Dinner With Big Sam & Other Tales

If you were going to pick a manager to wear a t-shirt with his own name on it, Sam Allardyce would almost certainly be that manager. That, & more in a bumper Mailbox...

Last Updated: 24/02/14 at 14:54

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So Very Spurs
Following our best PL performance of the season with by far the worst. How very predictable. How very Tottenham.

It was fun while it lasted.
Alex G, THFC (at least we won the rugby)

More Statue Talk
Tom from Chesire. Why on earth would Arsenal want statues of Cantona or Scholes outside their stadium?
Andrew (feeling sarcastic today) Barnet

...I obviously have no idea but I think for a player to have a statue outside of the club they have to be a key member in revolutionising the club. Bergkamp was just shocking good, he was clear but closely followed by Zola as the best player in the league in his first three years, Henry just blew everyone away, Bergkamp was the first and never got bad, Henry was the phenomenon.

You could do it for Cantona, he revolutionised United, but who else really did? Ronaldo would certainly be befitting. Beckham no doubt (lol jk). I think Giggs would be worthy. Not Scholes though, was never the main man, even though we all loved him dearly, the dreamy ginger that he was. Not Gary Neville, Keano. 3. I'll give you 3. Impact on the club, I think that's the important factor. In my imagining of the rules anyway.

When they have a statue of Ray Parlour up there we'll know they've just gone on a mad ego trip.
Dave (Just like Michael Jackson revolutionised Fulham...), Dublin

...If United decided to erect a statue for 'every player like Henry and Bergkamp' outside Old Trafford, they would need to put up one statue, of a player currently plying his trade at Real Madrid.
Joe Rice

...Arsenal's desire to install statues of players past is symptomatic of our years without a trophy.

From my seat in the West stand I realised I hadn't seen Dennis in the flesh since 2004. The date was when he scored his last-minute winner against FC Thun. I loved Dennis that much that I vowed I would never visit Highbury again as I wanted Dennis's goal to be my last reminder of the old stadium. Henry's return similarly in 2012 reduced me to tears when he turned back the clock and rifled home the winner against Leeds in the cup.

While I don't begrudge Bergkamp his statue, thinking about the fantastic players who turned out for us in yesteryear makes us forget how rubbish we've been for so long. Fans don't like to admit the current crop aren't very good so they long for seasons past when they topped the tree.

The fact United don't have a similar number of statues is due to the fact you've been successful for years. Once there has been a smattering of seasons without a trophy, I'm sure Giggs, Cantona and Schmeichel will have statues to serve as a reminder to the fans of how good you once were and to the current players of how rubbish they are.

I wish we had just one player worthy of shining Bergkamp's boots but we don't. He remains the only player I've ever seen who played the game as if he had hands for feet. I couldn't take the ball down with my first touch with my hands as well as he could with his feet. And he was the only player I never shouted instructions to - Dennis knows better than me!
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London

Some Feedback For This Guy
Dear Dan, CFC, Ireland,

Bless your little cotton socks. People don't hate you because you're better than them; it's because you're all* such prize pr#cks. Oh, and John Terry.

Kind, regards.
Ted, Manchester (* = not all of you - I'm sure there are one or two genuinely nice Chelsea fans)

...Hiya Dan, CFC, Ireland, hope you're well.

Just a quick correction, in list form, on why fans of other teams are not entirely fond of your better than us Chelsea team.

You have arguably the most self-absorbed manager to have ever graced the game.
In John Terry you have one of the most morally reprehensible (but admittedly very talented) defenders to have ever graced the game.
Ashley Cole.
A dubiously rich owner.
And, considering the way your success has been achieved, an unjustified sense of entitlement and smugness as illustrated by your e-mail.

Hope this clears things up for you slightly.

All the best.
Michael (an Arsenal fan unsurprisingly), Crawley.

And One Who Agrees
Which as an Arsenal fan doesn't happen that often, I'll grant you. But on reading Ben's (London, CFC) comments, I couldn't agree more. I don't have a problem with the perceived 'lesser' teams trying to be hard to beat - you'd expect nothing less as a fan - but too often the so-called 'English' way leads to players flying into tackles and breaking someone's leg. Committed play is fine and pressing the back four high up the pitch is fine. Liverpool are proof that it is very effective, but you don't see Liverpool committing lots of dangerous, unnecessary tackles. But too many 'English style' managers (I'm looking at you Mr Pulis) encourage recklessness in their teams, which condones the sort of tackle Mr Shawcross was guilty of. There is a simple solution for all of this - if you are involved in a tackle that causes serious injury and a significant lay off for an opponent you get a mandatory five match ban. I'd allow room for appeal ( a clash of heads etc) just as with any other suspension. Surely this would make players think before clattering in to someone in the last five minutes when you're 3-0 down?
Graeme, Leeds, AFC (first time agreeing with a CFC fan)

A Stokie Writes
Since Ben, London, CFC wanted some answer from us Stokies, I thought I'd do my very best. Firstly, please do not judge the rest of us Stoke fans via The Oatcake fanzine or, even worse, the Oatcake fanzine forum. If you really want to see the very worst of our supporters head there. Every single club has it's own special mix of morons and we're no different - don't judge us all by them.

