Lies, damned lies and pointless polls
Against the backdrop of West Ham’s win against Spurs at the weekend came the news that a recent poll conducted by a number of Hammers-related websites found an overwhelming majority of fans believing that Sam Allardyce should not be retained as manager for next season.
More than 12,000 people took part in the polls, almost 78 percent expressing the view that Allardyce should go while just over 22 percent voted for him to continue in his job. The survey that ran for five days is thought to be the largest opinion poll ever undertaken by a club's supporters, and the results of the poll have been sent to David Sullivan.
The 16 sites taking part were Blowing Bubbles, Claret $amp; Blues, Claret $amp; Hugh, Ex-Hammers Magazine, Forever West Ham, Hammers in the Heart, Iron Views, Knees Up Mother Brown, Moore Than Just a Club, Very West Ham, West Ham Fan, West Ham Till I Die, West Ham World, WHU Stuff, WHUFCTV.com and my old "home" site of West Ham Online.
Of those who voted, 27 percent claimed they are season-ticket holders, with another 48 percent attending home matches, while a quarter of the respondents never go to a game but watch them on TV. Londoners accounted for 28 percent, 26 percent in the South East, 12 percent in East Anglia and 14 percent who voted were overseas supporters.
Amusingly, some claimed there should "not be a witch hunt but it was time to go," entirely missing the irony in the fact that this poll is very much a witch hunt, while others threatened not to renew their season tickets citing Sam's style of football as one-dimensional and without a Plan B.
Regular visitors to this blog over the years could not deny that some of these claims -- particularly the lack of another plan and the inability to switch play when the need arises -- has been a criticism from this quarter too. However, sometimes alone at certain parts of this season anyway, I have broadly been in support of Sam and have been interested to find that most people I meet -- and I’m talking about total strangers watching matches in pubs as well as friends and family -- are all supportive of Allardyce, believing he can take West Ham forward with the right financial support and backing from the fans.
If concerned about Sam’s ability to break out of his default defensive mode, it’s interesting to note that most people I’ve spoken to feel that Allardyce has done extremely well with the resources he has, often wondering what exactly some sections of the Upton Park support think the manager could have done differently with the personnel at his command.
However, this isn’t a fully ringing endorsement of ex-Bolton’s boss regime, there are misgivings about some of the players Allardyce has bought and their lack of impact on the side this season, many – like me – pointing out that the best performances this campaign have come from players already at the club when Sam arrived.
However, there has always been a culture of trying to overreach, with the debate of where exactly West Ham United see themselves as a club, at the root of the problem. As argued here previously, while most fans welcomed the signing of a young England forward like Andy Carroll as a statement of intent, the fact is that the 16 million pounds spent on Carroll -- not to mention the six million for Stewart Downing and the 10 million for Matt Jarvis -- are a huge outlay for a club with financial difficulties.
But -- and this is a huge but -- this could all change when West Ham move stadiums and have the opportunity to attract more fans and better investors. Nobody wants to actually say out loud "look at what happened at Chelsea and Manchester City" because things like that tend to turn around at bite you on the backside at West Ham but there is undoubtedly a huge opportunity to grow the club at the Olympic Stadium and that opportunity needs to be met with a club playing top level football. Sam Allardyce will buy the club that chance.
Of course there may be others with more expansive ideas that will give that option too. Who knows if someone currently running a Championship club won’t be the next Brendan Rodgers? I could name one or two now that I think could possibly be that person and who should be given the opportunity.
There are positives, it must be said. There have been 14 clean sheets this season and this is the type of figure that would have seen a bizarre pipe-dream prior to the arrival of Allardyce. As the win against Tottenham showed, West Ham can provide some sparkling entertainment at times and I for one have no problem with Sam making his mark -- such as he did to the ire of Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge back in January -- in a more defensive mode. The Hammers sometimes need to strike the right balance but I believe Allardyce is an astute manager who realises this and it will be something he will try and address over the close season.
Will Sam get the opportunity? Fortunately for those who support him, the signs are that he will. For it seems that -- as so often happens in football -- the board at West Ham realise that the old adage of ‘Lies, Damned lies and statistics’ now needs to be amended to include supporter polls.