Sam Allardyce’s appointment as England manager has generated a myriad of responses from current and ex pro’s, the media and of course Three Lions supporters.
Reactions have ranged from a simple shrug of the shoulders to sheer vexation but most, after the initial umbrage had subsided, have come to the conclusion that he is indeed the right man for the job. At least for now, anyway.
‘Big Sam’ will have some big ideas for his two-year stay at the helm as he looks to right another ship. Arguably, though, his greatest strength is his perceived weakness.
To put it bluntly, Allardyce is a troubleshooter, brought in to navigate stricken sides during stormy times and right now, in their current state, few teams are in as much distress as England after another rudderless major tournament campaign.
There is a feeling of trepidation that Allardyce will replicate the same simple style of football utilised at Sunderland. But at this point, is that even a bad thing? In the short-term, it’s actually not.
The perception of Allardyce as a crude adherent of long-ball tactics is simply naive. Yes, he endorses a pragmatic approach but the intention is always to find the best way to win with the resources available.
For Allardyce, pace, power and goalmouth action have formed the staple diet of pretty much every one of his teams.
At Bolton, it catapulted them into the Premier League and helped to establish their place in the top flight. It then led to their first ever European qualification and cemented four consecutive top-eight finishes. With Blackburn, he was brought in with Rovers inside the bottom three and seemingly destined for the drop, but he secured survival.
At West Ham, again promotion from the Championship was achieved before laying down the foundations for which Slaven Bilic is now able to prosper from.
And then Sunderland, where he extended his penchant for a great escape by dragging them out of the relegation zone – he is still yet to taste relegation as a Premier League manager. He is the quintessential troubleshooter but there has been nothing safe about the way his sides have navigated away from murky waters.
There is no hiding behind possession stats, and although his teams are indeed direct, it should recognised as a strength, not a weakness that he chooses to highlight chances created rather than cyclical keep ball. After all, quick transitions from defence to attack is what will win games.
Another fundamental aspect, particularly in tournament football, is a dependable backline.
Do not subscribe to the sensationalist ‘England are cursed’ narrative because realistically they just need to improve defensively – that’s largely it. Look at the teams who achieved relative success in France – Germany, Portugal, Italy and even Wales were built on great goalkeeping and leadership at the back.
Of course, that’s nothing new, but had England defended considerably better, they’d have progressed much further.