Moving onto Ramsey, I'm sure I speak for the rest of us level-headed Potters fans when I say I disagree entirely about the article about him - of course he should be able celebrate. I'm not annoyed by his celebration any than anyone else scoring against us!

I, personally, have never booed Ramsey. What happened to him was a terrible accident (and it was an accident) and I'm pleased to see him having a fantastic season, as I have a good number of Arsenal-supporting friends (turns out we can get on). I cannot therefore rationalise why Ramsey is booed in some quarters of our support. The assumption I have always had was that it was because he apparently did not accept Shawcross' apology for the injury. Whether that is true I don't know. But I am certain that Ramsey & Shawcross have played against each other since and have shaken hands; everyone really should move on.
Tim, Stokie in exile in London.

The Fizzling Saints
Since the ridiculous team selection in the FA Cup against Sunderland (a game we would have strolled with the first XI) it all seems to have gone to seed at Southampton and I'm becoming increasingly depressed. Seems like our season is going to fizzle out with a whimper.

Next season I'd like to see Poch take the cups seriously, I'd like to see us work out how to fashion a goal from open play without relying on defensive errors or basic ineptitude from the opposition, I'd like to see us sign a striker (Loic Remy?) to partner J-Rod up front, a centre back (David Astori?), a back-up left-back to provide cover for Shaw and a decent keeper (Begovic?) to take the number 1 shirt off Boruc. However, I think Pochettino will leave, Schniderlin will go to Arsenal, J-Rod will go to Liverpool, Lallana will go wherever Poch goes (hopefully abroad and not to Spurs) and this season will have been as good as it's ever going to get.

And to the Mailboxer who said Liverpool's season is about to unravel; I disagree - which depresses me further. I think they'll give us a spanking when they come down St Mary's, still sore about losing to us at theirs, in front of their own girlfriends, earlier this season. I also think they'll see off Cardiff, West Ham, Man United and probably Spurs. And just to round it all off I bet we lose to Man U on the last day of the season.

The only plus point I can see on the horizon is that I don't think Luke Shaw will leave this summer, instead sticking around for one more season. But if there's no one to get on the end of his relentless crossing what's the point?

Feeling very down,
Mort Snort, Saints

Chelsea: Blunt
'When the going gets tough, Chelsea and Mourinho revert to what they do best.'
I think I might just be the first person to object to their team being listed among f365's winners after a weekend's football.

A pet hate of mine is the post-hoc analysis of football games based on the result rather than the ebb and flow of a game, the rationalisation of what appears on the final scoreboard to fit with existing knowledge. Mourinho's first Chelsea team indeed were very good at playing out 1-0 wins. They were able to change gears instantaneously, lethal in the attack in bursts and then packed in defence moments later. It was the game plan, it was what they drilled in and it was what the personnel at the time were suited to and assembled for. That team was rarely criticised for eeking out narrow wins from even games. It was derided (not by me, of course) for sterile domination, for controlling games but not pushing on for more impressive results.

Is that what this Chelsea team do? Not to my season ticket-holding eyes. Saturday's result was at best the consequence of determination, at worst just plain luck. We'd been blunt and didn't look like we could simply take a lead to defend at will. The same is true of Chelsea's other recent narrow results. Can we be considered efficient when we score so few from so many attempts? Did Drogba or Gudjohnsen ever look so unlikely to score as Torres and Eto'o routinely do? We may have the best defence in the league right now but it doesn't hold up against the Terry/Carvalho partnership of 2004 all that well.

A narrow victory for Chelsea in 2005 was often the mark of a perfectly executed game plan, a team in control and able to simply take whatever result they wanted. In 2014, I'm inclined to say it's the result of not being quite good enough to get the result that was actually being aimed for.

Is Anyone Giving It Credibility?
Why has the idea that David Moyes might win the Champions' League gained any sort of credibility?

United might still be in the competition, and will probably beat Olympiakos, but does anybody believe that United will beat one (and probably two, at least) of Bayern, Barca, Real, Atleti, Dortmund in a competitive match?

