New Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has made no attempt to disguise his ill-feelings towards the West Ham faithful – and plans to hit them harder with a raid in the January transfer window.
Allardyce, who left east London when his contract ran out in May, has been given a substantial kitty by Black Cats chairman Ellis Short to keep the club in the Premier League after departing manager Dick Advocaat failed to provide a win.
Big Sam’s main target is reported to be centre-back James Tomkins who could shore up Sunderland’s leaky defence. The 26-year-old signed a five-year contract in February but an offer of about £10million could prise him away.
Meanwhile, two cast-adrift old boys could be easier pickings. Kevin Nolan followed Allardyce from Newcastle but is now a free agent after his departure from the Boleyn Ground while French midfielder Morgan Amalfitano could head north after his contract was cancelled after a bust-up with Slaven Bilic.
Allardyce had a ropey relationship with the Upton Park faithful who were less than admiring of his style and inability to keep West Ham competitive. Now the 60-year-old says its nice to be welcome by the Wearsiders, even though he was formerly boss at arch rivals Newcastle.
He told the Sun On Sunday : “When I was at West Ham my wife, Lynne, would constantly read the supporters website to see what new insults were being fired. It upset her but she couldn’t keep away from the screen.
“Now she’s been reading the Sunderland fans’ site and she tells me the reaction has been very positive, which makes me feel very excited to get going.
“It wasn’t just me at West Ham, it was every manager that was there.”
A date for the diary is February 27 when Sam Allardyce returns to Upton Park with his Sunderland team.
Tomkins himself was in action in a 4-3 defeat in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Reading, a tie which saw the return of Enner Valencia and a full 90 minutes for Andy Carroll who got on the scoresheet.
Tomkins told the club website : “It was good to see Andy back among the goals and get ninety minutes under his belt after being injured for a while.
“It is good for him to be back out there and it was also great to see Enner get some match fitness.
“He is ahead of schedule which is good for him and us as a team. If we can keep him fit he is an added bonus and the squad is looking very strong. It is nice for the players who are just coming back.