The Sam Allardyce straw man argument. 0

Here’s an opinion West Ham fans are used to hearing:

“Dislike of Sam Allardyce is based purely on the style of football with which he’s erroneously associated.”

Without naming the authors, that seems to have been a popular theme over the past few weeks.  Typically, these articles start by debunking the theory that Allardyce only employs direct tactics and attempts to cast those who believe otherwise as footballing simpletons incapable of seeing beyond the obvious.

Allardyce believes in statistics, apparently, and he’s also really, really invested in the value of sports science.

Okay, okay, okay…that’s all fine - but here’s the thing: that’s a very patronising way of assessing the anti-Allardyce sentiment and it’s also a very blinkered view of what he is as a manager.

Most people - at least those whose appreciation of the game is more than surface deep - do not look at Allardyce as a long-ball coach.  Rather, they probably see him as an astute situational manager and as someone who identifies the most logical way for a group of players to prosper and then directs them accordingly.

The notion that, somehow, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves is entirely false: in the past, when his teams have knocked off superior opponents, the nation’s press have fallen over themselves to acclaim him and there are many, many neutral supporters who get an obvious kick out of his press-conference rhetoric and from his provocation of more illustrious peers.

As a general rule, nobody tracks players and coaching performance in more detail than fans of that team.  With that in mind, it’s very revealing that so little of the pro-Allardyce sentiment comes from within Upton Park.  These are supporters who watch their team week-in and week-out, they’re not just armchair experts who see the occasional big performance against a top-four side and deduce that any criticism of Allardyce must be redundant.

This situation is reminiscent of David Moyes’ tenure at Everton.  Moyes did a lot of good at Goodison Park - as Allardyce has and continues to do in the East End - but the focus on his successes was always far greater than it ever was on his failures.

When he beat a Manchester United or an Arsenal at home, he was rightly celebrated.  But when he dropped points to a side who were far inferior to his own - look back at the results, it happened fairly frequently - there was nothing but silence.

The consensus has always been that Moyes was universally popular amongst the Everton supporters, but he really wasn’t.  Over time, an unease grew between the stands and the dug-out and the perpetual underdog tag started to become grating.  How long can anyone stand to be patted on the head?

Everton fans were supposed to carry Moyes through the streets of Liverpool after a hard-fought win, but then turn a blind eye whenever he was out-thought by a relegation-threatened manager.

Some fanbases have to accept their place in the hierarchy, but Everton aren’t one of them - and, neither are West Ham.

Allardyce’s situation may not be identical, but it bears comparison. Just as the now Real Sociedad manager once was, he’s seen as good enough for a club of that size.  His victories are always about him, his defeats are a result of the limitations placed upon him.

In a general sense, he is appreciated for the work he has done up to this point, but the difference between the average West Ham fan and the average Allardyce apologist, is that the former see the entire picture - the good, the bad, the positives, the flaws - and the latter fixates on a simplified version of that reality.

Understanding this disenchantment goes beyond pass-types, graphics and data, it’s about the man himself.

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