Clarke Carlisle backs Big Sam in the Big Job
Sam Allardyce has never hid the fact he’s always wanted the job of England manager. He came agonisingly close to being appointed in 2006, and was pipped to the post by Steve McClaren. Big Sam was so close to getting it he “hit the bar”, he once told Sky Sports.
Now, ten years later, the job is his. Allardyce comes from the generation of managers who see international football and representing your country as the greatest honour possible. Unlike his predecessor, he won’t be in awe of his new job title – Allardyce believes he was born for the role.
So what will he bring to the England team, and what can the players expect?
His approach will split opinion, as it has his whole career. He’s been tainted, perhaps unfairly, with being a long ball merchant, not being a football “purest” and for playing “19th century football”. But what is often overlooked is that during his time at Bolton Wanderers, he became one of the first English managers to adopt and accept the role of science and psychology in the game. For a manager often derided in the press and by fans, in part because he was upsetting the elite, he was ahead of his time in a country often blinded by the notion of heart and desire being the most vital ingredients in a player.
Prozone, which is an integral part of the Complementary Curriculum on offer to UCFB students, is now a regular feature of the modern game, but at the turn of the century it was in its infancy. Few clubs were using it, let alone those in the lower leagues. But Allardyce, after seeing how American Football used a similar system during a brief playing spell in US, embraced the technology and player performance analytics to give his teams the edge.
Now, in an industry worth billions, Prozone is used for the likes of scouting and planning. Allardyce set the trend, much to the annoyance of that elite.
One man who believes Big Sam is the man for England is former Burnley and QPR defender Clarke Carlisle. Clarke, who’s a Tutorial Coordinator at UCFB, believes his approach to coaching on and off the pitch will benefit the England squad.
Clarke said: “I believe that Sam Allardyce will do an outstanding job for England. He has always been at the forefront of coaching techniques, whether that involves improving the physical, psychological or emotional side of a player. It’s not only the fact that he adopts all of the relevant professionals in each area to enhance his squad, but that he creates an environment where it is expected and imperative that players embrace this holistic approach.”
It’s not just about numbers and graphs with Allardyce though. Unsurprisingly, his teams can play a bit too. What should encourage England fans is that he plays to the strengths of the players he has available – a handy thing when managing a national team, especially one that consistently freezes at major tournaments. There’ll be no square pegs in round holes.
Yes, there’s the experienced hard men he’s renowned for playing. Think Kevin Nolan, Ivan Campo and Kevin Davies. They were players Allardyce could rely on, so expect one or two names to be a regular in his England team if fit. Eric Dier and Jack Wilshere could be those men.
Davies, who played under Allardyce at Bolton, says he gets the best out his players and is a fantastic man-manager. He can also crack the whip when needed.
But there’s also flair. Who can forget Jay-Jay Okocha and French World Cup winner Youri Djorkaeff at Bolton? At West Ham he persuaded Ecuador’s Enner Valencia to join after shining at the 2014 World Cup.
Following his time at Bolton, and with the exception of Newcastle United who seemingly aren’t content with any manager they appoint, Allardyce has been hired either to stop a team going down or to get them promoted. Managers in such a position simply have to win by any means necessary.
What Allardyce has done at all of his clubs is get players fit, improve their work-rate, and drill them for every individual game. Set-pieces and organisation are a big part of his preparation – vital when in a fight at the wrong end of the table. It’s also pretty handy when playing in a seven game tournament.
Allardyce took Bolton to the Premier League and left them a top half club fighting for Europe. He took over Blackburn Rovers in mid-December in 19th place, and finished the season 15th. He was appointed West Ham United manager the season after they were relegated to the Championship and earned them promotion straight away. His three years in the Premier League with the club saw them finish 10th, 12th and 11th, firmly establishing West Ham as a top flight club once again. Then just last October, Allardyce was appointed Sunderland manager with the club second from bottom in the Premier League. Sunderland survived, maintaining Allardyce’s record of never being relegated.
Not for the first time in his managerial career, Allardyce will be going into a dressing room low on morale. He’ll drill England, he’ll organise them and he’ll pick players in their right positions. He might even stop the strikers from taking corners.
But most importantly, he’ll make England hard to beat. As Portugal proved – if you’re hard to beat, you can win tournaments.
After all, isn’t that the point of international football?