Chris Young: Why Sunderland fans shouldn’t panic about losing Sam Allardyce to England

Sam Allardyce
Sam Allardyce
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Armed with a bells and whistles PowerPoint presentation, Sam Allardyce felt he had a fighter’s chance as he reported for interview at Football Association HQ.

Allardyce had already met with David Beckham to seek the support of the then England captain, and as the FA sifted through the narrow field of homegrown candidates, the Bolton boss was a front-runner to succeed Sven-Goran Eriksson.

But when the FA’s bungling IT department didn’t even have a projector to display Allardyce’s proposal for overhauling the national team, he began to question whether they really wanted him.

As has been the pattern stretching back to Brian Clough, the FA suits opted for the ‘safe’ option in Steve McClaren - Eriksson’s right-hand man, whose pearly-white smile for the television cameras masked the disgruntlement among Middlesbrough fans to his managerial methods.

Ten years on, why would it be any different for Allardyce now?

It would be immensely damaging to Sunderland if Allardyce was prised away from the Stadium of Light, yet the 61-year-old ticks a host of boxes for England after a headless chicken humiliation spelt a hasty end for Roy Hodgson.

As witnessed in a superb final four months of the campaign, Allardyce’s organisational abilities are undimmed (boy, would some of that have been useful against Iceland) and his preparation remains meticulous.

The schoolboy Iceland leveller from a long throw would surely have been prevented if Allardyce was in the hotseat.

Above all else, Allardyce is a man-manager. Among all the systems, playing styles and video analysis, that remains THE essential skill for the occupant of the dug-out.

Ex-Sunderland boss Steve Bruce once said in conversation that the main challenge of managing in the Premier League is motivating a group of multi-millionaires. He was bang on the money. It’s no easy task... as Paolo Di Canio demonstrated so emphatically.

Allardyce is also English, with a manager from the Continent surely a custard pie in waiting for the FA after the Brexit vote.

But would the FA turn to Allardyce in their hour of need? There have to be major doubts.

For all Allardyce’s track record is superb and he has embraced the changing of the times, he remains dogged by reputation.

He is still regarded as an ‘old school’, brash manager.

As a result, Glenn Hoddle - out of management since resigning as Wolves boss 10 years ago - and Gareth Southgate - who failed spectacularly with the Under-21s at last summer’s European Championships - both have far shorter odds with the bookmakers than Allardyce.

Allardyce suspects as much himself after being asked last month about his international aspirations, if the Euro’s were to propel Hodgson out the exit door.

“For me to be interested in the England job, Roy would probably have to leave at the end of the Euros and would England be interested in me?” he said.

“They say they are looking for an English manager but will they do it?

“You’ve got this ‘what’s sexier?’ element now, rather than how good you are at doing the job.”

If... if, England did turn to Allardyce though, would he accept the poisoned chalice?

Probably.

Yes, Allardyce is at the stage of his career where he is looking to enjoy his final days in the dug-out, rather than be consumed by the media circus. He has already admitted that the Sunderland job is likely to be his last.

It’s why he only signed an 18-month contract at the Stadium of Light last October (albeit that would leave England having to pay minimum compensation if they did approach Sunderland).

However, Allardyce has tellingly admitted that missing out on the England job in 2006 is one of the regrets from his career.

It’s tough to see him turning it down if offered the chance. The opportunity to leave the draining, demanding schedule of club football might hold real appeal too.

Should that prompt Sunderland fans to worry though?

Considering the FA’s track record, no-one should be biting their nails.