Given David Moyes' record against top 4 teams over the past fourteen years, United's form this season, Moyes' preference for bombarding the box with crosses, and his charming belief that Fellaini can contribute anything other than red cards, fouls, and terrible haircuts to United, and I'd suggest that United won't be winning anything in Europe for years.
Chris MUFC

Liverpool's Defending
I suspect you'll get a few mails about the Liverpool defence and how they can't keep on being bailed-out by an outstanding attack. Now at first sight this might sound a bit stupid but as a team I don't think Liverpool defend too badly at all, they're quite well organised and everyone puts in a shift. This is pretty fundamental to being a decent team in the league, without it you're basically not going to get anywhere and the ability to organise a defence and motivate players to work hard has to be very high on the qualities you look for in a manager. And I believe Rodgers has these.

What he can't do much about are individual, uncharacteristic errors - the sort of thing no manager can legislate for. But equally there comes a time where if these sort of things are happening too much then you must get rid of the culprit or give him a rest. It's my belief that the vast majority of the feeling behind Liverpool defending badly are due to these errors - they're not leaving too many players committed forward, leaving the full-backs exposed or not closing down. But there's little you can do when the centre-back lays it on a plate for the striker, slices the ball into his own net, the keeper palms it backwards into the goal instead of making a simple save or it loops off a shoulder and into the net.

My belief is that a settled defence with the first choice players restored (Johnson, Agger, Sakho, Enrique) won't concede too many and that excellent attack will win a lot of matches. Even the backup (Skrtel, Flanagan, Kelly) does a decent job and assuming that he's not going to repeat his recent high profile mistakes even Kolo Toure is alright as fourth choice. Basically I think Liverpool have got the fundamentals working pretty well, surely this run of slightly bizarre ways to concede goals has to stop sometime? Doesn't it?
Jim, Stansted

...Lots of people drawing parallels with Liverpool and Kevin Keegan these days - and it's easy to see why. That glorious, sumptuous, delicious attack that has taken us to the top of the scoring charts; that defence that looks, for all intents and purposes, like it's about to piss its collective knickers at any second. Maddening, exhilarating fun to watch. Imagine that attack playing against that defence.

Personally, though, I think the more accurate parallel would be with none other than Roy Evans. Incredible strike partnership, mercurial wingers, an attacking midfielder in what's ostensibly a defensive role and defenders that perennially look drunk. It's a wonder Skrtel hasn't clattered his bollocks into the post.

It's an odd one, really - and I agree with Rodgers that we don't commit systematic defensive failings. It's just ("just") that our defenders - all experienced internationals - commit mind-bogglingly absurd individual errors with worrying frequency. If it's not Toure slicing it into his own goal, it's Skrtel opting to play the man when the ball would be easier (or, worryingly, insisting that Mignolet comes to the edge of the box for a ball that he neither wanted nor should've had to come for) or Johnson regressing five years. There's no leadership amongst the defence, either - I'm sure that for all his faults, having a gritty, determined old bastard like Carragher screaming at you for 90 minutes at least kept you focussed.

The rest of the team pressing high up the pitch has certainly taken the pressure off the defence but it's not an effective tactic in every game and it's incredibly draining on a small squad. Suarez looked knackered before he'd even gotten onto the pitch yesterday and it's notable that Swansea had a lot of time to play out of the back. Hopefully, getting back to one game a week (with a two-week break in March) will help.

I honestly don't know what the solution is other than smacking them all upshot the head and insisting they stop behaving like f*cking clowns.

We've always (well, since Christmas) had a puncher's chance of the title this season but I can't help but wonder whether we've just swung too many haymakers and will be out of puff in the remaining fixtures. Is the high energy game that we're going to need against Chelsea, City, Spurs and United (at least) going to be beyond us?

Possibly. It's amazing to watch, though, and this sort of pressure is clearly going to benefit the likes of Sturridge, Henderson, Sterling and Coutinho (all of whom are flourishing under Rodgers' tutelage) in years to come. I just hope we can keep that core together, and add to it with the kind of players that only a Champions League berth can lure.
Nick Glover (it's worrying when you pine for the calm, assured presence of Kyrgiakos), Scouser in Brum

In response to Shaun Livingston I would suggest that the reasons Rodgers is getting a lot of credit for the rise of Jordan Henderson and the fact that Redknapp didn't for Bale are as follows: -

1. Rodgers isn't doing it JUST for Henderson. This year alone you have seen Henderson, Sterling & Flanagan all get prolonged exposure to the first team and performing extremely well.
2. Last season you could also add Andre Wisdom to this list and don't forget that Joe Allen is still only 23 and Sturridge is 24
3. It is clearly apparent to anyone that the level of coaching instilled by Rodgers is having a pretty dramatic effect on the youngsters - recently the likes of Jordon Ibe & Teixeira have been elevated to the first team as well
4. The reality is that Redknapp simply saw young players as a means to an end to the first team; it seems that Rodgers genuinely sees youth as a bedrock upon which to develop a leading platform.

