Ex- Hammers striker insists club should have hired an up-and-coming manager instead of Allardyce

FORMER West Ham star John Hartson believes the east London club have made a mistake in appointing Sam Allardyce as boss, insisting they should have put their faith in a young up-and-coming manager.

Barcelona gambled on the inexperienced Pep Guardiola three years ago and have swept the board since, while Porto have reaped the rewards of hiring rookie Andre Villas Boas.

Hartson insists he is a fan of Allardyce, 56, but believes recently relegated West Ham – and other clubs –ought to put more emphasis on giving fresh coaching talent a chance rather than turning to journeyman managers.

“I’ve got nothing against Big Sam – I like him as a man and as a character, and I don’t think his record has been bad. He hasn’t particularly pulled up any trees but on the other hand he hasn’t been a disaster,” Hartson (right) told City A.M.

“But what rankles with me is Allardyce – and Peter Reid, Micky Adams, Iain Dowie – they’ve had five or six jobs, they’ve made their money, they’re all multi-millionaires. There’s too much talk about giving young managers a chance. Why don’t West Ham give Julian Dicks a chance?

“Those four or five managers have had six or seven jobs each in their careers. I just think: West Ham, it’s a new start in the Championship, there’s no guarantee under Sam they’re going to go up first time around, so why not give somebody a chance?

“They gave Gianfranco Zola his opportunity. He did fairly well there. OK, he got one or two signings wrong but most managers can bring up a few of those over the years. He did better than Avram Grant.”

Hartson, who is visiting the City today to sign copies of his book, cites Mark Hughes and Roberto Martinez as examples of young managers who have proven they can succeed where their more experienced peers fail.

“Mark Hughes was given a break at Wales, then he did very well at Blackburn, then he went to Man City, and then Fulham. Sparky’s now being talked about at Chelsea,” he adds.

“That was Mark’s big break. Roberto Martinez started at Swansea, then went to Wigan and now his stock is high. It’s like a player; if you don’t give them a chance to join in and mix with the senior side, how on earth do you know how well they’ll do?”

Former Blackburn, Newcastle and Bolton manager Allardyce last week signed a two-year contract to succeed Grant, who was sacked last month.

John Hartson will be at Waterstones, Leadenhall Market today from 12 noon until 1:30pm signing copies of his book Please Don’t Go, which is now out in paperback through Mainstream.

Westfield emerge as favourites to be stadium sponsors

SHOPPING centre giant Westfield has emerged as the favourite to strike a deal with West Ham and take naming rights to the Olympic Stadium.

It is understood that informal talks have been held that could see the arena renamed the Westfield Stadium when the Hammers move there after the London 2012 Games.

In return the cash-strapped club could expect to receive millions of pounds, helping fund the £100m cost of relocating from Upton Park to Stratford and converting the stadium.

West Ham have made clear that they intend to sell naming rights, with vice-chairman Karren Brady telling City A.M. last year: “If we did move we would most certainly be looking for a stadium sponsor.”

Westfield already have close links with the club, having advised on planning, design and construction for their bid for the Olympic Stadium, in which they saw off a rival proposal from Tottenham.

The retail group have already committed to a large presence in Stratford by building a £1.5bn shopping mall on the fringes of the Olympic Park.

West Ham and Westfield declined to comment but Hammers insiders said talk of a deal was premature while some formalities of taking over the ground remained incomplete.

Any deal would be contingent on West Ham returning to the Premier League following their relegation to the second tier, according to Construction Enquirer.

The Upton Park outfit hope to move into the stadium, which they intend to convert from 80,000 to 60,000 seats, in time for the 2013-14 season.