Inside The Mind of West Ham's Under-Fire Manager Sam Allardyce

Sam PilgerContributing Football WriterJanuary 15, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01:  Sam Allardyce the West Ham manager looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and West Ham United at Craven Cottage on January 1, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)
Steve Bardens/Getty Images

Even last week when West Ham were conceding 11 unanswered goals to Nottingham Forest and Manchester City, if you took a peak inside the mind of their manager Sam Allardyce, it would still be brimming with defiance and supreme confidence. 

When there were calls for him to be dismissed following that 6-0 surrender at the Etihad stadium, Allardyce remained certain he was the man to revive West Ham’s season.

After all, this is the same Allardyce who, in 2010, as reported by the Press Association via The Guardian, announced that he had always been a better manager than the clubs he had been in charge of during his career:

I'm not suited to Bolton or Blackburn, I would be more suited to Inter or Real Madrid. It wouldn't be a problem to me to go and manage those clubs because I would win the double or the league every time. Give me Manchester United or Chelsea and I would do the same, it wouldn't be a problem.

Allardyce has never suffered from a crisis of confidence and, approaching his 60th birthday and a quarter of a century into his management career, he was not going to start now.

Despite their current predicament, West Ham’s owners know they are comparatively fortunate to have a manager with Allardyce’s track record in the Premier League. 

While Cardiff City, West Brom, Fulham and Sunderland nervously hope their new managers—all of whom are unproven at the highest level in England—can quickly develop the nous to guide them to safety, West Ham smartly realised that they already had that in Allardyce and decided to keep him.

Last weekend Allardyce rewarded this faith and proved his own credentials again by securing a crucial 2-0 win away at Cardiff.

The victory hoisted West Ham out of the relegation zone, and suddenly the mood at Upton Park lightened; but inside Allardyce’s mind of undiminished confidence it was never in doubt.

But West Ham remain in a precarious position, and only goal difference is keeping them out of that relegation zone as they prepare to host Newcastle United this weekend.

CARDIFF, WALES - JANUARY 11:  Andy Carroll (C) of West Ham United battles with Kevin Theophile-Catherine and Steven Caulker (L) of Cardiff City during the Barclays Premier League match between Cardiff City and West Ham United at the Cardiff City Stadium o
Michael Steele/Getty Images

The most pleasing aspect of that victory for Allardyce would have been the sight of Andy Carroll finally back in the team.

After receiving a club record £15 million in the summer, the England striker had been ruled out with injury until his comeback at Cardiff.

He was only on the pitch for 18 minutes as a second-half substitute, but it was enough time to set up the game’s decisive goal for Mark Noble in the dying minutes.

While Carroll has never been a naturally prolific goalscorer, managing a modest 52 goals in 186 appearances, the point is his strength and presence occupy defenders and make things happen for others around him. 

So far this season, West Ham have scored 21 goals, averaging exactly a goal a game, which, if it continues for the rest of the season, will see them remain around the relegation zone.

Allardyce will know that the timely return of a fit Carroll gives West Ham the best chance possible of lifting themselves up the table.

If goals do remain in short supply, Allardyce needs to also shore up his defence, who have already conceded 30 goals this season.

SWANSEA, WALES - OCTOBER 27:  Nathan Dyer of Swansea in action against Winston Reid of West Ham during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and West Ham United at Liberty Stadium on October 27, 2013 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Bryn Len
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

When Winston Reid has been absent with injury, their defence has looked even more vulnerable this season. 

Allardyce knows defensive reinforcements are needed in January, but the concern is so far he has only brought in Roger Johnson from Wolves, who proceeded to look woefully out of his depth on his debut against Manchester City last week.

As reported by the BBC, an offer was also made for Everton’s Johnny Heitinga, but he preferred to stay in their reserves rather than venture south.

Allardyce has never suffered the embarrassment of being relegated from the Premier League, and at this stage of his career, he will be desperate to avoid that blemish on his CV.

After the 6-0 capitulation to Manchester City, as reported by Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph, Allardyce declared, “You either come out fighting or you sink and die.”

In South Wales, Allardyce’s players came out fighting, but he will know that was only the start and that they need to repeat that over the vast majority of the next 17 games to remain in the Premier League. 

In his own mind Allardyce revels in his reputation as a manager that keeps teams safe.

It is time to prove he can do it all over again.