There has been much speculation that there was a split in the board’s feelings over the manager.
The received wisdom that David Sullivan was unhappy – as demonstrated when apologising to the fans at the end of season dinner and awards – but that David Gold sided with Sam along perhaps with vice chairman Karen Brady is not a correct scenario.
The truth was that the manager’s near non-existent relationship with the fans had united the three board members – they were unhappy about that in particular.
Poor transfer buys increased the pressure; the style of football on show in 2013-14 was unacceptable and the manager’s regular claims that survival was an achievement had not gone down well.
During a recent ClaretandHugh probe it became clear from sources close to the scene that the manager was told things had to change. The mood at the meeting was sombre and straightforward.
Always, the bottom line was the fans, with one insider saying: “He was made very aware that the West Ham fans were not people you upset – you simply don’t mess with them. They are a different breed to most.”
David Sullivan has admitted since, that the poll carried out by 16 Hammers websites into whether the manager should stay or go and the big vote against him was taken into consideration.
And he agreed that the decision to ‘stick or twist’ had given the board a very difficult decision and that the long wait before making an announcement reflected that.
What saved the manager in the end was that he had delivered on his promise to keep the club up but even that was no longer playing as well as it had at the height of our problems.
Our source said: ” How can you be proud of, and boast about, survival as an objective. It may be okay to mention it once but it became relentless from the manager .
“The transfer buys were the other big factor and the brakes were put firmly on that situation by and large with the board taking control.”
Managerial replacement candidates were thin on the ground and as reported earlier here Rafa Benitez and David Moyes were the only two considered and found to be unavailable.
So Sam survived – albeit almost by default – but for his reign to extend beyond next summer, he will need the most spectacular season of his long career.
He has agreed to every restraint put upon him this summer and that is something that has shocked many – it has never appeared to be in his nature.
The attacking coach is in place, a head of recruitment in Tony Henry is soon to arrive and how all this plays out in the manager’s psyche we can only guess at.
But the board know what has to happen – a top ten placing is a minimum requirement, and Sullivan has spoken publicly of reaching the top six; far better football, and a deeply improved relationship with the fanbase.
These are big calls and heavy demands for a manager clearly under pressure on several fronts.
One thing is clear, he has to deliver otherwise those claims of survival as an achievement may start appearing at his own personal back door more quickly than some might expect.