Why seeing Sam Allardyce cheered me up
The recent results and commentary from both fans and pundits made me ask myself how low can we really go?
Well the Sunderland game reminded me exactly how low, and no, it wasn’t the result on the day or a reminder of Pardew and Carver’s collapses, but rather the big lump in the opposition dugout.
While we may be losing there are (some) positives in what we are seeing. The team are managing somehow to keep a glimmer of hope alive in our thick skulls that maybe, just maybe, we can still turn this around, go on a little run, and end up in a comfortable mid-table position by the end of the season.
This may be deluded but it does exist.
Looking back at the reign of Sam Allardyce, the hope was gone. Were we in a relegation position? No, but as possibly only West Ham fans would really understand, the soul of the club had gone on the pitch. This reality hit home to many of us at an away game at Fulham.
This game was dire, it was December 2007, everything went long ball and we created nothing.
Our manager was seen directing play over the head of the one player who could provide real craft, Emre, and focussing much more on getting set-pieces for Barton to ping unsuccessfully at our centre-halves.
The chatter in the ‘neutral end’ where many of us were housed was more about how great trips to Fulham had been in the past, rather than the game itself.
In fact the highlight for us was the group of very confused Japanese tourists who had appeared and were surrounded by a group of shoeless Geordies. We won the game, Barton with a last minute penalty, but at that point I vowed not to go back and pay my hard earned money while that manager remained.
I still believe that was the lowest we had been and while what followed will always feel like a sketch from the Fast Show, in reflection my view is that this really was rock bottom.
Football is an entertainment game. It is obviously far more than that, but for the 88 clubs in the league who are never going to win anything of real significance then it is about the occasion and the football on the pitch. That side had ability, but it was being drained by the manager. This team now has potential and needs to be released by the manager.
Fulham was always a good backdrop to assess where we were. Nobody took them too seriously. We seemed to always be there around Christmas or on a spring day towards the end of the season, and so the atmosphere in the away end was always brilliant. It was always a unique experience.
In fact in 2004 the whole travelling end gave a standing ovation to the Fulham captain and chanted his name as he left the pitch (OK, so it was Clarkie, but still!). It never felt that this would be the scene of my lowest moment as a football fan, but it is that contrast which is what made it so.
When times are bad you need to be reflective. We have proved that this team can play and that the manager wants them to.
It may be desperation but that glimmer of hope, and memories of having to watch a team coached by Big Sam, at least make me feel a little bit better in my time of need.
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