Football: Allardyce set for a 'challenge'

New boss leaves Rooney to sweat on his captaincy, joins calls for EPL winter break

LONDON • New England manager Sam Allardyce vowed yesterday to break the psychological barrier hindering the performance of the country's big-name players at international level.

He also revealed he has not yet made a decision on who will captain England, which leaves the incumbent skipper, Wayne Rooney of Manchester United - criticised for his role in the Three Lions' tame Euro 2016 exit - sweating on whether he will retain the armband.

England's campaign at last month's European Championship under predecessor Roy Hodgson culminated in a humiliating exit to Iceland in the last 16, despite boasting a squad packed with Premier League talent.

Allardyce, speaking at his first press conference at St George's Park following his appointment, will seek to address that faulty mindset as England bid to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

"The pressure on players at international level we will be looking at in depth," said the 61-year-old, who lost out to Steve McClaren for the job 10 years ago.


New England coach Sam Allardyce pinpointed the national team's mental strength as an area he intends to "exploit". After missing out on the post 10 years ago, the Englishman has landed the "greatest challenge" of his career. PHOTO: REUTERS

THE BIGGEST ONE YET

This will be the greatest challenge for me in my long career and hopefully I will be as successful as I have in the rest of my career.

SAM ALLARDYCE, England manager, on taking on the toughest job in English football.

IT'S WINNING THAT MATTERS

My coaching technique is to win a football match - home or away, whether we are at Wembley or not - and adapt to the style we play to the opposition.

ALLARDYCE, on his coaching style.

MUCH ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

This group is very experienced and going forward can be producing more performances and better results.

ALLARDYCE, on the current England team

"I will exploit all areas for the benefit of the players. The key element is to get among the staff in place and talk about the programme going forward, particularly psychologically.

"I think this group is very experienced and going forward can be producing more performances and better results. It's not just about qualifying, but going as far as we can."

It is anticipated that Allardyce, a former manager of five clubs in the Premier League including Bolton, Newcastle, Blackburn Rovers, West Ham and most recently Sunderland, will not make a call on Rooney's captaincy until the players join up for the World Cup qualifier with Slovakia on Sept 4.

"It's far too early to make predictions in that area," Allardyce said, when asked if Rooney would continue as skipper. "I will leave that (the captaincy) until we get together and plan for the qualifiers."

Allardyce, who guided Sunderland to Premier League safety last season having taken over with them in a desperate position, has never won a major trophy and acknowledged the England job as the "biggest challenge" of his managerial career.

Allardyce believes, however, he has the right credentials for the position and remains confident the Three Lions will progress under his stewardship.

"This will be the greatest challenge for me in my long career and hopefully I will be as successful as I have in the rest of my career," said the manager who has faced criticism down the years for his teams' style of play.

"My coaching technique is to win a football match - home or away, whether we are at Wembley or not - and adapt to the style we play to the opposition," added Allardyce.

"I think the bonding of the team is exceptionally important. A game of football is to be enjoyed."

Allardyce confirmed Sammy Lee, his former assistant when he was in charge of Bolton Wanderers, will become part of his backroom staff.

He also called for the introduction of a winter break in the Premier League to help boost the national team's flagging fortunes.

"I have been an advocate of that for 10 years or more. The demand on players is enormous," he explained.

"The Premier League is the best league in the world so demand has to be on the players. It would help the Premier League and us at the international level if we could try and achieve it."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2016, with the headline 'Allardyce set for a 'challenge''. Print Edition | Subscribe