Allardyce feeling the heat after 'new Spurs' let off hook
West Ham 0 Tottenham 1
Sam Allardyce believes the pressure starts building on West Ham already, as he lamented a stoppage-time home defeat.
Despite a generally positive performance in which Allardyce's side had the better of the chances and Mark Noble missed a penalty, 20-year-old new signing Eric Dier got Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino off to a winning start with a 93rd-minute goal.
That strike came after both teams had a man sent off, with James Collins' second yellow card levelling up a somewhat harsh red for the Kyle Naughton handball that led to Noble's penalty.
A focal point of West Ham's summer has been the fractious debate over the manager's style, and an apparent face-off with owners David Gold and David Sullivan. Although the situation had seemed to thaw in the past week, Saturday's defeat immediately restored the tension.
Afterwards, the manager was asked when the pressure starts building to escape the prospect of another relegation battle. "Tomorrow!" Allardyce half-joked, as he spoke ruefully about the failure to get off to a good start.
"It is everything," the Upton Park manager said.
"Everything is the start. It is a trigger to the whole season and whereabouts you are going to finish.
"The perfect example is our first two seasons in the Premier League where we acquired 14 points in the first eight games, and only eight in the first eight last season, and we saw that last season was a struggle. In the end, we finished six points behind the season before, but we had a huge amount of problems and a lot of criticism for results that we did not get, and that comes by allowing yourself to slip into the bottom or relegation zone. That is where the pressure really mounts on you.
"The game is about winning and we have not won, so people will be disappointed. They will not be more disappointed than me, or the players in the dressing-room, as we all know they were in a great position to start with three points against a team that is supposed to finish in the top four.
"In terms of, could we have done any more, I don't think so - apart from being better at finishing the chances we created."
Allardyce was left with a familiar complaint in that regard. With Andy Carroll still injured and new signing Enner Valencia not yet fit after the World Cup, West Ham only had Carlton Cole up front, and saw a number of attacks wasted - particularly in the period leading up to Noble's penalty.
Allardyce has recruited Teddy Sheringham as a coach, but stressed the need to improve the finishing.
"Teddy takes them along but it is not going to be a magic potion overnight or wave a magic wand. It is about time and about talking to them and telling them about the areas of calm that you might need and positions you can get into to improve what you can already do and do better."
Dier certainly showed calm at the other end, as he rounded Adrian to score the stoppage-time winner.
The 20-year-old was something of a surprise inclusion over Michael Dawson in defence, and a decision about which Pochettino offered an element of self-praise.
"We have information during the week and pre-season, and we decided. Today we got three points, and I think it is a good decision from the manager," said the Argentinian.
The resilient win marked quite a departure for Tottenham from last season. In the same fixture, they also suffered a red card, but collapsed to lose 2-0. The change has led to some talk of a "new Spurs", with Pochettino stressing their attacking philosophy after the game.
"It's normal we watch a lot of videos of last season but the past is the past but we need to fix some things, yes that is true.
"But the more important thing is today and the present and our future, and today the team showed the character and personality and at 10 v 11 we kept our offensive line. We sent the signal to the opponent and for us too and we wanted to win and this was our signal after Kyle Naughton was sent off." (© Independent News Service)