David Jones: The tactics and team I think Sam Allardyce will select at Sunderland

John O'Shea
John O'Shea
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There was a certain inevitability about Sam Allardyce becoming the next manager of Sunderland the moment Dick Advocaat had decided enough was enough.

It didn’t need a director of football to see what was required – any one of us could have singled out Big Sam as the man possessing the qualities to save our club: solid, reliable and with more Premier League experience than all but a tiny handful of managers.

Three points from eight games is not the ideal starting point for this romance but with all our backing it could be a marriage made in heaven: rather that than another messy divorce!

His appointment brings to an end a flirtation that began over a decade ago when Sam saw a club that was on the up with big crowds bursting with passion, while then-chairman Niall Quinn viewed Sam as the safest bet in the business.

Through the passing of time our club is no longer on an upward trajectory but the passion remains, if anything it grows and grows with each painful season.

And Sam would probably admit the big jobs are not quite as close to his grasp as once they seemed.

It was always going to happen, it was just a matter of when, and for both parties it seems the perfect union at the perfect moment.

Any doubts I had revolved around reports I’d read that Allardyce would have to be coaxed out of his sabbatical by Ellis Short: in my view no candidate should have to be persuaded to be the manager of our great club.

But those fears were calmed by the speed of the process and if Sam is able to keep us in the Premier League he would be perfectly entitled to the hefty bonuses we’ve read about too!

So what are we getting?

Not the long ball merchant you might have seen caricatured down the years but certainly a pragmatist who will tell you the value of a clean sheet is hugely underestimated in football.

Having said that, if he can stop our defence conceding it might be that we’re getting a miracle worker into the bargain.

He likes his team’s to play in the attacking third, and he doesn’t see the value in taking a long time in getting there.

In his final season at West Ham he employed two attack-minded full-backs in Aaron Cresswell and Carl Jenkinson alongside a strong dependable central pair.

There were always two and sometimes three powerful midfield players who offered fantastic defensive protection who could pass the ball as well: Mark Noble, Alex Song and Cheikhou Kouyate.

He created a role at the top of the diamond for Stewart Downing to express himself and the Boro man flourished; scoring and creating goals for his team.

And up front, robbed of Andy Carroll’s physique, he had dynamic strikers in Enner Valencia and Diafro Sakho, sometimes as a pair and normally away from home with one starting wide.

Power, pace and a touch of finesse; I think we’d all be happy with that. But don’t expect too much too soon.

Sadly our most dynamic forward Jeremain Lens will be missing at the Hawthorns on Saturday so it might be a more traditional approach we see for Big Sam’s first outing.

The priority will be to not lose the game, build foundations, build confidence slowly and crucially not surrender three points to a relegation rival. It might not be pretty.

I expect Sam to pack the midfield, perhaps sacrificing the luxury of Ola Toivonen for Sebastian Larsson or Jack Rodwell to start in a three with Lee Cattermole and Yann M’Vila.

Steven Fletcher seems a certainty to play through the middle with Fabio Borini one side and, if he’s fit and able, Adam Johnson on the other.

How he sorts out the back four I don’t know but Allardyce is sure to rely on John O’Shea as much as the four or five managers who’ve gone before him.

Big Sam is sure to get a reaction from the squad, he will demand one, and he will lift the players by strength of personality alone.

He will empower the British and Irish contingent to run the dressing room but in return he will expect them to run through brick walls for him on the field.

Three points from eight games is not the ideal starting point for this romance but with all our backing it could be a marriage made in heaven: rather that than another messy divorce!