Sam Allardyce can be accused of many things, but a lack of pragmatism certainly wasn’t one of them, as the West Ham manager showed in the post-match interview after last night’s 6-0 mauling at the hands of Manchester City.
Unfortunately for him, his side and the fans who traveled to Nottingham and Manchester over the last five days only to see their club conceding 11 goals to nil – and will now be charged £42 for a ticket in the return leg – yesterday’s press conference was just about the first time Big Sam showed an ounce of common sense this week.
Without a league win in seven games, during which his side had only picked up two points, Allardyce opted to field an extremely weakened side away at Nottingham Forest on Saturday and suffered a humbling 5-0 defeat as West Ham waved goodbye to the FA Cup.
Forget about the Hammers disrespecting the FA Cup and, even though it’s a lot harder, about the fact that the West Ham manager virtually hung his youngsters out to dry on Saturday, as they were humiliated on national television.
The reason why Allardyce opted to rest the majority of his senior players at the City Ground was that his side had a Capital One Cup semifinal coming up and the former Bolton manager thought his side had a better chance of reaching Wembley in the League Cup and opted to sacrifice the FA Cup.
A rather logical assumption, one might say, except that after last night’s shellacking at the Etihad, Allardyce claimed that his side were simply not good enough to compete against City and that a defeat was almost inevitable.
“What do you expect when you’ve got lads on free transfers playing against players that have cost hundreds and hundreds of millions of pounds? You can do better than we did, but we’d need a fully fit squad,” said Allardyce.
“I had a left-back playing centre-half that we got on a free transfer [George McCartney] and that’s not fair on him really, having to play against [Alvaro] Negredo and Dzeko.
“We got [on-loan Wolves defender] Roger Johnson in and I thought he did OK, even though we lost 6-0.
“It’s not a good time for us to lose 6-0 but it’s not like they haven’t done it to anyone else. They’ve done Manchester United [4-1], done Tottenham [6-0], Arsenal [6-3], and we have to face the fact that they’re miles better than us.”
While City have indeed been mightily impressive at home, if the West Ham manager hoped to use some reverse psychology to spark his players into life ahead of the weekend his strategy failed miserably.
Either Allardyce was convinced West Ham had a chance to keep their hopes of reaching Wembley alive until the second leg, in which case his post-game comments are simply ludicrous, or he knew that knocking City was mission impossible and shouldn’t have forfeited the FA Cup.
On Saturday, West Ham travel to Cardiff on the back of two traumatising defeats, of which at least one could have been if not avoidable at least not as chastening as it proved to be, while now the confidence of Big Sam’s men is as shattered as the bodies of some of them.
The mood in South Wales has improved after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Malky Mackay in the Bluebirds’ dugout and while any manager working under Vincent Tan will never be able to relax, few would bet on West Ham clinching the three points they desperately need to drag themselves out of the relegation zone.
Safety is only three points adrift but with fellow strugglers Crystal Palace finding some momentum under Tony Pulis and Sunderland riding high on the wave of excitement generated by edging a step closer to a cup final, West Ham could soon find themselves rock bottom.
That, coupled with an absolutely horrendous run-in that sees them hosting Liverpool and Spurs, before traveling to Arsenal and Manchester City in the last six weeks of the campaign paints a doomsday scenario for the East Londoners.
West Ham, admittedly, have had rotten luck with injuries this season and Allardyce’s decision – backed by the board – to place almost all his eggs into an Andy Carroll-shaped basket has catastrophically backfired, while other members of the squad are simply not good to play at this level.
In that, Big Sam was right, West Ham can’t compete with the likes of Manchester City and other bigger clubs and survival must be their priority but it’s hard to see how conceding 11 goals over two games could help their confidence.