Let’s pretend we all have a time machine for a minute. We’ll take a journey back to January of 2011. Whatever happiness any West Ham supporter happened to be experiencing in their personal lives it certainly was most likely juxtaposed with an extreme case of nerves due to West Ham’s place in the table.
Many of us will, of course, recall the horrendous end to the season: relegation. There is no worse feeling. Although Sunday, May 15th was ultimately the day it was confirmed that Avram Grant had led us to relegation the writing was on the wall at the end of January.
And the writing could not have been clearer. We sat at the bottom of the table with 21 points and the worst goal differential in the league. Avram certainly should have been sacked before May, but at the time we were still within one win of shooting clear of the relegation zone. It was a tight year at the bottom.
Now let’s hop in said time machine. Travel back to present day, where once again another West Ham manager is having his head requested on a stake by the more imaginative members of our support.
We sit 13th, after an admittedly bad run of results. Our goal differential ranks us a full ten goals ahead of QPR at the bottom of the table and almost twenty to the good over another relegation inhabitant Aston Villa.
When the season started, if you were being honest to yourself, another relegation battle certainly seemed in order. But what a start we were off too! Only four losses in the first three months and we had thrashed both Fulham and Southampton thoroughly.
Then November hit and we had two losses, two draws and one win. The vultures started circling, as they always seem to do. They’re never heard when things are going good but you can’t shut ’em up when things are going bad.
West Ham travelled to Chelsea fearing the worst. Then the unimaginable happened: we smashed them 3-1. Cue delirium. It was a fantastic day to be a West Ham supporter. Supporters across the globe couldn’t believe the result.
But we tend to be a fickle bunch, don’t we? It’s always a case of “what have you done for me lately” In Big Sam’s case most fans seem to believe the answer to be “not enough”. How quickly they forgot some of the more ludicrous early season hopes of a possible spot in Europe. Of thinking Andy Carroll was our savior, a sign we were finally going to be one of the top teams.
All the hope and joy over a good run all too quickly turns to hate and despair over a bad run. While you cannot deny this recent run is alarming, to call for the sacking of Sam Allardyce is simply irrational. In the modern game the answer is too often to sack the manager, when in many a case that sort of remedy is akin to placing a band-aid over a gunshot wound.
So here’s the truth folks: it ain’t down to Big Sam. We have players who look utterly lifeless at times. While so many of us can only ever dream of playing for the club we love, there is a lot of lads who seem to be taking it for granted at the moment.
The solution isn’t for Big Sam to get the sack. The solution is for Sam to light the fire under these players. Drop them from the squad, our Academy has no shortage of promising youngsters. When a player feels his place is secure they will more often then not start to coast along. That’s why massive clubs like Barcelona have the depth they do, to provide competition for places.
When everyone in the squad is made to feel no place is for certain, the attitude and hunger will return. That’s how we won matches at the start of this campaign, through pure hunger and desire to win. We don’t have a squad that can simply win based solely on skill, although the return of a player like Joe Cole and the addition of Momo Diame can only serve to change that.
What I’m asking for ultimately? A little calm. We all have every right to be worried and be angry. But we have a far better squad than in 2011 with far more talent and Premier League experience. If Sam finds the right motivational tool all this will be long forgotten come May, with many feeling ridiculous over their panic at this point in the season.