Sam Allardyce is no stranger to English Football. Nicknamed ‘Big Sam’, Allardyce has managed a number of teams in the Premier League, and had a short spell as the manager of England. Making his way through the footballing divisions of England, Allardyce is well experienced both as a player and a manager. Many teams have relied on his expertise to help pull their team out of a difficult period, but the manager never seems to stay at a club for long periods of time. Rather than stuffing the trophy cabinet, Allardyce seems to be a master of promotion (or avoiding relegation) making him an interesting character to study.
Born in Dudley, England, Allardyce grew up a fan of the closest city’s Wolverhaptom Wanderers. Interesting to Allardyce’s upbringing isn’t necessarily the geographical region to which he grew up, but rather the social aspect. His father was a police sergeant in the town and can explain how Allardyce seems to carry himself in a similar manner on the touchline. Whenever a team seems to be struggling ‘Big Sam’ is called in, almost like an outside police sergeant is called in to solve a town’s crime. In the same way, he has his style of doing things and each team seems to follow a similar template. Nonetheless, it’s proven to work. He lead Bolton to promotion in 2001, and West Ham in 2011, with spells at Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United in-between. He saved Sunderland from relegation in 2015, and Crystal Palace in 2016. He seems to know what it takes to survive in English football.
These achievements haven’t come without critics. Many know Sam Allardyce as a ‘long ball manager’ someone who doesn’t seem to value possession of the ball, but rather focuses on kicking it as far down the pitch as possible. Some argue he’s stuck in the old English way of playing, and hasn’t evolved along with the sport. However, Allardyce has claimed this to be far from the truth. He’s put an incredible focus into sports science and the use of technology to maximize the ability of his players. His players credit his ability to analyze opponents and prepare them defensively. Perhaps this is the place any manager might start in order to help a struggling team. As long as you don’t concede goals, the worst you can do is draw.
Interestingly, since ‘Big Sam’ has managed teams in the relegation zone or within the Championship, money isn’t something he’s been able to use so freely as compared to other managers. He’s been forced to make the most of the players he’s had, or purchase players the club could afford. In his entire managerial career, Allardyce has spent €290m; fractions of what other top managers spend.
The English Identity
With the emergence of the Industrial Revolution, England is rooted in labor and machinery. And so, Allardyce’s template for a team focuses around these concepts. They are extremely organized defensively and they work extremely hard. The teams aren’t filled with superstars, or foreign players coming from all over the world. Allardyce is a British manager, managing British teams. It’s something that isn’t seen often in the Premier League and is often a critique that not enough investment is put into the country’s talent.
But this is what the fans might get behind. They know ‘Big Sam’ is coming in to save the day. Their team can expect better days with him at the helm. At least results wise. West Ham United supporters famously called for his resignation over the ‘long ball’ style of play he’s become known for. But that’s the thing with football, perhaps in the end results aren’t the only thing that matters. In the end the supporters want to be entertained and they’re the ones who run the club.