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West Hams last campaign in the Premiership was nothing short of disastrous under Avram Grant. A squad with a strong spine, which included four England internationals, plummeted out the league with a whimper.
It was announced Sam Allardyce would oversee the Hammers 2011/2012 Championship campaign. Tipped to win the league by the bookies, the club secured promotion in the 87th minute of the Play off final, after missing out on automatic promotion. Sam Allardyce has always been tagged with the ‘long ball’ tactic and style of play. West Ham were guilty of that in the Championship, a league in which you need to go more direct at times to get out of.
As the Premiership campaign burst into life, West Ham faced a season where the objective was to simply stay up. West Ham fans didn’t care how the club did it, as long as Premiership football was secured for 2013/2014. This objective was made equally as important, after the news West Ham were awarded the Olympic Stadium, and will move in for the season 2016/2017.
Key signings helped the club try to achieve safety. Momo Diame, Matt Jarvis, Jussi Jaaskelainen and James Collins all played a big part as West Ham started strongly. The signing of Andy Carroll proved to be a pivotal coup for West Ham, linking him up with best friend Kevin Nolan. The powerful striker scored an abundance of goals and was a real asset.
As the season began to mould into shape around Christmas time, it was beginning to look as if West Ham would need a huge dip in form to drop into the bottom 3. The Hammers sat 12th, 8 clear of safety, winning 6 of their opening 18 games. However being West Ham, survival was never going to be as clear cut as it seemed.
That dip in form arrived just after Christmas. Carroll was ruled out for 2 months, while on the pitch, the side picked up 11 out of a possible 36 points. A number of clubs were grappling for their lives in what was shaping out to be one of the closest relegation battles in years, and now the East London club were watching over them nervously.
Joe Cole was a January arrival from Liverpool, just in time for West Ham to hit the ground running. A strong finish to the season saw the club secure a top half finish in their first season back in the Premiership. 10th place and 46 points was a great effort by all. Winston Reid had won the player of the year award. Big Sam had certainly got the best out the team.
The most impressive thing? The style of football. At times, they went long, but if a team had someone with the presence of Andy Carroll up front, it makes sense to give him a high ball to bring down. However, the club played some lovely football on the floor as well, having the ability to switch between two different styles.
Allardyce had made a team who were broken and defeated, into a solid and well organised unit, who were difficult to break down and top half Premiership side. All in the space of two years. The dreadful away form was disguised by the blistering home form. Four defeats all season at Upton Park had made the ground a fortress.
Sam Allardyce receives a lot of criticism, but in a close fought Premiership relegation battle, which towards the back end of the season included the entire bottom half, he deserves the plaudits for making sure that a newly promoted side weren’t to be deeply involved in the mire. While, he had the experience in the team, the key was being able to get the best out of them. The Hammers look resolute for the first time in a long time.
It’s difficult to say if Big Sam will ever get more praise than he receives, but the job he has done in two years at West Ham deserves credit, as the ‘Happy Hammers’ are smiling again.
Written by Tom Winch
Follow Tom on Twitter @winchy33
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