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Sam Allardyce: Part Two

Filed: Wednesday, 15th 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: you've brought in eight players now - including two players who were previously on loan - during the transfer window?

SA: Yeah, we had two of the eight before - we had [Stephen] Henderson and George McCartney so I don't really count them but they are permanent. We're still another three or four short of the squad's [full] strength and depth.

KUMB: So what specific areas are you targeting at this time?

SA: Well I still think there might be the possibility that we might need a central defender. We've got three in Winston Reid, James Collins - who is back - and James Tomkins but I'm not sure three is strong enough for us in strength and depth.

We're probably okay in the full back areas; in the midfield Alou's joined us so [we're okay there]. In wide areas and up front is still an area where we've got to improve and find better players if we can. That makes us a strong squad and makes the numbers on the board align.

I don't think we'll be able to fill to the 25-man squad that you can register in the Premier League but I think we'll get 20 players and three goalkeepers.

KUMB: Do you think there's going to be an issue with the African Cup of Nations next January?

SA: Well it looks doubtful on our calculations that Senegal are going to get there, because they play the Ivory Coast and Guy Demel tells me that Senegal have no chance! So if that's the case then there are a couple of our players that won't be going.

But our problem in the end is that we've got to match up talented players with financial demand and we've got to meet that criteria to sign a player. So that's our reason for finding players at great quality at reasonable prices with the downside that generally they all come from the African nations - and there's an African Cup of Nations being squeezed in.

We had one last year and it's every two years because they don't want it to clash with the European Championships again, so they brought it forward. Then it'll be every two years from thereon. Hopefully it's something that we'll deal with in January when it comes around.

KUMB: In terms of outgoings, one player we have lost is Ravel Morrison who came in from Man United last January. Do you think he'll ever have a future at West Ham?

SA: I think it's too early to tell. What Ravel needs for the first time in his life is first team football. I was striving for promotion last year and I wasn't in the position to risk Ravel not because of his talent, but because of his inexperience as a first team player.

So going into the Premier League and getting where we wanted to go, he'd never played there before. Going to Birmingham and playing for them in the Championship with a very good young manager/coach with a great backroom staff in Terry McDermott and Fazackerley [will do him good].

I know all three of them personally, Derek I used to play against; I've known all three of them for many, many years. Terry and Nash I knew at Newcastle when I was there. So they will give Ravel the tools to go and prove his ability, that will hopefully put him in a position for us to bring him back and break him into our team.

KUMB: You're a keen exponent of the scientific side of sport, Sam. You were known for assembling a large back-room squad at Bolton; is that something you're repeating here at West Ham?

SA: It's not that large here, no. We still have financial restrictions like I said earlier. I would like to take it a lot further but unfortunately we have a certain amount of money that we have to spread across the board. It isn't as big as I would like it to be but it is qualified and it is highly motivated.

Adding to that would be a great thing if we could but at the moment we just haven't got the finances to do that. As time goes by and we establish ourselves I'll expand in that area, there's no doubt about that. Now why would I do that? Just look at the Olympics.

All those negative vibes that I used to get 12 or 14 years ago when I started this process have just been disproved beyond any question of doubt. Not by football, but by what the rowing team have done - by what even the boxing team have done in this Olympics - and certainly by what the cycling team have done.

That's all around the basis of physiology, it's around the basis of science, it's around the basis of statistics, strength and conditioning. Great coaching, visual aspects of how and what you've got to do to become a great champion.

KUMB: So it's a little like what they were saying about the cycling team [during the Olympics]; it's about eking that extra per cent out?

SA: I gained a massive amount of percentage out of players in the early years at Bolton in the Premier League because not everybody was doing it. Now, if I'm lucky, I could get one [per cent] - because we're all doing it. What we've got to make sure is that we try and do it better than everyone else. If we do that, the players can achieve that little bit more on a Saturday - and that's what our role is.

I've always said the team behind the team is where the success of a football club lies. It starts with recruitment and once that is built up - and continues to build up - then you look at the staff that you've got. The more highly qualified and motivated staff you bring in, the better the players' performance becomes.

One of the things in this country that is still talked about naively - particularly in football but not in cycling or golf, nor in swimming or individual sport - is sports science.

We have Lee Richardson here - who is our part-time sports scientist - who has a Masters degree in that subject but was also a manager, a coach and a player. Moving into this world, I don't think there's any better you can get than that because he's got all his career experiences.

I like our sports scientists to have a football background; academically it's fine but you've got to be practical in all sports and have a practical understanding of that sport. I think that if you get all that right and you promote that, then you get a big response from your players.

For me that's always been the way forward and always will be. I'm always looking for something new, but it's very difficult to find it now.

KUMB: You used to be renowned for watching one half of a game in the dugout and then slipping off upstairs. The only time I saw you do that last year, I think you'd been banished to the stand?

SA: [laughs] That's right; I had to jump over there!

KUMB: Why is that? Was that a deliberate decision?

SA: I assessed the situation here and for that particular season I think everybody wanted to see me at the front end. Nobody wanted to see me at the back, as in leading the team. Myself? Today I'd much prefer to be in a glass executive box with all the equipment that we've got today around me like most other sports - particularly rugby now.

I'd much prefer to be doing that than being down on the bench because I could give much greater input into the side. But whether I'll ever get to that this season? 1). is location and 2). is have I got the time to say "yes, it's time to move upstairs" and then go. It's a difficult decision for me; I'd like to get there at some stage but when that'll be, I don't know.

KUMB: Sam - thanks for taking the time to talk to us and the best of luck for the season ahead.