Ring Around the Manager – Game 18By: Angela Poe | December 17th, 2010
Just a few days ago, it was announced that Blackburn’s new owners had sacked their manager. Floods of calls, emails and letters came in to radio stations, newspapers and websites from Blackburn fans who were seemingly pretty evenly split on the decision. Some were relieved that they were finally rid of the style of football Sam’s become famous for that both keeps his clubs up in the table and down in the mouth. Others were annoyed that they chose to do so without a clear appointment in mind who could helm their transfer window activities and plot a course for the second half of an odd Premier League season.
Speculation began to surround West Ham manager Uncle Avi Grant when news of a board meeting and ultimatum swelled around the papers and in discussions between fans. ”Three games to improve or you’re out” was the word and looking at the fixture list I’d hope the next three games would yield some points: Blackburn, Fulham — on Boxing Day — and Everton. Beating all of them (while most of my fellow supporters would call that nothing short of a Christmas miracle) would see us climbing out of the relegation zone almost literally over the backs of those who would then be sinking into it. And what a lovely place to be just before the transfer window.
I will barely mention the idea that should Sam be available and Grant fall short of the board’s demands, Allardyce could take over as the new manager at West Ham. It would be a dire day for all of us as our hopes of being able to play our style of football AND remain in the Premier League would die. A choice would be made and Sam’s appointment would make that choice clear to us all.
I have never thought sacking the manager improves things instantly. After all, we sacked Zola and aside from some great pre-season games and some quality moments of that undeniably signature West Ham style of football (albeit few and far between) we are actually lower on the table than we were this time last season. It’s clear to me that bringing on Wally Downes has improved the confidence of our back four, improving some of their skills remains to be seen, however it was a step in the right direction. There was talk of bringing on Di Canio as an attacking coach which set all our hearts aflutter and of course, the inevitable questions about what Avram Grant DOES if he’s not instilling confidence in the players will remain if things don’t get better soon. Still, part of the blame has to be with the players from my perspective. Showing up defeated before the coin toss and turning in performances unbecoming the shirts on their backs is starting to get as tired as the same old apology email in my inbox on Monday mornings.
That said, we have one of those rare West Ham opportunities to face a side as unsure about their leadership as we are and being old hands at it MIGHT actually fare well for us and throw the game in our favour. They have some key injuries, just as we do. They are having management issues, just as we are. And most notably, their new owners seem about as clueless about running their club as ours are, at the moment anyway.
The challenges we’ll face in their squad will undoubtedly be Pedersen (leading scorer) and Dunn (leading mouthpiece) who have shown they’re ready to charge forward against clubs like West Ham who give them plenty of space. If we can close them down faster we’ll have a chance at holding them to the usual clean sheet we have enjoyed against Rovers in recent match-ups.
I would like to see the line-up include the following:
Jacobsen – Tomkins – Upson – Ben Haim
Dyer – Parker – Spector – Stanislas
Obinna – Piquionne
Swapping Obinna to the right side will allow a nice flow from Jacobsen to Dyer freeing up Vic and Piq to get in the box and be open for that signature Dyer-flick that often eludes Carlton Cole. Dyer is not afraid to charge his way into the box and challenge the opposition’s defense man-on-man. All Vic and Piq have to do is stay ahead of him on their way to the area and stay onside. If Spector and Stanislas can manage to create something between them, again it leaves the Vic and Piq options to be wide open to score in a way that has been lacking with the likes of LBM and Kovac on the pitch.
I am eerily optimistic if Uncle Avi goes with this line-up since every time we’ve seen Jacobsen, Dyer and Obinna line up on the same side: Blackpool – draw, Wolves – draw and our 1-nil win over Spurs — we have taken away points and were credited for playing well except for poor finishing.
OBVIOUS game-sinkers in my mind: Cole in the starting 11, Dyer coming off before the end of the first half, giving them too much room in our half — ESPECIALLY when we’re still scoreless and Scott Parker carrying the world on his shoulders without sitting back a little and let Jonny Specs have a go at being the creator.