Allardyce should focus on his weak squad, not Olympic Stadium
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce is an acquired taste, like sheep’s eyeballs in aspic. He’s similarly bitter and unappetising. For someone who produces functional football teams, he has an alarmingly high opinion of himself and his latest club.
Listen to Big Sam and it seems West Ham won the Championship by 20 points last season, instead of being promoted through the play-offs. He even had the temerity to suggest his side had only to play at 80 per-cent capacity to win on a regular basis in the lower league.
So far, so delusional for someone whose conviction he was born to manage Real Madrid is unsurprisingly not shared at the Bernabéu. But Allardyce surpassed himself yesterday, by implying that “a club with the history, fanbase and potential of West Ham” were fulfilling a public duty by taking the Olympic Stadium off our hands.
That touched a raw nerve. The nation is enduring a post-Olympic hangover and is not well disposed to the institutionalised arrogance of football. I found the Stratford stadium everything that Wembley is not: atmospheric, welcoming and accessible. The thought it will be dismantled and reconstituted for West Ham’s rent-a-quote opportunists is, frankly, objectionable.
Instead of pontificating on legacy issues, Allardyce should be more concerned about the unconvincing nature of his squad. The defence looks suspect, especially at full-back, and the gamble on Jussi Jaaskelainen’s longevity is reckless. Carlton Cole, a lightweight trapped in a heavyweight’s body, has never looked convincing as a Premier League striker.
West Ham’s strength lies in central midfield, where Mohamed Diamé is likely to prove the best signing of a summer of endless speculation. Mark Noble has been consistently under-estimated, and Kevin Nolan, at 30, probably has one more good season at the highest level in him.
The suspicion persists that it won’t take much to sour the mood. Despite his bluster, Allardyce has failed to win the trust of West Ham fans. Aston Villa, galvanised by the consistently impressive Paul Lambert, may just inspire thoughts of insurrection by winning at Upton Park on the opening day of the season.
Follow Mike Calvin on Twitter @CalvinBook
Follow Life’s A Pitch on Twitter @BTLifesaPitch