As the Portugal players picked glitter (and moths) out of their hair, passed the trophy around and generally revelled in their achievement of winning Euro 2016 on Sunday night, The Guardian were breaking the story that Sam Allardyce is set to be interviewed for the England job this week.
The FA’s search for a manager to replace Roy Hodgson has so far revealed a paucity of options, particularly when it comes to English candidates. Despite this, one could almost feel the collective shrug of indifference from England supporters to the potential appointment of the Sunderland boss.
Whilst Allardyce might not be the number choice of the average England fan, he is, I believe, the best option. If Portugal’s success has taught us anything, it’s that pragmatism can get you a long way in international football. Allardyce has often been portrayed as a manager whose brand of football is wholly negative, certainly you wouldn’t have to look far to find a West Ham fan who felt so. Jose Mourinho’s “19th century football” jibe didn’t exactly alter that perception either.
Whilst there is some credence to the claim, Allardyce is much more than just a muck and nettles, 4-4-2, play it to the big man to win the flick ons sort of coach. He is, let’s not forget, the man who bought Jay Jay Okocha and Youri Djorkaeff to the Premier League (with Bolton Wanderers no less.) Allardyce is also riding the crest of a wave of success having kept Sunderland in the Premier League against the odds last season. His use of sports science and methodology in preparing his teams also goes against the image of an old English dinosaur unwilling to adapt to the modern way of approaching football.
An at times abrasive character, Allardyce would, in many ways, be the polar opposite to the erudite, intelligent Roy Hodgson. Perhaps that’s not what the FA want but having someone prepared to question his superiors seems vital for a person in such an important position. Allardyce, one senses, would have no issue taking those above him to task, should he feel it necessary.
His experience of the Premier League is a huge plus too. Allardyce will have a far better idea than most of how to effectively manage English players plying their trade in the top flight. He will bring in depth knowledge of every potential member of the England squad, having worked with, or against all of those eligible in the very recent past. He’ll also come with a plan – something Roy Hodgson plainly neglected to do this summer.
Allardyce is far from perfect of course. That reputation for dour football has not been earned by accident and it’s not like he has a large section on his CV listing the trophies he’s won during his managerial career (the 1992 league of Ireland title with Limerick and the League Two crown with Notts County in 1998 are the only managerial medals in the Allardyce collection.) The palpable discord between he and the majority of West Ham supporters was rather unsavoury and it spoke to Allardyce’s character that he responded to the goading of the Upton Park faithful on more than one occasion.
When it comes down to it though, one must ask, if not Big Sam, then who?
Jurgen Klinsmann? No thanks. The fact that the USA don’t exactly seem keen to hold on to him speaks volumes. Forgive me too if I sound a bit ‘little Englander’ but surely the English national team should be managed by an Englishman? Isn’t the point of international sporting competition to pit the best of one country against the best of another? Having a foreign coach is just cheating. Plus it hasn’t exactly worked for England in the past.
Picking an English coach would obviously also rule out one of the other leading candidates, Monsieur Wenger. Elsewhere in the Premier League, Eddie Howe and Alan Pardew have been mentioned in dispatches. Howe has managed one season in the Premier League and is wise enough to know that taking the England job would likely undo all the hard work he’s put in to get to where he is at such a young age. As for Pardew, Crystal Palace’s Premier League disintegration in 2016 surely rules him out as a viable candidate. Glenn Hoddle? That bloke with the highly offensive beliefs who last managed more than a decade ago, in the Championship? Appealing.
All of which leads us back to the big man. Yes his football might not be the most exciting and yes he can rub people up the wrong way but managing England would be the pinnacle of Allardyce’s career. He would do everything in his power to make it work and even if it didn’t, we would surely at the very least get an England team who gave maximum effort. Sam Allardyce – not the ideal candidate but the only candidate.