A month on from their titanic defeat to Iceland, England’s national football team have settled on a new man to lead them forward. Big Sam, a man famous for promoting Bolton, saving Sunderland from relegation and delivering legendary post-match interviews, arrived at St. George’s Park on Monday. With the formalities and a typical Sam-style press conference behind him, it’s now time for the big man to officially embark on his England journey; here are five things we can now expect from Roy Hodgson’s replacement…
1. No more bullshit.
Bullshit is the word that can easily surmise most disastrous England performances. Robinson’s miss-kick against Croatia in 2008 was bullshit, Beckham’s infamous sending off in ’98 was definitely bullshit and losing to Iceland was most certainly (you guessed it) bullshit. Although many criticise him for playing ‘simple’ football and have voiced scepticism over his lack of major Premier League club management, it cannot be denied that Big Sam is not a man who will suffer drama queens, stroppy superstars and lacklustre performances lightly. After taking over at, then relegated, West Ham in late 2010 he would famously undertake a massive squad overhaul, sacking twenty-five players. He took no bullshit then and he’ll take no bullshit with the Three Lions.
2. Old school football.
Many have drawn parallels between Allardyce and fictional character Mike Bassett who played out a disastrous career as England manager in a 2001 mockumentary. Despite being one of the most average films to grace British cinema, many seem to have condemned Allardyce’s appointment as ‘a Bassett reign’. Whilst I personally hold out a little more hope for Big Sam, it’s true that he has an old school, ‘proper English’ football feel about him. Former manager, Dave Bassett, would describe Allardyce as a “…a ball-playing defender… If he wasn’t playing with the ball he was playing with your balls.” Hopefully, this was a strictly humorous comment but we can expect him to bring some aspects of English football back to its original roots, rhino-like centre backs and a lanky target man up front.
3. …Forward thinking football?
Whilst the ex-Sunderland man has been accused of old-school tactics and ‘long ball’ football, famously frustrating Mourinho’s Chelsea back in 2014, sporting a flat back five and holding the blues to a nil – nil draw, he has also been revered as one of the most forward thinking managers of the modern English game. A keen advocate of the use of the latest nutrition and sports science techniques, including yoga, sports psychology and sports analysis company Prozone, Allardyce has secretly harboured a talent for improving the general fitness of his players. Whilst we can wonder how Wayne Rooney will improve his game by doing the tree, many players, including Lee Clark and Kevin Davies, have praised Sam’s ability to organise and prepare his teams. Hey, if we need yoga for England to win…
4. Actual Management.
Amazingly a manager should actually manage. We don’t ask for much as England fans but that would be a good start. Whilst Hodgson failed to even give his World Cup squad a style of play or a philosophy, Allardyce is certain to implement a clear style of play (even if it is all about the long ball). He’s also known to be a great man-manager, running a focused backroom set-up and accurately organising the coaching regime for his clubs. He backed his own man-management skills in the England press conference and with his trusty side-kick Sammy Lee (little Sam to you and me) by his side we can expect these skills to reach their pinnacle during his tenure as England manager. He has also owned and managed a club, a pub, a fast food joint and a motor spares firm, so he may have that man-management thing down.
At Euro 2016 England looked, at times, like a team who were scared to lose and scared to play. With the money, the fame, the pressure and the constant media speculation we forget that football is a pleasurable sport. It is still a pastime, some are just lucky enough for it to be their job. In his press conference, Sam was eager to mention his desire to get the squad back to enjoying the game, to bring the players closer together, to get their personal relationships in line and to get the pleasure back into English football. Above everything else, we all know that those England players probably need that more than anything else right now.