Well that didn’t last long!
67 days after Sam Allardyce was appointed to his “Dream job” as England manager, he left “by mutual consent” after a catastrophic error of judgement in confiding to some Daily Telegraph journalists, posing as businessmen who could set him up with a £400,000 deal to give some talks, that it was easy to bend the FA and FIFA rules on 3rd party ownership of players. To compound the error he said a lot of disparaging things about past England management and mocked his predecessor, Roy Hodgson’s, tendency to pronounce his “r”s as “w”s. This is a quite normal London dialect, but directed at one person, it’s very disrespectful.
This all happened shortly after Sam was appointed, and you have to ask why. The England manager is the best paid international manager in the world, apparently. The level of salary certainly doesn’t reflect the success of previous managers – England have been a disaster in tournaments for quite a while – but it reflects the money sloshing around in the Premier League, and the difficulty of prising managers away from those Premier League jobs.
Now, anyone who reads my Sportsthoughts blogs will know I am a West Ham fan and that I was not a fan of Sam at West Ham. He got us back to the Premier League and kept us up, but the football was dire, soulless, all about percentages. He never got the West Ham way. In fact he mocked it when on the defensive. I accept that the West Ham way right at the moment is completely comical defence which could get us relegated if we don’t sort it out; but the tradition is to try to play entertaining football. To show the love of the game. Sam wasn’t about love – he was about survival and grinding out results. Boring!
And yet, I wasn’t against his appointment to the England job. England were pathetic in the Euros. There’s talent in the team, but it was all over the place. Confidence drained as soon as goals were conceded. We were knocked out by Iceland. No offence to that country – they played superbly – but our players should have beaten theirs out of sight. Roy Hodgson lost the plot, and in defence more than anywhere else.
The FA tends to appoint in cycles. Foreign – English – Foreign – English were the last four before Sam. Except Roy had never really succeeded in English football. He was an internationalist, a cosmopolitan. It was time for solid English values again. In keeping with the national mood – the Brexit mood. So Big Sam was the perfect choice. Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and two veg. Reassuring, familiar. He’ll sort the defence out. It won’t be pretty but he’ll get the results. International football isn’t about entertainment.
I was happy to go along with that. Our expectations of England are now so low, we need to rebuild from scratch. Sam felt like the right sort of manager for the task.
Except he goes and gets himself booted out after 67 days!
Why oh why?
There is only one explanation. Greed. The England manager gets about £3m a year – like I noted earlier, the best in the world. Why go chasing for even more? It’s true that international managers don’t get to manage actual games all that often, but shouldn’t they be using the time to watch as many domestic and Champions/Europa League games as possible? Keep tabs on all the current players and those with potential, including those playing in the lower leagues, like the Championship in England’s case. Get to know them, talk to managers, watch rival teams, learn from the great sides. Develop the structure of international football in England from the junior teams upwards. And do all the bureaucracy that no doubt exists in the FA. Swanning off to the Far East to earn even more money just shouldn’t be an option.
But it was in Sam’s case, and he’s paid the price. I’m not being moralistic here. Everyone makes mistakes. But this was just stupid. When you are England manager, you know you will be at risk of media attack at all times. Why would you open up so candidly to strangers when there have been so many cases of media stings in recent times? They are usually aimed at politicians, but the England manager is always going to be fair game.
Anyway, Sam has gone, and it’s time for the FA to find another new manager. Given they went for English stodge only a couple of months ago, the obvious thing to do would go for some more. And that makes Steve Bruce, currently unemployed, the obvious candidate. He was interviewed last time. The bookies’ favourites are Alan Pardew at Crystal Palace and Eddie Howe at Bournemouth. Pardew has a bit of a reputation for making great starts at clubs then losing it (including West Ham in the past) and Howe is still quite young and in his own words, inexperienced. He has been great at Bournemouth and has them playing excellent football. But when he had a stint at Burnley it didn’t go too well.
I would love it if someone like Arsene Wenger or Jose Mourinho could be persuaded, but why would they want to leave Arsenal and Man Utd for the poisoned chalice that is England? So I’d say give it to Brucie, cross our fingers and hope for the best.
We’re at rock bottom so there’s not that much to lose. We have some really talented youngsters coming through, so if we can get someone who gives them a bit of confidence when they pull on an England shirt, and organises them well, we’ll be OK.
We might even get back to being knocked out in quarter finals on penalties!