All of us have had a few days to muse about the departure of Sam Allardyce from Newcastle United now, the announcement coming on Wednesday afternoon, but my opinion hasn’t changed at all in that space of time, and I’m sure it won’t the in the coming months: It’s a laughable decision, from an increasingly laughable club.
Let’s get the statistics, whatever can be dredged from Big Sam’s reign, out of the way first of all. He was given 24 games in charge, that amounts to eight months in the role. In that time, he won a third of those games and drew another six. His side are two places better off in the league at this point than at the same juncture this time last year under Glenn Roeder. The club are still in the FA Cup, even though they admittedly shouldn’t be, after a crap showing against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium a week ago.
Simply put, Newcastle under Allardyce was not the most enthralling adventure, it wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t pleasant, at times it was downright moribund. But it was a damn sight healthier than anything the last two managers had managed to put together in their reigns at the club, particularly in reference to the hopeless reign of Graeme Souness, who wasn’t sacked a day too soon.
I think an awful lot of people lost sight of the role that Allardyce was installed to work upon in the first place at St. James’ Park. Granted, it was Freddy Shepard’s last act before the summer takeover of Sports Direct and Mike Ashley, but the premise surely had to remain the same: Stability.
Stability for a club who had chased the highs and lived the dream not that long ago, but failed to attain the silverware and glory they required, before sliding down the hierarchy at a startling rate. The wild ride under Kevin Keegan produced some of the best football and most exciting moments in the 15-year history of the Premiership, while Bobby Robson’s experienced produced a solid, but unsuccessful top 6 side.
Since his departure though, the best Newcastle could have hoped for was avoiding being sucked into the morass of a relegation dogfight, despite huge money signings of some of the bigger names in world football. Sam Allardyce was brought in to bring stability. Sam Allardyce would have eventually brought stability, but you find me a manager who can manage it in 24 games. Frankly it’s an outcome that everyone involved with Newcastle United, from the fairweather fan to the owner himself, should be utterly embarrassed with. And there’s a hell of a lot of people who you can point the finger at.
A fan from the region phoned into that pantheon of jingoistic, reactionary broadcasting that is TalkSport earlier today and complained about the vile abuse thrown at Newcastle United and their fans in the last few days, from media hacks who smell blood. Sorry mate, but someone has to say it. Because you can blame the owner, who has reacted without thinking and seen his manager as a dispensable item when the going gets tough. You can blame the media if you like, for spinning the whole situation out of control and talking Allardyce out of his job. You can blame the players, for playing like crap in the last few weeks and not giving enough to the Newcastle cause. You can blame Allardyce if you like, as a lot of fans have suddenly decided to do, for paying over the odds for bad players, putting people out of position and not getting the results.
But where does the malaise stem from? The fans, pure and simple. There’s a hell of a lot of people who come out of this situation with a bad name, but it’s the Newcastle fans who end up looking the worst in this whole messy affair, the greatest indication of fan power over sense within a football club.
Rewind to eight months ago, and find me a Newcastle fan at the time who opposed Allardyce’s appointment. Try if you like, because I would suggest they were few and far between. This is a man with previous, there’s no doubting that. This is a man who has never been cleared of charges of corruption surrounding transfers made whilst he was in the Bolton hotseat. This is a man who has a very high, almost too lofty estimation of himself at times and this is a man who can grind on the nerves of any person, me included, with his pertinent complaining and absolving of himself, no matter what the scenario is.
But, this is also a man who is one of the top managers within this country. His record before Newcastle was practically flawless. Success at Limerick, success at Blackpool, success at Notts County (They won the old Division Three title by 19 points in his first full season in charge) and there was significant success in his eight years with Bolton.
They came up into the Premiership and stayed up in the Premiership under his guidance, and before too long they swapped places with Newcastle, becoming an established top 6 side in the league towards the back end of his reign at the club, with European qualification expected rather than dreamt about. They were uncompromising, they weren’t that pretty on the eye, in fact they were downright nasty at times. But they were successful for it, and Allardyce at least deserved the plaudits for the way he brought the club up from Division One mediocrity to a regular top half Premiership club in the space of a decade.
There’s not too many other examples of it in English football in recent times. This was the man that Newcastle as a club needed, and it was the man that the fans almost universally wanted. Stability, that was the byword for the time being. Some wanted instant success, but it was a pipe dream, and I’m pretty sure that in August, most Newcastle fans would have been happy with a season that at least showed signs of the club going along the right tracks. Allardyce himself said he couldn’t flick a switch and suddenly the Magpies would be conquering all before them, but with time, they could be another Bolton, in terms of sustained improvement and success.
Now, those same fans have hounded him out, with a raft of reasons given, and suddenly everyone is delighted to see the back of him. Bad football, bad signings, not enough entertainment, poor form at home, too technical, not good enough, not what the club needs. Sorry, but what do you want, Newcastle fans? You can either have a stable, gradually improving club who with time may well have finally delivered a trophy to the club after nearly 40 years, even though they may well have been dark days along the way. Or, you can have the helter skelter, 100mph ride that is gung ho management under lesser managers who might get the odd decent result or run of form together, but never with the desired results that the fans yearn for. You can’t have both, so when the general consensus is that the club needs stability, after 20 games it would appear the fans have had enough, and want out?
