Sunday 17 December 2017

Comment - Farcical sacking of Sam Allardyce would never happen to an Ireland manager

Sam Allardyce
Sam Allardyce
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

What a typically English tragedy.

Just 67 days after a manager who has made his name for being arrogant, self-obsessed and ridiculously over-confident finally landed the job he has been chasing all his life, Sam Allardyce has been sacked as England manager for confirming that he is…. arrogant, self-obsessed and ridiculously over-confident.

The truth must be that Allardyce probably didn’t deserve to be fired following a Daily Telegraph sting operation that coerced him into muttering comments that merely served to highlight the character traits that have long made this cocky character hard to love, yet that is only part of the story here.

Not for the first time, England’s press pack has gone out of its way to trip up one of their own, a manager the great and good of English journalism were keen to promote as a safe pair of hands to take over from the bumbling Roy Hodgson following their humiliating exit at the hands of Iceland at the Euro 2016 finals back in June.

They all knew that Allardyce was not the perfect choice for England, but the truth is they didn’t have an obvious candidate to take over a national team that has flattered to deceive time and again since their solitary triumph on the international stage in the 1966 World Cup finals.

England have been confirmed to be among the also-rans of international football and after accepting their diluted status after too many years of delusion, they appointed a manager who is made his name as being a tactical master at the bottom end of the Premier League table.

After their Euro 2016 misery, England were in the relegation zone of world football and Big Sam seemed like a sensible candidate to drag them away from further humiliation.

Here was a guy who had a good record of getting the best out of average teams, so let’s give him a go with one of the world’s great under-achievers.

It seemed like a half decent plan, yet the FA must have had concerns just one game into his reign when Allardyce tried to sum up the role of Wayne Rooney following his side’s 1-0 win against Slovakia, that came amid a typically dreadful England performance.

Rooney was given license by Allardyce to play wherever he wanted in his England team and that decision saw the Manchester United star spend chunks of the game collecting balls from his back four and trying to kick-start England attacks 80 yards from his own goal.

“Wayne played wherever he wanted to,” stated Allardyce after the game, in what were truly remarkable comments. “It’s not for me to say where he’s going to play.”

Now we all knew Allardyce was a little out of his depth trying to handle marquee players such as Rooney, but to admit publicly that he didn’t feel he had the authority to tell his captain where to play was virtually a sackable offence after one game.

Clearly, the manager who always oozed self-confidence was a little intimidated by the size of the job he had been handed, yet the manner of his downfall offers another snapshot of the curious culture the England football team have long operated in.

It’s hard to know why a broadsheet newspaper felt the need to set up an operation designed to entrap what appeared to be a slightly drunk Allardyce into making inappropriate comments on camera.

It produced footage that did little more than confirm he is a man open to the offer of lucrative work, even if he was already earning £3m-a-year to fulfill his role as manager of the England team.

Cynics will suggest the Daily Telegraph has dipped its toes into tabloid waters with their ‘Operation Sam’ plan, with the boost of a few extra readers on a quiet Tuesday morning coming at the expense of a torrent of criticism from many confused by the motives behind the story.

Ironically, Allardyce was playing in the Football Writers’ golf day at Stoke Park on Monday when he was made aware of the allegations, with many of the sports reporters he was sharing the course with leaping to his defence in the hours since the Telegraph story was published.

It’s hard to imagine the Irish media going out of their way to trip up Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill in this manner, yet England works to a very different agenda on these kind of issues.

If Allardyce had muttered the O’Neill’s comments suggesting the less attractive wives and girlfriends of his Ireland players were not welcome in the team hotel or he had gone out of his way to confirm that he was “not queer” as he reflected on his relationship with his assistant Roy Keane, his job would have been on the line.

Such comments would not have been brushed off as a joke if an England manager had made them. They do things differently over there.

You see, the English FA still like to see themselves as the guardians of the game they like to remind us all they invented, with their opposition to FIFA corruption and desperation to appear whiter than white in the public eye meaning Allardyce was always likely to pay a heave price for what were, in essence, naïve and ill-judge boasts.

England and their national team tend to specialise in shooting themselves in the foot and not for the first time, we have witnessed an episode of pointless assassination in with rise and fall of Allardyce.

Who on earth would want the England job now?

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