Sam Allardyce is set to become the latest man to pick up the poison chalice of being named the England manager. His imminent appointment has a more poignant feel than other hiring’s for the job. It’s been ten years since the last time Big Sam has been talked about seriously as a potential England manager – losing out to Steve McClaren in 2006.
Such is the age we live in social media has by enlarge rejected the appointment of Allardyce already looking to his successor – how insane is that? People are already calling for the man’s head and he hasn’t even been appointed yet.
Outrageous backlash aside the former Bolton Wanderers manager will be the nest England manager and before we drop the guillotine we should take a moment to seriously consider Allardyce’s achievements.
Success is measured in many ways – for coaches like Mourinho and Guardiola it’s silverware. For managers such as Big Sam it’s how to consolidate teams and make them competitive, saving them from relegation and building on that. Allardyce’s success comes in the shape of taking players with shattered confidence and making them believe in themselves. After inheriting a bunch of players at Sunderland who looked lost on the pitch Allardyce transformed them into snarling pumas – not scared kitty cats.
Sunderland were seven points adrift when Allardyce took to the helm. Fast forward to the end of the season and The Black Cats finished two points above the relegation zone at the expense of their bitter rivals Newcastle United. Sunderland lost just one of their final 11 games including show stopping performances against Manchester United, Chelsea and Everton.
To look forward to Allardyce’s appointment we must first look back – not too far back – to Euro 2016. France, Germany, Spain even England all boasted a wealth of attacking talent. The tournament was won by a solid, stubborn, organised Portugal team. Portugal won just one game in 90 minutes throughout the entire tournament but all that matters is they won it. Head Coach Fernando Santos set his side out to be diligent in defence and ruthless in attack – they rode their luck at times but every team needs luck to go all the way.
Santos built his team around a strong spine: Pepe at the back, emerging superstar Renato Sanches in midfield and Cristiano Ronaldo in attack. There was nothing flashy about Portugal and they way they played but everything they did was efficient and effective.
“Efficient” and “effective” are two words which would sum up Allardyce’s career. He gets the best out of what he has got and can tweak his formation according to the personnel he has available.
The biggest knock on Big Sam is his direct style of play, “19th century football” Jose Mourinho called it. Arsene Wenger has also slammed Allardyce in his Bolton days for his robust style of football. However, such things are no more than a tactic Allaredyce adopts rather than the makeup of his managerial abilities. When looking back on performances against Manchester United and Chelsea, Sunderland took the game to their opposition and attacked with intent – with the ball on the ground I might add.
The backbone of Allardyce’s tactics is still making the most of set plays and defending set plays well – but is that a bad thing? Organisation and structure? The very things England lacked throughout the Roy Hodgson reign.
One thing can be guaranteed from the ex-Newcastle manager and that’s organisation and structure. The clichéd headless chickens phrase sprung to mind watching England desperately try and rescue their Euro 2016 campaign against Iceland as they aimlessly threw players forward. Allardyce at least has a plan, get numbers in the box, get it out wide and get the ball into the box and attack it. By the law of averages – if the quality if good enough you will get a chance. Look no further than Jermain Defoe’s winner against Chelsea in May.
The defence would now like to make a case for defence. If you can stomach it, look back at any game of England at Euro 2016. What hit’s you the most? How bad the defending was. You stand more chance of winning games if you stop the opposition from scoring. While Danny Rose and Kyle Walker are tremendous going forward they often get caught out defensively. There seemed to be no communication between the two centre halves and Joe Hart was awful.
Allardyce to date has kept 131 clean sheets, the fifth most in Premier League history. Sunderland also kept four clean sheets in their last eight games to save their skin. Allardyce wants to build on a solid defence, score first, then counter attack. Sunderland took 28 points from a possible 39 when they scored first – a remarkable record.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Allardyce has a presence about him. He isn’t called Big Sam for nothing. He is a man’s man, unafraid of egos and not afraid to drop big names – Wayne Rooney may be sweating on his place in future squads – Allardyce will make sure that players selected play for the shirt, accepting nothing less than 100% effort and commitment from even fringe players.
Big Sam is not the most sophisticated man. He’s tough and direct (especially with his words). He doesn’t play tiki taka football and won’t attack just because of fan and media pressure. He’s a strong minded, tough and direct character with unshakable belief in himself – and his teams have always reflected that. At a time when the England national team are at their most fragile after their lowest point on the international stage, Big Sam is absolutely the right man to restore English pride.