Leading up to the Euros, the all too familiar pre-tournament hype behind the Three Lions was cranked up to full whack. And it wasn’t just the ‘what if’ factor that kept hope locked in the hearts of the English men and women, this time there was genuine reason to be buoyant; It was a young, promising squad, with a sprinkle of experience that England manager Roy Hodgson would be guiding across the Channel. And beating France, Portugal and World Champions Germany in the months leading up to Euro 2016 didn’t do much to quell that optimism, either.
Obviously, in typical England fashion, that optimism was quickly replaced with disappointment. A discouraging group stage (barring that last-gasp winner Vs Wales) was capped off by an embarrassing elimination at the hands of Iceland. But this wasn’t your typical English major tournament crash and burn; it didn’t seem to be the usual case of the players’ heads being on the beach, going through the motions whilst they simply get the international inconvenience out of the way. This time it was different.
It was obvious from the offset where the blame should be directed – firmly at the door of Roy Hodgson. The list of errors made by our man in charge is simply too great to lay out, but it was as clear as day that Roy was simply the wrong man for the job – a fact that he eventually conceded himself; resigning from the post immediately after our Euro 2016 exit, saving our FA an uncomfortable task in the process.
Whilst a new manager to carry this exciting, young and gifted side forward was a necessity, the problem that we were facing would now be answering the question of who that man would be. Our earlier look at the list of potential candidates: ‘Who Next For England?’ (tongue in cheek viewpoint aside) did not produce an appetising pool. And a good portion of England fans insisting on a home-grown manager only served to diminish the list of contenders. But just like four years ago when Roy Hodgson was given the job, the FA have gone on to make yet another unpopular appointment.
But does the Sam Allardyce road really warrant so much negativism? It isn’t like Big Sam is an out of the blue candidate – unlike Hodgson four years prior. In fact, the Dudley boy was close to landing the top job in 2006, before it eventually went to, monumental failure, Steve McClaren. And there was contrasting reports as to why he was not appointed a decade ago: Allardyce claims that his interview was presented completely with a Microsoft Power Point presentation, and that FA Headquarters did not have the tools to accommodate such a fandangle piece of technology. Apparently. The other popular opinion is that the media were drawing too many similarities between him and ‘Mike Bassett: England Manager’ – portrayed by Ricky Tomlinson – and the FA could not bare to face such ridicule. Either way, neither of these reasons were based on football management capabilities.
Ten years ago, when Sam Allardyce was initially interviewed, his only acquaintance with top-level management was his time at Bolton Wanderers – whom he’d converted from a Championship side, into an established Premier League team, before guiding The Trotters to the UEFA Cup. That record alone was seen as a justifiable reason to be in the picture, and since then, Allardyce has earned much more Premier League experience. The job he did at Sunderland last season, keeping the Black Cats in the top flight, was a terrific achievement. You could also argue that he should be given praise for leaving West Ham in a much better position than when he arrived. His sacking at Blackburn was unjust – proved by Rovers’ rapid decline since his departure, and he wasn’t given nearly enough time at Newcastle. Big Sam has performed well in mid-level top flight positions, so what is to say that he won’t succeed in a bigger job?
Despite being often scrutinised for his ‘boring’ style of play, Big Sam is head and shoulders above Hodgson when it comes to both passion and tactical shrewdness. And with some (potentially) top-drawer players at his disposal, it’s a chance to demonstrate what he really could be capable of piecing together. One of the most important aspects of Allardyce’ game is that he brings a certain amount of English grit; his teams always play with determination, and one of his main, key attributes is motivation – something that our England side clearly lacked during Euro 2016 – he’s vocal, and has the ability to inspire players from the touchline.
To summarise; Sam Allardyce is, ultimately, a great choice of replacement. Right now, we desperately need a firefighter, and he will bring something to the table that England players have been lacking for years – ‘balls’. He’s rough, tough and will not tolerate lapse attitudes, he could very well get our lads playing once again for the Three Lions on the shirt. And to be fair, it could always have been much worse, we could have got Brendan Rodgers…