Pete Sixsmith casts some light, and also some wisdom, on talk of Big Sam for the England job, finding relief in reports – albeit from an occasionally dodgy source – that the FA don’t want him anyway …
As some of you may know, I am currently employed as a newspaper delivery operative (paper boy), working out of the shop from where I inherited Monsieur Salut’s Sunday round over 50 years ago.
One of the perks of the job, along with getting up early and talking to the goats that live on a smallholding at the end of Vaughan Street, is that I get to peruse the sports pages, like a latter day Billy Casper sitting on a rock above Barnsley reading The Dandy.
This morning was good reading for Sunderland supporters as most of the tabloid press had Eddie Howe and Jurgen Klinsmann as favourites for the England job. A (very) quick look at the Daily Star – it’s cheaper than the The Sun and Daily Mirror, probably because it is the thickness of the Morning Star on a good day – suggested that the Three Wise Men on the FA Panel had rejected Allardyce because they “do not like his style of play”.
Were this politics or serious news, I would be disinclined to believe the Star, but their football coverage is extensive and they seem to get some things right so I am happy to go along with it. As I walked back to the shop, I pondered on whether Messrs Ashworth, Gill and Glenn had actually seen Sunderland play last season.
Had they bothered to do so, they would have seen a goalkeeper who is comfortable behind his back four and who does not advertise shampoo or carry a novelty rucksack around with him while grinning his head off.
They would have found full backs who got forward quickly to aid the attack and who retreated equally quickly to fulfil their defensive tasks. One of them actually scored a few goals and both improved as players due to the manager insisting on teaching them how to defend.
They would have seen two central defenders who worked with each other and kept opposition forwards under a tight rein. Graziano Pelle was comfortably marked out of the game at Southampton, Romelu Lukaku was swamped in the home game against Everton and Diego Costa was snuffed out. By Kaboul and Kone.
In midfield, the players were committed and tackled effectively and, most importantly, knew their roles and played to them. Cattermole or Wilshere anyone?
And, most importantly, they would have seen a centre forward who did not take all the free kicks and corners, did not do a shimmy and a shammy and who was able to put the ball in the net from anywhere in the box. Gentlemen, I give you Jermain Defoe, another player who has benefited from Sam Allardyce and his style of play.
Those words tell us all that we need to know about the FA and its flawed and endlessly useless recruitment policy.
Can any of us imagine Allardyce going into a major championship with no Plan A, never mind a Plan B?
Would Sam have taken his assistant on a boat trip rather than watch his next opponents? Would he have taken Wilshere, a man who had not played a full game all season and who was probably lacking match fitness and sharpness?
There are those who deride Allardyce as a footballing dinosaur, a man who who plays hoofball and who was driven out of the Sports Direct by the football purists who demand so much from their managers and players.
Many of us must be pleased that the Three Wise Men have reached this conclusion as it would leave us in a pretty pickle if we lost him. Hopefully, a new contract will be faxed to Austria and it will be signed soon so we can continue to plan to do our Leicester City next season.
All we need to do is to find a King’s body* under a car park………..
* Poor Sixer, always better at school than M Salut, had to explain that reference to his thick editor. It may be no excuse that further research has thrown doubt on the theory that remains found in a Leicester car park were those of Richard III.