Boleyn brief: Never mind the bollocks, here’s West Ham United

With the Championship promotion race heating up as we enter the final five games of the season, West Ham fan Stuart Fuller reflects on his side’s comprehensive victory at Oakwell.


Oh, Sam Allardyce. You should really sometimes just stop talking and concentrate on getting West Ham back to the land of milk and honey. In the run up to a vital away game with Barnsley he suggested that the fans, those people who have paid hundreds (even thousands in some cases) of pounds to follow their team this season, speak “bollocks”. In fact, in his interview with the Sun (of course it was the Sun), he mentioned it not once, but three times.

After the hiding dished out by Reading last Saturday, he was in danger of losing the faith of most of the West Ham fans. Karren Brady had cheered us all up by saying that Allardyce will be in charge irrespective of where we finish this season come August, but then again she said she was going to sack Avram Grant last January and look what happened there.

Do I care how we play? Well, yes I do. If we play long ball AND we win and ultimately get out of the division then the objective has been reached. I am sure most fans will forgive the dire home draws against Doncaster Rovers, Bristol City and Crystal Palace if next season we are visiting the Emirates, Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge again. But what if we are still playing hoofball at Ashton Gate or the Ricoh Arena in twelve months time? I would say then that the Allardyce experience has been disappointing to say the least.

That said, coming away from Oakwell on Good Friday with a 4-0 win has put the club back on course for the prime objective. Not one of the goals came from a long ball. Even the fans recognised that the style of play was more akin of the West Ham of old. “We play on the floor, we play on the floor, we are West Ham, we play on the floor” came the chants from the North End on Friday, although they also gave a strong rendition towards Allardyce about talking bollocks which he failed to acknowledge.

I always think it is a mark of popularity when the West Ham fans adopt the managers name in the “Claret and Blue Army” song. We haven’t heard this for quite a while at West Ham – the last time I could remember it was for Gianfranco Zola (which ironically was the last time I remember us playing the “West Ham way”). On Friday it was all about “Robert Green’s Claret and Blue Army” as the fans tried to stop the keeper from falling asleep through boredom during the second half.

By that stage West Ham were sitting on a 4-0 lead thanks to goals from Kevin Nolan (looking a couple of yards offside from my vantage point), Nicky Maynard (a fine strike from the edge of the area), Mark Noble (a fantastic chip capitalising on a dreadful goalkeeping error) and Ricardo Vaz Tê (pouncing on a loose ball in the penalty area). It could have and should have been more. Maynard hit the bar with a great strike in the second half and Vaz Tê often wanted one more touch when he should have been more clinical.

The same criticism can still be leveled at Allardyce in this game though. Once again he was tinkering with the starting XI. For me, this has been the biggest issue this season – he simply has no idea what his best or starting XI should be. Perhaps he went with a 4-5-1 to counter act a specific Barnsley threat which never materialised but whatever the reason, it proved to be effective.

Barnsley have struggled to score goals this season, especially since Vaz Tê joined West Ham in the transfer window, and they will now need to be looking over their shoulder at the trap door in the remaining three weeks of the season. They perhaps have done enough already, and with no club ever having played as many games at this level, you could say that experience has saved them. But it will not detract from the fact that they were humiliated at home on national television, making it far too easy for West Ham to play the short passing game.

West Ham’s fans once again excelled themselves, creating ninety minutes of noise as well as one of the most disorganised congas ever seen on live television. Despite the heavy police presence in the ground, there was nothing but Easter cheer from the away fans as they continued the dancing in the streets around Oakwell into the south Yorkshire night.

The next seven days will define West Ham’s season. Without a win at Upton Park since early February, the Hammers face play-off rivals Birmingham City and Brighton and Hove Albion this week. Two more games without a win could see them waving at the Royals and the Saints as they sail over the Premier League horizon. Two wins (gulp) and with the top two in action against each other on Friday, then they could be back in the top two, with their fate in their own hands.

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.

1 Comment

  1. steven lewin
    April 8, 2012

    very good summary lets get behind the irons and hopefully we will get back to the promised land coyi

    Reply

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