Big Sam under pressure for early Premier return

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NOT only will West Ham United be making their first visit to the Keepmoat tomorrow, they will be paying their first visit to the town for 50 years.

The club had been ever-present in the Premier League prior to being relegated last May.

The dreaded drop didn’t come as a major shock as the Hammers had spent all but three weeks of last season in the bottom three.

Manager Avram Grant paid the price of failure and was replaced by Sam Allardyce, who had been out of work since parting company with Blackburn Rovers following a takeover. Allardyce is committed to taking the Hammers back to the top flight and the club are joint-favourites with Leicester City.

But Allardyce received early warning that promotion won’t be a mere formality following last Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at home to a new-look Cardiff.

It will have been of no consolation to Allardyce that his side created enough chances to have won the game; but finishing was poor.

Allardyce is not one to panic, however, and he knows that the race back to the Premier League is a marathon not a sprint.

Much will depend on whether the Hammers are able to keep hold of the likes of Scott Parker, Robert Green and Carlton Cole before the transfer window closes at the end of the month. Parker, whom United rate at £8m has already reportedly interested the likes of Spurs and Stoke.

The 30 year-old midfielder’s form was one of the few bright spots during what was a gloomy season for the east London club.

Not only did it earn him a call-up to the England squad, but he also became the first West Ham player since the legendary Bobby Moore back in 1964 to win the prestigious Football Writers’ Player of the season award.

Allardyce, possibly anticipating Parker’s departure, looks to have done a bit of good business by persuading Newcastle midfielder Kevin Nolan to drop back down to the Championship after helping the Magpies win promotion back to the top flight at the first attempt and then helping them to consolidate last season.

Allardyce, who spent a brief spell in charge at Newcastle, also returned to another of his former clubs to tempt Bolton’s Matt Taylor to drop down into the Championship.