Harry Pearson on the Guardian writes about Big Sam and what the Geordies could expect if he is to manage them next season. He talks about how important the ‘dourness’ and the ‘directness’ of his approach might be to Newcastle’s cause, although most fans may not approve of those methods.
Go read the article. Reasonable read, I assure you, but read on for an alternative perspective on the methods of Big Sam.
Sam Allardyce made Bolton play the way they did due to their standing in the league. They are not your usual ‘Big Club’ or – as the most misused phrase goes – ‘Massive Club’. He had the problems that a newly promoted club faces; lack of finances, lack of quality players and lack of interest from quality players to join a newly promoted club. When one manages a club that has an obvious lack of flair, it would be suicidal to play pretty football.
True, managers like Steve Coppell, Alan Pardew and Paul Jewell adopted a more daring approach and were suitably rewarded. However it remains to be seen if West Ham and Wigan avoid the curse of the ‘second season syndrome’ and Reading will face a sterner test come next season, as the over performers will likely leave for greener pastures.
Clubs like Wigan lost out on their star players, namely, Bullard, Chimbonda and Roberts. These were the ones that excited with their pace, power and energy. What Wigan needed more this season was a semblance of discipline in their game to stabilize their ship. Something Bolton, under Sam Allardyce, managed when they so narrowly escaped relegation in their earlier seasons in the Premiership.
Big Sam hasn’t given an official reason for his resignation, but one may be tempted to conclude, just as his former assistant Phil Brown said, that it might be due to a lack of financial support from the board. Quite possibly Big Sam’s ambitions were loftier than what the board had in mind. Maybe the board liked his managerial approach that rested on the pillars of caution, discipline and long-ball football (direct football is a better name though).
If that is true it is a shame really, for with all the billionaire backers taking over clubs, the Bolton board’s lack of ambition might have just let the club and its fans down. I believe, Big Sam might have actually wanted to take the club to a different level of football changing his style gradually as more quality players came into his setup.
Before people start taking potshots here, let’s just have a look at his past record. He led Notts County back to League One (a year after relegation) breaking records in the process – winning the league by 19 points and wrapping the title as early as mid-March! What was more interesting in that year was that the goal difference was an astonishing 82. Clearly not a habitually dour tactician, given better resources relative to most of the league.
The thing about Newcastle (if he takes over) is this: too often we’ve seen managers trying to live up to the pressure of ‘sexy football’ of Keegan that, probably, somewhere down the line, they might have lost sight of another important aspect of team play – discipline. Now I am not a close follower of the fortunes of Newcastle – so Geordies help me out here – but over the past few years I have seen that their defence has been a shambles. When the purchase of Boumsong elicited cheers of ‘Saviour’ from the Toon faithful, it spoke volumes about the state of their defending prior to that. And of course, needless to say, Titus Bramble has kept up the tradition.
And the affliction doesn’t just end with castigating their defence, but it sure is one of the many holes that need to be plugged. In attack, Big Sam will have plenty of flair players at his disposal, something that he might have secretly craved for at Bolton. What the club needs is less of an infatuation with star players, and more of a willingness to see their stars to a system. Not necessarily a long ball approach, but more of disciplining and mental toughening that Sam, with all his high-tech conditioning know how, can bring to the side.
One may draw parallels to this situation, describing it as being a poor man’s version of Fabio Capello joining Real Madrid early this season. An uneasy matrimony of the arch-pragmatist with the eternal romantic. Only this might turn out to be the best period yet, in Newcastle’s underwhelming recent history.
Disclaimer: I am not a Newcastle United fan. I am just sick and tired of the criticism of Sam Allardyce’s methods. True, Bolton are an eyesore to watch, but my belief is that the methods were borne out of a necessity.