Whenever I am about to write anything positive about Sam Allardyce, I always imagine that it is a sign of impending doom, that the apocalypse is nigh, that the end of the world cometh.
And it is with gritted teeth (you can probably hear them from where you are now) that I come to praise a man I actually despise, which I think definitely makes me the bigger man. Actually I take that back, Fat Sam is definitely the bigger man.
But anyhow, whatever you think of him – and seeing as nobody thinks less of him than me, and nobody thinks more of him than himself, you’re probably somewhere in the middle – you cannot deny he is doing a great job at West Ham United this season. And believe me, I’ve been trying to deny it all year.
After their relative struggles getting out of the Championship last season (a division they should have walked), the Irons have taken to the Premier League like they’d never been away. Never been away in an Alan Curbishley, mid-table kind of way, rather than an Avram Grant, bottom-of-the-league, getting relegated kind of way.
And in fact they are higher than mid-table, currently sitting in eighth position, just four points off the Champions League places after what has been a really promising start, and Allardyce’s astute management has led the way.
He’s shown over the years he knows how to set up teams to be competitive in the Premier League and even if the style of football is not to everybody’s – anybody’s? – taste, it gets results and the Hammers have picked up plenty of those, and some quite impressive ones, too.
Last week’s 3-1 win over Chelsea would have been particularly sweet for Allardyce given that he got one over his old foe Rafa Benitez, but it was fully deserved for the second-half performance.
It means West Ham have now lost just once at home in seven fixtures (to Arsenal) and I’ll tell you something else – they won’t be losing when Liverpool visit Upton Park on Sunday either.
Allardyce must be licking his lips and for once, not before getting stuck into a meat and potato pie. Liverpool travel to east London without Luis Suarez, who is suspended after picking up his fifth booking of the season last week for a Diego Maradona impression against Southampton.
It leaves Liverpool without a recognised senior striker in their squad due to the injury to Fabio Borini and the failure to buy anybody else in the summer and this should leave punters ready to fill their boots.
Really, who is backing Liverpool at 7/5 with no strikers? Not me, that’s for sure. Who is backing them to get a draw at 9/4? Again, certainly not me. So who is backing West Ham at a huge 19/10? Ah, that definitely will be me.
That price is as big as Sam himself and you have to be all over it. Brendan Rodgers has always had a thing about being Spain-lite, with his (alleged) tiki-taka, but he is taking the impression to the nth degree by playing a 4-6-0, with Jonjo Shelvey likely to play in the ‘false nine’ role instead of the ‘false midfield’ role he normally takes up.
This should be the point where you’d have thought we would be mentioning Andy Carroll, but the fact that no fans have been calling for his return to Anfield says everything about how he is playing in London.
But what has it come to when Liverpool Football Club don’t have a striker to call on? That as much as anything shows the job Rodgers has got on his plate and the chickens of the summer will come home to roost on Sunday when the Reds pay the penalty and lose to West Ham through a lack of firepower.
Take Suarez’s ten goals out of the equation and no Liverpool player has got more than one league goal this season and you can’t see anything changing without him.
The Uruguayan is so central to what Liverpool do he would be irreplaceable in a good team, never mind a mediocre one, and Allardyce will be thanking his lucky stars that he isn’t playing.
So should you – and then get on that 19/10 on a West Ham win.