It’s not really becoming of one to take delight in another man’s misfortune, but for Sam Allardyce I think I am more than able to make an exception.
The marriage of West Ham United and Fat Sam never seemed like anything more than one of convenience, with owners and (particularly) fans willing to put up with the former Bolton manager’s ‘brand of football’ if it meant a quick-fire return to the Premier League.
But as we reach the season’s end, things seem to be unravelling at an alarming rate. As things stand, the Hammers fans who pride themselves on their club playing attractive football are getting the worst of both worlds: appalling, unimaginative, set-piece football, but crucially, without the results that Fat Sam promised in his typically pig-headed and arrogant manner.
You felt a tipping point in the story come this week and I don’t see this marriage having a happy ending. After a goalless first half against Peterborough United on Tuesday, the travelling Irons fans let Allardyce know exactly what they thought of his hoof-ball tactics as the chant of ‘we’re West Ham United, we play on the floor’ reverberated around London Road.
Okay, so West Ham went on to win the match 2-0, but for me this will end in a messy divorce that will see Allardyce back in the bosom of his sycophantic chums at the League Managers’ Association, much to the delight of the Hammers fans who would gladly get rid of this anti-football charlatan today.
There have been grumbles of discontent about Allardyce’s ‘style’ all season, but the recent run that has seen West Ham drop outside of the automatic promotion places, six points off leaders Southampton and one point behind Reading, has turned up the volume of the boo boys.
With seven games left, West Ham are not playing like a top-two side and must seriously fear having to go through the play-offs in order to gain promotion.
This will end in a messy divorce that will see Allardyce back in the bosom of his sycophantic chums at the League Managers’ Association, much to the delight of the Hammers fans who would gladly get rid of this anti-football charlatan today.
So what a time for Reading to go to Upton Park. Forget bwin’s 6/5 on a home win or the 21/10 on a draw – get stuck right in to odds of 23/10 that the Royals open up a vital gap in the race for the Premier League.
Brian McDermott, who has done a fantastic job at Reading, is everything that Allardyce is not – humble, likeable, gracious – and likewise, his dynamic, attack-minded Reading team are the polar opposite to West Ham.
Another crucial difference is the form guide going into this match. Whereas that victory over Peterborough was West Ham’s first win in six, Reading have been on an incredible run, winning 15 of their last 19 Championship matches to overhaul the Hammers just as the finishing post is in sight.
And the only players fearing turning out at Upton Park on Saturday will be the home ones. Thanks to the lack of creativity and stilted tactics Allardyce employs, teams have long since sussed out how to play West Ham in their own back yard: defend set-pieces and second balls well enough and the Hammers will soon run out of ideas.
It explains why West Ham have drawn their last five home games, scoring only four goals, to continue a trend at Upton Park that has seen them flatter to deceive all season. The Irons have won only nine of 19 home fixtures (only nine sides have won less), while their 28 goals scored is bettered by 13 teams in the division.
By contrast, Reading have won ten matches on the road, scoring 25 goals, and only Hull have conceded fewer than the Royal’s 18 away goals.
Unless West Ham grab the initiative with a goal early on, the Boleyn boo-boys will be out in force, putting pressure on a side whose confidence is fragile enough.
Reading are good enough to take advantage of that and let’s hope that they do, and not just because of the 23/10 on offer – but to see the look on Fat Sam’s face afterwards.
Recommended bet: Reading to beat West Ham @ 23/10
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