Premier League Preview - West Ham Utd
MANAGER: Sam Allardyce
STADIUM: Upton Park (35016)
LAST SEASON: 3RD (CHAMPIONSHIP)
A side that had its mind firmly set on promotion, The Hammers secured their Premier League status via the Playoffs - preventing Blackpool from making an instant return to top-flight football in the process. The road was arduous and at times fraught with disappointment and frustration.
Sam Allardyce and the supporters did not always see eye to eye on the best way of achieving promotion, but by virtue of the playoffs, Big Sam was able to deliver an instant return, leaving behind worries of styles of play for another day and another argument.
IN: Modibo Maiga (Sochaux, £5m), Alou Diarra (Marseille, £2m), James Collins (Aston Villa, undisclosed), Stephen Henderson (Portsmouth, undisclosed), George McCartney (Sunderland, undisclosed), Raphael Spiegel (Grasshoppers, undisclosed) Jussi Jaaskelainen (Bolton, free), Mohamed Diame (Wigan, free)
OUT: Robert Green (QPR, free), Julien Faubert (Elazigspor, free), Frank Nouble (Wolves, free), Freddie Sears (Colchester, free), Abdoulaye Faye (Hull, free), John Carew (released), Papa Bouba Diop (released), Ravel Morrison (Birmingham, loan)
Allardyce has wasted little time in making additions to his playoff winning side, bringing Premier League experience in Diame, Collins and McCartney to the club - the latter two returning to Upton Park after periods at Aston Villa and Sunderland respectively. It is a side that has been populated with numbers, but one will worry whether the level of talent is enough to help the Hammers retain their status.
KEY PLAYER: Carlton Cole
The forward kept faith with West Ham United following relegation to the Championship, despite interest from elsewhere including the Premier League - it was faith well-founded as the Hammers bounced back at the first attempt. The former Chelsea front-man netted 15 times for West Ham as they re-joined the elite. His intention will now be focused on trying to keep United in the league while furthering his chances of rekindling an international career that has cooled.
I think that the Hammers will have a hard time staying up with their current squad. The depth is there, but the strength in depth is a different matter indeed. Sam's motivational skills have helped Bolton Wanderers retain their Premier League status and looking at the statistics, West Ham will get shot of their boss at their peril.
Sam was dismissed from Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers during a campaign - you don't need to be told what happened to those sides following his departure. It is going to be tough, and in truth I think it may well be a challenge too far for Allardyce to keep the Hammers in the top flight.