Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Another fine mess at the F.A.

Another fine mess at the F.A.
Well, that did not last long.

Sam Allardyce may retire with a 100% record as English manager but his reputation is so sullied it is hard to see him going back into club management.

The egg is on the F.A.'s face of course for signing up a man already well-known as a bit of a wheeler-dealer. They had not learn from appointing Terry Venables or their passing over Harry Redknapp.

At Bolton, Big Sam had assembled a United Nations of players much like Redknapp had at West Ham, ringing the alarm bells that the boss was more active than normal in the transfer market.

Redknapp for all his talents, carried too much suspicion that a financial misdemeanor would blow up for the F.A. to pick him above Roy Hodgson, which makes their decision to opt for a similar character bizarre.

The lack of English options following Euro 2016 and the desire to pick a strong personality who knew the domestic game inside out mitigates somewhat their error, but in hindsight the risk of a scandal with Allardyce was large.

Ten years ago a BBC expose had already fingered his agent son as being involved with bungs attached to his father's club dealings some years back. Big Sam's fall cannot have come as a shock to anyone. Did the F.A. insist in their job interview that Allardyce sever all friendly connections with agents who might try to insert themselves in his inner circle?

Were they satisfied one of the highest-profile wheeler-dealers in the domestic game was squeaky clean, or did the lack of obvious alternatives force their hand and make them hope for the best?

The Allardyce video was merely the side of the game the fans do not see and the press often ignore - the big boys' rules which have always gone on behind the scenes.

Across the board, managers had respect that 'Big Sam' was one of their own. Journalists seemed to warm to him too, though tabloid hacks really adored Redknapp above all, blithely ignoring all his financial chicanery.

All that has changed are the inflated sums of money changing hands now. Alan Sugar claimed Brian Clough liked an envelope stuffed with cash while Allardyce was hoping to pick up £400,000 from this fatal deal.

The Daily Telegraph has form, having sent two reporters disguised as constituents to bring down the otherwise impressive Vince Cable M.P. from making a bid to be chancellor in the coalition government.

Then as now the sting seemed to be a show of arrogance from the newspaper rather than a noble act for a greater purpose.

Handling the press is indeed as tricky for England managers as handling overseas opposition. Bobby Robson was hounded relentlessly by the tabloid media, as were Graham Taylor and Steve McClaren.

Robson and Sven-Goran Eriksson had their private life splayed over the newspapers while Fabio Capello was lost in translation. Glenn Hoddle and Terry Venables enjoyed relatively good relations with Fleet Street but their own careless off-field errors cost them their jobs.

What we see is a continuous comedy of errors with England managers. Only Roy Hodgson did the decent thing and quit his job for having lost a must-win match.

But given Big Sam's ungracious comments about Hodgson, Gary Neville and the Duke of Cambridge, his criticism of his employers splashing £870 million on Wembley, plus the promise of more revelations, the F.A. had no option but to call time today on their new man, even after only 90 minutes of football.

Reputations matter.

-Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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