Sam Allardyce’s hard-luck stories are wearing as thin as West Ham's defence

 

Sports News Correspondent

Sam Allardyce has long seen himself as one of football’s innovators, a groundbreaker at Bolton and now pushing the boundaries at West Ham. The man who dabbled with sending out a striker-less side in the first part of the season began the New Year by ushering an XI out of the away dressing room at Craven Cottage on Wednesday without a single centre-half.

Allardyce would no doubt rather be regarded as an English Vicente del Bosque than a southern Craig Levein, who four years ago fielded a Scotland side in Prague with no front man. But the result at Fulham, which ensconced West Ham firmly in the bottom three, shoved him a step closer to joining Levein in football’s dole queue.

Tomorrow’s challenging FA Cup tie at Nottingham Forest is unlikely to have any bearing on his future – Allardyce will field a young team – nor next week’s first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final against Manchester City. It is what comes after that that matters to those in charge at Upton Park.

Blessed with employers who operate with the safety catch on, Allardyce is safe for now. The Davids, Gold and Sullivan, are not prone to impetuous firings and have consistently backed their man; Sullivan did so again when they met on Thursday.

However, there are limits to the co-owners’ patience and the first two months of 2014 will settle Allardyce’s fate. By the end of February, they will have been to Cardiff and Aston Villa and hosted Swansea, Norwich and Southampton. If West Ham remain rooted in the relegation zone then the thread by which Allardyce’s job is hanging will be cut.

The manager’s selection at Fulham was forced by injury as the club have had misfortune heaped upon medical misfortune. West Ham’s defensive solidity was Allardyce’s comfort blanket but since Winston Reid injured an ankle in training in November, it has been whisked away. James Collins and James Tomkins are also out, leaving the club without a centre-half – 11 goals have been conceded in the last four games and there has been a solitary league win since Reid was sidelined.

Of his 25-strong senior squad, Allardyce has 14 available. Kevin Nolan, so long Allardyce’s stalwart but badly off colour this season, has been fined two weeks’ wages for his second red card in little over a month. He will serve the first of his four matches suspended tomorrow.

How many more games Andy Carroll will miss remains the £15m question. West Ham invested much of their transfer kitty on the striker, believing he would be fit by September. Carroll trained again with the first team, or what’s left of it, yesterday but Allardyce will resist the obvious temptation to hurry him back. Mid-January is the latest date offered.

Allardyce can point to misfortune at the back but the failure to stock the striking cupboard is his fault. He has much to do in the transfer window. Johnny Heitinga said no but the Carroll-esque Lacina Traoré is set to arrive on loan if he receives a work permit. The 6ft 8in Ivorian was part of Anzhi Makhachkala’s fire sale, joining Monaco but the Ligue 1 side are happy to loan him out until next season.

Over all this looms the Olympic Stadium. The refitting of West Ham’s 54,000-seat home-to-be is under way. In his Christmas message to supporters Sullivan painted a happy picture of what to expect come 2016.“The stadium will attract better players,” he said. “If we’re perceived as a big club with a great stadium in the heart of London, a lot of foreign players who might not have come will be attracted to West Ham.”

It is not a game plan that includes Championship football, as Allardyce is all too aware. Right now, he admitted yesterday, “life is exceptionally tough”.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there