Why West Ham Coach Sam Allardyce Deserves More Respect Than He Gets
You think you know Sam Allardyce, right?
It's simple: Long ball pumped up to big striker who knocks it off to a teammate who scores. Bosh. 1-0.
Big Sam's teams are boring, prosaic, dirty and, basically, run around spoiling it for everyone else, right?
He's so old-fashioned he should be called Sam Allardinosaurus, right?
Well, no actually.
Sam Allardyce deserves far more respect than he ever seems to get.
And here's why.
He Got West Ham Promoted at the First Attempt
Ask anyone who has managed or played in the Championship and they will tell you the same thing: It's a hellish place.
It's more competitive than the Premier League. It's faster. It lasts longer. It's a greater test of a side's resilience. It's relentless.
Trying to get out of that tumble dryer of madness is one of the hardest jobs in management.
Very few teams ever run away with the title.
Only Reading in 2005/06 and Newcastle in 2009/10 can really claim to have done that over recent seasons.
Thanks to some much-needed organisation, some astute signings and sheer bloody-mindedness, Sam Allardyce managed to fashion a successful season.
Although they had to rely on the playoffs to win promotion, West Ham chalked up some impressive results.
Their 13 away wins was a new club record.
Their positive goal difference was their best in 20 years.
Oh, and all this was achieved under the most enormous pressure.
He Has Restored Credibility to the Club
Back in 2011, to put it bluntly, West Ham were a joke.
Under the hapless management of Avram Grant, a team that had more than enough quality to have stayed in the Premier League got relegated.
The manner in their final demise was the perfect reflection of their season: 2-0 up at Wigan only to lose 3-2.
The Hammers lost their place in the top flight, and Grant lost his job.
What West Ham needed was someone to unite to club again.
Someone to bring direction, leadership and motivation.
They needed someone like Sam Allardyce.
He's got people talking seriously about West Ham again.
He Is a Modern Thinker
What's that old saying? "Failure to prepare is preparing to fail."
It's the sort of line that might have been written by Sam Allardyce.
Allardyce has always had a firm belief that preparation is a fundamental building block of success.
That sounds obvious, but Allardyce has taken that to the extreme through his widespread adherence to sports science.
A firm believer in the power of schemes like Prozone, Allardyce has always done his best to leave nothing to chance when it comes to preparing his side for a game.
It has made a difference, regardless of what other managers might say.
He Is a Myth Buster
As the introduction to this piece highlighted, one of the main reasons why Sam Allardyce is not given the full credit he deserves is that people still believe the myth about him.
The myth that his teams can only play one way: the direct way.
No matter what Allardyce has achieved in his career (and the players he has had) the accusation that his teams play one-dimentional, robotic football with no style or grace has never left him.
What a load of rubbish.
While it is true that Allardyce's sides are direct and they are physical, it is by no means their only facet.
Anyone who saw West Ham's 3-1 win over Chelsea in December 2012 will know just how Sam Allardyce's teams can play—with style.
It was the same last season in the Championship. It is somehow all too easy to forget.
That has always been the case, whether it has been Bolton, Newcastle, Blackburn or now at West Ham.
Allardyce's teams find the "pretty" way to win when they can.
As he pointed out when he took over, in recent seasons "pretty" at West Ham has just been another word for losing.
For Allardyce it is about finding the most effective way to win.
And winning is what survival is all about.
He Is Establishing West Ham in the Premier League
No one at Upton Park will want to count their chickens, but the club are very close to securing their Premier League status for another season.
When you consider where they were two years ago, that's a fairly remarkable achievement.
If getting out of the Championship is not hard enough, surviving the following season in the top flight is even more of a challenge.
Over the last decade, only one of the three teams that come up every season can expect to still be in the Premier League five years later.
Even if the Hammers do stay up this season, the fight to become a regular in the elite just intensifies.
With the club's board doing its best to handle its debts, the move to a new home at the Olympic Stadium offers the prospects of a brighter, more secure and prosperous future—despite the criticism the announcement has brought.
Allardyce is not yet guaranteed of being at the club when they make the move across East London in 2016.
Three years is an eternity for a football manager, and Allardyce has still not agreed a new contract for next season.
Considering what he has done for West Ham, that's the least he deserves.