Ian Holloway: The era of Moore and Hurst is gone – so Hammers fans, get behind Big Sam

They were strong words, and risky too because fans have a lot of power

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The Independent Online

A message to West Ham fans: forget about the academy of football and where you were 40 years ago, and concentrate on the here and now. You might have had Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, but you don't any more. You are where you are – and the Hammers are in the Championship with no God-given right to get out of it.

I say this because Sam Allardyce has been getting stick lately. The fans have been singing the name of another manager and grumbling about the style of football. But for the life of me I can't understand why.

Sam has got a relegated team flying high in the table with a terrific chance of winning automatic promotion. Failing that, they've got the play-offs. What's not to like?

Don't give me any of that "but we're West Ham – we should be winning the title". It doesn't work like that, and besides, what a huge insult that is to the rest of the Championship. I've heard Sheffield Wednesday fans say the same about League One. It is nonsense.

Now don't get me wrong, Sam knew what he was getting himself into when he went to Upton Park. He knew the expectation and the pressure on him to deliver. His brief is to take them up. But chances are, he is going to do exactly what the club hired him for and win promotion. So why judge him now?

The stick has obviously affected Sam because he has described the supporters having a go at him as "deluded". They were strong words, and risky too because fans have a lot of power at any club.

That said, it is not terminal if you lose a section of the supporters. Look at Alan Pardew and Newcastle. They didn't want him in the first place but he has won them round by doing a brilliant job.

Sam is an experienced manager, tough as old boots, and he clearly felt he had to stand up and protect himself. And the bottom line is that the majority of West Ham supporters will be delighted with how he is doing. You only ever hear the minority.

Sam knows he has a responsibility to win matches and he has consistently done so throughout his career. Unfortunately for him, he seems to have been labelled a long-ball man.

I don't see it myself. They beat my Blackpool side 4-0 and 4-1 this season. Everybody compliments us for the type of passing football we play but West Ham took us apart in both games and played some great stuff.

Just judge Sam at the end of the season is all I'm saying, and until then I would suggest that the fans sing songs which actually help him and his team rather than hinder their chances of going up.

Pressure's off for Di Matteo

How ironic it would be if the one manager who isn't under pressure to win the Champions' League actually goes and does it.

Roberto Di Matteo is the first Chelsea boss who doesn't have Roman Abramovich breathing down his neck telling him he has to win the thing. And maybe that is the key to why they are doing so well.

Maybe the pressure from the owners has been too much for any of the previous managers to bear. They know if they fail, they are out. Di Matteo doesn't have any of that.

I thought Roberto's team selection in Benfica was brave. Had his team lost he would have left himself open to all sorts of criticism. But what a fantastic performance they produced, and to go there and win will only increase their confidence.

They have as good a chance as anybody of being crowned kings of Europe and I certainly wouldn't bet against them.

Kean can do double over United

There was a point when Steve Kean must have considered going to matches in a tin hat. The bloke was getting crucified by all and sundry.

The abuse from his own supporters when Blackburn Rovers played Everton was so bad that Everton's manager David Moyes said he left the ground feeling physically sick.

Life isn't suddenly a bed of roses for Kean but he has certainly turned things around and tomorrow he has a chance to do the double over Manchester United. Not many can say that.

Their win over Fergie's side on New Year's Eve kickstarted their resurgence and I daresay United won't be looking forward to this game too much. It is a tricky assignment for them at Ewood and they won't take anything for granted against a bloke who has kept his dignity and proved the doubters wrong.

We must appoint our Lancaster

Thank God the top brass at the English Rugby Football Union know what they are doing. Stuart Lancaster was the obvious, stand-out candidate for the England coach's job so they have given it to him.

Hopefully our Football Association are watching and taking note. Please at least offer the darn thing to Harry Redknapp. What the thinking is at the moment I don't know.

Maybe it is a cunning master plan and they have decided we should prepare for the Euros without a boss to dampen expectation and lull others into a false sense of security!

The bloke I feel for is Stuart Pearce. What a summer he will have: England boss, Under-21 manager and in charge of the Olympic team. The poor fella will be a wreck by the end of it all.

Let's not beat ourselves up about what happened at Bradford

Punch-ups on a football pitch are very rare. I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen players lose it and in every case it has been on the training ground rather than during a game.

The funniest I've witnessed involved a goalkeeper at Bristol Rovers called Brian Parkin. We only had a 16-man squad and the other keeper was injured so Brian had to spend all morning saving shots and catching crosses.

At one stage he asked for a breather but our manager Gerry Francis was a hard taskmaster and he just told him to get on with it.

Brian was working his proverbials off and at the end of the session, when Gerry finally called time, he leant forward on the goalline with his head between his knees, blowing hard.

Just at that moment, someone hit a shot which hit Brian on the back of his neck. I've never seen anything like what happened next.

I thought Brian was joking at first but he ripped his gloves off, ran over to the lad responsible and started swearing and punching him. It took about seven of us to pull him away because he really meant it.

That was quite shocking to see but it is nothing compared to events after last week's Bradford v Crawley match.

What happened there was in full view of the fans and that is why it is wrong. Players have a responsibility to try and keep their dignity at all times because what they do on the pitch can lead to similar behaviour off it.

We have to remember that fighting among supporters has caused some terrible disasters. People have lost their lives because of it so on the pitch we have to behave in a certain manner.

But that said, I hope the FA don't hit them too hard. There has to be a fine, fair enough, but as long as no one got seriously hurt, let's not go overboard.

In a few years time we will probably all look back at it and laugh, and in many ways that raw emotion is a vital part of sport.

As a manager you can set the tone before a game and at half-time, but you cannot do anything about emotional situations that can kick up during a contest.

These things will occasionally happen. But not often, which is why we shouldn't jump on our high horse too much about this incident.

Don't scorn Vaughan

A quick word for David Vaughan, who scored a really unfortunate own goal during Sunderland's FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Everton last week.

I had David for two years at Blackpool and all I can say is what happened the other night is probably the first thing he has done wrong in his career.

He is a terrific player and an even better person. It was one mistake, he didn't mean to do it, and I hope the fans in the North-east get behind him and don't play the blame game.

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