Born in Dudley on the 19th October 1954, the 6’3” man mountain they call ‘Big Sam’ has recently been interviewed for the country’s biggest football job and has officially been confirmed as the next England manager succeeding Roy Hodgeson.
A playing career that stretched over 21 years, starting at Dudley Town and finishing at Preston North End. Spells in America and Ireland were brief, but it was in England where Allardyce developed a reputation as a solid, aggressive and fierce Central defender.
His managerial Career began at Limerick in 1991, spells at Preston, Blackpool and Notts County lead to an opportunity to manage Bolton Wanderers in 1999. It was during his 8-year spell at Bolton where Allardyce forged his reputation as a top flight manager. A play off final win in 2001, a League cup finalist and qualification into Europe were the highlights during his time in charge. Building the foundations of the club from top to bottom turning Bolton in to a stable club punching above their weight. Attracting top players from across Europe such as Nicolas Anelka, Jay Jay Okocha , Youri Djorkaeff, Fernando Hierro and Ivan Campo. Allardyce was able to get a fine tune out of top players and this is continually overlooked to the neutral football supporter or the Anti Sam Allardyce association. The fact that the players above played some their best football under Allardyce bodes well for the current set of England players, as the mystery continues as why England’s individuals cannot replicate club form on the biggest stage of international competition.
Spells at Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United provided Allardyce with more Premier League experience. Such experience landed him the role of manager at West Ham United in 2011. His immediate task was to bring Premiership football back to Upton Park. After achieving promotion, West Ham again became a stable premiership club and in 2015 Allardyce ran down his contract and joined Sunderland, another club in a relegation battle.
Taking Sunderland from certs for relegation to safety before the last game of the season again was another miracle. Astute buys in the January transfer window in combination with Big Sam’s detailed game plans built on a solid defensive foundation and a prolific striker in Jermaine Defoe. By all accounts Allardyce has ambitions to improve Sunderland’s league position for the 2016/17 season, but the big question is, has his achievement of securing Sunderland’s Premier League status been his last act as manager? It looks like it.
Doubters will state and slate the Playing style that Allardyce is known for. The ‘Long ball’ method is seen as dated, old fashioned and a messy approach to attacking. I happen to agree, however… in his career as a manager has Allardyce ever worked with a consistent squad of players who were all blessed with great technical ability? NO. The majority of his squads have been made up of footballers who are hardworking, loyal and battlers. The type of players who will show passion, fight and give you 7/10 performances every game without setting the world alight. An old saying is ‘if your given a bag of lemons, you make lemonade’ I can’t help but think that this saying is very appropriate and works in conjunction with Sam’s philosophy of working with mid table Premier league teams and players. Would Sam Allardyce really turn a Barcelona into a Long ball side? I think not. A mixture of fluent football and directness is a good combination especially during certain periods in the game and it is something that at times the England team did lack at euro 2016, then again did England have the personal to adopt a longer ball approach. The individual talent that Allardyce would have at his disposal would be refreshing for a manager who has always strived to be given a talented bunch of players. The change could see an international reprieve for Andy Carroll, Jermaine Defoe and perhaps an International debut for Mark Noble. The doubters at the FA may be concerned that Allardyce would go against the England DNA format designed by Dan Ashworth, years of hard work could be diminished if Allardyce decides to abandon the neat playing style of the junior England sides and refer back to his tried and tested methods. This is the only reason he may not be appointed.
What will Allardyce Bring to the party?
Tactical Organisation, performance consistency, passion, identity, discipline and structure spring to mind first. Allardyce would provide each and every player a list of roles and responsibilities on and off the pitch from how to behave during training to organisation from set pieces. Good discipline leads to consistency and more importantly results. Being English with old fashioned values could bring back some national identity which has been missing. The public would be able to relate to the side better if they see the England players playing with a sense of pride and passion in the form of the underdog which Sam’s teams have generally been. Allardyce is notorious with his varied approach to managing players. Egotistical players are shot down and eventually made to feel equal to everyone else, his rants and raves when players are not performing our common knowledge, however there is a softer side, Sam’s experience in the game is vast and putting an arm round the shoulder of a younger or underperforming individual is a common occurrence according to those who have worked closely with him. Experienced and well liked by with the media, in combination with a unique sense of humour gives him credentials to be a very favourable choice by many experts that are involved in the game.
Sam Allardyce is considered by many in the game as a leader in the field of sport science, Sports medicine, sport psychology and match analysis. By appointing experts in their individual industry from across the world Allardyce has the upper hand when it comes to marginal gains. He is a big advocate of 1% advantages. He believes it’s the small details which result in advantages over the opposition. Whether it is a slight change to the diet of the players, added supplements, sleep gain or a change in the treatment of an injured player, Allardyce is considered the best in the business in this field and has the support staff around him to provide his players with the best advice and support possible. Allardyce is a big fan of statistics, his approach to games are dependent on the statistics of his team and players and the oppositions side and player’s statistics. A formulated document is prepared and his game plan is constructed on the back of the evidence found in the data. His militant approach to match analysis is perhaps a reason why his teams have been successful when all odds are against them. This approach to the game does tie hand in hand with the England DNA project and this couldn’t of been overlooked by the Panel when considering Sam for the job.
Who were the contenders and who stood in the way of his appointment?
The FA aware keen to talk to other candidates for the job. Eddie Howe, Jürgen Klinsmann, Glen Hoddle and the latest manager to interest the FA was Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger. All the above have their own strengths. Howe is a young, innovative and modern coach with a great philosophy and future in the game, but I feel the role has come too early for him. Klinsmann has international experience with his Native Germany and currently the USA national team. Again he is innovative, believes in youth and has good man management skills, but I feel the FA would like to appoint an English successor to Hodgson. Glen Hoddle in my opinion is the only rival to Allardyce. Tactically astute, a good communicator and well respected in the game Hoddle has to be considered for a second chance at the job. Doubters will say he has had a long period out of the game which is understandable but he would be a popular choice by many and his England team would be very pleasing on the eye and tactically flexible on the biggest stage. Wenger has experience, quality, is innovative and would play attractive football but I can’t help think that his appointment would not have been a popular choice with the public.
Dan Ashworth, the Football Associations director of elite development, who was on the 3 man Panel deciding England’s future manager is reported to be the only man who was against the appointment of Allardyce. The creator of the England way of playing DNA was concerned with the style of play Allardyce could potentially bring with him, as I’m sure sections of the Newcastle united, Blackburn and West Ham united faithful are too. I predict Dan Ashworth’s preferred choices would have been Howe or Hoddle.
In the next few days I am expecting the announcement of David Moyes as Sunderland Manager and Sam Allardyce as the New England manager on a 4-year contract with a view to an extended deal dependant on performance. Although I admit I was against this thought at first, the more research I conduct on Sam Allardyce and also knowing someone on a personal level who worked closely with him as a first team analyst has swayed my opinion. TV/Radio/newspaper interviews show more glowing references from former players/managers and colleagues in the game, an England lead by Allardyce could work if he can combine his passion and intensity with our youthfulness and potential talent.