Sam Allardyce’s West Ham side facing a daunting assignment at the Etihad Stadium
High-flying Manchester City strongly fancied to take a first leg lead in League Cup semi-final
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce: has been given the support of the club’s co-chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold in an open letter. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA
It was only when those dreaded, if clichéd, words “vote of confidence” cropped up that Sam Allardyce cracked into a smile. The suggestion from the floor was that the backing offered by David Gold and David Sullivan earlier this week might actually constitute bad news. “Does it?” he offered ruefully. “Well, I wasn’t backed by my last two chairmen and got sacked for no reason at all, so I won’t take that into consideration.”
A dose of gallows humour felt rather appropriate. West Ham United, a team without a league win since November and thrashed 5-0 by lower league opposition in the FA Cup on Sunday, ought to address the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final tonight buoyed by the reality they are two games from Wembley.
The only problem is the side last but one in the top flight must confront Manchester City with resources still horribly stretched.
Mark Noble may be ready to return from a calf complaint but that will still leave only 15 fully-fit senior outfield players from which to choose. A trip to Cardiff City, rivals immediately above the cut-off, beckons on Saturday.
The cup drubbing at Nottingham Forest was inflicted on a youthful selection necessitated by league toils and the semi-final to come, but there have been only two wins in all competitions since October.
There is no appetite for change but that record alone puts the 59-year-old’s job on the line, even taking into account the €7 million in compensation required to pay off him and his backroom staff.
This club cannot afford to go down. The open letter published by the joint chairmen was aimed at creating a united front but over 3,000 West Ham supporters will still travel tonight in some trepidation.
“Everyone is bound to be talking about the club, and particularly about my position, because of where we are, and that’s why I was pleased to see the statement both chairmen made,” Allardyce said.
“In my managerial experience those lines of communication are critical, particularly in times that aren’t so good. It’s the first time we’ve had to cope with this amongst ourselves. Hopefully we will come through it all together.
“Most of the West Ham fans I meet are very positive, and not the minority who show their disapproval. It’s only a minority, not a majority. The people I see and bump into around Canary Wharf, around the ground, or before games away from home asking for autographs and pictures, they’re always very positive. . . ”
The eagerness to strengthen the squad, with the 6ft 8in striker Lacina Traore, expected to join on loan from Monaco before the weekend pending the approval of a work permit, reflects Allardyce’s desperation to inspire a recovery.
Allardyce will put Roger Johnson straight into his side tonight following his loan move from Wolves of League One, a centre-half who can aspire to combat City’s imposing aerial strength.
Faith remains within the squad that a man who steered Bolton and Blackburn Rovers through choppy waters can do the same at Upton Park.
“I don’t think the situation would have been any better had someone else been brought in. Look at the teams he has managed and success he has had keeping them in the Premier League,” said midfielder Matt Taylor.