Commentary

Cometh the hour, cometh the man for Three Lions and FA

Sam Allardyce is the right man at the right time to be given the job of England manager, although it is still likely to leave the Football Association (FA) fielding some awkward questions.

Martin Glenn, the chief executive, could be forgiven for shifting uncomfortably in his seat when Allardyce is presented given that his supposed "global search" for an "inspirational manager" led him to Sunderland, who avoided relegation to the second-tier Championship by two points last season.

Dan Ashworth, the technical director, may struggle to explain how the FA's "England DNA" philosophy, which champions possession-based football, can be spearheaded by a manager who just 18 months ago dismissed "tippy-tappy football" as "a load of b******s".

The FA has abandoned some of its lofty ideals in turning to Allardyce, although in the circumstances, that may be no bad thing.

The 61-year-old is a pragmatic solution - perhaps the only solution - to English football's difficulties and the governing body should have the honesty to say so.

While he would not describe it as a philosophy, Allardyce's teams always have a clear game plan, which was not the case under Roy Hodgson in France, where the manager changed the team repeatedly and many of the players seemed uncertain about what they were supposed to be doing.

While Allardyce's CV is not that of an elite manager, England have long since ceased to be a world-class team and of the candidates immediately available - Steve Bruce, Jurgen Klinsmann, Guus Hiddink, Roberto Mancini - he is the most prudent choice.

When imagining Allardyce leading England out for the first time against Slovakia on Sept 4 it is difficult to prevent the image of Mike Bassett - the caricature "old-school" England manager of the 2001 film - from invading the picture, which is grossly unfair.

But if ever there were a time for the national team to go back to basics, then this is it.

After two humiliatingly premature tournament exits and defeat by a country of 330,000 people, talk of a playing and coaching philosophy sounds like delusions of grandeur, no matter how good the intention, and the new manager will rightly return the focus to getting results for the senior team.

Allardyce may not fulfil all of the criteria set out by Glenn when describing the ideal candidate in the aftermath of England's defeat by Iceland at Euro 2016, but he ticks most of the boxes and will bring some qualities lacking in the old regime.

In managing Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle, West Ham and Sunderland, he has built up vast Premier League experience and has proved himself to be an outstanding club manager.

Much of his success, which was admittedly relative and did not yield silverware, has been based upon qualities that England need desperately at the moment.

Allardyce is nothing if not resilient, and his teams have always been difficult to play against, traits England's players need to develop.

While he would not describe it as a philosophy, Allardyce's teams always have a clear game plan, which was not the case under Roy Hodgson in France, where the manager changed the team repeatedly and many of the players seemed uncertain about what they were supposed to be doing.

Perhaps the most significant requirement that Allardyce does not appear to fulfil is Glenn's demand for longevity, as it seems unlikely that he will lead England to the 2022 World Cup, which outgoing chairman Greg Dyke has pledged England will win.

As Dyke stepped down yesterday at his final FA board meeting that ratified Allardyce's appointment, it was a fitting symbol of the new pragmatic era that the Qatar 2022 countdown clock went with him.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2016, with the headline 'Cometh the hour, cometh the man for Three Lions and FA'. Print Edition | Subscribe