Innovator Sam Allardyce deserves belated chance, says Phil Brown

Sam Allardyce.Sam Allardyce.
Sam Allardyce.
Former Hull boss Phil Brown, who worked with Sam Allardyce at Blackpool and Bolton, believes the FA would be right to appoint him. Richard Sutcliffe reports.

SAM ALLARDYCE ‘in-tray’ is full to over-flowing right now.

The make up of his new-look England staff, how he can make the Three Lions roar again after the whimper of recent years and the need to devise a system to safely negotiate a path to the 2018 World Cup, are just some of the many headaches that the 61-year-old is facing up to ahead of his expected announcement as national team manager on Friday.

Not that Allardyce will be complaining. The Midlands-born former defender has waited a decade for this chance, ever since being overlooked for Steve McClaren as Sven Goran Eriksson’s successor.

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As Allardyce made clear in his autobiography just last year, the desire to manage the Three Lions never went away despite that snub from the Football Association.

Phil Brown, Allardyce’s right-hand man for eight years at Blackpool and Bolton Wanderers, knows that better than most and it is why the former Hull City chief is overjoyed for not just his great friend, but also the country.

“I am delighted for the big man,” said the 57-year-old last night when speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post from Southend United’s warm weather training camp in Malaga.

“It is 10 years since he applied and we have been through three or four managers since then as a country. I’ll be honest and say I thought he’d missed his turn and that the chance would not come along again.

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“But, after a disappointing final game in the Euros, Roy (Hodgson) fell on his sword and here we are. Sam’s record in the Premier League and his track record, plus what he did at Sunderland last season, made him the obvious candidate.”

Allardyce’s stint at the Stadium of Light does seem to have swung the balance his way in the face of stiff competition from Tigers chief Steve Bruce.

When Allardyce took charge last October, the Black Cats were deep in trouble. At the start of 2016, they were still seven points from safety. A productive transfer window, however, changed everything and only champions Leicester City beat Allardyce’s men in the final 11 games of the season.

It was not just transfer market nous, though, that helped save Sunderland with an ability to handle the egos of the modern dressing room – something England plainly need – also a factor in the latest instalment of the ‘great escape’ on Wearside.

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“People say Sam will have to handle the big egos in the England team,” added Brown, who left Allardyce’s Bolton in 2005 to take charge of Derby County and then Hull.

“Well, he has done that throughout his career. At Bolton, he had Fernando Hierro, who had been at Real Madrid for 14 years. Same with Ivan Campo.

“Then, there was Jay-Jay (Okocha) and Nicolas Anelka. Massive, massive egos and characters, but lads who Sam got the best out of on a consistent basis. He does that by getting to know the individual characters and then using his top-class man management skills. Sam loves sitting players down and getting to know everything about them. He has this in-built awareness of what makes people tick.”

Allardyce is recognised as a huge innovator in English football. He is also someone who has evolved as the game has done the same, a trait that has kept the 61-year-old in demand at a time when a younger breed of manager has edged out many of his one-time peers.

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“Sam came back from the States in the mid-Nineties with so many ideas,” recalls Brown, who was player assistant manager at Blackpool for two years under Allardyce before being reunited at the Reebok in 1999.

“He became a real innovator in English football. He had a philosophy after being in the States of needing one coach per man. At Blackpool, we had about four backroom staff in total. We were a million miles away there.

“But, at Bolton, Sam took the staff from four or five to 34. His belief was that the players shouldn’t want for anything, as that would mean they had no excuses for not performing on a Saturday. It was a big part of his thinking and really got Bolton going.”

Allardyce’s task now, of course, is not so much to get England going as revive a flagging footballing nation. The horror show that was Hodgson’s swansong as manager has left the Three Lions a laughing stock. Brown feels Allardyce, with a proven track record for breathing fresh life into stricken clubs, is just the man the country needs.

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“We weren’t quite good enough at the Euros,” said the Southend chief. “In a way, we have become almost a second division team in international football. Certainly, out of the top 10 but, maybe, even a Championship level team. People have to understand that.

“What I will say is Sam has shown all his career an ability to not only win promotion to the top division, but then push on.

“He took Bolton from Division One to Cup finals and Europe. He did a great job at West Ham, while Sunderland staying up last year was a huge achievement.

“England needs a lift after what has happened in recent years and I am sure Sam has the recipe for success. For sure, Sam is the man.”