EPL Betting: Will West Ham avoid relegation?
...does Allardyce have reason to be confident or is 2.7 too high a price to ignore?
Michael Symons wonders why and how West Ham are currently fourth in the betting when it comes to relegation in the Premier League.
Champions Reading have been rewarded for their spectacular surge to the title with a price of just 1.84 to go straight back down, while West Ham are a decidedly conservative 2.70. Even Wigan, who positively romped to safety just weeks ago, are adjudged more likely to finish in the bottom three than Sam Allardyce's side.
So does Allardyce have reason to be confident or is 2.7 too high a price to ignore?
Though the former Bolton and Blackburn boss boasts an impressive track record in the top flight, he has plenty of problems to contend with before the season's curtain-raiser.
West Ham's price presumably owes much to the backing of David Gold and Sullivan who are expected to give Allardyce a significant transfer budget. But money to spend is no guarantee of survival, as the Hammers discovered to their cost in 2011. Demba Ba, Gary O'Neil, Robbie Keane and Wayne Bridge were all recruited in January, and yet West Ham still ended the campaign rock bottom and all of seven points from safety.
Allardyce's biggest headache could yet revolve around goalkeeper Robert Green, whose contract expires this summer. Talks are already said to have hit the buffers and rumours of his impending exit have hardly been calmed by the permanent signing of Stephen Henderson. The former Pompey stopper agreed terms on a three-year deal, after an apparently successful loan spell at Upton Park, in which he didn't make a single first-team appearance.
Playing in front of Green are James Tomkins and Winston Reid, who made just 21 league starts between them in West Ham's previous ill-fated Premier League campaign. While the inexperienced duo battled admirably in the Championship, Allardyce will surely be reluctant to start the season with two 23-year-olds at the heart of his back four.
Aside from the personnel, Allardyce will need no reminding that teams promoted via the play-offs have a woeful record in their attempts to beat the drop. Only three of the last nine have retained their top-flight status, while West Ham in 2006 were the last team to secure a top-ten finish on the back of play-off success.