LONDON: West Ham fans were furious when owners David Sullivan and David Gold signed Sam Allardyce as manager after relegation in the summer of 2011.
Allardyce represented everything which West Ham did not. His managerial career at Bolton, Newcastle and Blackburn had marked him out as a man who believed in physical power and pace rather than the skilled, creative tradition embodied by Hammers’ old heroes from Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst to Trevor Brooking.
Fans’ confusion over the club’s general direction was exacerbated when Sullivan and Gold and high-profile chief executive Karren Brady decided to sell off the historic old Boleyn Ground and move to the London Olympic Stadium in 2016.
Now critics have had to change their tune. West Ham are riding high at fourth in the table, Allardyce is the third longest-serving manager in the League after Arsene Wenger and Alan Pardew and each succeeding detail which emerges of the stadium move reveals it as a shrewd piece of business.
As midfielder Alex Song has said: “West Ham can be the new Atletico Madrid.”
Allardyce, after arrival in 2011, secured promotion via the play-offs the following May. He brought in 12 new players arrived, including Wales defender James Collins and unsettled Liverpool and England centre-forward Andy Carroll. They finished 10th but that was not enough to pacify the critics who included Jose Mourinho.
Last January, after a 0–0 draw at Stamford Bridge, the Chelsea manager described West Ham as playing “football from the 19th century.” Angry fans even hung a banner outside Sullivan’s mansion: “Fat Sam Out.”
Significantly, Allardyce then brought in Teddy Sheringham to “improve the club’s goal tally”. It’s worked: West Ham sit fourth with 27 goals scored in 16 games, compared with 13 at the same stage last season.
Ex-Arsenal fullback Carl Jenkinson is fulfilling his teenage potential, James Tomkins and Mark Noble work feverishly in the midfield engine room; ex-England forward Stewart Downing has added wings to the attack and Senegal’s Diafra Sakho is seven-goal top scorer.
Song, on loan from Barcelona, said: “Maybe in the next five, six years one day West Ham will become one of the big clubs in England. That’s the way things are going. When we move it’ll be unbelievable.
“When I played in Spain nobody thought Atletico Madrid could be like they are today. West Ham just have to learn from their example. When we have a big stadium, new players will want to come here.”