Cooney and Black

‘Fat Sam’? East Enders claim he smells of vinegar ‘cos there’s a chip on his shoulder. He’ll never be the perfect fit at Upton Park – and the Spurs game may prove it

Sam Allardyce


WHATEVER he achieves for West Ham, whatever results he gets them, Sam Allardyce will never be a perfect fit at Upton Park.

Fans expressed their true feelings for him, following a 4-0 FA Cup capitulation at West Bromwich on Saturday. This came only a few days after the Barclays Premier League draw with Manchester United when at times they outplayed Louis van Gaal’s side.

But the booing and swearing that pursued Allardyce off the pitch at the final whistle was another reminder that he is not the most popular manager to have bossed the Hammers.

It might take this reaction from the fans to bring Big Sam properly back to earth. After all, this is the man who believes he should be England manager, and who has said in the past that being in charge of Real Madrid or Barcelona would be easy.

And some of those observations were reinforced last week when his side so nearly beat United with a performance of some quality.

Big Sam, or “Fat Sam” as Hammers diehards label him, was back to his crowing best. His touchline posture was that of a man who knew just how good he was.

Being reminded that he is not universally popular in the East End will not have shaken his implacable faith in his own ability. This was the same ground that last year those mocking fans gave him a little reminder of what they thought about him by displaying banners that proclaimed “Fat Sam out.”

So this week those fans who distrust him so much will be watching how the Hammers fare at local rivals Tottenham in what is certain to be an explosive fixture.

And a very important one for Allardyce. Defeat and the voices of discontent will ring in unison again, and they will be full of vitriol.

Sam, you see, is not a figure the East End easily accepts. His rather bovine manner alienates the quick-witted Cockney types who dream still that they invented football.

I have sat down with him when his trousers were unbuttoned as he sprawled backwards in a chair. Comfort before style…eh Sam?

East Enders claim he always smells of vinegar, because there is a chip on his shoulder. That being said, he never gets the credit he deserves. Losing to Tottenham would ignite the feelings of those fans who aren’t sure of his football philosophy.

Sam talks about European football in the future. He really does. But locals listen and then compare how he wants to play the game against the style West Ham showed when they won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965.

The Academy and all that. Fans claim Sam couldn’t even spell the word, let alone use it as an indication of what he believes in. Sam comes from the Midlands, he can’t help that, but he often shows a distinct lack of style. A Jose Mourinho he is not.

The upshot of all this is that fans expect the club to be involved in a bitter fight to stay clear of the relegation zone. At present they are safe, but followers don’t trust Sam to keep it going. They believe they should not only play the passing game, but that the manager should install in his warriors the fighting spirit and character that was so badly missing on Saturday.

If Hammers play like that against Spurs and are turned over, then the man in the oversized overcoat will be chomping even faster on his chewing gum. That’s why the fans are turning again. Sam has yet to convince them.

Supporters can accept the occasional beating, but, when it comes to their team prostrating themselves in front of the opposition, it becomes impossible to take.

Isn’t this the manager whose fierce expressions promise to lead to more than a hairdryer being produced? Why couldn’t Sam raise their game and his own come to that? Where was the fierce criticism he says he is always willing to deliver? Where was the shouting, the fire, the intensity? The fans couldn’t see it, either.

“Off,” they chorused, and meant it. They would like somebody else at the Boleyn Ground, somebody with whom they have an affinity, someone who understands what they crave.

This is simply a team that plays football, that passes the ball, a team that is artistic, one that is enthusiastic and gives 100 per cent to the claret and blue cause.

We shall see where Big Sam is at the end of the season. What happens at White Hart Lane could have a very big factor.


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