Back in Black



Born in Dudley in the heart of the Black Country, Sam Allardyce was brought up on a diet of Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion.


A Wolves fan as a boy, Big Sam also ventured along to The Hawthorns with a school friend who was on the Baggies' books, before later becoming assistant to Brian Talbot at the very start of his managerial career.

On Tuesday, he will return to the Black Country - named for the black soot created by the heavy industries which dominated the area duiring the 19th century - as his West Ham United side take on West Brom in the Barclays Premier League seeking to cement their position in the top five.

"I was majorly a Wolves fan but I used to go and watch West Brom occasionally as one of my school friend's older brother was a West Brom apprentice, so we used to get the odd ticket to go and watch them when Wolves were away," Big Sam confirmed.

"I also had a very short spell at West Brom with Brian Talbot, which didn't last as long as I thought it would or I'd have hoped.

"I'll be back in the Midlands and back in the Black Country where I was born and being a Wolves fan you always want to beat the Baggies!"

The manager has every reason to be optimistic that his side can pick up another three points at The Hawthorns, where Alan Irvine's team have won just once in seven league matches this season.

The Hammers head to West Bromwich on the back of a 1-0 win over Newcastle United on Saturday, ending the Magpies' own six-game unbeaten run.

"It's always nice to get a win against one of your old clubs and the circumstances of the way we won, coming off a defeat at Everton and against the most in-form team in the league, made it even better," said the manager.

"We recorded a welcome clean sheet and the unlikely identity of our match-winner in Aaron Cresswell meant it was very pleasing for me, because he has made a big impact on the team since he has come here.

"A third of the season has gone and we have 21 points and we're fifth in the table, so things are looking good as we build-up to Christmas."

While the Baggies' home form may not have been good so far this term, Allardyce knows the Hammers will not have everything their own way at The Hawthorns.

Having battled back to draw 2-2 at Stoke City and lost 2-1 at Everton in their last two away matches, the manager has challenged his players to hit the levels required to achieve a third win on the road.

"Every game away from home in the Barclays Premier League is difficult and West Brom will be no different," he confirmed. "It's about our attitude towards the game and we need to go over there and face up to the fact that, if we play to our best, we will have an opportunity to win."

With Enner Valencia available again after a knee injury, the manager will have the option to change his starting line-up and return to the two up-front which has served him so well this season.

Having defeated Newcastle with a 4-2-3-1 system, Big Sam has been happy with the way his side has adapted to different formations and playing styles.

"If we have got Diafra and Enner in the team, it demands you play a totally different way, while you can play through the midfield more when you have Mark Noble and Alex Song together, perhaps.

"I think the adaptability of the team has been critical because it has ended up with us trying to play to our strengths on the day and get some important victories.

"We've got Enner back in the squad, which is a nice bonus, and hopefully by the end of this week we'll have Diafra and Alex back as well.

"The quicker we have the full squad fit, the better we are in terms of competition for places, the more creativity we will be and the more games we will win."