Filed: Friday, 19th October 2012
By: Staff Writer
Ahead of this weekend's Premier League clash with Southampton - a match he himself described as a 'six-pointer' earlier in the week - Sam Allardyce spoke to Yahoo about all things West Ham...
How do you assess the start West Ham have made to the season?
Well, up to now I think itís been exceptionally good. I think that while we were disappointed by losing to Arsenal in our last game you can expect that with Arsenal being such a good side and with us just promoted back into the Premier League. Our only real disappointment was the Swansea away game where we got beat comfortably in the end, but every other performance and every other result has been very, very good. 11 points in seven games is a good start for us.
Which of your players have impressed you most in rising to the challenge this season?
I think one of the most impressive has been Winston Reid, who hasnít really been in this country that long. The improvement of Winston and the consistency of performances he gives us as a central defender have been key to some of our results, because our defensive unit as a team and as individuals have been very good.
From the players I inherited when I first joined West Ham, Mark Noble has come good in the Premier League. Plus my captain, Kevin Nolan, whoís been there before and leads the team on and off the field; heís made a good start. Most of the players, to be perfectly honest, have done their job and hopefully they can continue to and continue to get the results that weíre looking for.
Andy Carroll: how significant a transfer do you think that was for West Ham and, in a more general sense, how important is it for a promoted team to get players like that on loan?
Andy was a big, big signing for us. Even though itís only a loan deal for a season I think the size of the player - not just in stature but in terms of his ability - was one where every player who was already at West Ham thought "wow". I think Andy, with Matt Jarvis and then Yossi Benayoun made the squad a real secure squad in terms of strength and depth.
While Yossi hasnít been able to break in on a regular basis just yet, Matt Jarvis and Andy Carroll have made a major impact - not just individually but to the rest of the team, making them feel like we can do something this season in terms of where we finish in the Premier League.
What do you think about the prospect of West Ham maybe moving into the Olympic Stadium?
Iíve said since arriving at West Ham that I understand the history and tradition of the Boleyn Ground, but to really become one of the top clubs in London, if not in this country, then a new stadium is of the utmost importance.
Weíve seen Chelsea grow into a major European side over the last decade because of Roman Abramovichís money. Weíve seen Arsenal move into a brand new 60,000 stadium at the Emirates and weíve seen Man United grow their stadium to 75,000. Moving to the Olympic Stadium is a must for the growth and the development of the club.
60,000 seats are planned and that will satisfy everybody who wants to come to West Ham - and a fantastic venue it could be too. We experienced what the atmosphere was like at the Olympics; that same atmosphere could be recreated with a West Ham football team playing there.
Does it make it even more exciting when we saw the likes of Mo Farrah and Jess Ennis win Gold there? Itís got some memories, hasnít it?
Itís got some fantastic memories, the Paralympics as well; the turnout for the Paralympics and the athletes' success there was absolutely magnificent.
For the area itself itís very important that we do move there and make sure that we keep the standards up. Itís a superb venue, the Olympic Park is a superb park and I canít see anybody else using it to the maximum as we could. The big problem to be overcome is the running track around the pitch which must be maintained, so the engineers would have to plan particularly well to cope with that situation.
I was going to ask you about that. Thereís a widely-held perception in this country that having a running track impacts on the atmosphere. Do you think that is an issue?
Yes, most definitely. Bayern Munich, for instance, got themselves their own stadium where the fans come much closer to the touchline and that creates a much, much better atmosphere. If you go to Spain with the old stadiums, that creates an even better atmosphere. Because their health and safety rules arenít as strict as ours their terracing is much steeper, so the fans are even closer to the pitch than they are in England - and that does create the electric atmosphere that youíre looking for.
In the wake of the Olympics we heard a lot about how footballers contrasted with athletes. Do you think there are things footballers can learn from Olympians and Paralympians, or do you think some of the criticism footballers got was overblown?
The game is a volatile contest so people will lose their temper - but nobody seems to highlight the fact that rugby players stamp on each others heads or gauge each others eyes out; that seems to be acceptable. Or ice hockey [where] players beat themselves up with sticks. But when a footballer kicks somebody, or does something thatís slightly untoward itís "lock them away, ban them for life".
I think thereís a lot of jealousy around football in this country. More and more people complain about the price and so on and so forth, whereas with the other sports itís not quite the same. So itís something we have to live with.
The Olympics is not as fierce a competition because thereís not that day-to-day, week-to-week competitive edge. Itís a build-up of four years - a very dedicated four years of course - and the delight of winning must be one of the biggest highs anybodyís ever experienced.
Do you have a code of conduct at West Ham and what do you think of Englandís attempts to implement one?
Yes, we do. Iíve always had a code of conduct which is signed up to by the players, the club itself and me as the manager. Any sporting industry has to be run with discipline; if itís not, then it will fail miserably.
It is adhered to by everybody concerned and if anybody has any complaints, then I can revert to the code of conduct and say "Iím sorry, but it says in the code of conduct that youíre not supposed to do that; you have, so the consequences are this" - and there can be no argument. Of course, thereís always the right of appeal on anything that may result in a fine, but discipline for everything is imperative if you want to succeed today.
Thereís been a lot of attention paid to diving recently. Why do you think it creates so much controversy in this country and do you agree with the view that divers should be banned retrospectively?
As a professional I have a view that diving - or simulation, as it's called - is not what we want. Over the years, simulation has crept in more and more; it started with some of the foreign imports who came into the game. But there is another side to it that says honest players who stay on their feet donít get fouls given to them by referees today.
From our point of view nobody needs to feign anything if thereís no contact. But I feel that on some occasions, if contact is made, if you donít go down you donít get [awarded anything]. If there is contact - and the contact is severe enough - more often than not the referee chooses not to give anything and that creates a greater frustration and anger than diving does.
If you want to cut diving - blatant dives - out, suspending players would be a good thing. But you have got to get the other side right as well and balance that up by giving free kicks that are free kicks when honest players stay on their feet.
For more insight from Sam Allardyce and other leading managers plus exclusive Barclays Premier League highlights go to www.yahoo.co.uk/sport.
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