The old political maxim goes, "If you're explaining, you're losing." If that's true, then Sam Allardyce is in a world of trouble.
After heavy, humiliating cup defeats against Nottingham Forest and Manchester City, in which West Ham shipped 11 goals and barely put up a fight, Allardyce admitted that he may not be in his job much longer. The Daily Mirror's David Anderson quoted him as saying:
You can’t keep losing football matches as a manager, that’s for sure. We know the reasons why, but even those reasons will not save you in the end. We must not lose confidence in our ability to get out of this hole we’re in at the moment.
We’re going to start getting ready for Cardiff on Saturday and digging ourselves out of the bottom end of the Premier League.
Reports indicate that Allardyce retains the backing of the West Ham board for the moment, but David Gold and David Sullivan have been stung by keeping faith with a floundering manager before, when sticking with Avram Grant cost them a place in the Premier League in 2011. If results continue on the current spiral, they will surely have to act.
But of course, sacking a manager is not only about deciding the current man isn't good enough, but that anyone new they bring in will do a better job. So, who could that be for West Ham?
The newest theory in the press is that West Ham want Nottingham Forest boss, Billy Davies, with The Daily Telegraph's Matt Law reporting that Sullivan and Gold have identified the Scotsman as a possible replacement.
While it would be a surprise if they did opt for Davies, there is some logic to his selection. Davies has a record of getting clubs out of trouble pretty quickly, as he did in his first spell at Forest and to an extent with Derby. He is also a manager who likes control of his team and transfers, something Gold and Sullivan have shown they are willing to do—it seems that in the transfer market, Allardyce tells them who he wants and they buy them.
However, it would be quite a gamble to appoint a man whose only experience in the top flight was so brief and abject, as Davies' time with Derby in 2007 was.
Another name mentioned (indeed, the current bookies favourite) is Harry Redknapp, currently labouring over getting Queens Park Rangers back into the Premier League after taking them out of it last season. A return to West Ham for Redknapp would seem logical, but he was put into almost exactly this scenario last year—an expensive and talented squad, struggling at the foot of the table—but failed to keep QPR up. Indeed, he actually had more time then (he was appointed in November) and had a full transfer window to bring in his own players, and he still took them down.
In addition, one of the reasons cited for West Ham sticking with Allardyce is their reluctance to pay the estimated £6million it would cost to dismiss him and his coaching staff. One assumes that QPR would not just let their man (and his own entourage of Bond, Jordan etc.) go for nothing, so Gold and Sullivan could be looking at the ugly end of around £10million to change managers.
Other names mentioned include Slaven Bilic, who would reportedly be open to the job but not until the summer; Glenn Hoddle, whose reputation has bafflingly grown in his absence since he made such a horrible mess of Wolves some eight years ago; and Paolo Di Canio, which would be footballing suicide.
The obvious candidate would, therefore, seem to be Malky Mackay. Technically available after his dismissal by Cardiff (although his contractual situation may be a sticking point), Mackay is a former Hammers player, which is obviously fairly insignificant to his abilities as a manager, but the Boleyn Ground is a fairly mutinous place at the moment, so small populist moves like this are not to be underestimated in such a situation.
Who should West Ham's manager be?
Perhaps, Mackay's key advantage for West Ham is that they require quick results, and his record suggests he can provide them. His success at Cardiff started more or less straight away, with only one defeat in his first nine games, and their promotion campaign was arguably derailed by further success, as a drop in league form coincided with reaching the League Cup final, where they were beaten on penalties by Liverpool. Of course, Cardiff ran away with the championship and were promoted with games to spare the following season.
In addition, the squad with which that success was achieved was pretty limited. No player scored more than eight goals, with honest toilers like Heidar Helguson and Kevin McNaughton featuring heavily. Given that, if he was to take over at West Ham, he would have little to no time to bring in his own players; he would have to work with what he has.
Given his treatment at Cardiff, Mackay is a rather obvious option, but sometimes the obvious ones are so for a reason.