After over a year in charge have West Ham fans finally begun to see the charms of Sam Allardyce?
Promotion at the first attempt was always the gauntlet thrown down to Sam Allardyce when he was given the West Ham manager's job at the start of last season. To say that they achieved that feat with ease would be kind. To say they achieved it with style would be hotly contested, but achieve it they did.
Despite notching up an impressive 12 away wins, amassing the division's second best goal difference and winning the play-off final, Sam Allardyce has struggled from the word go to get the fans on his side. His famed 'long ball' style is not befitting of the 'West Ham way' of neat, passing football. His signings did little to inspire the crowd that the club would play in an attractive style. Abdoulaye Faye and Papa Bouba Diop, two of the biggest, long-ball suited players in the game were brought in as the spine of the team. The coup of Kevin Nolan certainly perked fans up a bit, albeit with some scepticism at his reported £50,000 a week wages.
But, the fact of the matter is, West Ham United were promoted back to the top flight of English football. Job Done surely? Not good enough for a section of the supporters who demanded better football becoming of a Hammers team. A string of good, yet uninspiring signings followed this summer before Allardyce played his trump card. The signing of England International and Liverpool flop Andy Carroll on a season long loan. The transfer of a fully-fledged international striker, once worth an extortionate £35 million to King Kenny's Liverpool revolution has given the fans belief that West Ham will not be in for a long, hard struggle to stave off relegation, but can consolidate in mid-table like Swansea and Norwich before them.
It remains to be seen whether this is a realistic ambition for the season, but there is certainly an air of optimism around the Boleyn Ground. The vast majority of the fans are in agreement that a West Ham side winning matches with Big Sam is better than a West Ham side losing matches playing neat, passing football. Whether or not Liverpool can allow West Ham to have Carroll for the season will be determined in January, but this could be crucial the overall success of the season. With a target man like Carroll up front, players like Nolan, Vaz Te and Diame will profit from knockdowns and flick-on's, something which Carlton Cole and John Carew struggled with providing last season.
Despite last season's chants of 'We play on floor' and the disdain shown when the long ball was fruitless, there is little negativity around the club this season, there is little groaning from the Upton Park faithful. Instead there is confidence and belief that Big Sam can deliver safety. After that, who knows where Big Sam could take the East Londoners?