By which I mean the madness directed at the managers…
Now, regular readers of this blog will recall that I’ve not been a big fan of Sam Allardyce at West Ham. Last season, I was in the Sam out camp, more for the style of football than the results. His results have been OK – more than OK really. He got us back into the Premier League, consolidated the position, and this season has taken the team to a level not experienced for a decade at least. And this season, perhaps under the instructions of the joint Chairmen – Davids Gold and Sullivan – his team has mostly played fluent attacking football, which has warmed the cockles of the East End hearts.
Results have faltered a little bit recently, although, objectively, draws against Spurs, today, and Man Utd a couple of weeks ago, are pretty good. The only thing is, we were winning both the games until the last couple of minutes of added time. So disappointment was high. Four points lost. And then there was the abject 4-0 defeat to West Brom in the FA Cup. The distrust of Sam, always just below the surface, bubbled up again. Some fans – diehard fans; going away to West Brom is diehard – abused David Sullivan for leaving the game early (to see his ill mother) and it got plastered all over YouTube and Twitter. The bitterness re-emerged. Really didn’t take much.
What this shows is that there is only a fragile peace between Sam and the fans, and the Board. Some of the people in the know have been saying on Twitter that the Board are already looking for a new manager, for when Sam’s contract runs out at the end of the season. The names being mentioned are ludicrous. Rafa Benitez, currently at Napoli; Diego Simeone – yes Diego Simeone! – manager of Atletico Madrid, who won the Spanish League last year, breaking the duopoly of Real and Barca. Why on earth would he want to come to West Ham, much as we love them?
Well, there’s one possible reason, which might just kick in, in about a year’s time. In August 2016, West Ham move into the Olympic Stadium, in Stratford. That could lead to a step change in the club’s fortunes – as long as we don’t relegated next season! It might be the moment when a very rich owner, like Sheikh Mansour at Man City, steps in. A London club, based in the Olympic stadium – that has to be attractive. Truly iconic. Now, Sullivan and Gold have been great for West Ham. They rescued the club, sorted out the finances, made money available for good players. They are fans. But they are also astute businessmen. They know the score. They could sell out and make a fortune. May keep a small share so they stay on the Board. It all makes sense. And then, Diego Simone, with promises of a huge budget, might answer the call.
For now though, I think we should keep the faith with Sam. He’s shown, this season, that he can adapt. Still, in some of the big games, he reverts to the over-defensive mentality. But I’m hopeful that he and the team will grow in confidence – sustained confidence – from what they’ve achieved this season.
But football is a wacky business – he could be out on his ear, come the end of the season.
At least at West Ham it’s all still speculation. At Brentford – my favourite lower league club, the one just down the road – developments have been truly bizarre.
Brentford are having their best season since the 1950s. They are in with a good shout of being in the Championship play-offs this season, having only been promoted to that league this season. They are, for the first time that I have ever known, in about twenty years of watching them, playing really good football. Things couldn’t be better.
So the manager, Mark Warburton, is being relieved of his duties at the end of the season. Unbelievable! Warburton is not a conventional manager. He didn’t play at a high level; and, in fact, spent time working in the City. But he loved football, worked his way in, and used his intelligence and man-management skills to good effect. Hence where he is now, and where Brentford is now. Obviously time to show him the door!
Why is that? Well, the diplomatic story is a difference in philosophies between him and the owner, City trader, and sports betting specialist, Matthew Benham. Like Gold and Sullivan at West Ham, Benham is a fan, and has pumped a lot of money into the club. His partnership with Warburton seemed like a match made in heaven, but it has suddenly fallen apart. I heard Warburton on BBC Radio 5 Live last week, articulate as ever, saying that it was just a different view of how to run the club. Benham apparently wants a director of football and a coach; Warburton prefers to have overall control of the playing side of things. Benham believes in stats (with his gambling heritage), Warburton puts faith in seeing a player, assessing his character. Actually, if the two of them could see it, those views could be complementary, cover all the bases. A great partnership. But I guess the egos have clashed – and the man with the money always wins.
I hope Benham doesn’t get seduced by the aura of the foreign manager, and one that is unproven, incapable of adapting to Championship football next season. Otherwise the Bees could easily get relegated and the future, even with a new stadium in the offing, could take a bit of a downturn.
It’s madness, really. I hope Benham doesn’t think he can get Diego Simeone!
Two clubs – my clubs – on the verge of something special. And eminently capable of screwing it up!
Naturally, I fear the worst….