Heart Of Football

Allardyce cannot be judged until his tilt at the 2018 World Cup

Never again should we hear Sam Allardyce moan that he won't ever get a top job in football "because I'm not called Allardici".

The inference was that Big Sam was somehow too bluff, too British, too home-grown for his worth to be recognised by the people who pay the big wages in English football.

And given the way that Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger endorsed Allardyce's ascension to the English throne, and their pledge to help, not hinder him, we may have to wait a long time to hear post-game rants like these:

Mourinho sneering about West Ham playing "football of the 19th century" to squeeze a 0-0 draw at Chelsea.

Allardyce retorting: "He can't take it, can he! He just can't take it because we've out-tactic'd him, out- witted him. I don't give a **** to be honest. I love to see Chelsea players moaning at the referee, trying to intimidate the officials, and Jose jumping up and down in his technical area. It's great to see."

Allardyce applied the carrot and stick to get Anelka to perform with (almost) a smile on his face. He used everything from Prozone stats to transcendental meditation to get the best out of players his clubs could afford. Rob Hughes

Provided Allardyce, Wenger and Mourinho remain in their posts, and remain co-operative towards the release of players for national call-ups, that type of vituperation should be sidelined.

Nobody is going to be able to judge Sam Allardyce (or Allardici) a success as England manager for at least two years.

The task is to win a major tournament. So the 2018 World Cup in Russia is the first opportunity Allardyce gets to change a cycle of failure that has lasted since 1966.

Yes, 50 years.

Alf Ramsey was the last and the only England manager to win a trophy, and that was a World Cup held on home turf.

After that, whoever the Football Association has hired and fired to change the record, it has been a familiar story. England are formidable in friendlies or in qualifying, and feeble once the tournament ball rolls.

Part of the reason for that is the ever-dwindling numbers of Englishmen employed in the Premier League. It is down to a third of all players in "the world's best league" now who have English birthright.

Manchester United's chase to make Paul Pogba the first £100 million (S$178 million) signing in history is just another turn of that wheel. Pogba is French and was a United youth team player who left to join Juventus because the Italians gave him more first team opportunities than Alex Ferguson did at the time.

It will be interesting to see if Allardyce calls upon Marcus Rashford more often than Jose Mourinho gives Rashford first team opportunities, especially now that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has joined the Red Devils.

And interesting to hear Allardyce if and when United revert to the attitude that Ferguson had in finding excuses not to release players - not simply for England duty but for any of the dozen or more nationalities a club like United employ these days.

Even Allardyce is on record as having scoffed about players going off on national team call-ups. "Now we have another two weeks to wait to play our next game," he said, "and to let stupid football associations make money from friendlies."

Ouch. That was Big Bluff Sam wearing his club hat, but now he has the job he says he always wanted. So the rhetoric changes.

Allardyce has barely a month to announce his first squad for an England game. It will be one of those "stupid" friendlies against an opponent as yet to be named.

In fact, it will be darned important to the Allardyce era. The friendly, against whoever the FA can get to play at Wembley Stadium, is on Sept 1. Three days later, England start the World Cup qualifying journey - against Slovakia in Vilnius.

The Slovaks proved an obdurate opponent when last they met England, in a 0-0 draw during the Euro 2016 tournament last month.

That result, and the more embarrassing 2-1 defeat to Iceland, ended the reign of Roy Hodgson as England manager.

Poor Roy. He is a gentleman, he worked as thoroughly as any man could on England's behalf, and he fell on his sword after a record that read: Played 56, Won 33, Drawn 15, Lost 8.

Hodgson was the archetypal English manager, not because he was born and bred in England, but because his record conformed to those of Fabio Capello and Sven-Goran Eriksson, indeed to most managers since Sir Alf Ramsey was dismissed in 1974.

They mostly all won their friendlies and their qualifiers, but lost where it mattered, often in the early stages of World Cups or Euros.

Now it's the turn of Allardyce. Some may say it's a poisoned chalice, others may say (and have said often) that the raw talent is there; it's just that at tournaments England don't play to the sum of their parts.

This is where Allardyce has to earn his £3 million (plus big incentives if he breaks the losing habit at tournaments).

He is renowned for his "man management" and for getting the best out of whatever talents are available to him. One of his strengths is to impose his demands upon players who others discard as prima donnas.

Nicolas Anelka, the Frenchman known as the Big Sulk, probably had his best period at Bolton Wanderers after he left Arsenal.

Allardyce applied the carrot and stick to get Anelka to perform with (almost) a smile on his face.

Allardyce used everything from Prozone stats to transcendental meditation to get the best out of players his clubs could afford.

His own life story is a remarkable turnaround from a dyslexic child to a brutish defender, and to a manager who reads academic and scientific papers to extract nuggets for his daily use.

He also used his considerable size and weight - standing over 1.91m - to stare down opposing managers. One old foe, Alex Ferguson, spoke out in favour of Allardyce being the FA's choice.

According to rumour, the job was first offered to Wenger. When the Frenchman said "non", Big Sam was the "unanimous" choice.

And it might well be Little Sam as well. The betting is that Sammy Lee - the former Liverpool player and former assistant to Allardyce at Bolton - is about to rejoin him in the England set-up.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 24, 2016, with the headline 'Allardyce cannot be judged until his tilt at the 2018 World Cup'. Print Edition | Subscribe