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Jan 192015
Sam Allardyce

Having come so far, does Sam Allardyce find himself under a different kind of pressure at West Ham United?

‘Big Sam’ should be accustomed to finding himself in the spotlight by now, with pretty much his entire tenure at Upton Park having seen him face some kind of questioning.

At the start, he had to win over those who doubted that he was the right fit for the job.

His experience was without question, after spending the best part of his career at a Premier League level, but was he right for West Ham?

Convincing those doubters has taken longer than he would have liked, with there a feeling among the natives that gritty, dogged football was ruining the East End ideology.

Allardyce asked for time, though, and his board – co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold – have been prepared to give it to him.

Admittedly, there are likely to have been occasions in which they found themselves asking uncomfortable questions, but who was the better alternative?

Better the devil you know and all that, with their patience finally being rewarded.

Transfer business last summer was far removed from a ‘lump it long to the big man’ approach, even with Andy Carroll on the books.

Guile was brought in to complement the graft and to help reignite the flame under those that had lost their way.

Stewart Downing would fall into that category, as would the injury-ravaged Carroll.

Both are now fully fit and performing to the peak of their powers, with England recognition coming the way of the former and expected to be on the cards for the latter.

Their fire has, however, been lit by those around them, as the likes of Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia, Alex Song, Aaron Cresswell and Carl Jenkinson have turned the Hammers into an outfit they have not been for some considerable time.

They are now serious European contenders, possibly even outsiders for a top-four finish.

A cup run would not go amiss either.

Capital One Cup success has eluded them, with League Cup betting placing Chelsea (5/6) at the head of that particular market, but the FA Cup remains a pursuable target after edging out Premier League rivals Everton in a third round replay.

This, though, is part of the problem for Allardyce – success is now expected rather than desired.

Expectation levels have risen alongside those of performances and West Ham fans are enjoying their rollercoaster existence once more.

The point where something tangible to cling to is demanded has not yet been reached, with this still a work in progress, but the bar has been raised from where it was as recently as last pre-season.

Allardyce will be aware of that fact and that his margin for error has started to narrow.

Before, he could get away with a wobble. That may no longer be the case.

If results start to dip now, thoughts will turn towards those who can offer a welcome pick-me-up and get the bandwagon back on track.

Allardyce will be hoping that the wheels do not come off any time soon, but he has ensured – through sheer determination and thick skin – that some bigger bolts will be required to keep him at the helm if the road starts to get bumpy.

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