It seems good fit, has a feeling of inevitability about it and if anything else, there’ll be some decent press conferences out of it. That’s right, Jurgen Klopp is the new manager of Liverpool Football Club. Oh, and Sam Allardyce is the new Sunderland gaffer as well.
Playing second fiddle in the new manager headlines this week, Sunderland announced on Friday evening that Sam Allardyce was to take over on a two year deal. Ellis Short was quick to quash the reports that Big Sam (as I will affectionately now refer to him) had to be heavily persuaded into the gig, with newspapers reporting that he wanted a substantial bonus should we avoid the drop, and that he was reluctant to commit to a deal beyond the end of the season. Short also stated that there was much interest in the vacancy and that it was “proactively sought after by a large number of managers.” The cynic in me though thinks “but sought after by who, exactly?”
The most interesting part of the statement though was simply one word and that was that Sam Allardyce is the Manager and not the Head Coach like Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet and Dick Advocaat were before him which, with Lee Congerton currently working his notice, surely brings Sunderland’s flirtation with the Sporting Director model to an end. Allardyce has been quite forthright in his wish to have full control over transfers and reportedly had it written into his West Ham contract that he would not work under a Director of Football/Sporting Director.
Out of our realistic options, Allardyce was definitely the best candidate. Nigel Pearson? We’ve gone for crazy managers over the last few years and it hasn’t really worked, plus, I’m not a big fan of ostriches. Sean Dyche? He does perhaps have decent potential but despite looking like a CID copper, probably wouldn’t be able to command the authority that this side needs right now. After that we were looking at the unrealistic (Brendan Rodgers, David Moyes), the risky (Bob Bradley, Walter Mazzarri) or the down right idiotic (Harry Redknapp). With Sam we have someone with first hand experience of knowing how to keep teams in the Premier League and that is all we need right now.
Some fans have been concerned about the style of football under Allardyce, saying that whilst it can be effective it’s often dull. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ll take some supposedly boring football if it means we’ll start grinding out results in the more “winnable” games. It’s not like we’ve been playing brilliant football over the past few years anyway. There was a brief period under Poyet were we played some decent passing football but that lasted about 4 months. Before that, Di Canio’s idea of a philosophy was for players to just run really fast. Martin O’Neill left the players to it themselves and would pop back in on Fridays to make sure that Wes Brown was still alive, and that no one was bullying little James McClean. Steve Bruce ran out of ideas once he didn’t have a Darren Bent for his players to get the ball to straight away.
It’s harsh to think of Allardyce as just a one trick pony as well. At times last season West Ham played some pretty attractive football that brought results such as home wins against Liverpool (3-1) and Manchester City (2-1). The Hammers had a comfortable mid table finish of 12th place last season, something that seems lightyears away for us at the minute. Another reassuring point is that he hasn’t been afraid to move with the times, becoming one of the first managers to embrace prozone technology and performance analysis. To think of him as a manager who solely goes for players like Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan is unfair when you look at him signing the likes of Enner Valencia, Youri Djorkaeff and, of course, Ivan Campo.
It’s also fair to say that Allardyce tends to leave clubs in a better state than when he first walked in. West Ham had just been relegated when he first took the job and he got them promoted at the first attempt before establishing them again as a stable Premier League club. He also took Bolton Wanderers from a run of the mill second tier club to the UEFA Cup via a 6th place finish. At Blackburn Rovers he took over after the disastrous reign of Paul Ince and gave the club stability until the owners decided that they didn’t like stability and opted to sack him and plunge into the Championship.
I’ve already started thinking about which Sunderland players are likely to feature under the new manager. Allardyce tends to like a no nonsense approach from his centre backs which should suit the current crop fairly well. Lee Cattermole is obvious choice in the middle due to his combative style, as is Yann M’Vila who also can provide some flair. Pacey wingers or ones that can get crosses into the box are usually preferred by Big Sam and with Jeremain Lens and Adam Johnson there is that potential in the side. Ola Toivonen could be used in a more advanced role due to his height and physicality, but he does look more suited to playing just behind the striker. If Steven Fletcher keeps showing his renewed motivation, Allardyce could have a selection headache already and this is before we’ve even factored in the likes of Fabio Borini and Jermain Defoe.
We’re all hoping that this time we have a manager who can bring in stability. Here’s a guy that knows the region and surely understands that all the supporters want is a team that shows desire. It’s not the most glamours appointment but it could be the right one.