Allardyce: Boo me, not the players
Sam Allardyce does not regret cupping his ear in an act of defiance to the boo-boys who jeered his West Ham side off after last season's home win over Hull.
An unconvincing 2-1 victory over the Tigers, who were reduced to 10 men, saw the Hammers players greeted with howls of derision at full-time, with Allardyce responding by turning and cupping his ear to the crowd.
A number of fans had turned on the West Ham boss after a season which did not live up to expectations, although the win over Hull took them up to 11th in the Premier League table at the time.
Steve Bruce takes his Hull side back to Upton Park on Sunday and it will be the visitors who are under more pressure for a result this time out as they go into the game inside the relegation zone.
West Ham have enjoyed a better start to the season and sit seventh, just one point shy of the 34 they had amassed after the win over Hull last March 31 games into the campaign.
And Allardyce revealed ahead of the clash that he resorted to the gesture to detract from fans directly criticising the players - and was happy to take the heat instead.
"I've never had a problem with the fans cheering or booing," he said.
"It is part of the game, part of what you have to accept - part of a life today that has become ever-more demanding.
"People that pay money are allowed to express their opinion whether you think it is right or wrong. My fear was how much it affected the players, not how much it affected me.
"I would take the stick, I would take the pressure off them by creating the cupping of the ear. I thought it was unfair at that particular time.
"They could vent their anger at me, no problem. But keep away from the players because if you affect them then they don't play here, then they are frightened to play here.
"When they get to that stage they can't perform to their best and it is a vicious circle then. At that particular time it was about winning, it didn't matter how we won as long as we won - and we did win."
Allardyce felt the frustration came from the terraces after a season which could have ended with relegation, but this campaign things are different and the 60-year-old believes his players are shining because of that.
"It was a hugely important victory but I wasn't surprised," he said.
"I knew we weren't playing as well as we should have done and because 10 men sit back and say 'break us down' fans get really frustrated.
"Frustration can over-spill into an emotion and that happens in football. But it moves on and it is chip paper. It is not water under the bridge, it is in the Atlantic it is that far gone. It was a difficult period last year because we were where we were.
"We were all worried about getting relegated and the fans were going: 'here we go again, how are we going to get out of this?' But we did and this year there is a whole different vibe around the place because of how the players have thrilled the fans, especially at home.
"The fans will always stay with the team, even if the team is behind, if we are playing well."
Despite their improved points tally, the Hammers have not won in their last four league outings and will be hopeful of putting that right at the expense of Hull.
Allardyce has a near-fit squad to select from with only Diafra Sakho and Cheikhou Kouyate missing, the latter having linked up with Senegal ahead of the African Nations Cup.
Sakho was also initially called into the same squad but pulled out after suffering a back injury, with Allardyce criticising the Senegal medical staff for mistreating a previous ailment.
Allardyce admits he is unsure when he would be free to select Sakho again once he has overcome the back issue so Andy Carroll and Enner Valencia are likely to start against Hull, with Carlton Cole once again on the bench despite scoring as a substitute in the FA Cup third-round penalty shoot-out win over Everton on Tuesday.