It has been a busy few weeks for What’s-His-Name …
”I don’t see any comparisons between anyone. There is no other Sam Allardyce, there is just the one. There never has been and never will be another Sam Allardyce. Sam Allardyce doesn’t manage like anyone else.”
“I’m not suited to Bolton or Blackburn, I would be more suited to Inter or Real Madrid. It wouldn’t be a problem to me to go and manage those clubs because I would win the double or the league every time.”
”The wife made me a cuppa – in the small mug we keep for visitors. Couldn’t dunk my Hobnob in it. The slap across her face was swift & hard.”
Wait! Before the lawyers get in touch, that last one was courtesy of @TheBig_Sam – a fake twitter account lampooning the Blackburn manager. Still, the way the big man has begun the season it is becoming eerily difficult to tell the difference between the two as caricature and reality converge as one.
So we’re all agreed then … Allardyce is an uncouth buffoon, his teams play archaic football and the mere prospect of the man daring to entertain the idea that he be entitled to better things is confirmation of a delusional state. Right? … Wrong.
In all the hoopla currently surrounding Allardyce, or Allardici if you prefer, there’s been much made of his one-eyed arrogance. The turgidly ‘practical’ football. The bloated ego. The brazen sense of indignation at being overlooked by England, Liverpool, Internazionale, the US Presidency and who knows what else.
The one area you are likely to find his detractors steering clear of is the nuts and bolts matter of results. A cold analytical look at the job he has done in football management. The reason? Well, like it or not, in so far as it goes, the old fool’s record stands up …
You see, Allardyce has managed six teams. The first five were higher in the league when he left than when he arrived, with two of them in a higher division. If you include Blackburn (19th when he took over) then that’s six out of six. An impressive record. There were highlights too – promotions with Limerick, with Notts County … and with Bolton Wanderers …
The simple facts of Allardyce’s reign at Bolton Wanderers are remarkable. Taking a team from the bottom half of the Championship to the top six of the Premiership is in itself a considerable achievement. To do so and keep Bolton in the top eight of English football for four years in succession is a phenomenal accomplishment – a truth borne out by the fact that only the so called Big Four of the time were able to remain in the top twelve throughout this period.
It all makes for stunning reading and, while a cruel person may argue that reading about them rather than watching them would be the preferable option, this would be to ignore the virtues of men like Youri Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha, Fernando Hierro and Nicolas Anelka – something Allardyce could not be accused of.
These efforts were not enough to gain Allardyce any great sympathy when he was overlooked in favour of Steve McClaren for the position of England manager. McClaren had a burgeoning reputation as a progressive thinking coach, was already involved in the England set-up and had even got the better of Allardyce in a League Cup Final. This, combined with a dramatic run to the UEFA Cup Final, saw the man who would become ‘Shteve’ get the nod. Even so, if the question had been simply a matter of who had done the better job – McClaren at Middlesbrough or Allardyce at Bolton – could the decision really have gone the same way?
With the England job having eluded Dudley’s finest for now, he has occasionally resorted to bitter asides in regard to his lack of opportunities in club football. These crass outbursts are routinely dismissed as the ramblings of a xenophobic bar room boor. In truth, the critics may be right. I have no idea whether the six month stints in charge of Real Madrid that were granted to both Mariano Garcia Remon and Juan Ramon Lopez Caro caught his attention while at Bolton. I am equally dubious as to whether Massimiliano Allegri’s appointment as AC Milan coach following two impressive mid-table finishes with Cagliari has been the talk of the Blackburn manager’s office. Although, were he aware, I guess we’d have heard the scoffing from here.
Sadly for Allardyce, the assessment of the merits of football managers does not occur in a vacuum of statistical analysis. Instead, they account for footballing taste and personal preferences. Media skills and anecdotal evidence. Faces that fit and faces that most definitely do not.
In a week in which Allardyce has again had the intelligentsia of the footballing community tittering from afar, it was interesting to hear the excellent Barney Ronay commenting on Guardian Football Weekly that he felt Avram Grant was underrated in this country.
The man who was handed the Chelsea job when they were the second best team in England, and finished second. The man who took over at Portsmouth, the bottom team in the Premiership, and finished bottom. Grant did manage to lose three cup finals in that time and is now making an indifferent start to his West Ham reign but my point is this – the same Guardian Football Weekly show had spent the previous week mocking an old fool called Sam Allardyce.
Underrated you say? Maybe there’s a more worthy candidate.
Adam Bate writes at GhostGoal.co.uk.