Lyall’s former scout: ‘Sam’s ways are not my ways’


Ian Salisbury was a West Ham scout for 20 years. He  first went to Upton Park in our FA Cup winning year of 1964, aged 12 . We played Aston Villa, and  won 3 – 1.

From then on he says “I went whenever I could to see this magic with the inevitable highs and lows.”

He says: “I remember the Easter game when Brian Dear (right) scored five gDearoals against West Bromwich Albion and the 7 – 0 victory against Leeds United in the Cup.

“These were the dream times, but they were built on one thing – pure football. I used to come home after a game and imagine I was Geoff Hurst, a great player, and there was the majestic Bobby Moore who would knock the ball around with such ease and always be in the right place at the right time.”

In this article Ian takes a look at the football he has watched under Sam Allardyce’s management and gives his conclusions on the man and his football!  

By Ian Sailsbury

Greenwood and LyallAm I looking back with rose tinted glasses? I think not! West Ham was built on the ideology of great football brought about by Ron Greenwood and latterly John Lyall, the academy was born.

But now those words which grace our ground no longer hold true. What we were watching did not hold true to our traditions. The debate regarding Sam is still raging some fans want him gone, but why?

It has been said that he was brought in to get us up and keep us in the Premier, but in truth we were lucky against Blackpool, they were the better team on the day.

We had the best squad in the Championship and should have been automatically promoted, but as we got up everyone seems to have looked past this.

Until recently in the Premiership we had to witness the dull approach to our play, where one goal up was defended at all cost, where the ball was lumped forward and if not won or supported quickly comes back to put us under pressure, and we as fans looked for BFS to change the plan to suit the opposition.

But no it was the same old thing, week in week out. When we played Arsenal in the FA Cup Final, John Lyall and Eddie Baily worked together and decided to play a lone striker, it worked because Arsenal didn’t expect it.

WHU have played that way all the time, teams knew what to expect, they worked in the week before a match as to how they are going to cope with it.

I applaud the decision to play Downing through the middle because he has a great awareness of play and his passing is spot on.

I think Cresswell is a great acquisition and gets forward well but I am not happy that BFS has taken so long to play Carl Jenkinson because Guy  Demel is too ponderous on the ball and invariably passes the ball back when he receives it.

I think we should be dominating the midfield a lot more. Yes  it’s difficult with injuries but format on Saturday was down to BFS.In my opinion he should have started Poyet and if it didn’t work then change it.

I am very sorry that Nolan got booed as he came on, but I can understand the frustration of the fans because they have had to ‘put up with him’ when his all round play has been sadly lacking.

I am fearful that BFS, who sees him as his ‘on field General’ will gradually reintroduce him. He will stick out ‘like a sore thumb’, I am not a sentimentalist, the articles justifying his position because of what he’s done over the years do ‘not hold water’ with me – sorry.

We have two of the most exciting forwards in the league, but they need ‘ball to feet’ not the long ball and chase, these things are foreign to them because ‘they’ve been brought up the right way’.

I am a football purist and have not enjoyed watching the way WHU have been playing over the last couple of seasons. This is gradually changing, but let’s get things straight, the players we have signed were not signed by BFS.

He has been given the task to get them to play in the WHU way – a style  completely foreign to him, which explains his lack of vision with regards to substitutions.

To be brutally honest the only way we are going to improve sufficiently is to get a manager who gets his teams to play the right way, hopefully it’s only a question of time.

I like all WHU supporters bleed Claret and Blue, I was a scout for the club from 1977 until 1997, I travelled all over the country watching players like Gary McAllister when he played for Leicester. Did   we nearly sign him? Yes we did.

I was the scout that gave the player report for the infamous match when we lost away to Torquay in the FA Cup. Should we have lost? Definitely no, but this was just a week after the Lou Macari betting scandal blew up, and I think it had a large bearing on the team morale.

I went to John Lyall’s house the day after he was sacked to offer my condolences and like the gentleman he was he asked me in for a cup of tea. I couldn’t go in, no, why, because he was a man of great integrity and in typical fashion was in his garden wearing a gardening hat.

I’ve heard it said that BFS is a similar character – what a load of rubbish. He  doesn’t even come close. John had been schooled by Ron Greenwood, they were football purists, who saw changes in the game and acted accordingly.

They were not stuck in one ideology which was how they could introduce our young players. Now they aren’t given a chance. What is the point in running an academy!

Do I want BFS to go, still a resounding yes, in the recent interviews he seems to suggest ‘it’s all down to us’, but I don’t think the supporters are mugs they know who’s really ‘pulling the strings’.

