,s Big Sam big test
Prospects as England manager… DANNY RUST weighs up Sam Allardyce’s
SAM Allardyce is facing his biggest challenge as he takes the England reins – and tries to win over the doubters.
After Roy Hodgson’s tenure ended in ignominy with defeat against Iceland in the Euros, many will question whether Big Sam is the right man for the job for a variety of reasons - though the FA hardly had a host of big names to choose from. The FA’s first choice, Arsene Wenger, was interested in the job but was unwilling to break his contract with Arsenal. It would have been ridiculous had England gone through with playing half of their qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup under a caretaker manager.
When it then became clear that the FA’s three-man panel – made up of Martin Glenn, Dan Ashworth and David Gill – were looking to appoint an Englishman, Big Sam was the obvious candidate for a job seen by many as a poisoned chalice.
With a wealth of experience and a number of backers, including Sir Alex Ferguson, Allardyce was appointed England boss a decade after Steve McClaren beat the exBolton Wanderers boss to the top job.
His appointment may have been cheered most by a couple of players in East London. Andy Carroll, who Allardyce signed for West Ham during his reign at the Boleyn Ground, must see this as his best chance of breaking back into the England side after numerous injuries hampered his prospects. Hammers captain Mark Noble, who is surely one of the best uncapped Englishmen currently in the Premier League, was one of Allardyce’s go-to men at Upton Park and so the likelihood of the 29-yearold finally winning his first cap has been increased significantly. Allardyce will not be afraid to go against traditions or the opinions of the media. During his playing career, he was a huge fan of Frank Worthington and the new England boss failed to understand how Worthington only won eight caps for his country. Allardyce labelled it “a scandal”. The former Blackburn Rovers boss also noted: “England has a sorry history of marginalising flair players. We always preferred the work ethic over skill.” Everton midfielder Ross Barkley is one player that has been unlucky not to win more England caps in recent times, with Hodgson preferring the safe option of James Milner on numerous occasions to the flair and unpredictability of Barkley. With Allardyce at the helm, perhaps more players like Barkley and Dele Alli will be given licence to play in exactly the same way they do at club level.
The FA and England fans alike will be hoping that the former Sunderland boss will give the national team a sense of identity.
Under Hodgson, England’s starting XI and formation were likely to change every game, with stars demanded to play out of position and the team going into the game seemingly only with a Plan A and no Plan B. If Allardyce is to succeed then this has to change.
Scores of England fans may have the opinion that Allardyce is too defensive-minded. But it is clear that England’s defence certainly needs improving - because the Three Lions’ back four was hopeless at certain stages of this summer’s European Championships. Allardyce would be right to look for a way of shoring up the defence.
Allardyce has often been criticised for his sides regularly using long balls to try and unlock opposition defences, and some expected him to miss out on the England job because of his style of play.
But Big Sam has regularly disregarded the long ball tag as an excuse by opponents.
When the FA announced the England DNA last year, it read: “England teams aim to intelligently dominate possession selecting the right moments to progress the play and penetrate the opponent.”
Dressed to impress: New England boss Sam Allardyce Mark Noble