Sam Allardyce, who has just been appointed as manager of Sunderland, has hit out at the fans of his former club West Ham, saying they’ve been brainwashed into thinking that the West Ham way of playing is a necessity and that nobody can even describe what it is.
As soon as I was appointed West Ham manager in 2011 the big debate was whether I would follow the ‘West Ham way’, which nobody could define but, whatever it was, I apparently I didn’t play it. I felt the West Ham way was about wearing your heart on your sleeve and showing passion for the club and winning. But the fans were being brainwashed into thinking that, historically, the club had a particular style of play which was akin to Barcelona, which was potty.
In his new autobiography Big Sam, the new Sunderland manager says he doesn’t regret calling his former club’s supporters deluded, and that the demand to play “the West Ham way” holds the team back.
I once called the supporters deluded and I stand by that. I don’t know who invented the ‘West Ham way’ phrase, but it’s a millstone around the club’s neck.
Big Sam also says that previous managers and the current playing staff also agree with his criticism of the level of expectation placed upon them by the supporters.
I’ve talked to my predecessors Alan Curbishley, Alan Pardew and Harry Redknapp and they got it in the neck from the crowd as much as I did. None of the players would admit it, but they used to sit in the dressing room at half-time going: ‘Listen to them, never f*****g happy, slaughtering us all the time.
Allardyce says that the label he had as a long ball manager was unfair.
My ‘long ball’ label was started by Graeme Souness, who got upset whenever I beat him when he was at Blackburn or Newcastle and was picked up by Arsene Wenger and Rafa Benitez.
West Ham move into a new stadium next summer, and Allardyce says that the demand to both win and to play attractive football could lead to some anxiety at ownership level, and that could put pressure on new manager Slaven Bilic.
It must be a big anxiety for the owners, who need to fill the 54,000-seater Olympic Stadium with entertaining and successful football next year. The fans won’t turn up if West Ham are playing fantasy football and losing 5-3 every week. Slaven Bilic is the new man in the hot seat and good luck to him. He will need it.