FP Investigates: Sam Allardyce, Enemy of Britain’s Best Young Managers

Are foreign managers really blocking the way of Britain’s best and brightest? FP busts Sam Allardyce’s chops with cold hard numbers, pie charts and a bit of banter.
Sam Allardyce, Enemy of Britain's Best Young Managers - An Investigation
From left to right: Charles Reep, Sam Allardyce, Roy Hodgson, Neil Warnock.

When Chuck Met Sammy

On an unusually warm West Bromwich night in February 1989, Sam Allardyce woke up from his sleep feeling musty beneath the sheets. The spirit of Charles Reep was sitting at the foot of his bed. He was inspecting Sam’s dunking bird. He thought it was pretty nifty, how the bird bobbed up and down and up again and told Sam so.

Sam, scared witless, asked him what he was doing there. Charles told him to not worry, he wasn’t dead yet, that this was just an out-of-body experience. Sam asked him what it felt like. Charles said it was depressing, and not unlike Manchester. Sam thought to himself that he quite liked Manchester.

Charles had two messages for Sam, which were: one, he shouldn’t follow his footsteps, and two,  if he could please pass the raisins. Sam passed him the raisins and got Charles chatting about football.

Sam thought Charles was pretty clever with his football ideas. As dawn broke, Charles’s spirit thought he should return to his body and that he better not be late for his morning tea. He got up and walked through the wall. Sam, trying to follow, broke his nose.

That probably didn’t happen. But some really rad stuff went down in 1989.  #1 The Berlin Wall. #2 Nintendo rolled out the Gameboy in America. (Soon enough, you didn’t have to spend a fortune worth of dimes at arcades.) #3 Microsoft launched its Office Suite. (Spreadsheet, Word Processor, Database and Presentation Software, the works. It made the hippies-turned-telephone-marketers a little more organised in the workplace. Did wonders for the economy.) #4 Hulkamania was running wild.

But you know how these things work. The cosmos had to balance the good stuff out with the bad; progression with regression. And before 1989 knew it, China drove a tank into Tiananmen Square, Donald Trump penetrated prime-time public consciousness on Larry King Live, and Big Sam Allardyce, despite epiphanies, strutted into football management.

Sam, not unlike Trump, is the kind of guy who’d stand uncomfortably close to you at a pub urinal, then fart and say, “better out than in, eh?!” His views on foreign football managers run along the same lines. But before we get to that, we need to visit the lavatory and the legend of Charles Reep.

The reek of Reep

In the 1950s, Charles Reep had a gut-feeling. Holed in for hours in the idyllic Swindon Town football club outhouse, the restless Reep was flexing his mind and bowels, often at the same time, mustering the methods to get rid of the constipated movement from his side. One day it came to him like a flush in the pan. He, reportedly, wrote the revelation down on toilet paper rolls.

Reep came to the conclusion that movement consisting of three or fewer passes lay the foundation of more goals than sequences of elaborate build-up plays. More simply, more often the ball is hoofed up to the most advanced players, highest up the pitch, the more likely will the bouncing ball present opportunities.

Charles Reep, a former RAF Wing Commander, was a fan of Blitzkrieg tactics and saw his footballing philosophy as a very natural superimposition, and quite understandably, aligned to his view of the world.

Yet, 67 years later, Roy Hodgson, Neil Warnock and English football’s confederacy of dunces still treat the missives from the Swindon men’s room as their gospel. Sam Allardyce takes it a step further. He calls his office The War Room as an unironic nod to Reep and his own cultural upbringing.

Big Sam, superstar, walks like a man, hoofs it far

Veteran manager Dave Bassett, and a friend who shared Sam Allardyce’s classy sense of humour, once remarked that Sam was what he’d call a ball-playing defender. Which is to say, if he wasn’t playing with the ball he was playing with the gonads of the opponents. Viva la Vinnie Jones.

As a typical English defender Sam looked physically affronted whenever he received the possession of the ball. (How fecking dare they. That’s not my job, innit? I head and I grab balls. None of this fancy, foreign, passing shite for me, no thanks. I like my tea and fish and chips in the morning. Fuck your fancy tortillas, passes and afternoon naps. I’m a proper working-class Englishman, me.)

Sam played simple passes to his nearest teammate when he could and as quickly as he could, whilst his mates would be equally embarrassed and apologetic for having to pass to him. (They bloody well should be, feckers.)

As a manager, he stayed true to his prejudice.

The myth of football’s second-class citizens

Of course, you get a lot of right-wing people saying, ‘Oh, these Poles, they come over here, takin’ our jobs.’ And I was thinking, if a guy from Poland arrives and  he doesn’t speak the language, he doesn’t have any money, doesn’t know anyone, and he takes your job on the first day? You… are shite. – Jimmy Carr

The greatest trick Sam Allardyce ever pulled was convincing the world that British managers are football’s second-class citizens.

In 92 football clubs in England, there are only 22 foreign managers plying their trade. Half of them find themselves in the top tier of the Premier League, while 6 of the 11 are the managers of top 6 clubs. This indicates two things: 1) The scarcity of foreign managers in the lower leagues, 2) the British managers still have wiggle room in the Premier League.