Based on the work done last season and the results so far this you can't really argue with my last point - that's why he is being lauded and Redknapp wasn't. I do agree though that it is perhaps still too early to get carried away with his efforts bearing in mind that we still have 11 games left to play this season however the level of improvement in these youngsters from a year ago is all too obvious.

Fair play to Shaun on his last point about Rodgers talking up title chances - he's right on that one.
Pete Mistry

Re: Matt From Manchester And 'Guylom Balingo'
Along these same lines, the bloke who sat on the row behind me at City for years used to pronounce all the foreign players' names wrong. My two favourites by far were 'Anton Saborsky' (Antoine Sibierski) and Kinky Mustafa (Kiki 'Chris' Musampa).

Keep these comedy misnomers coming!

The Monst

Some Feedback For Andi
The most depressing thing about Andi Thomas's articles on this website is that he, for whatever reason, has been given the prestige and considerable feather in his cap/CV of writing on a very popular football website ahead of others who would given their right arm for the (paid) privilege.

I've seen the editor get fairly tetchy and defensive with commenters on his articles but there's a reason why the majority don't like them. They're terrible. For every one decent one (the Alan Curbishly one was ok) they're are half a dozen that can be filed under snotty, smug, silly, contrived and sometimes just downright dumb. Tactics? Andi don't do tactics. Never. Not his shtick. Tactics are too formulaic and rigid for #madquirkz, which is what Andi Thomas spcialises in. Quirky, zany (both quite forced) and often scathing for the sake of coming across as having some kind of superior insight, NME type throwaway journalism. He's John Nicholson if John Nicholson had been born twenty years later. A tedious young hipster rather than a tedious old rocker.

One of my favourite things about the F365 Says articles is getting to the bottom and see who wrote them. Whether it be Winterburn, Miller, Storey or Stanger, they are written without fanfare or a need to point out beforehand that it was one or the other that wrote it, and are more often than not an interesting and insightful read, even if you don't agree in full or at all, with the points being made. Then there's the excellent Cornwall and the ever interesting Stannard in Spain.

For the life of me, and maybe it's because I stopped reading NME when I was 15, I just don't get Andi Thomas. At all.

Doubt this will get printed but anyway.

He hurts my brain.
Kevin Walsh, Luimneach.

Dinner With Sam
I was drinking with a friend in a bar Canary Wharf last night at around 8pm when Big Sam came in with his wife and daughter for dinner.

Two things stood out; firstly he put away a massive amount of food. Secondly, he lifted up his black fleece and much to the amusement of his family, he was wearing a t-shirt which said 'In Big Sam We Trust'. I've Googled and found him with the t-shirt in question, but due to being at work I cannot open the link.

Can anyone shed any light on this? My friend, who is American, had no idea who he was - I simply described him as 13th highest paid manager in the world and bellend. Then he lifted his fleece and confirmed it.
James (Although he did knock a man's coat off his chair as he left and upon realising came back and hung it back up) AVFC

We Were Relieved Too
May I be the first to congratulate mediawatch on managing to find a penis related non football story that was not only hilarious, but more importantly did not involve one being removed or mutilated.
Will (never been published) CFC

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e made his power play to try and get Sheikhy to raise his wages or trade him to PSG. PSG were probably not interested and he is stuck with no cake and no vacation. @Jay_D> Surely you jest about FFP being real, right? All Platini is doing is making billionaries pay measly fines, so he and his cronies can get rich. If a fool can pay 50 mil for David Luiz, he will happily pay some fine to UEFA. FFP has failed as for it to succeed UEFA had to take it...

Toure: I am staying with City


uess we can expect Toure's explanation of his behaviour around the same time Pete Townshend publishes his book then.

Toure: I am staying with City


amn you Yaya, don't scare me like that! I only ate the icing. I didn't eat the soft and scrumptious middle - I will buy you another cake!

Toure: I am staying with City

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It Isn't Easy Supporting Spurs, You Know

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Pre-Season Obviously Isn't Meaningless

The debate over the importance of pre-season continues, including a league table from last season for stats fans. Plus travelling to watch your team and Blackpool...

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