It's ridiculous, certainly, but West Ham's match against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park this Saturday is already being seen by Hammers supporters as something of a must-win game for Sam Allardyce. The general feeling is that last season's double over the Hammers by the South London side was a nadir that must not be repeated.
The kind of gritty attitude that was prevalent in the Glaziers' 1-0 home win over the Irons last December epitomised the type of mentality that Tony Pulis would bring to the club he'd joined just a few weeks previously. That win was, in fact, was Pulis' first victory in charge of Palace and ultimately led to a surging run that saw the supposed relegation certainties comfortably in mid-table by season's end.
The result galled, but what really shocked was the return fixture at Upton Park in April by which time Pulis had coached his team to utilise a slick pass-and-attack movement that had the home side chasing shadows for most of the game. The Boleyn crowd were furious. If Pulis could do it, why not Allardyce? That game too ended 1-0 but it could have been much worse, and the home support turned on the manager after the game.
Pulis has gone now, of course, and although it's possible another manager will be in charge in time for Saturday's fixture, this moment of instability seems a good time to play Palace. Mind you, under caretaker manager Keith Millen, Palace gave Arsenal a scare last weekend so nothing should be seen as a formality. But the aborted attempt to appoint Malky Mackay as manager and the subsequent resignation of sporting director Iain Moody does indicate a club in disarray and West Ham would do well to take advantage.
Spurs' disappointing late winner at Upton Park on the opening day did tend to mask the fact that the Hammers probably deserved something from that game, and the team did actually attack and create chances -- even if none of them were taken. An attacking lineup of Ricardo Vaz Te, Carlton Cole and Kevin Nolan is not going to convince anyone that Allardyce is utilising the squad to its best nor that he believes that he has the players that can convert a good number of chances that his system is likely to produce.
The whole team could do with the confidence that comes from knowing you have a striker that is going to put the ball in the net given the opportunity, and fans need to know if new signings Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho are the players to do it. Rumours that both are still building up fitness seem faintly implausible, while naturally the suspension of James Collins has coincided with a reported hamstring injury to James Tomkins to further worry the coaching staff.
West Ham need to impress soon, though, and Crystal Palace are the type of club that the Hammers need to take points from. Nobody knows this more than Sam Allardyce and he must be wary that the supporters snapping at his heels may well be moving in for the kill if things don't go well in South London.