Allardyce's West Ham have changed more than their style

By Chris BevanBBC Sport at the Britannia Stadium
Sam Allardyce
West Ham fans were calling for manager Sam Allardyce to go last season

It is only six months since angry West Ham fans watching their side lose to West Brom unveiled a banner reading "Fat Sam out - killing WHU".

An awful lot has changed about the Hammers in that time - although not their manager Sam Allardyce, of course.

But what is new is more than just their improved style of play, an influx of players, the number of goals they have scored or their lofty position in the league table.

The club seems to have a different mentality now, from Allardyce and his team through to their supporters.

That was evident before, during and after Saturday's 2-2 draw with Stoke, a result and performance that, on the face of it, was nothing to get excited about.

'Ultimate comeback' delights Sam Allardyce

It was not the sort of swashbuckling display that saw them put Manchester City to the sword last weekend and climb to fourth in the Premier League table.

But, in its own way, West Ham's fightback for a point against the Potters - and the way their fans reacted during it - showed what is different about the Hammers this season.

For a start, it did not happen during any of their 19 league games on the road last campaign, when they did not pick up a single point from a losing position away from home.

This season, they had already done that once - in a 2-2 draw at Hull.

Hammer time
Diafra Sakho became only the second player in Premier League history to score in his first six starts in the competition thanks to his goal versus Man City.The Hammers have scored eight headed goals, a league high.
Sam Allardyce is regularly deploying two strikers, something he has rarely done in the Premier League.West Ham spent more than £25m this summer - including £12m on Valencia.

That, together with victories at Crystal Palace and Burnley, seemed to have boosted fans' morale for the trip to Stoke as much as the win over defending champions City.

"Last season, we would be going to places like this thinking it would be damage limitation but the players seem to have a totally different outlook now," Hammers fan Tony Clement, 66, told BBC Sport before kick-off on Saturday.

"Everybody is always up for the big teams when they come to your ground but it is when you go to these places you can really notice the difference.

"We were not very good in the first half at Burnley. Last year, we would have lost that game, and quite easily too.

"This time, we stuck at it and we won."

They did not get the win this time, but apart from the result, things panned out pretty much the same at the Britannia Stadium as they did at Turf Moor.

For an hour, West Ham were awful, and deservedly trailed 2-0.

The wonder of West Ham
West Ham have scored in nine successive Premier League games, which is their best run since a 10-match streak in November 2009.Alex Song (loan), Morgan Amalfitano, Enner Valencia, Diafra Sakho, Carl Jenkinson (loan) and Aaron Cresswell have each been added.
The Hammers have scored 19 goals in 10 Premier League matches - last season it took them 20 games to get to that total.Diafra Sakho has scored six Premier League goals this season - last term's top scorer was Kevin Nolan with seven.

Six months ago there might have been a very different reaction from the stands but, this time, there were no boos, and certainly no banners.

Because of that, there was no in-fighting either. The fans got behind their team, and the players battled on.

"It was always a minority who were in the 'Sam Out' brigade," Keith Meredith, 45, told BBC Sport.

"I was quite near that banner at The Hawthorns, and a few people tried to tear it down.

"This season the atmosphere has been vastly different. People are really behind the team."

It was hard to find any anti-Allardyce fans at all at the Britannia, perhaps understandably given the Hammers' recent form.

They might be below ground right now, but do they actually deserve some credit for their protests last season, if they brought about the investment in the team that has led to its rapid improvement?

Enner Valencia
Enner Valencia has scored three goals in nine Premier League appearances since joining in July

Probably the only thing West Ham fans argued about on Saturday was whether that change would have happened anyway.

"I would say the protests prompted the board to go out and spend some money and get the players we needed," Meredith added.

"I was at The Hawthorns and I did not completely disagree with that banner," said Rachel Lynskey, a Hammers season ticket-holder for more than 10 years.

"I did not think getting rid of Sam would necessarily fix things, but something had to happen, and it has."

"I don't think the fans forced the change on their own," added Dan Furey, 30.

Teddy Sheringham
West Ham have brought in Teddy Sheringham as attacking coach

"It has been a collective effort - the supporters, the board and Allardyce too."

At least Allardyce can definitely claim all the credit for the turnaround at Stoke.

True, he was initially at fault for playing only one striker in the absence of Diafra Sakho through injury, but he recognised that and changed things around at half-time.

By bringing on Carlton Cole to provide Enner Valencia more support, he could give Stewart Downing a more central role behind the front two, and the latter pair would link up decisively.

And significantly, it was his initiative alone - without needing jeers to tell him where he was going wrong.

In fact, the majority of the West Ham faithful at the Britannia Stadium seemed to be on his side, and say they will stay that way even when their current run of four games unbeaten is over.

"If things go badly, it is not a reason to have a go at Sam anymore," Daniel Morgan, 35, explained.

"If we slip up then people will accept it. I think it is a case of how we slip up as much as anything else."

"I am happy at the moment because we are playing the style I wanted," added Graham Jones, 60.

"As long as we don't go back to playing Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan up front and playing the long ball, then I think I will be quite happy for the rest of the season."

Andy Carroll
Andy Carroll was injured on the club's pre-season tour but is expected to return to action this month

"Hopefully people will stay off his back," said Paul Gray, 35.

"And hopefully the board will give him a new contract when his current one ends at the end of this season.

"My concern is that he is not the face of what they want at West Ham with us moving to the Olympic Stadium in 2016.

"But in my opinion they should sit him down and offer him a new deal now."

'Big Sam in'? You heard it here first.

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