Filed: Tuesday, 14th August 2012
By: Staff Writer
Just four days ahead the start of the 2012/13 Premier League campaign, with West Ham United duly restored to the top flight of English football by virtue of May's play-off Final win against Blackpool, we sat down with current Hammers boss Sam Allardyce to look ahead to the new season. Firing the questions on behalf of KUMB.com was Graeme Howlett...
KUMB: Sam: thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Last season you achieved your goal at the first ask and it was ultimately a successful season. What would you consider a success this year?
SA: I think it all depends on how we go in the first eight to ten games. We have to look at the first group of fixtures and ask: "What can we achieve from this group of fixtures?" Then at the end of that period I will know about the strengths and weaknesses of my squad and I will have a better idea about where we might be capable of finishing.
To try and predict at this stage of the season, being a newly-promoted side... You think you've got this or you've got that, but until it gets tested again in the Premier League... I've got a lot of Premier League players who have played there before but they're all having to test themselves yet again.
A lot of teams have spent a lot of money and obviously those teams are going to be very difficult to play against, but we've got to make sure we're ready to compete against anybody and to try and get a result out of every game we're going to play. The first few games are critical; we'll see where we go from there.
KUMB: Talking about those first few games, you might say the fixture list has been relatively kind to us?
SA: I would agree with you; they are games we've got a chance of getting a result and a few points out of.
In this league, I always say to the players: "Lads, you're all looking forward to playing against Manchester United and Chelsea - and we're all looking forward to playing at Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford and The Emirates - but at the end of the day we should be looking forward to playing against the teams we've got a better chance of winning against."
We should all be at our best for those games and if we do that, then we will be a very strong Premier League outfit. You can play your very best against Manchester United; Chelsea; Arsenal; Liverpool; Man City - you could play a really good game - and still come off having lost 2-0, or 3-1.
You know that when you play your very best against somebody around you, somebody around the same level as you, you're probably going to come out with a win or at least a draw. That's the most important thing, the mentality of the players to get the results where we're more capable of getting [them] and not waiting to produce their best performance against the top boys.
KUMB: You mentioned going to the Emirates there; I would imagine you're fairly keen to reacquaint yourself with Mr Wenger and his team again? You had a few battles with him back in the day when you were at Bolton?
SA: I was with Arsene yesterday, it was very relaxed! We were talking about the referees in the Premier League and the media rights next season, the responsibility of the players and the managers. We've a huge responsibility to keep promoting this fantastic Barclays Premier League which has brought in millions and millions of pounds.
Overseas rights have been bought by 86 countries as well as our own rights domestically, so there's a huge demand on us managers and the players. But with the millions it brings, we have to accept it. So we have to keep promoting the Barclays Premier League in the right way whilst we have a responsibility to tell our players to go out there, promote it and entertain.
Obviously the most important thing for us is winning games of football but [also] to look after what is a great brand. I think, listening to Arsene yesterday, it'll be great to be challenging against [someone who has been] a fantastic coach in this country all these years.
KUMB: Going back to last year, you'd talk frequently about the targets you'd set the team. You talked about aiming for automatic promotion, you talked about averaging two points from every game; is that something you'll be doing again this time?
SA: Yeah. We've done our five phases; we've done what we need to do. The players are clear that we work in each phase to try and do the best we possibly can because there's a great tendency in players' minds to start a season and say: "Oh well, we haven't won but there's 37 games left to go".
That's the most dangerous thing that can happen to one of your players. They must say from the very start that the first three points are just as important as the last. If you get that mode of thinking then you've got a better chance of doing well.
Breaking the season up and saying we're going to be assessing [performances] at the end of this group of games, we're going to be either praising it, criticising it or both. We hope it's a massive "well done" but we can improve on this and we can improve on that.
If it's not so good we've got to say: "Look lads, we've got the next phase to move into and we must get better immediately". That's the key for me, to sustain consistency throughout the season.
KUMB: In terms of you personally, when you arrived here last summer you signed a two-year contract which obviously expires at the end of this season. How long do you see yourself being at West Ham?
SA: Only as long as I continue to win is the answer to that, in today's volatile world of football. For me to say anything other than that based on the statistics would just be irresponsible of me because even if I signed a five-year contract, if I lost the first ten games [of the season] I'd probably be getting sacked.
KUMB: How far do you think you can take West Ham United?
SA: Well I want to take them into the Olympic Stadium because I was inspired by it. I think that if any fans had doubts about us moving there they should have been extinguished by the atmosphere that was created [during the games] and the facility that is there for this club - and only three miles down the road.
KUMB: So you see a move to the Olympic Stadium as key to the club's progression?
SA: If this club wants to be great, it has to go. Unless you redevelop Upton Park and make it a 60,000 all-seater state-of-the-art stadium, then fine.
KUMB: Which can't happen...
SA: Which can't happen. So if you can't do that you've got an unbelievable arena that could create a cauldron of noise - which is what the West Ham fans do, as they showed at Wembley. It could be the catalyst for the next generation, the modern-day history of this football club.
KUMB: You were spotted singing 'Bubbles' at Wembley; you picked the words up pretty quickly?
SA: [laughs] I've heard it that much I can't help it! Every time I ring the Chairman - which is mostly David Sullivan, not David Gold - generally I have to wait for him for a short while and on comes "I'm forever blowing bubbles..." So it does become pretty infectious in the end, you know what I mean!?
But I understand the culture and the history of this football club and how much it means [to the fans]. I'm ingrained in it and I want to be successful not just for myself, but for them too. Every manager does. And every group of players here wants to be successful - obviously for themselves and their families, but also for the football club and for the supporters.