Tuesday 16 January 2018

Sunderland urge FA for swift decision on Sam Allardyce following England talks amid 'extremely damaging' speculation

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has been linked with the vacant England job
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has been linked with the vacant England job

Matt Law

Sam Allardyce is the favourite to succeed Roy Hodgson as England manager with sources close to the process believing it will be his job to lose.

Sunderland manager Allardyce has left the club’s training camp in Austria to return to the UK and has been pictured visiting the house of Football Association vice-chairman David Gill.

Sunderland this morning released a statement confirming that Allardyce had been allowed to engage in talks with the FA.

The statement read: "The Football Association contacted Sunderland AFC to seek permission to speak with our manager as part of what was supposed to be a confidential discussion process with potential candidates for the position of England manager.

"At Sam Allardyce’s request, we agreed to this.

"Sam is very much key to our plans. After what was an extremely challenging season, we are keen to see a period of stability, both on and off the field, and we want him to remain as manager of our football club.

"The ongoing speculation over Sam’s position is extremely damaging to Sunderland AFC, particularly at this crucial time of the season and we urge the FA to respect the disruption that this process is causing and bring about a swift resolution to the matter."

The FA is yet to narrow down the search to one man and may well still speak to Jürgen Klinsmann, Eddie Howe and Steve Bruce, having already sought talks with Arsène Wenger.

But the backing of Alex Ferguson and leading members of the League Managers’ Association such as Richard Bevan and Howard Wilkinson has thrust Allardyce to the front of the queue.

Such is the momentum gathering behind Allardyce that insiders are growing increasingly convinced that the FA will only go for another candidate if an unforeseen problem arises over the 61-year-old Englishman, although there is still room for the situation to change.

Allardyce will further enhance his chances by telling the FA he is happy to mentor an assistant as his potential successor, although that will not necessarily be under-21 manager Gareth Southgate, who is still believed to favour getting more club experience. That may leave the door open for a return for Gary Neville, should he want it.

Neville stood down with Hodgson and Ray Lewington, and it is unclear what his plans for a return to coaching and management are. Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Scott Parker are three former England players the FA would like involved at some level.

FA chief executive Martin Glenn, technical director Dan Ashworth and Gill are leading the process and ideally want a new man in place in plenty of time to prepare for the first 2018 World Cup qualifier against Slovakia on September 4.

Having missed out on the job when Steve McClaren was appointed a decade ago, Allardyce will jump at the chance to manage England if he is offered the job and negotiating his exit out of Sunderland should not be a problem.

Howe is another candidate who has a lot of admirers within the FA, but the 38-year-old is believed to have expressed concerns that it may be too early to jump into international management.

Allardyce’s former Bolton Wanderers assistant, Phil Brown, believes he would be the perfect man to lift the nation after the disastrous Euro 2016 campaign that ended in defeat by Iceland.

Brown told TalkSport: “We lost our identity at the Euros. Passion – that’s what was missing. Sam wouldn’t allow that. If it happens once, it would never happen again with him. These players need to understand that they represent their country.

“Bring your quality and your little bits of magic, that’s what these players can do, but it’s the understanding of what playing for the badge is all about – that’s what Sam would bring. He also brings the common man to the game again. He was brought up in Bolton and spent the majority of his time in Lancashire. It’s the common man who supports the game and it’s who you need to relate to. I think he’s a prime candidate.

“He has had a lot of criticism over the years and a lot of people question what his methods are, but as far as I am concerned they are successful. The key factor to it all is being able to man-manage.”

Allardyce’s former West Ham United employer, David Gold, added: “I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him. He is determined, he is ambitious. I think the most important thing from my point of view is that he’s English.” 

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