Allardyce: sacked by Blackburn Rovers' poultry magnates for his agricultural style
It is the time of year for shop window displays and Jose Mourinho could be excused some mild alarm for seeing the roughened visage of Sam Allardyce, easily likened to a half-eaten meat pie, smouldering at him in the managerial marketplace.
Happily ensconced at Real Madrid, Mourinho occupies the seat that Allardyce – with no small degree of derangement – regards as his calling.
Either there or Inter Milan, of course. “It wouldn’t be a problem for me to go and manage those clubs, because I’d win the double or the league every time,” he declared at Blackburn Rovers this season, as his audience blinked back tears of helpless mirth.
Granted, a man with one League Cup loser’s medal to his name may appear an awkward fit for nine-time European champions, but the spectacle of Allardyce, unleashed upon the job market with all the ceremony of a rusting hulk released from dry dock in Lancashire, must be a terrifying one even for Mourinho.
Yes, he may be prone to parody, but as Johnny Cash perhaps should have sang, everybody knows you don’t give no lip to Big Sam.
Mourinho articulated this in quicksilver style at one memorable Chelsea press conference in September 2007. In a classic case of ambush questioning, he was asked by one plucky representative from a fans’ website: “Which Premier League manager would you least like to fight?”
Naturally, he loved it. Brushing aside interventions by the club’s flustered press officer, he said, eyes twinkling: “I think he wants me to answer. Big Sam! He would kill me!” To illustrate, he made a hand motion suggestive of a chicken’s neck being broken.
The gesture seems, in light of Allardyce’s decapitation this week by the owners of an Indian poultry firm, curiously prescient.
But the views of Blackburn’s Venky brothers, hardly flattering to his patented brand of lumpen football, are unlikely to dent the man’s towering sense of self-worth. Even at Bolton, he relished bracketing his record with Mourinho’s.
His disciples in white had spent much of a Uefa Cup match against Bulgarian side Lokomotiv Plovdiv chanting: “Who needs Mourinho? We’ve got Sam Allardyce.”
As someone who had surely undergone an irony bypass, Allardyce lapped up the love. But he proved impervious to more cutting terrace ditties – not least that old favourite of Manchester City fans: “Are you Meatloaf in disguise?”
Instead, he maintains the assumption he is Mourinho reinvented, albeit in a slightly less well-fitting coat and a more dubious grasp of how to swear in Spanish.
Both of them, he would like to point out, were mentioned in connection with the England manager’s job after Steve McClaren’s departure. The distinction he neglected to spot was that where Mourinho’s candidacy drew upon intense public clamour, his own had just the single, admittedly vocal advocate: himself.
When thrust on to the scrap-heap by Newcastle two years ago, Allardyce was sanguine, conceding he could struggle to move straight back into gainful employment.
This time, he must first come to terms with the strange paradox of being sacked by a pair of poultry magnates for his agricultural methods. But once he has finished raging against a world blind to his talents, he should discover that a multitude of other avenues await.
While Allardyce leaves Mourinho to sort the removal men at the Bernabeu, he is free to find his niche as a life coach. His school of coaching wisdom harbours the kinds of pearls money cannot buy.
When Fulham captain Danny Murphy identified his Blackburn players as tough tacklers, he offered up this precious gem in response: “People like Murphy are giving a perception that’s not true. I hate perception.”
Failing that, there are openings in sports science, a field in which Allardyce believes he rivals Arsène Wenger for deep erudition.
His pithy argument reads thus: “Arsene is seen as a sophisticated Frenchman, while I’m a rugged centre half from the Midlands with an accent to match.”
Difficult to dispute that, really. “But is he more advanced than me in terms of sports coaching? Not a chance.” Then again ...
It must be a comfort to project oneself, even from the sidelines, through such one-eyed statements of superiority. The students of Bolton University, where he holds a fellowship, could surely learn a trick or two from the Allardyce manual.
But so, in the fellow’s ambitious estimation, could the delicate aesthetes of Real Madrid. Mourinho should watch his back. Or his neck.