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When all appears lost, there's always the team talk ...

IT is difficult to feel sorry for Sam Allardyce.

WHOSE IDEA WAS THAT? Big Sam catches sight of Tam in his corset. Picture: Reuters
WHOSE IDEA WAS THAT? Big Sam catches sight of Tam in his corset. Picture: Reuters

One would extend more sympathy to a Rockefeller holding out a polystyrene cup and asking for any spare change "for a cuppa tea and a wee hedge fund".

The West Ham United manager is built from odd bits of bad cholesterol, the remnants of a mill worker's tool bag, the temperament of a miffed Tasmanian devil and the certainty of a Wild West hanging judge.

He makes a considerable living in England and has the reputation of being the sort of man to go to in a crisis. This is excellent news for the Hammers, because they are in a crisis. Unfortunately, some might blame Sam, though these malcontents may not include Sam.

West Ham are thrashing about in the lower reaches of the league, have been tonked in the FA Cup by Nottingham Forest and headed for Manchester the other week to play City in what once was the league cup but is now called something else.

Big Sam wore an anorak and an expression borrowed from Colin Montgomerie after the golfer had missed a three-foot putt for his first major after a brass band wandered on to the 18th green.

Allardyce peered through the teeming rain to watch his side lose three goals in a first half so one-sided the possession stats matched the percentage of those who believe Francois Hollande may just tell the odd porkie.

Big Sam then had to go into the dressing room and give a team talk that may reasonably be thought to have been robust. It is not difficult to imagine the emotions besetting Big Sam as his team played with all the energy of a teenager after an all-night party.

It was not like West Ham United were playing as if they had just been introduced to each other. They were playing like they had just been introduced to each other and took an instant dislike.

Their effort, or lack of it, was made all the worse by facing a City side that sensed blood and went for it with the enthusiasm of Dracula after he tired of his post-festive diet.

After being scudded in the first half, West Ham were scudded in the second. But all of us have trudged from the field at half-time with a deficit so large one should blame a banker rather than a dodgy keeper.

The feeling is one of shame, studded with anger. It is like looking at your pay packet.

The dressing-room resembles a war zone but one where the combatants are also discussing how the conflict broke out. I have been in dressing rooms where I have had to separate fighting team-mates. And that was when we were winning.

When we were struggling, it would have taken a UN Peacekeeping force, an energetic SWAT team and a crate of tranquillisers to bring some sort of calm to the mayhem. It is then that the manager has to step in. He has to be a brave man, a sort of lion tamer armed only with a line of spaghetti.

He has to have the skills to console those in a huff and placate those who are so belligerent they are drawing up plans for a pre-season tour in Helmand. He has to then take a breath and instruct his troops for what is almost certainly a losing battle.

Here are the top 10 things one does not want to hear at half-time and the only possible responses.

10 We have to get tighter

This never works in Aberdeen.

9 We're going to change the shape

Big Tam is to wear a corset.

8 We've got the wind in the second half

A direct result of Big Tam's corset.

7 We're shooting downhill now, boys

This pre-supposes we will have a shot.

6 Come on. One goal and we're back in it boys

This means you're 3-0 down.

5 Let's try to win the second half

This means you're 4-0 down.

4 We're playing for pride

These means you are so far behind Tam has run out of fingers to count the score.

3 Just imagine it's nil-nil

It would be easier to imagine Tam was Nicole Kidman.

2 Shuggie, you're coming off

But we have no substitutes.

1 Shuggie, you're still coming off

Fair enough.

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Football

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