THE BLOG

Bringing Sexy Back

25/07/2014 12:19 BST | Updated 20/09/2014 10:59 BST

"I'd rather lose 4-3 than win 1-0," says the cockney at the bar. That any football fan would actively will their team to lose is admittedly a strange sentiment; yet it's one that has been sounded out more than once at Upton Park. An enduring frustration with manager Sam Allardyce's route one tactics reached boiling point last season, leading to crunch talks with the board. Eventually, it was decided that Allardyce would retain his post, but with the proviso that he ensures "more entertainment" in the coming months.

From a results perspective though, Big Sam's record at West Ham is actually quite good: promotion, top half and upper mid-table with a cup run - about as much as any reasonable, non-Geordie would expect three years after relegation. So, what's all the hullabaloo?

West Ham is one of the game's proudest institutions. Despite the mountain ranged line graph of their recent league history, it is hard to think of them any less prominently in English football culture. Steeped in tradition, bubbles, The Boleyn, but above all a proclivity for attacking football; there's a certain way about West Ham that doesn't sit well with pragmatism.

"But Big Sam is solid and knows how to keep a team up." Touché, but that isn't what many West Ham fans want. That isn't to say that they necessarily want to go down either, yet The Boleyn craves for something more than simply a contentment to just carry on, even if it means risking what they already have.

Big Sam is a good manager, but his systematic style of play doesn't wash; and though it wasn't enough to lose him his job last season, to be contractually instructed to change his tactics represents an uneasy precondition for next term.

There are some managers who'd have walked. Yet, Allardyce to his credit, is making a conscious effort to adapt. He has signed Pachuca striker Enner Valencia as a £12million marquee, as well as Diego Poyet from Charlton and Mauro Zarate from Valez Sarsfield. Meanwhile, Teddy Sheringham has arrived as an attacking coach part of some hare-brained Dad's Army scheme. Still, the signing of juggernaut midfielder Cheikhou Kouyaté from Anderlecht signals that Allardyce has not totally abandoned his instincts, and this is no hollow move.

Against the backdrop of West Ham's continuing identity crisis, how they might replicate the exciting years of Paolo Di Canio or Joe Cole is often the talk of many East End pubs. Yet, one convenient oversight that pertains throughout most of these conversations is that the team that was too good to go down, did. There's a risk associated with playing a certain style of football or with only certain players, and it is one which West Ham fans must note.

It would take several transfer windows, not one, to transform West Ham into a tikka-takka side, which is why the immediacy of the board's and fans' demands seems a little untoward. While a newly vaunted frontline is certainly a start, what of the players who are still more suited to Sam's traditional style? Andy Carroll cost £15 million after all.

In addition to bringing sexy football back to Upton Park, Allardyce has been told to finish 10th. Indeed, achieving both these targets will prove no easy task. The question therefore arises, what would the club prefer?

Undoubtedly, free flowing, attacking football is a joy to watch, but the idea that it is somehow more important than the end result is grating. If Allardyce's more traditional approach can yield a higher league finish, then surely that's the better deal?

However, with the signings of Valencia, Poyet and Zarate, it seems unlikely that West Ham won't adopt a slightly more attacking style, but fans should not expect anything radical. Most probably, Allardyce will remain cautious when protecting narrow leads, rather than risk conceding on the counter; and defensive discipline is by no means a moot point.

Big Sam might start the season as an unpopular incumbent, but it's a classic head and heart situation. With the move to the Olympic Stadium nearing closer, West Ham need a consistent base from which to spring. Big Sam can deliver that, albeit unspectacularly. West Ham can't afford the drama of the drop or to risk restarting their current project under new management.

In time, perhaps the Allardyce era will be appreciated, as the luxury of experimental playing styles will come only after the necessary has been achieved - consistently finishing in the top half.

"It's a 1-0 win and I'll take that every day."