Hammering to Success: Sam Allardyce

In a season where anyone can beat anyone, the unpredictable is happening. The Premier League is on course for the most obscure season since it’s introduction in 1992. With a mass of ‘mid-table’ teams surpassing expectations, one club stands out from the rest. Managed by Sam Allardyce, also known as ‘Big Sam’, West Ham have made Upton Park a fortress of fear this campaign, glittering and dazzling during the festive season.

Big Sam and Ivan Campo at Bolton Wanderers.
Big Sam and Ivan Campo at Bolton Wanderers.

The nickname ‘Big Sam’ has stuck ever since his glory days of Bolton Wanderers. Ivan Campo, Jay Jay Okocha and Fernando Hierro graced this dulcet city, showering Sam in success that was almost unimaginable. With plaudits coming his way, and rightly so, ‘Minnow Sam’ seemed more suitable at Upton Park. Last season’s footballing style was lauded as the most boring the Premier League had ever witnessed. Direct and hopeless, results were patently obvious. There were none. Now, maybe ‘Versatile Sam’ or ‘Pragmatic Sam’ seem arguably more fitting. Time for a new pseudonym perhaps?

Fluidity in passing and movement. Power in defence and attack. Flair in creation and assistance. West Ham have adapted majorly to the vigour of English football. It seems the Hammers’ unpredictability is the cause of success this year; each opponent unaware of what they are yet to face. Using four formations already this term, they have equalled last seasons’ total tally. Whether it be a diamond, well balanced bank of holding midfielders, five defenders or wingers, Sam seems to believe they all equate to success. Sat comfortably in 4th, clutching dearly onto Champions League football, West Ham have lost just four games this season. 27 points in their opening 15 games, wins against Man City and Liverpool have defined their prestigious form.

Similar to his time at Wanderers, colourful players have been the hinges in the team’s success. Big Sam went about his summer in a confident manner. Producing a handful of shrewd signings; Enner Valencia, Diafra Sakho, Alex Song and Cheikhou Kouyate joined allegiances with the boss.

A touch of magic. Diafra Sakho's stunning effort against Liverpool earlier this season.
A touch of magic. Diafra Sakho’s stunning effort against Liverpool earlier this season.

Smugly, in fourth place for the Golden Boot is Diafra Sakho, a powerful centre-forward who signed from Metz. Only a minimal fee was paid for the Senegalese international, one which he has already paid back with his performances. Spear-heading the Hammers attack, his bravery and astute finishing has seen his goal tally excel. Heading in from any angle, he also has a sweet right foot, submerging both attributes to become a traditional forward – and who to question what type of striker Big Sam loves best? Partnering Sakho is elegant Columbian Enner Valencia. Setting the World Cup alight with the tournament’s underdogs, he’s carried his form to our competitive league. Firing in three exceptional goals, he too will give the Hammers’ fans something to smile about when returning from injury. Combining to make a enticing front-line, exciting the fans in attack is a novelty not many Hammers fans have experienced.

Rabona. Alex Song showing his inner magician.
Rabona. Alex Song showing his inner magician.

Ex-Arsenal and Barcelona loanee Alex Song makes up one of a powerful trio in the middle of the park. Big Sam has big men in here, roughen the opposition up and all that, right? Now adding a ball-playing midfielder, the trio is finalised with power-house Kouyate and intellectual Amalfitano. Fittingly, West Ham have a 51.1% average possession rate this season, suggesting games are won in the thick of everything… where these men dictate. The performances of Alex Song have been decisive in big battles, showing his experience and worth against sides such as City and Liverpool, bossing the likes of Gerrard and Toure around.

With every English side, and English contingent is a necessity. Big Sam knows this, and acting upon his instincts he has. Arriving to Upton Park also saw Carl Jenkinson, young and full of potential, it is up to Big Sam to get the Englishman to fulfil his potential. Aaron Cresswell was a cheap option from Ipswich but the arrival has seen success ever since. Joining forces with Kevin Nolan, Mark Noble, Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing – a core has been formed.

Back in action for England. His recent, excellent form has earned him a well-deserved call-up.
Back in action for England. His recent, excellent form has earned him a well-deserved call-up.

Step forward Versatile Sam, reinventing Stewart Downing into a playmaker seems to be your biggest success. Thinking outside the box, his innovative tactic has replenished the Hammers’ attack with a provider who has many important traits. Bringing his delivery, pace and foot-work to the new role, 6 assists so far have allocated Downing back into the England mix-up, re-gaining him a call-up from Roy Hodgson upon the last set of internationals. Despite his failure to lure a play-maker to Upton Park, his alternative plan seems genius.

Returning from injury, Andy Carroll. Many fanatics may brand the Englishman as a typical ‘Big Sam striker.’ Suited to a direct approach, the revitalised West Ham have welcomed his comeback massively. Earning himself one assist and two stunning goals in Super Sunday’s victory over Swansea, he returned from an 18 month goal drought at his home ground. Now, full of confidence, Carroll has admitted “We can go all the way to the top.”

Blowing bubbles? No, blowing defenders away.
Blowing bubbles? No, blowing defenders away.

The players have a united camp that is buzzing with morale and confidence. Believing in their manager, expecting a championship push and exciting their fans, there isn’t much more they can do. We are currently within a season where anything is possible, so why not? A new stadium on the way, too. It’s bright times ahead for Big Sam and his West Ham. In five years time, they may not be such a surprise package any more.

Thanks for reading,

Liam Baldock.


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