I’m a heavy advocate for consistency when it comes to managerial roles in football. I am a firm believer that the rapid dismissal of managers is a knee-jerk reaction that doesn’t allow for an end-game, and ends up not allowing managers to have a chance to build and grow—which leads to less able and skilled managers in the long run.
I’m pretty passionate about this, but even I found my patience being tested as a West Ham fan during the first half of the season.
Whether it was down to a sense of belief in his tactics, or simply that he was too pricy to sack, we stood by manager Sam Allardyce after an atrocious start to the season that saw the Hammers dance in and out of the relegation zone—and now, I’m glad we did – Allardyce has even piped Jose Mourinho to the award of Manager of the Month.
In hindsight, it would have made sense for the owners to pull the trigger on Allardyce’s Upton Park career when things went south.
The team looked completely and utterly defeated the second an opposing team scored, and the idea of a comeback seemed almost unheard of (the exception being when we played Spurs.)
Kevin Nolan, our captain and last year’s top scorer, was fast becoming public enemy number one, particularly when he kept getting sent off over the Christmas period and spent the rest of the season in an offside position.
We couldn’t string passes together, much less back to back wins.
Sam blamed the injuries list; the world blamed Sam, but now that we are starting to have a nearly full-strength squad available to us, we’re seeing a different West Ham out there— both literally and figuratively.
A wonderful run of form stemming from some Black and Decker football at Stamford Bridge has pulled the Hammers out of the relegation zone and up to tenth (at the time of writing.) The sense of belief in the team has been restored, and suddenly Kevin Nolan is a strong contender for player of the month. He’s also now in my fantasy football team, which is an equally big deal.
Things are looking rosier now, but it was tough for West Ham fans to be sat in the relegation zone with an underperforming team and manager whilst all the clubs around us were making changes to their management teams and seeing instantaneous results.
For some clubs, these changes have continued to benefit them over a period of months – such as Palace, who have won three of their last five, and uh, Spurs, who are… still 5th. However, it’s tough to see the long-term impact that changing managers is having on other clubs still perched at the bottom of the table—such as West Brom, Cardiff, and serial manager-swappers Fulham.
There isn’t even any sense in memorizing the name of anyone managing Fulham at this point.
Of course Fulham and Cardiff’s inability to improve under new management is good news for West Ham; but it’s also bad news for football as a whole.
Disposable management gives no time for building, for development, and for opportunity to learn and grow. That Fulham have roared through two sets of management – including one set that held Manchester United to a draw (what, they used to be pretty good) and only lost to Liverpool owing to a late penalty—is simply shocking and yet, for all the changes at the helm, they are still sitting at the bottom of the table with an atrocious goal difference.
Of course, the season is far from over. There are many games still to play, and there is so little still separating the teams—only 10 points stand between 20th and 10th— but we stood by our Sam and enjoyed a five game unbeaten run in which we were the only Premier League club to win all of our league games in February.
I believe that is not the sign of a club that will be relegated come May – it’s a club that got back up and dusted itself off when times were tough. We built on the bad results, learned from our mistakes, and are we going to win every game between now and May? No, and the result against Everton confirmed that. But as it stands now, we were right not to give up on Sam.
After all, there’s a lot of joy to be had with consistency; just ask a Man United fan.
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