Chris Young: Sam Allardyce’s return is mighty blow for Sunderland – there isn’t obvious third side worse than them now

New Crystal Palace manager Sam Allardyce
New Crystal Palace manager Sam Allardyce
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Finding a box of Paxo or a tin of Quality Street is akin to a Christmas miracle in America.

Sweet potatoes and Hershey bars just don’t cut it, I’m afraid.

But there would have been a few more home comforts imported to the shops of Benidorm, had Sam Allardyce remained at his Spanish villa for the festive season. The offer of instant millions at Crystal Palace must really have put a dampener on the ex-Sunderland manager’s Christmas...

Six months on, there’s no point groaning about the circumstances which saw Allardyce depart the Stadium of Light and then infamously leave the England position so soon afterwards. Everyone has moved on. Pondering ‘what might have been’ isn’t going to keep Sunderland in the Premier League.

Allardyce is immediately making his presence felt after returning to the dugout though.

Within the last five days, the tabloids have produced back pages on the 62-year-old taking a pop at Watford’s mascot Harry the Hornet and reportedly eyeing a January move for Jermain Defoe.

If that happens, Sunderland might as well just write the suicide note now.

But there is no getting away from the fact that Allardyce’s arrival at Selhurst Park is a mighty blow to Sunderland’s survival hopes. Why? Because he will inevitably keep Palace in the Premier League.

We all know it. Half a season is more than enough time for Allardyce to put his mark on a Palace side who have an abundance of quality in the likes of Christian Benteke, Yohan Cabaye and Andros Townsend.

Alan Pardew replicated his typical pattern of instant impression followed by spectacular collapse, yet if Allardyce can strengthen Palace defensively – which he will do – then they will be fine.

That might not have been the case if the Eagles had kept Pardew or followed the lead of a Swansea and appointed a Premier League managerial novice.

Allardyce is as close as they could have got to guaranteed survival.

It’s a major issue for Sunderland because while neither Swansea (though it will be interesting to see which way they go now after sacking Bob Bradley) or Hull look sufficiently capable of remaining in the Premier League, there isn’t an obvious third team who are worse than the Black Cats at present.

Despite Sunderland’s dramatic improvement, the four teams immediately above Palace can all put forth stronger cases to beat the drop.

Leicester have fallen spectacularly from their pedestal, yet they still boast two quality performers in Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.

Boro have made a habit of beating those in and around them, while Bournemouth have shown no signs of second season syndrome.

And then there’s New Year’s Eve’s opponents Burnley, whose home form has been stunning. It makes Sunderland’s trip to Turf Moor at the very least, a must-not lose.

Setting aside the relegation battle though, now that David Moyes has emerged through what was a gruelling transition period from Allardyce, Sunderland are arguably in a better position for the long term.

If Allardyce had remained in situ, the club would doubtless have been further up the table after he would have needed no time to acclimatise or been forced to act with such haste in the summer transfer market.

But how long would Allardyce have lasted? One more year? Two at a push?

Even before Roy Hodgson was reading out that pre-prepared statement in France, Allardyce was stalling over penning a new deal at the Stadium of Light. He wanted more guarantees over his transfer kitty and felt he had little left to prove in his managerial career (the England sacking clearly changed that).

Moyes, on the other hand, is a builder and that is what Sunderland so dearly require at present.

However rare it is these days, Sunderland need a manager to guide them through three or four years of belt-tightening, when the outstanding instalments on transfer fees will significantly diminish the budget.

Five months on from Allardyce’s exit, Sunderland are already showing a greater resemblance to the Everton side built by Moyes. If the Scot does get chance to bring in players who are well-scouted and well-thought out, it will become even more evident.

Like his career as a Sunderland player and then as a coach under Peter Reid, Allardyce was again merely passing through Wearside.

However good a fit he was, it was just not meant to be for a longer relationship.

But while it is not necessarily to Sunderland’s detriment, it is definitely to the benefit of others.