Two managerial positions hung in the balance by the end of last Wednesday. Roy Hodgson was eventually sacked by Liverpool after being convincingly beaten by Blackburn. Meanwhile West Ham were trounced 5-0 by Newcastle but Gold and Sullivan decided not to give Avram Grant the bullet. Now, this isn’t a blog to attack or defend the decision by John Henry to let Hodgson go (that would be the Twittersphere which was within minutes exploding with vitriol) but to support Gold, Sullivan and Grant. Many on Twitter suggested that West Ham ‘do the right thing’ and replace Grant with Hodgson. Given the West Ham’s league position and the performances of the first half of the season, coupled with the overall class and dignity of Hodgson it seems a reasonable request. But there are mitigating factors that should be considered.
West Ham’s record in the past six games is W3D2L1. The loss against Newcastle was embarrassing and one of the victories was against Barnsley in the FA Cup rather than in the league but finally the Hammers seem to be finding some form. Having stuck with Grant all the way through until January it seems illogical to sack the man when he finally records four games on the bounce without defeat. Grant has a reputation as a loser having won nothing with Chelsea, relegated Portsmouth and is now bottom with West Ham, but some historical revisionism is needed here. Chelsea only lost the Premiership on the final day and missed out on the Champions League on penalties. Given the difficulty of the situation Grant inherited from Mourinho this should be viewed as a solid achievement rather than failure. Portsmouth was a lost cause and not a manager alive would have rescued the situation and were it not for the financial problems surrounding the club Grant might well have saved them from the drop. Also let us not forget his strong cup run that year.
At West Ham the Israeli has again been dealt a bad hand. Nevertheless that doesn’t mean that a bad hand can’t be played better than he has managed. After all the team is still bottom having played a game more. There is a huge reliance on Scott “Captain Fantastic” Parker and for much of the season the football has been dire to watch. However they are still very much in the mix and could be saved with a few good results. Results which Grant is perhaps slowly starting to provide based on their recent record.
Furthermore, there is the fact that West Ham is a financial disaster zone, a fact admitted by the owners. The excellent Swiss Ramble detailed just how poorly the club had been run prior to the arrival of Gold and Sullivan. So there is little advantage in letting go of Grant and having to pay out the value of his contract to bring in either Allardyce or Hodgson, especially given that West Ham might actually want to go down. Relegation might actually be a rather positive thing for the Hammers. It sounds bizarre on first glance but then consider the case of Newcastle. A season in the Championship and what was a club in slow decline managed to shed the huge earners and re-think its aims in the short and long term. This is exactly what West Ham need. Players such as Benni McCarthy are on phenomenal salaries and yet never play. McCarthy pockets £38,000 a week yet has not scored a single competitive goal this season. Relegation provides the club the opportunity to remove the dead wood, sort the clubs finances into something approaching reasonable order and, given the gigantic windfall that even relegation brings, it would be realistic expect instant promotion like Newcastle.
So West Ham are faced with the choice of holding on to a manager who might just be on the verge of turning things around and is cheaper to keep than sack. Even if he doesn’t manage to avoid the drop there are numerous positives. The desire of Hammers fans to bring in a fire-fighter such as Allardyce or Hodgson (see Blackburn and Fulham for their credentials) is totally understandable but in a league of Mike Ashley’s and Venky’s the sensible approach of Gold and Sullivan is to be applauded. They might peddle smut but there are plenty of dirtier people in football than the current West Ham owners.