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Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!"

Follow on Twitter @hughsouthon


  • rugbyirons says:

    Absolute quality .the truth may hurt but from someone of this standing says a lot.

  • BSCOYI says:

    I thought this article was a good read, however the game has changed since the 60s. Managers are now under more pressure to get results week in week out and I believe that this is the reason in past seasons for Big Sam’s team selections.

    This season I have only missed Hull away, but the style of football has defiantly improved, the centre backs spilt, Alex Song/Mark noble comes into receive the ball and then invariably we try to play forward.

    It’s all well and good saying that we are football purists, however In order to win games you need to have a good defensive foundation and that we have. I think we should just get behind the club, team and even manager to keep that buzz around Upton park!! COYI!

  • Hammerman6 says:

    Best article I have read this year……….I have been a Hammers fan for 57 years since the days when Ernie Gregory was in goal and Vic Keeble & John Dick terrorised defences with their goal scoring abilities. Our traditions are pass & move, not lump & run. Thank you Ian for restoring my faith in the West Ham way, I thought it was just a past memory. COYI Forever

  • spencer says:

    Great write up, exactly what needs to be sent to the chairmen, after the play off final I vowed never to go and watch West Ham again until BFS was gone, Its been very hard to stick to my word, and in truth no one cares if I go or not, but, I felt a stand has to be taken,

    His contract runs out at the end of the season, we’ll see!


  • Biggin Hill says:

    Way too much sentiment and conjecture in this peice. He conveniently forgot to mention the five relegations since 1978. The problem with WHU is that we’re always trying to move forward whilst looking backwards which why we constantly stumble. I would also question the relevance of this piece given the progression we have made and the changes implemented since last season. No one is expecting Sam to be universally accepted but the arguments against grow weaker by the day.

    • Somebody with 20 years experience as a scout under a great Irons manager will always be relevant. Many are interested in personal involvement from someone with that history. That you aren’t is your decision.

  • NEDHAMMERS says:

    I am a first time poster and want to make it clear I am not a Sam fan nor a hater. What my observation have been is that Sam got off on the wrong foot by slating the ‘West Ham way’ was having a soft underbelly etc. that did not endear him to us Hammers fans, because we like our teams to play a certain way. Yes play long ball if that is what is needed in the short term to get us out of trouble or gain promotion with the players we have etc. I went to lots of away games under Sam’s leadership in the championship and it was brilliant thought we played some great football etc. however we struggled at home for some reason + that’s where he got the tactics wrong, time after time! He should be applauded for keeping us up last season without a striker!! and had a very strong defense with players that lets be honest on paper were average at best but he got the best out of them and they obviously believed in Sam. I must admit he has in the past stuck to his tried and tested methods far to long, however somehow , under extreme pressure from the fans, (his cupping of his ears at the booing at upton park when we beat Hull? 1-0 with them going down to 10 men). did not help his cause we still managed to stay up with a rubbish team. He somehow managed to squeeze something out of them – Matt Taylor? his teams performances have been inconsistent e.g. did we not beat Blackpool with 9 men? HOWEVER, it seems that the BOARD in conjunction with SAM have had a real honest heart to heart and recognised that Sam is in principle a good manager that cares immensley about this teams and players BUT he has been asked to play a more entertaining style of football and it seems he has been given the players and confidence to change his style of playing, which in my books can only improve him as a manager (which no doubt takes a lot of courage). The truth of the matter is the board have recognised that to make the olympic stadium move a success we have to have a team/squad and manager that is prepared to play attractive football, this will attract good players to our club and new fans to home games I must say it’s been very refreshing to watch the Ammers this season (not Southampton game), he needs to be supported in this approach and encouraged. We should be positive and get behind the board and manager because our club is renowned for it’s loyal fans that know their football. I believe the true test of his commitment to this new style of play will be well and truely tested when we loose the African players for their tournament + Carroll’s return. Will he go back to his old method’s???? big big test and will be eagerly monitored by all us Ammers fans! The biggest mistake Sam made at the time was signing one striker in Carroll and pinning all his hopes on an injury prone over rated or unproven player. Now from almost nowhere (maybe sullivans influence e.g. shako) we have the strongest squad we have ever had in the history of this club so lets get behind the whole team (players, manager and board) be positive and enjoy the now, cause it’s great looking forward to watching not only entertaining football but players that will run into the ground for the Ammers. West Ham till I die 🙂

  • baddowhammer says:

    What a load of sentimental rubbish,sorry Mr Salisbury but you lose your credibility when you have to get personal (Big Fat Sam) does it matter about his waist size.Football has changed immeasurably since those days.I have been a west ham supporter for 46 years,and was bought up watching the likes of Moore,Hurst etc. but we never came close to the top,we were always a mid table team,with the occasional cup run and win.But relegation too,i think its those rose tinted specs pal,we all wear them from time to time.The truth is that Sam was charged to keep us in the prem. on a shoestring budget,.I admit that at times it was predictable,but job done.Bit different now Sam’s had some decent cash to splash. C.O.Y.I.

