Yesterday, Sam Allardyce had his contract as England manager terminated after 67 days and just one game in charge.
Videos have emerged which appear to show Allardyce explaining to undercover reporters from British newspaper the Daily Telegraph posing as businessmen representing a consortium from Asia how to get around the FA’s rules on Third-party ownership of players.
Allardyce also appears to negotiate a fee for going to speak to some fictitious investors in Hong Kong and Singapore, he mocks Roy Hodgson’s performance in his job, and his rhotacism, and criticises the FA over the cost of Wembley.
The Telegraph’s sting was part of a wider investigation they are running into financial impropriety in football, and they have promised to release more stories over the next few days, so things could possibly get even worse for the FA.
Whether or not you believe what Allardyce said merited losing his job, and amidst all of the nonsense, there were some truths said; in my opinion, it immediately seemed clear that the FA could not keep him as manager.
The FA have come under increased scrutiny over how they mete out discipline. As a result, the FA have to hold themselves to as high a standard as they hold others. So, it is not acceptable for the FA’s highest-profile employee to act as though he believes that the rules are optional and offer to help a bunch of strangers flout them.
I think that Allardyce has fallen into a trap that several others have fallen into in the past, and others will almost certainly fall into in the future.
The Premier League is watched by hundreds of millions all around the world. That level of exposure, plus the huge financial rewards that come with it, can give people a false sense of their status within the game. Just because people will know who you are, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a superstar.
Allardyce has been a Premier League manager for a long time, and to be fair to him, he did a great job at Bolton, didn’t get the credit he deserved for a solid job at West Ham and was doing well at both Blackburn and Sunderland before his spells there prematurely came to an end.
So, Allardyce will be someone who fans from all over the world who follow the Premier League will know. That, plus Allardyce’s own ego, which certainly isn’t small, and arrogance will have allowed him to give himself the impression that he really is a big deal in the world of football.
The England job wasn’t just Allardyce’s dream job; it was the validation he has been seeking for his entire managerial career. He’s believed for years that his natural place is at the elite level of football management, and he believed the England post would give him the chance to prove to everyone that he belongs at the top.
After all, this is a man who once said “I'm not suited to Bolton or Blackburn, I would be more suited to Internazionale 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.”
Allardyce has created and then played up to the ‘Big Sam’ persona. He presents himself as a larger-than-life figure; someone who is quick with a joke and provides great quotes for the media. He believes himself to be what we would call in the UK ‘a real character’, someone who is beloved by fans of the game, and someone who the game would be all the poorer for if he wasn’t part of it. He seems to be oblivious to the fact that many see him as a pompous, big-headed buffoon.
In some ways, I think Allardyce has trapped himself in that Big Sam persona. Allardyce is much more of a cerebral coach than he presents himself to be. He was one of the first Premier League managers to embrace sports science and the use of stats as a coaching aide. But instead, he dumbs himself down in a bid to gain popularity.
That’s what I think Allardyce was doing in those videos. He was making himself look big in front of a bunch of strangers, bragging about how well-connected he was and what he could do for them, for the right price. He was playing up to the crowd.
That probably explains the cheap shot Allardyce took about Roy Hodgson in the video. Criticising Hodgson‘s time as England manager is okay; saying that he was indecisive and had probably picked the wrong coaching staff was also okay.
But, mocking Hodgson’s character and, even worse, his speech impediment, is not okay; and that will have counted heavily against Allardyce when the FA were decided what to do when the allegations first emerged. This is after the FA had previously called a newspaper headline mocking Hodgson’s rhotacism ‘unacceptable’.
For all of Allardyce’s bluff and bluster throughout his career, and his unswerving self-belief, the only really big clubs he’s ever managed are Newcastle and West Ham, in the former he failed badly, and in both cases the fans couldn’t wait to see the back of him. The last trophy he won as a manager was the title of what is now League Two with Notts County in 1997.
Even the appointment of Allardyce by the FA, which was supposed to be the crowning glory of Allardyce’s career, always seemed as though it came about more because there wasn’t really anyone else rather than because Allardyce was the outstanding candidate.
The FA now face having to look for yet another England manager. If they want an English one, the field seems thinner than ever. There are only 4 English managers in the Premier League, and that includes Mike Phelan at Hull, who isn’t their permanent manager. Of those, only Alan Pardew would seriously be considered. Outside of that, there’s Steve Bruce who left Hull in the summer. Hardly inspiring choices are they?
As for Allardyce, he spent less time in the England job than the Chilean miners spent trapped underground. He only managed them for one game; scraping a 1-0 win against Slovakia. Despite all of this he walks away with a large payoff and with the knowledge that he will probably be back in football before too long.
Allardyce is already making noises about media entrapment and it won’t take him long to spin everything in his own mind so that he can once again go back to being Big Sam and when the next Premier League team in trouble calls upon him- and they will- he can allow himself the delusion that he is once again on his way to the peak of the game.