The scout who recruited Brown Ideye and then left West Bromwich Albion ‘by mutual consent’ last month amid concerns that the club’s record signing had proved something of a flop, was feeling more than a little vindicated on Saturday. ‘Ahem,’ tweeted Stuart White — and understandably so, seeing as the Nigerian has now scored four goals in three games.
Clearly, all Ideye needed was a manager capable of utilising the talent that persuaded West Brom to pay £10million for him in the first place. And while Tony Pulis admits a decent enough offer might well have led to Ideye’s departure had Carlton Cole been signed in the last transfer window, the fact that the striker is now performing as effectively as he is amounts to a triumph for both player and manager.
Ideye marked his second of this FA Cup tie with a celebratory somersault, having demonstrated his athleticism with the power he generated from the header moments earlier.
Compared to a quite stunning first-half goal from James Morrison, not to mention a fine finish from Saido Berahino after the break, Ideye’s 20th-minute strike was not much to look at. It was a poacher’s goal that owed far more to Craig Dawson and the quality of his cross as well as his success in winning an aerial challenge with Aaron Cresswell.
Indeed, Ideye might have been a fraction offside when he diverted Dawson’s delivery past Adrian from close range. The assistant referee saw nothing wrong with it but Sam Allardyce did — and complained.
In fairness to a side now boasting just one defeat in nine since Pulis took charge, it was no less than West Brom deserved. Set up to be aggressive by their manager, they attacked West Ham with real vigour to produce arguably their finest performance of the season. The travelling fans would probably rate this as West Ham’s worst.
They booed their captain Kevin Nolan and they hurled abuse at Allardyce, not for the first time telling him to ‘**** off’.
Exactly why they display such animosity towards a manager who, for the most part, has done a good job at Upton Park is baffling.
But this was a rough afternoon for Allardyce, made all the more uncomfortable by the dismissal of Morgan Amalfitano and the reaction of West Ham’s owners. While David Sullivan is said to have left early, David Gold took to Twitter to express his sympathy for the fans.
Allardyce also said they were entitled to feel frustrated when this competition was one they hoped to advance further in. But he also defended his players ‘to the hilt’, arguing that fatigue undermined their hopes of progressing after three games in six days.
Not to mention that final spell against Southampton on Wednesday with nine men. ‘It’s a game too far for us,’ he said. ‘The fixture list didn’t give us the right opportunity to come here and play better. The players were dead on their feet.’
Asked specifically about the personal abuse, he said: ‘I can’t afford to get disappointed on things like that. It’s not professional.’
Further weakened by the loss of Andy Carroll to injury, Allardyce’s side offered little in response to West Brom’s ambition; not a single effort on target in an opening half and not much of note in the second other than the dismissal.
Amalfitano had been on the pitch as a replacement for Nolan for less than 10 minutes when a nasty challenge on Chris Brunt invited Martin Atkinson to show him a yellow card, before a shove in the face of the West Brom captain prompted a straight red. Allardyce said: ‘It’s unprofessional, isn’t it?
‘The punishment is laid down in our code of conduct in terms of hands and getting sent off for something like that. That will be dealt with, as always, internally and we move on. But we’re so short of bodies it’s the last thing we need.’
West Brom, by contrast, were both composed and excellent here. Well organised, obviously. This is a Pulis team, after all. But they were dynamic, determined, every inch a team desperate to secure a place in the quarter-finals. They too were playing their third game in six days but there were no heavy legs in the home side. Ideye displayed that sharpness to open the scoring and Morrison did well to ride a challenge from Mark Noble before beating Adrian with a terrific 25-yard strike just before half-time.
Ideye’s second came in the 57th minute when he produced a tremendous amount of power from a deflected Stephane Sessegnon cross. And to compound West Ham’s misery, a 72nd-minute goal from Berahino would then follow, beating Adrian at his near post.
As thrilled as Pulis was, he stressed the need to remain focused on Premier League points. And Ideye? ‘The difference is confidence,’ he said. And a new manager.