Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Mon 11 December 2006

Striking while the Iron's hot

It’s always an interesting point in a club’s history when it changes its manager. The end of one era (more often than not a less than successful one), and the beginning of another fuelled with hope and optimism that the new man will bring glory to his team.

West Ham United now find themselves going through just such a period. Today, Alan Pardew was relieved of his duties by the man who became his new chairman just three weeks ago, and the debate has already begun as to whether Eggert Magnusson was right to dismiss him and who Pardew’s replacement will be.

To be blunt, the modern game with all its financial motives does not allow any manager to stay in charge of a club when it’s lost 11 games out of 17 and conceded four times more goals than it’s scored. Add to that the unceremonial ejection it received from the Carling Cup by Chesterfield (to say nothing of the rather more justifiable loss to Palermo in the UEFA Cup) and you have a team that’s staring relegation to the Championship squarely in the eyes, and that simply will not do.

For a team not to be a part of the Premiership these days is like a jailed criminal not being in possession of a reinforced chastity belt. Without it, you’re screwed.

It happened to West Ham in 2003. They slipped into the Championship forcing their last change of managerial personnel – Pardew replacing Glenn Roeder – and had to endure two near-suicidal seasons before they somehow scraped into the Play-Off Final and won a place back in the top-flight in 2005.

As if that wasn’t achievement enough for Alan Pardew, he last year surpassed himself by instilling a confidence in his side that allowed them to play entertaining, attacking football resulting in a ninth-place finish in the Premiership and a runners-up spot in the FA Cup.

Oh, and as a result of that, they also qualified for this season’s UEFA Cup.

Some people think that’s exactly the sort of reason why Alan Pardew should have been treated better by not being dismissed today, but by doing so they miss a valuable point.

To be considered a success these days, a manager must prove that his team can perform at the highest level on a continual basis, not just at some point in the past. If after a spell like the one West Ham have gone through there is no reason to feel that things will improve soon, the Board are left with only one option. He who hesitates is lost, as the old saying goes.

And you can say what you like about the Argentinean signings: what’s caused West Ham’s downfall in this first four months of the season is Pardew’s inability to drive his team on with imagination, inspiration and tactical diversity. That, too, is a signal for someone new to take over.

So who should that new person be? Sven-Goran Eriksson has already ruled himself out, which is a pity. With his track record at club level, it could have been an exciting prospect for West Ham. Alan Curbishley has been installed as the favourite, but as someone who managed to achieve only promotion to the Premiership for Charlton (after he’d got them relegated in the first place) and precisely nothing else, he’s perhaps not the man they’re looking for either. As for George Graham, Glenn Hoddle and Terry Venables, they’ve practically made a career out of appearing on lists like this whenever there’s a high-profile managerial casualty, so let’s not waste any more time considering them.

With lots of money waiting to be spent thanks to the recent investment made by the new Icelandic chairman, West Ham should be capable of attracting the attentions of a much better class of manager than any of those mentioned above, especially one that’s available on the continent. It seems too good an opportunity to miss with the club’s potential for success never being higher, so maybe Europe could provide the answer.

All that lies ahead for West Ham, but they will be looking for someone who can motivate the players, get them organised into a well-drilled unit and play a decent standard of football. If the new man can achieve that as Alan Pardew no longer could, West Ham will remain in the Premiership, thus achieving their immediate priority. Going one step further and achieving genuine glory seems a far-off dream at the moment, but with the right man put in place during the next few weeks, it might – just might – happen.

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