Some of you may have noticed that this blog went quiet in February when we launched the winning run that secured our survival and that was down to good old fashioned East End superstition. Many would have promised not to change their underpants until West Ham lost, then until West Ham were guaranteed safety, but as a blogger, I pledged not to post until we were safely over the line. And, to be honest, with Allardyce in charge, what was there to say? You can only describe a parked bus so many times!
So, I'm back and what has changed? Well we are in the Prem again next season - and that looked unlikely until Fabulous February. And we are being linked with a host of potential signings - but this is the silly season for that sort of thing. And we have released three players - which is worthy of discussion. And, most importantly, Allardyce has survived the most tepid of votes of confidence and has been told to smarten up his act. It seems Sullivan and Gold were as bored watching that parked bus as the rest of us!
So, will anything change? To be honest, for as long as Allardyce is in charge, that's unlikely. You could give the guy Messi, Bale and Ronaldo and he would still be drilling the team on how to defend from the front. His mantra is simple - if you don't concede, you can't lose, and if you concede one you only need to score once to avoid defeat. It's simple, it's straightforward and, as his record shows, it works. Boring certainly, but who wants the excitement of relegation exactly?
And let's be fair to the guy, there were performances last season that had nothing to do with the West Ham way but which were absolutely fundamental to our survival. That performance at the Bridge was awesome - boring but awesome! And the win at Sunderland was superbly orchestrated. And the win at Cardiff was down to excellent team discipline as was the victory at Villa. We were unlucky at Everton, we weren't disgraced at the Etihad, Liverpool's penalties were both tenuous and we even stayed in the game at the Emirates for much of the match. And then, of course there were the Tottenham games!
But if you want to sum up everything that is wrong, you only have to look at the home wins over Norwich and Hull. The fans didn't boo at the end of our victory over the Canaries but they should have done, because we played on the break at home to a side that was eventually relegated, and we were bloody lucky to come away with one point, never mind three. As for the Hull game, well I for one felt ashamed to be a West Ham fan as we struggled to get and retain the ball when playing against ten toothless tigers. Truly shameful!
But Allardyce will laud those wins over two teams that finished beneath us in the table, and will probably point out that a narrow defeat at West Brom preserved our goal difference, making it all but certain that we would survive even if Norwich suddenly came over all Real Madrid, or Sunderland for that matter.
And if we are honest, Allardyce probably over-performed given the squad he was working with. The policy of having Carroll, and nobody else, was mad and the absurdity of re-signing Carlton said everything that needed to be said about the lack of forward planning (the pun is fully intended!). Surely, that mistake will never again be repeated, which means that with two left backs leaving, two left backs will have to be signed this summer - along with two midfield players, two strikers and, at least, one winger who can score goals! We need pace, pace and more pace - and goal scorers too. I blogged last season about how few goals the squad have scored between them over their careers, and take out Nolan ( and many want to!) and you would have one of the most goal shy squads in the history of the game. It's all very well having Jarvis and Downing dashing up the flanks, but if you have nobody to put the ball in the net should either actually put over a cross, how are you going to score exactly?
So we all know what has to be done to refashion a sub standard squad but can we afford to do it? Sullivan used the excuse of Financial Fair Play last season and it's hard to see what has changed this summer. True we have Joe Cole off the wage bill, and McCartney was on absurd money given his limitations and fitness record, but if the financial corset is real, how are we going to acquire and pay six or seven new quality players exactly? One way would be to sell Downing who proved a terrible waste of money all season, but after his one goal return, courtesy of a pansy Tottenham wall, who will want to sign him?
The Academy has stuttered, and not just because of Allardyce as the tonking at Forest proved, and the days of unearthing a Keegan at Scunthorpe or a Devonshire at Southall seem to be over. We keep trying, but it doesn't work because the quality of the Prem is so much better that the quality of the old First Division, and the scouting networks are such that gems are found aged ten, not twenty one!
So, the Sullivan plan seems to me to be the best one - which is to ease Allardyce out rather than sack him. Had he gone this summer, we would have been nailed on certainties to go down next season; because Allardyce leaves behind a squad that can only play one way, as Bolton, Blackburn and Newcastle have all discovered at their cost. You may hate him, but if you want to avoid the drop, he's your man; and when you sack him, relegation is all but guaranteed to follow. But maybe, if you foist a different style of player upon him, and let him drill discipline into those players, maybe, just maybe, a year later you can jettison him and hand a decent squad over to his successor. Maybe.
Next season aint going to be pretty but when we went down under Grant, we would all have given our right arms to have bounced right back and to still be in the Prem two seasons later. And let's not forget we beat Spurs three times last season with an aggregate score of 7-1; Big Sam deserves a statue for that alone!
So I want to see Allardyce go, desperately, but not quite yet. I can take another year in the dentist's chair, wincing in agony as the Allardyce drill does its business - because maybe then we can actually survive his departure!