    • and the additional truth is you lose your credility via similar perosnal remarks – sentimental “rubbish” aimed at a man who has more involvement over a longer period of time than anyone else on here

  • West Ham Fan No 32 says:

    Good article, I agree with most of it, certainly that Poyet should have started probably in the place of Zarate and that on Sunday too often we launched the ball 60 yards forward instead of passing it through the midfield upto the forwards. I also thought we got away with a lot of very dodgy passing in and around our own penalty box. I am hoping that is all part of the transition and soon players will realise they should be passing to the man that has a man on or using one – two’s to be the man on themselves but who knows… the comments regarding Demel on Sundays performance he is more reliable than Jenkinson, I want to see Jenkinson at his best though so will reserve final judgement until I have seen more of Jenkinson, people were raving about Song but to be honest I don’t think I saw a forward pass from him in the first 75 minutes he looked more like a crab moving sideways and backwards, his pass completion may have been good but if you pass it 5 yards its hard to miss, having said that he looks a better player alongside Kouyate and Noble who can give him better options and chip in with more of the defensive work.

  • Biggin Hill says:

    I’m sorry but working as a ‘Scout’ hardly put him at coal face of the club. Should he really be considered a ‘go to’ stellar witness for all things West Ham. Oh, and well done for ‘nearly’ signing Gary MacAllister. Was this gentleman, and I’m sure he is a gentleman indeed I do, responsible for any kids we did sign who we may of heard of? It might give him a bit more credibility. Otherwise he just sounds like a bloke you found down the pub with an axe to grind about Sam Allardyc . Mind you, that would fit well with the remit of this site…

    • I’m not sure anyone said he was at the coalface but he certainly deserves to give his views if he wishes along with others. Why is that a problem? Nor did anyone talk about stellar witnesses to “all things West Ham” Your words. You are a foolish person if you think you understand this site’s remit! I think I wrote a blog saying Sam should stay. Never mind – axes to grind seems to be catching eh?

  • bigsauze says:

    I’m sorry if the use of BFS was considered derogatory, I was using this as a familiar term only.
    With regards to my credentials I was responsible for the Dagenham United u11 team containing Tony Adams and Steve Potts using the training facilities at Chadwell Heath which led to Steve subsequently being signed.
    Most of the scouts either specialized in schoolboy scouting or seniors, some did both, I was part of the latter group.
    I don’t believe I over sentimentalised the years at WHU, I am aware of the relegation years, but some of those were due to mismanagement with some very good players. What concerns me is that we have another good group of players and I feel they need the right direction, I am not sure Sam can provide that direction. Why do I say that, purely because when you have developed a style over the years it’s very difficult to change that, and if you’re a strong character, why should you?

    • baddowhammer says:

      Believe me when i say,i have the utmost respect for everybody,past and present,from the board to the tea person.I think Sam was the right man for the right job at the right time.Looking forward,if we are to go to the next level,i say review the situation.But we wont know if we dont give him a chance.Sam has become a very devisive issue between fellow Irons.So the best thing all round is to get behind the team,as one. C.O.Y.I.

  • Trinihammer says:

    Nice piece. Hate to be a wet blanket in particular when we have been playing well but I have a couple concerns .
    1) sam not giving young Rob Lee a couple of minutes playing time at home is strange.
    2) injury to kouyate may hav been avoided. I was lookin at the match live on sky and it was clear he was in trouble. This was before halftime and the comentators were saying the same. He continued and played the entire game. We then hear he is out for 6 weeks. What madness. Whos decision was this. I hear a similar situation occured with noble .
    I thought the phisio who gave bad advice is no longer at the club. Looks like thats not correct. Unless we get the phsio team to perform we may verywell have a repeat of our troubles last year .

  • Michael Miller says:

    I thought Ian Salisbury was spot-on over all points particularly about Nolan – I don’t agree with booing our own players but I was sorely tempted.

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