An indication of how fickle the general fanbase of Newcastle fans is, although not every fan should be tarred with the same brush. “You don’t know what you’re doing?” No, you just don’t know what you want, and now that you’ve sat through a 4-1 defeat at home to a very able Portsmouth side on a fantastic run away from home, suddenly Allardyce is not fit for the job. It’s hard to know who is worse actually, the fans for being as pathetically impatient as they have shown themselves to be in the last few months, or the head honchos at the club who would appear to have reacted before thinking, and ripped up the template for the club once again. A case of the blind leading the blind, it would appear in this instance.
So now where does this leave the club, searching for their eight manager in just over a decade? Incredulously, it would appear that Harry Redknapp is going to be the man who steps up to the plate and takes control of the most poisonous chalice north of Real Madrid. I would personally hope that Redknapp has far more sense than to takeover at a club which doesn’t even deserve him. Figures of £4-5 million a year contracts are being banded around, which would be hard for anyone to turn down, admittedly, but it’s not about money anymore for Redknapp, and it’s not about reputation.
He built up a decent name for himself developing some of the current starlets of the game at West Ham, over the years bringing STABILITY to the club, despite a hefty turnover of players. At Portsmouth he led the club through the ranks in a similar vein to Allardyce at Bolton, before a bizarre sequence of events saw him switch to Southampton, preside over their relegation from the Premiership and then going back to Pompey and producing one of the more remarkable survivals in the history of the league, before turning the club into a STABLE unit, who has been knocking on the door of Europe for the last 18 months, and may well break through this season.
Redknapp has earned his reputation as a manager who can work with youth, who can work with older heads, who can make the best out of a bad situation and who is generally a very capable manager. He should remain focused on the task at hand with Portsmouth, a club actually going in the right direction, with a loyal fanbase who forgave a man who defected to the other South Coast club and came back, a man who has overseen some pretty bad days in recent times for Portsmouth, yet who has come out of the situation looking impressive almost every time. If he stays at Portsmouth, they could go on to have their best period in the club’s history since the heady days of the 1940’s. If he goes to Newcastle, he’ll be lucky if the St. James’ ‘faithful’ aren’t looking for his head after the first bad home performance.
Most importantly though, it would not be worth Redknapp’s time going to a club where his predecessor was shown the door for working under essentially the same premise that Redknapp will work under if he does indeed take up the reigns at the club. The similarities between the two are startling, in terms of their approach to management.
Both will try to build a club up through the years, using whatever means necessary to ensure consistency within a club, linked in with gradual improvement for the benefit of the team. Both search out obscure markets for rough diamonds, both will buy the has-beens, the never-were’s and the bad boys of the group, and make something out of their careers, and both are uncompromising, old time, get stuck in managers who don’t mind having to play bad football if it means achieving results (Although admittedly, Redknapp’s style can at times be more flowing than that of Allardyce).
For Harry Redknapp, read Sam Allardyce. For Sam Allardyce, read Harry Redknapp. And remind me what happened to Sam Allardyce at Newcastle? It’s not a path Redknapp should be entertaining, no matter what the sums of money are, no matter what the potential challenge is. He’s got a better chance of rubber-stamping his legacy at Portsmouth, arguably the most improved club in English football since the turn of the Millennium, than he has by taking up the impossible job at Newcastle.
Fittingly though, it’s probably best to let some of the fans have the last word about Harry Redknapp. Already the dissenters have said they don’t want Redknapp in charge, the best reason I’ve heard so far is that he’s too Southern, amongst other, generally worthless musings on a very capable manager. However, the Newcastle fans obviosuly know best, so without further ado, here’s some of the finest footballing minds, from the wealth of knowledge that is the BBC 606 website, explaining why Redknapp is an old duffer not up to the task…
“I dont want Redknapp – Were [sic] going through the same recruitment process as we did for Allardyce: Looking at managers who have done brilliant at one club, but cant handle the pressure of being at a bigger one.”
“Rednapp [sic] is of a similar breed to Allardyce, he can do a lot with not a lot. But when you give the man money he will probably stumble. When you shop in poundland it’s always harder to shop in Marks’n’sparks.”
“If we wanted an overweight corrupt Englishman dazzling in mediocrity, deemed inadequate for England, why didn’t we stick with the goon Sam Allardyce?”
“I cant believe it if its true, we are a club who desetve [sic] to be challenging for the title and in the champions league on a constant basis, but we wont [sic] do that with a second rate coach like Redknapp.For gods [sic] sake pull all the stops for Jose or Lippi Ashley. If we get the right coach, i [sic] think we will make top 4 come next season and [sic] challenging for the title.”
Sod buying a ticket for a Chris Rock show in London, this show is far more amusing…