Guest Nappy Rash Posted May 13, 2007 Share Posted May 13, 2007 Is Allardyce really the man to wake the giant? 00:12am 13th May 2007 Comments Comments Patrick Collins Sam Allardyce will attract a decent crowd for his induction as manager of Newcastle United. They know how to welcome a new manager at St James’ Park, having had so much experience. And Allardyce will cheerfully jump through all the usual hoops, pumping hands and slapping backs and quite possibly posing with one of those scarves which Newcastle acquire so cheaply and sell so dearly. He will ask for patience and hint at glory. The phrase ‘sleeping giant’ may well pass his lips. At some stage,he may mention Jackie Milburn. Most of them do. And if he should forget his lines, then Freddy will be there to remind him. Say what you will about Freddy Shepherd but he knows how to pick his managers. Unfortunately, picking the right manager is a rather different matter. From sacking Bobby Robson to selecting and dismissing Graeme Souness and Glenn Roeder, not to mention the caretakers Steve Clarke and John Carver, poor Freddy can never get it quite right. And, do you know, I’m not at all sure that he’s worked the trick this time. When it became clear that Allardyce was to be Newcastle’s new manager, one radio station conducted a vox pop among Newcastle fans. It was fascinating. A fair few recited the ‘Big Sam . . . man of the people . . . takes no nonsense’ mantra. But a significant number worried about his methods. It seems that when they thought of Allardyce, they thought of his Bolton — long balls, muscular scuffles, heaving throws, endlessly rehearsed free kicks and ‘Let’s see how far we can launch it this time’. Sammy Lee, once his lieutenant and now his successor, argued that the perception was unfair, that his old chum was simply trying to draw the best from the players at his disposal. Well, Allardyce was there for eight years and he chose all of those players. We must, therefore, assume that the way they play is the way he prefers. Which may be why so many Boltonians are not prepared to buy a season ticket at the Reebok. Launch and chase has a limited appeal, even when disguised in scientific trappings. Then there is the matter of aspiration. At Bolton, Allardyce could get away with occasional qualification for the UEFA Cup. Little Bolton . . . playing in Europe . . .how great is that? But Newcastle is different. After all, this is a club which won the English title as recently as 1927 and the FA Cup no more than 52 years ago. This is a place which sees itself as a Big Four club in waiting. And the new manager, however unreasonably, will be expected to deliver that status. He will not be assisted by an apparent inconsistency in Shepherd’s rigorous standards of probity. When Kevin Bond was named in the BBC Panorama investigation into football corruption, Newcastle relieved him of his duties as assistant manager. There was no dramatic public announcement, just the implied assertion that the club could not afford to be associated with that sort of thing. Yet Allardyce was the central target for the Panorama programme. Serious allegations were made and important questions went unanswered. Had he issued a writ, then the matter might have been tested at law. But no writ has been issued, no charges have been satisfactorily rebutted. So Bond is sacked, Allardyce is hired, and the chairman sees nothing amiss with this train of events. Strange. For the moment, Freddy is preoccupied with Michael Owen, whom he bought at outrageous expense and may be forced to sell rather cheaply. It may surprise Shepherd to learn that this column has some sympathy wth him in this affair. Confined by injury to just two games this season ater being signed for more than £17 million and paid around £110,000 a week, Owen clearly owes Newcastle a debt of honour, and his reluctance to declare his loyalty does him no credit. But even when he is in the right, Shepherd remains lumpenly unsympathetic. His decision to go public with the news that none of England’s major clubs have shown the faintest interest in Owen could scarcely have endeared him to the striker. Once again the chairman reminds us that the very rich are not necessarily very bright. Yet he has landed his Sam. And Sam, or Big Sam as he likes to be known, will take them to places they have not visited since the current following were unborn. At least, he’d better take them there, because if he fails then there will be a terrible price to pay. And at last — at long, long last — it might be Freddy Shepherd who is required to pay it. Link to post Share on other sites More sharing options...
Create an account or sign in to comment
You need to be a member in order to leave a comment
Create an account
Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!Register a new account
Already have an account? Sign in here.Sign In Now