It will interesting to see how this season pans out. With Sam Allardyce under strict instructions to play more entertaining football, it appears that he may be in a “no win” situation, especially when it comes down to his relationship with the fans.
Over the years Allardyce has defended his style, his tactics, his footballing philosophy to the hilt. Accused of being a “route one” specialist playing insipid football, Allardyce has always countered with a staunch defence of his record, with the fact that none of his teams have ever been relegated under his helm being a favourite retort. He claims he plays to win. He plays to the opponents’ weaknesses, and he plays the percentage game, with every iota of his tenure being governed by the big black book of statistics.
Rewind, then, to the end of season review in Sullivan’s mansion, when difficult decisions needed to be taken. The fans were in uproar over the mind-numbingly boring football on offer, and the tactics consisted of “hoof it up to the big man”, who was invariably injured. Sullivan was all for sacking Allardyce, but Gold and Brady were keen to stick with him, especially with the move to the Olympic stadium appearing on the horizon. And so a compromise was reached, and scrawled across the bottom of Allardyce’s report card were the lines “Can do better” and “Must be more entertaining”.
What strikes me as strange is that Allardyce ever agreed to this arrangement. I can only conclude that there are 3 reasons why he ever did.
Firstly, on that day in Sullivan Towers he had an epiphany. He saw himself for the one-trick pony that he was, and vowed to right the wrongs that he has inflicted on the footballing public over the years. He pledged to thrill us with a heady blend of skill and flair, unseen in these parts since the days of Greenwood and Lyall.
Secondly, he pulled a fast one. Realising that what the owners, Del and Rodney accompanied by vice-chairwoman Marlene, knew about football you could write on the back of a beer mat, he agreed to the deal full knowing that he had not the slightest intention of changing anything. He knew how to play football. They didn’t. He had never, ever been relegated you know. He would simply carry on as before. Get Teddy Sherringham in for show. If they sacked him he got a big pay off, and he could sit back and hope they got relegated, and the legend would live on.
Finally, Allardyce could have stuck his hands in the air and said, “hey , I can only work with what I’ve got! Go out and buy me some players capable of playing the way you want and I’ll happily oblige!” That would explain the large influx of players coming in this year. I certainly didn’t predict we had that kind of money to splash out.
Whatever the reason, and it could be a combination of any of the above or something completely different, Allardyce may find himself in between a rock and a hard place as the season goes on. If he changes the way the team plays, maybe puts more than one player up front, plays with attacking flair and a bit of style, he may find that the side does very well. Top ten finish and plaudits all round. Is he going to say “I guess you were right. I’ve been doing it wrong all along!” ? He sure as hell is not going to last long if he doesn’t change anything and dishes up the same predictable dirge as last season. He will be gone by Christmas and he will carry the “long ball” stigma to his grave.