Fat Sam To West Ham? Terrifying Yet Somehow Compelling


Lizard! Fat Sam eyes up another multi-million pound fat fly payoff

Inception – The Dream Is Real

As Nick Cave said, “I had a dream,” only unlike Cadaverous Nicholas my nightmare wasn’t so much about bad people rolling my friend Michel in a floorsworth of linoleum and shooting him in the neck as it was about the same pile of bad (actually very bad) men coming along and installing Fat Sam Allerdiché as manager of the Prem’s bottom trawlers West Ham and it somehow being the right thing to do.

Now, you must be thinking that this is obviously totally, totally wrong. That I have gone mad with the coffee, stayed up all night playing videogames and my mind has gone loopy like them Sonic The Hedgehog games of yesteryear. That Leonardo and his merry men must have spent days, weeks, months larumphing around in my brain to have incepted a thought as powerfully, incontrovertably wrong as this inside my head. And obviously they have, because the more I think about it the more compelling it becomes. And there and then I resolve to split up my father’s business empire, become my own man and, fuck it, just go with the flow on this one.

Because in the twisted michavellean world that Football is, a world where up is down and financial fair play still means you can spend over 100% of your income on wages, this has all the hallmarks of a good idea. Certainly it’s every bit as good an idea as paying Wayne Bridge some £70,000+ a week to save West Ham. So why does the idea fill me with horror? Why the nightsweat?

First up, I hate Fat Sam. I hate his useless, percentage play defensive hoofery, his accumulation of low grade, often incompetent journeymen, his ‘blocking’ tactics, and his acceptance of the professional foul as a legitimate weapon. I hate the way he reduces his players and teams to agricultural hoof-merchants and blames the ref for everything that goes wrong when his team is on the pitch. Above all I hate the knuckle chewing, brain curdling tedium his sides induce whenever I’m forced to watch them. And the fact that the same players, freed of Fat Sam’s shackles, can actually play half-decent football – just look at Blackburn’s outstanding performance the other week against the Loserpool RedSox a mere month after the Fat one was given the heave-ho. Oh and I hate that he’s Ferguson’s most lickspittle chou-chou too.

I don’t hate his ambition, because every manager should aspire to manage a big club, it’s just that with little experience of Europe he’s unlikely to get offers for the posts he coverts (Man U, Arsenal, Inter, Real Madrid apparently) and he opens himself up to full-on mockery and humiliation. Additionally his statement that “I am not suited to Bolton or Blackburn,” when he patently is, displays a level of self-delusion that you just have to treat with contempt.

And he’s being supplanted by other, better mid-table managers. Steve Bruce and Owen Coyle have shown that you don’t need to play tedious, percentage play football to challenge for Europe, while Ian Holloway at Blackpool, Martinez at Wigan, De Matteo at West Brom and, whisper it really quietly, very occasionally, Mick McCarthy at Wolves have shown that attack really is the better form of defence. Their teams win (in Wolves case only very occasionally it must be said) and are generally good to watch. Certainly they’re better to watch than the teams put out by Fat Sam.

Second, you have to consider West Ham’s tradition. They’re a football playing side, a side who pride themselves in their development of great, cultured players – you think of the classic West Ham side that practically won the World Cup, Moore, Hurst and Peters, or the likes of Brooking, or the great side that won the Prem (admittedly for Chelski), Joe Cole, Lumpy and Glenda Johnson. There’s a legacy there of some sort of quality far removed from the ambitions of Fat Sam.

So you have the nightmare scenario, a footballing barbarian, albeit one who can justify his grotesque behavior with copious OptaStats and ProZone information, at the gates of one of the Prem’s ‘olde quality’ sides. But an old quality side that frankly isn’t showing the kind of quality West Ham aspire to and risks falling into relegation. And in this season of seasons, where the table is so tight and the margins so narrow and the price of failure (and relegation) so catastrophic it might make perfect sense for everyone to, you know, align the two of them.

For West Ham the benefits are obvious. Fatto will save them from relegation, which is not something you can guarantee with Avuncular Avram, indeed the latter’s proven recent track record of nothing but relegation indicates otherwise. He will firm up West Ham’s slowcoach defence and improve their set-piece play. He’ll love and cherish Scott Parker, who is exactly the kind of ‘flair’ player that Fat Sam appreciates and he’ll probably entice Chris Samba to join him from Blackburn to further solidify their defence, assuming West Ham spunk up the cash. He might even go crawling to Ferguson for a couple of likely loanees, which he’d get more likely than not. And, with around 20 points to get from 16 matches, that should do it. And with Prem status confirmed and the Hammers looking to step up to the Olympic Stadium, you can bet there’ll be money on the table for Fat Sam to build a better side. The worry is what will it cost, not in cold, hard cash, but in quality of play on the field.

For West Ham, like Tottingham, are, if nothing else, an attacking side. Last night against Boremingham in the Useless Cup they were outstanding going forward in the first half, where they battered Boremingham into the floor and should have been ahead by 2 or 3 by halftime. They broke fast(ish) and pressed Boremingham all over the pitch. So  much so, they were obviously exhausted by the time the second half rolled around and were at the mercy of the Bores for much of the second half, when they played atrociously. I don’t see Fat Sam encouraging that sort of risky first half behavior. And with the once celebrated West Ham academy not exactly shovelling out new talent I can’t see him waiting for quality to be developed. Instead I see another plethora of overpriced, mid-market journeymen heading for the Boleyn Ground. And then you’ve lost your soul and all that’s  left is that sick, vertiginous feeling you get when the ground is pulled out from under you, or you’re running away like hell and the stairs have turned to porridge and you realise, in a moment of clarity, that you are in the grips of a nightmare.

And yet, and yet, the dream seems real. It has potential.

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