West Ham Assistant: This is my proudest moment in football

Hammers Assistant manager Neil McDonald has been a great success in his career, but for him Saturday’s play-off win tops the lot

While West Ham’s heroes showered each other with champagne in the Wembley dressing rooms assistant manager Neil McDonald stepped out to tell the Recorder about his proudest day in football, writes Colin Benson.

“I have coached a team to sixth place and qualified them for Europe – that was a career highlight,” said McDonald.

“But to come to a club that has just been relegated and turn them around to a promotion side in one season is my most satisfying achievement of all.”

That is something for a man as experienced as McDonald, who played in the Everton team beaten 3-2 by Liverpool in the 1989 FA Cup final.

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He describes his association with Sam Allardyce as a “dream partnership”, the two men being on the same wavelength, and believes that ‘Big Sam’ has been wrongly criticised as favouring the long ball.

In McDonald’s view it would be more precise to label the gaffer as being “tactically astute”.

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McDonald said: “Sam sets the tone and has stood up to be counted. When you come to a club that has been relegated the first priority is to change things and get the players believing in themselves once again.

“The perception that we play a long ball game is totally misleading as we have played a lot of good football this season.

“We try and play a passing game, but you can fall into the trap of playing too much football without achieving an end result and when things have not been going to plan, Sam has always been spot on with his tactical changes.”

It is about striking the right balance and getting the best out of the players available and in this respect the management duo have undoubtedly achieved their objective.

With the euphoria of the Wembley Play-Off final triumph over Blackpool now behind them, the pair are knuckling down to plan a future in the Premier League.

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