The pressure is increasing on Sam Allardyce as the West Ham United fans demanded his dismissal during their defeat at the Hawthorns.
At the eight time of asking, Pepe Mel finally enjoyed a win in front of the West Bromwich Albion supporters on Saturday afternoon, courtesy of an 11th minute goal from Saido Berahino. This win lifts them to four points above the relegation zone, and with a game in hand over a number of their rivals, safety is well within reach.
But just as the Spaniard’s popularity with his club’s fanbase is on the up, the same cannot be said about his man who sat in the opposing dugout on Saturday. For some time the Hammers fans have voiced their disapproval of the football introduced by Allardyce, despite the fact they are unlikely to be dragged into a relegation fight this term.
True, the Upton Park outfit aren’t yet completely safe. They are five points ahead of the bottom three, and such is their goal difference, they need take just another point from their remaining two fixtures to be assured of a third successive season in the top-flight. Whether Allardyce will be around to witness this is an altogether different question.
The 59-year-old was barracked with frequent chants of ‘F**k off Sam Allardyce’ and ‘We Want our West Ham Back’ from the visitors section at the Hawthorns, who also unfurled a rather unsavoury banner which read: ‘Fat Sam Out – You’re Killing WHU’. After the match, the experienced manager accepted performances of late have not been good.
“It’s normal for West Ham fans to show their disapproval when they’re not happy with what’s going on, so I accept it because I’m the manager at this moment in time – just like all the other managers have accepted it before me,” he told Sky Sports. You have to accept it and move on, but we still have a lot of work to do, no doubt about that.”
Hammers fans are likely to have been incensed by comments their manager made before the trip to the Midlands, when he tried to defend the style of play he has used throughout his managerial career. But whilst he can point to a solid record at some of his previous club, it is clear that the Upton Park faithful want a more stylish brand of football.
“Style of play is just a label everyone uses against me,” Allardyce said in the Daily Star last week. “No matter what style I play I am never going to get rid of it because the style of play I have is not how it is described, just like the style of play I had at Bolton Wanderers is not like that when they said it was. When the tag is laid down, you just can’t get rid of it.”
David Gold and David Sullivan, the club’s co-owners, face a difficult decision in the summer. They are aware that the fans want a more attractive style of play, but they also know that they need Premier League football when they move into the Olympic Stadium ahead of the 2016-17 season. Allardyce, for all his faults, has a proven record of avoiding relegation, and the risk associated with appointing a new manager who may transpire to be without such a quality could be one they are unwilling to take.