It’s like two teenagers who have just split up. “I dumped her”, the lad tells his mates. “No you didn’t, I dumped you,” says the girl. “And I never liked you anyway.”
It wasn’t very seemly that the Hammers issued their statement saying that their manager wouldn’t have his contract renewed within minutes of the final whistle blowing in their last game. But then West Ham and Sam Allardyce was a match that was never going to last a long time. That it’s got through four years is remarkable in itself.
The fans never liked him, or his style of football. And come to that, the feeling was pretty mutual, right back to the middle of his first season when he poured scorn on the idea that there had ever been a “West Ham way”.
Last summer the word was that Big Sam was ready to walk away if the owners would pay up the last year of his contract. Or you could have listened to the other word which was that the owners would be happy if Allardyce resigned but didn’t want to give him a bean.
In the event they struggled through a last season that started full of promise then fell to pieces the moment it was clear that, whatever happened, it was all going to come to an end anyway. For the last few months of the season West Ham became the Premier League’s gift team. They finished by helping Newcastle secure safety, but before that they’d also rolled over to keep Aston Villa up and handed Leicester the first points of their astonishing run to safety too.
What’s next? Well the job as manager at Upton Park is a pretty attractive Premier League proposition.
You take over a decent squad that should have finished in the top half of the table. You get through an awkward first season – and then you move into the Olympic Stadium when you can suddenly move a club onto another level.
Finding the right man, though, isn’t easy. He has to be somebody the fans can embrace, who understands the history and tradition of the club. He has to share the ambition for what can be built in the future. And in the short term he has to know his way around the survival course to stay in the Premier League.
Slaven Bilic is the immediate favourite in Betfair’s market. The former boss of Croatia has just made it clear he won’t stay at Besiktas in Turkey, making himself readily available, an announcement which has seen his odds drop to [1.9].
But while Bilic is somebody the fans could relate to as a former Upton Park idol, he has never managed in the Premier League. And in Turkey, for all the good things he’s done, he has failed to qualify for the Champions League. Is that a CV on which David Gold and David Sullivan would be willing to take a gamble?
Rafa Benitez [18.0] was a target but now looks likely to go to Real Madrid. Steve McClaren [27.0] has been on the radar of the Hammers board before and is certain to be on the market when he settles his departure from Derby.
So don’t discount Harry Redknapp [26.0]. The dodgy knees which were his excuse for leaving QPR seem to have healed. His passion for the game will never end. And West Ham remain his club, the place where he has unfinished business after getting sacked not long after delivering fifth place – still the highest finish they have achieved in the Premier League.
His CV, incidentally, also includes putting Spurs into the top four not once but twice. In short he ticks every box.