From the moment he’s unceremoniously sacked, Sam gets himself on any and every TV or Radio programme that would tolerate him, and he sold his porkies to whoever would listen. And as it turns out, in Richard Keys and Andy Gray’s (bigots and sexists both) radio show, Sam had a viewership base that would not only welcome, but also empathise with him.

Broadcasting out of Doha, Keys and Gray have strong views against immigrants in British football, but, otherwise, have no issues with the modern slavery of migrant workers used in building World Cup stadiums in Qatar. Amidst perfect hosts, Big Sam sang his favourite ditty on October 27th, 2017.

I’m never going to be at a top-four club because I’m not called Allardici. British football managers? We are second-class citizens, us. Feck Blackburn, I have the balls to manage Manchester United. I would win the Double or the league every time. You know what? Feck, United. Real Madrid is what I should be aiming at. But poor ol’ me, I’m just called Sam Allardyce. Not glossy enough, innit? Us lot, we have nowhere to go. We are strangers in our own country, us. Treated like lepers. The Premier League? Listen, the clue it in the name. It’s not the English League. It’s sold it soul to Sheiks. Them branded managers wearing sissy mufflers and their Gucci suits, and their players wear snoods. Snoods! Good thing the FA banned the snoods. I hope they ban those full-sleeve shirts that double up as gloves. If you can’t stand the British winters, sod off to sunny soddin’ Spain! Anyway, listen, all this is standing in the way of bright-young British managers coming through… Think of the children! Big Sam did not say it so many words.

The old working-class man against the world bit makes his appointment seem like a moral obligation that well-meaning, patriotic English club owners must fulfil, as a means of giving back to society and right-ing their wrongs.

The 4 of the top 6 clubs have been managed by a Britisher at least once in the last decade:

If history has taught us something, it’s that if you tell lies often enough and with conviction, people start believing in them. Stats tells us that people who make the decisions in English football often do, more than most.

In a matter of a few weeks following that rant, Sam Allardyce (aged 63) was appointed the manager of Everton, and David Moyes (age 54), the manager of West Ham United, displacing Dutchman Ronald Koeman and Croatian Slaven Bilic, respectively.

No Country for Young Men

Last December, Bournemouth were 0-2 down at half-time at the Vitality Stadium and in trouble against Juergen Klopp’s hellhounds.

Liverpool were enjoying their best Christmas run of games in a long time, earning their third highest points total (37) in that period under the gregarious German – a tally bettered only by Roy Evans’ entertainers in 1996, who took 38 points from 19 pre-Christmas games, and Rafa Benitez’s Spanish armada in 2008, who collected the highest modern era pre-festive total of 39 from 18 games.

The match ended with Bournemouth winning 4-3, and Juergen Klopp conferring the title of ‘Premier League’s Most Exciting Manager’ on 40-year-old Eddie Howe from the market town of Amersham, Buckinghamshire.

It took a foreigner to point out the true potential of a young British manager, whom the British managerial fraternity made a point to dismiss as a mild-mannered upstart. It didn’t take long after Christmas for the papers to start linking Eddie to the Arsenal job, for which he, to this day, is being touted for.

Eddie Howe and the top brass at Bournemouth who nurtured him are, unfortunately, merely an anomaly.

To say that the decision-makers at English football clubs are a cowardly, unimaginative lot would be giving them undeserved kindness. Not only are they are devoid of original ideas, but they choose to play it safe, making their calls myopic .

The same reason can be postulated for David Moyes, who, with a record of less than half-a-dozen home wins in the past two years, with back-to-back-to-back failures at Manchester United, Real Sociedad and relegated Sunderland, still gets asked to come in by David Sullivan and David Gold.

Roy Hodgson’s CV, a misplaced relic in time, with 22 managerial jobs with nondescript names like Neuchâtel Xamax, Orebro, Halmstads, Oddevold, Malmo and other great hipster hits, is opted for over others by Crystal Palace.

Short-termism is the only reason why Big Sam, only 7 years younger than Hodgson, despite his track record and more than damning scandals where his integrity has been called into question, finds himself being given his eighth last chance in the top tier.

Further down the rungs, 69-year-old Neil Warnock is living it up in his 17th job as a manager at Cardiff City.

Monopoly: There are 9 British/Irish managers in the Premier League. Only 1 of them is under 45. David Moyes (54), Sam Allardyce (63), Mark Hughes (54) and Roy Hodgson (70), aged between 50-70 have held 25 Premier League jobs between them.

Migrants, therefore, aren’t blocking way of Britain’s best and brightest young minds. This odious, old gang of middle-aged mafia is. Their monopoly is fouling up the place. These men are the masters of misdirection, playing a leading role in the self-fulfilling prophecy they bandy, caused by none but themselves, and blamed on others.

Sam and the HoofFellas are English football’s un-flushables.

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Srijandeep Das

Managing Editor, journalist, writer. Wants to be the very best like no one ever was.