Every so often, Salut! Sunderland digs into its own pockets and forks out for a prize-winning mug. You will receive the your personalised version (ie your name at No 12) of the above, from our Guess the Score sponsors Personalised Football Gifts, but at Monsieur Salut’s expense, if you come up with a great name for the slot we will devote, as with all managers, to that post-match e-mail from the boss (or his ghost writer).
We’ve had Bruce’s Banter, Martin’s Musings, Paolo’s Pow-wow (then Le Parole di Paolo), Pure Poyetry/Poyetry in Motion and the brilliant Advochaat, coined by our illustrator Jake.
What shall we call the thought of Big Sam after each win, defeat or draw? Nothing I have so far seen, of thought up myself, comes close to seeming right. Play It Again Sam might work for defeats, Telegram Sam was another suggestion and there’s always a plan Sam Speaks. Over to you, remembering the only two rules: M Salut’s decision is final and the winner must have a UK delivery address.
Meanwhile, more thoughts on the choice of Big Sam.
At ESPN, a non-SAFC supporter, Trevor Stokes, dealt with the “boring Allardyce” issue very well:
People moan about the way he plays the game, he plays to the strengh of his players, his players don’t cost 30/40/50m so how is he expected to play like Utd, City, Chelsea, Barca etc?
You can’t play swift counter attacking football if you don’t have quick wingers who can cross the ball, or central midfielders who can see the pass to release a ‘Walcott’ speedster. If I were a Sunderland suporter I would rather have the ‘Allardyce Style’ and finish midtable than the ‘Poyet Style’ and fight relegation every year. Your luck can only last so long before getting relegated.
And this was the piece, from me, to which he was responding. Please remember that it was written for a general audience, including people who like football but do not share our allegiance:
The bookmakers and media pundits were not alone in tipping or even rooting for Sam Allardyce as the new manager of Sunderland AFC.
He was also the supporters’ choice and Friday’s announcement of his appointment was broadly welcomed.
Allardyce famously divides fans. Admirers point out that he has a habit of not allowing his teams to be relegated. He makes his players work and organises them in all areas of the pitch, especially at the back.
Detractors complain that he encourages, even requires, a dull style of football. On the basis of the perceived negative as well as the positives, he should have no problem at Sunderland.
The club he inherits cannot find consistency or stability on or off the field. Sunderland have wretched problems in the back four and have, in recent times, been deadly dull without the saving grace of being successful or even competent.
Few Sunderland supporters will complain if they are treated to a spell of football that is not too exciting but avoids defeat and sometimes wins. The Premier League table shows the team adrift with Newcastle and Aston Villa in the bottom three. At this early stage of the season, the gap between third-bottom and a position of safety is already so wide that a single win cannot lift them clear of the relegation zone.
So to put it mildly, Allardyce has his work cut out.
First, he must plug the gaping holes in defence. Most of the teams Sunderland have faced so far, from high-flying Manchester City to newly-promoted Bournemouth and Norwich City and even lowly Exeter City, have found it an easy matter to cut through the back four and score.
Then he must decide what, from a bunch of players of varying talent, application and disciplinary common sense, constitutes his best midfield. And finally, there’s the question of who should play up front and in what formation.
Jermain Defoe scored early goals but was sidelined towards the end of Dick Advocaat’s brief tenure. Could he form a viable partnership with Fabio Borini? Is it time to place more faith in Steven Fletcher, scorer of a good goal against West Ham United in Sunderland’s last Premier League game and an even better one on international duty for Scotland? And is the time not ripe for a little more playing time for the young, raw but promising Duncan Watmore?
What we do not yet know is what assurances Allardyce has been given on transfer policy. Reports suggested that he was demanding a free hand from owner Ellis Short, whose disinclination to grant managers such indulgence has been cited as a reason for the departure of Advocaat.
The world knows that Sunderland need strengthening in defence. It remains to be seen how easily that can be achieved in the January transfer window, when every selling club will know of Allardyce’s pressing need and Short may be hesitant about loosening the purse strings.
Many observers suggest Allardyce will want to bring in Kevin Nolan, a key player for him at West Ham United. Sunderland fans loathe Nolan for his Newcastle United connections but would quickly warm to him if he proved an inspirational force for good, as they did to Lee Clark, an out-and-out Magpie who was a memorable figure in Peter Reid’s 1999 promotion-winning side.
The knack for avoiding relegation is only one reason why Sunderland supporters are welcoming the appointment. Allardyce is also a former player with fond memories of the old Roker Park stadium; he was signed as a defender in 1980, was promptly given the club captaincy and made 27 appearances.
Straw polls among the fans put him well out in front among the names touted for Advocaat’s successor, with Michael Laudrup, Nigel Pearson and Frank De Boer also winning support but lagging a long way behind.
All Allardyce needs to do now is ensure victory at home to Newcastle on Oct 25 — his predecessors Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet and Advocaat all began their managerial terms with derby wins– and keep Sunderland in the Premier.
He has been hired on a two-year contract. If he achieves the objective of survival, a second season of real progress would be a massive bonus.