League Insider - Big Sam
Rob Parrish wonders if Sam Allardyce might be the right man for England, after all.
Last Updated: 10/10/11 12:00pm
Sam Allardyce managed to grab plenty of Monday morning headlines with his proclamation that he would 'walk over burning coals' for the opportunity to manage England.
It is unlikely that the Football Association will ditch their traditional interview policy in favour of a selection process which requires willing candidates to take on extreme physical challenges, but the prospect of 'I'm an England manager, get me out of here!' would probably be seized upon if Simon Cowell was given half a chance.
Harry Redknapp covered in spiders? Roy Hodgson attacking a plate full of improbable offal? You get the idea, but I think I may have already strayed somewhat. So let us return to West Ham boss Allardyce and his very public ambition to lead his country.
We have been here before, of course, back in the spring of 2006 when the FA were searching for a successor to Sven-Goran Eriksson prior to the Swede's departure at the conclusion of England's World Cup campaign.
And five years ago, just as there is now, there was a clamour for an Englishman to lead the England team. Eriksson was too cold, we were told, he didn't have a plan B, he couldn't inspire the players. We needed a home-grown manager to do all that, apparently.
Allardyce, then with Bolton, was in the frame for the top job/poisoned chalice (delete as appropriate) along with the likes of Steve McClaren, Martin O'Neill and Alan Curbishley. Luiz Felipe Scolari was actually offered the chance to lead the Three Lions, but swiftly backed out when the paparazzi got wind of his planned appointment and set up camp outside his house.
After the misery of McClaren's reign, the 'experts' were back out in force again - this time demanding exactly the opposite of their previous proclamations. McClaren had been too close to his players, he was tactically naive, our pampered Premier League professionals needed some discipline.
Enter Fabio Capello. Then came the debacle of South Africa 2010. And so the cycle continues.
Harry Redknapp - a firm friend of Fleet Street's finest - is currently the odds-on favourite to replace the Italian when his contract expires after the Euro 2012 finals next summer, but that simply smacks of flavour-of-the-month backing. Roy Hodgson was being championed for all manner of leading posts, including the one at Soho Square, after his Europa League heroics with Fulham, before being found wanting under the burning Anfield spotlight.
So should Allardyce, currently available at odds of 25/1 with online bookmaker Sky Bet, be given the chance (provided he can negotiate the burning coals at FA HQ) to lead his country?
Not a chance
I suspect the immediate response from the majority would be a very firm 'no', 'never' or 'not a chance', with the perception firmly engrained of Allardyce as a long-ball merchant who favours the physical approach and someone who is certain to call on Kevin Davies. What? England have already done the last one? Oh.
For the nay-sayers, it's worth considering how the clubs who Allardyce has managed have fared following his departure. Bolton have spent more time battling relegation than challenging for Europe. Newcastle bowed to fan pressure and opted for the second coming of the messiah and then a club legend before finding themselves in the Championship. Blackburn talked of signing David Beckham and Ronaldinho but ended up with David Goodwillie and Yakubu and are anything but a happy camp.
Allardyce, clearly, has an ability to make the most of the limited resources he has at his disposal and, for all the fanciful talk of 'golden generations', tub-thumping claims from various members of the squad that this could be our year (really, you think we'll fall for that again?) and the nonsense of the Fifa rankings, England are just that - limited.
In Wayne Rooney, England have a genuine world-class talent, but aside from the Manchester United ace, there are worryingly few from Capello's recent teams who would have a hope of getting in the Spain squad, never mind their starting XI.
So perhaps offering the role of England manager to a man with a game-plan for success, a meticulous eye for detail, who will embrace the latest technology and use every means at his disposal to drag an extra few per cent out of willing but technically limited - on the highest stage at least - individuals might not be that bad an idea.
Just so long as he doesn't introduce the hot coals into training sessions.