It would be easy to dismiss Sam Allardyce’s appointment as the new England manager as a little bit ‘Mike Bassett’, but that doesn’t nearly do justice to the career of a progressive and vastly experience head coach.
A stoic advocate of Sports Science and data analysis based coaching it seems reductive to point the long ball finger at Big Sam. Customarily he does favour a more direct style of football but this is more a tactical preference than just ‘lump it up field because we don’t know what else to do’. Big Sam’s tactical apptitude often goes over looked, as Arsene Wenger well knows, with the long and direct element only part of a larger structure. Fittingly, England were desperate for a more direct approach during the Euro 2016 when a lack of ideas in possession was apparent.
For all his merits, their are limitations to his talents. True he is no Guardiola, or Bielsa, but he is competent and has brought stability and re- established foundations to most clubs under his stewardship. Again this is something the England team desperately need with bland unfocused football recently the norm, a refreshed identity for the national team would be encouraging . And what more fitting identity than powerful, direct, pacey football. The staple of English league football for many years.
Sam is also lauded for his man management skills. Another aspect missing from the England set up. His bold, brash, occasional arrogant persona could benefit the mollycoddled, precious players he now has access too. This attitude could also address the ‘Culture of fear’ that FA cheif Martin Glenn believes is instilled in the national squad. The FA are concerned that pressure from the media and exposure on social media could be affecting performances on the pitch. True or not, Big Sam’s thick skinned, speak your mind, sometimes tactless, attitude could be an antidote to toughen up fragile ego’s.
Allardyce’s appointment is not the glamorous, exciting appointment that most England fans probably have on the their wish lists. Given Englands current status in world footbal it is the appropriate one, and probably a sensible one. The FA’s failure at international football is endemic (as we stated here) and it is entirely unlikely that one man can rectify that, but the pragmatic appointment of Sam Allardyce may just be enough to restore the England teams focus, identity, and maybe even a little pride.