in the latter stages of the first match of the season. We may not get to see much of him now with how the rest of the window played out. A few days later Abdoulaye Faye was allowed to leave the club, Sam not believing he could cut it in the EPL. Raphael Spiegel was brought into the club from Switzerland’s Grasshoppers, a young goalkeeping prospect with a lot of promise but also a lot of progress to be made.
A month into the window James Collins was welcomed back to West Ham from Aston Villa. A big central defender, Collins was Man of the Match in the opening day fixture against his old club before having a howler at Swansea the next week. He looked back on form at Fulham and it’s still hard to say exactly how he’ll pan out. Alou Diarra was another recruit who can play in the center of defense, although he’s made his name at Marseille playing in the holding midfield position. Diarra was one of the best in the world in that role for many years before losing his place at Marseille. He may not start many for us this season but to see a player of that caliber make their way to the East End says a lot about where the club is headed.
Youngster Ravel Morrison left the club on loan to Birmingham just prior to Diarra’s arrival, his enigmatic temperament getting the best of him again. He has the potential to be one of the best if he can just cope with the pressures of it all. Cristian Montano was another player to leave the club in August, no longer happy with the chances he was getting. Montano has looked good and we’d have preferred to see him stay and develop more. But the heart wants what it wants and Montano could stick around no longer.
As the window drew to a close things started to heat up as they inevitably do. Sam Baldock was another unfortunate departure but also the type of player who doesn’t fit into Big Sam’s system. Allardyce doesn’t seem to have any use for small forwards and Baldock was one of ‘em. He could have prospered at West Ham under previous coaches but with Big Sam he was never given the chance. A few days after our old number 7 left, Matt Jarvis was brought in to fill the shirt. Likely our best full time deal, Jarvis has an uncanny ability to deliver just the right cross in the final third and finish when he needs to. His ideal target Andy Carroll was brought into the club days later to great fanfare.
Although many supporters don’t approve of the Allardyce system, many were happy to see Carroll sign his loan deal. Perhaps it’s because they realized it’s the type of system Caroll will flourish with or maybe they were just happy to have the club bring in another England international. Any doubts of the signing were put to rest this past Saturday with Carroll playing like a man possessed and looking like he was actually, gasp, enjoying his football! We admit to being skeptical but if he keeps this sort of play up he’ll be a legend at the club.
The final day of the window was much like the first. Quality in, quality out. Nicky Maynard said goodbye, heading to Cardiff and another year in the Championship. And turncoat Yossi Benayoun made his return to the club on loan for the season. Now we loved Yossi. We really did. But he didn’t leave under the best of circumstances. A fabulous footballer, he’s going to have to win many Hammers back.
And that concluded maybe one of the best transfer windows the club has ever had. While clubs like QPR splashed their cash out on whoever was willing to take it and Spurs tried to lure anyone who’d come try life in North London, West Ham spent wisely and attracted the players they need to succeed. It was a welcome change and hopefully the start of a promising period in the clubs history.