Sam Allardyce has taken the English managerial hot seat recently vacated by Roy Hodgson. And it’s not just any hot seat – it comes with more press scrutiny than any other. Suffice to say, any tactical tweak or questionable call-up will be met with more derision and analysis than any public service cut that Theresa May’s cabinet can make.
There’s been a strange reaction to this appointment. The sense I get is that there’s a great deal of apathy towards the national side at the moment. As is often the case in football, the fans mirror the performances. And if the team on display at the Euros didn’t try, then why the hell should we? As such, the process of appointing a new manager has almost passed us all by. Candidates have been touted, none have generated a great deal of reaction either positive or negative and we’ve now ended up with the man who guided Sunderland to safety last season. It’s got all the hallmarks of an underwhelming appointment.
But do England actually deserve anything better?
Think about it; the team haven’t won anything for fifty years. They arguably haven’t performed well in a tournament for twenty. We, as a footballing entity, have no right whatsoever to be umming and ahhing about having someone of Allardyce’s credentials in charge.
If, as is widely assumed, the FA were intent on going with an English candidate then they’ve probably chosen the man whose stock is highest. The others, namely Eddie Howe, Steve Bruce and Glenn Hoddle, all would’ve been flawed appointments. Howe is still inexperienced, Bruce has something of a penchant for relegation and Hoddle hasn’t managed for ten years. Allardyce, however, is fresh from surviving the dreaded Premier League Relegation Dogfight – something not many managers have been able to do with the regularity of Big Sam. Obviously it’s not exactly silverware, but he’s played the hand he’s been dealt very well.
If the fans wanted a foreign appointment then that’s another point entirely – who was there from overseas? The only man who came close to the job was Jurgen Klinsmann, who is currently having a torrid time coaching the USA. So while many may laugh disdainfully at Allardyce, it’s actually fair to say that England have hired the best man available.
Then there are those who look scornfully upon the style of football Allardyce would bring to England. As if we’ve ever had any distinct style which has either worked in tournaments or at least enthused us to the edge of our seats. On the contrary, any form of the Allardyce beefcake-ball which the Premier League has been treated to of late would represent more of a style than England have had in recent years. We are, yet again, in no position to be picky. While Sunderland, Blackburn, Newcastle and West Ham under Allardyce weren’t exactly purveyors of tiki-taka, they at least had a plan. They were at least hard to beat. Say what you will, but I don’t think we would laid down to Iceland so readily under Allardyce, nor would our strategy have boiled down to throwing on all our forwards and seeing what happens.
Perhaps above all, Allardyce’s trademarked ‘no-nonsense’ approach will appease those who have critiqued an ‘establishment’ England team for years. Picking players from elite clubs regardless of merit will surely be a thing of the past under Big Sam. He has, after all, never managed a team with aspirations of anything other than top half. He’s seen the good that players lower down the league can do when pushed to work hard and he will not be afraid to throw them into consideration should his big stars prove unworthy.
Obviously it remains to be seen if he’s a success. But whatever your opinion of Big Sam, you can’t honestly look at our performance at Euro 2016 and say he’d have done worse.