Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Allardyce aims for swift return to the Premiership

Sam Allardyce is often mocked as a manager with ideas above his station, so it perhaps surprised his detractors when he agreed to descend to the Championship to take charge of West Ham.True, he was unemployed until the relegated east London club came calling, having been sacked by Blackburn Rovers in December, but for a man who was once interviewed for the England job and who last year suggested he could win doubles with Real Madrid or Internazionale every season, if only they were savvy enough to look beyond his reputation and hire him, there must have been a temptation to wait for an offer from a better-placed club.Allardyce says that belief in his own abilities and reassurances from the owners convinced him that he can put himself and West Ham back to where he believes they belong. He has been given a two-year contract and says he expects the club to be challenging for a position in Europe by the time that expires."I've taken a risk by losing my Premier League status, which I'd built up over 10 years," he said. "I don't want to spend too long in the Championship. Without sounding too arrogant, my experience and expertise as a manager is trying to bring clubs together and get a team spirit and togetherness, to get back into the Premier League at the first time of asking."Allardyce's employers, David Gold and David Sullivan, plus the vice-chairman Karren Brady, often made life difficult for his predecessors, Avram Grant and Gianfranco Zola, by publicly criticising the team, but Allardyce says the backing of Sullivan in particular was one of the main reasons he took the job. "I spoke with David Sullivan at length about what we wanted to do and how we needed to do it. I believe the owners will give me the support I need to help the club be successful. "

They have already demonstrated their backing by forking out £4m to reunite Allardyce with Kevin Nolan, the midfielder who worked with him at Bolton and Newcastle, and also by giving a contract to Abdoulaye Faye, the former Stoke City defender who has also worked with Allardyce before.

Those arrivals go some way to offsetting the loss of Mathew Upson, Thomas Hitzlsperger and Demba Ba, plus the raft of players signed on loan last season. Allardyce hopes to persuade Scott Parker, Carlton Cole and Rob Green to stay but admits that given the cost of relegation, they may be sold if suitable offers are received.

If Parker goes, he said, Nolan is likely to be captain. "He's already guided Newcastle back to the Premier League and I see Kevin as not only a great player on the field, but a great captain off it," Allardyce added. "When you've got Joey Barton almost crying on the TV because he's left [Newcastle] it shows you the respect that he's gained."

Nevertheless, Allardyce wants personnel turnover to be "minimal" because "it's very difficult to change around a club that has been relegated but even more so if you lose 50% of your players because that means you have to bring another 10 or 12 in and you've got a bunch of strangers that you have to mould into a team."

He also feels he needs to "reinvent" West Ham and dispel "the negative attitude" that has engulfed the club. He is also aware that this is a chance to reinvent himself and banish what he insists is groundless negativity towards him.

Allardyce also rejects the depiction of his arrival at Upton Park as a culture clash. "Playing the right way is about entertaining the public and playing winning football. I'm only remembered at Newcastle for one [angry] fan jumping up in one game, which TV keeps showing, but in the first 10 games I was the best thing since sliced bread because we had the best start in 10 years. At Blackburn we increased the average attendance by 4,500. Entertainment comes through what your fans tell you.

"And at Bolton only two of my seven years were about survival so I shouldn't be tagged as a 'survival manager'. I'm a productive manager who breeds success. I've got a vast array of skills and I'll put them to work here and hopefully at the end of the year we'll all be blowing bubbles."

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