Mails: Are we ready to dance with the devil?

Date published: Friday 15th July 2016 9:50

We’ll be honest with you – send in something vaguely coherent and you will probably get in the Friday afternoon mailbox. Send thoughts to


If Big Sam gets the job…
You can rest assured that England will not be relegated from football.
Danny, Merica


What if he actually wins something?
Imagine it. Big Sam actually manages to win a WC or an EC. The PFM enters another 50 years of ascendancy. Football hipsters suffer philosophical chasms in their arrogant, self assured, football superiority. Long periods of suicidal self-assessment. The ‘I told you sos of the whole cottage industry of Pundit PFMs. So I ask: a deal with the devil worth taking or a future so unbearable as to not bear thinking about?
Brian, Brussels


Excited to be managed by Big Sam again…
I, for one, welcome our new Big Sam overlord. An extremely rough grasp of comprehensive school level statistics informs me that, unlike most people who write into this Mailbox, I’ve actually supported and regularly watched a team managed by Allardyce. To ramp up the dramatic tension I’ll not tell you which one.

What’s odd is that I don’t remember a reliance on Arthur Harris aerial bombardments, trebucheted balls out of defence, and the inexorable trudge towards an engineered set play. I do recall a reliable defence, a solid mix of creative and ball-winning midfield, and strikers playing with man-managed confidence. They didn’t necessarily score, mind, but then that’ll happen when you shop for strikers on a Primark budget. Maybe I’d been wearing VR goggles – clearly I’d been seeing something different to the accepted (let’s be generous and call it) wisdom. Stranger things have happened. Roy Hodgson was England manager.

Most exciting of all is the once-in-my-lifetime possibility – though by no means guaranteed, granted – of a manager who selects from outside teams getting 90% of Match of the Day airtime and enough gossip column inches to make Ron Jeremy blush. Which brings me to another tediously pertinent observation.

Look at the England team of 1966. No I mean actually look at it. It’s like looking at the wife, she’s been there forever, we’d rather not have to, but peer closely and you see why she was once a winner.

The average league position of the teams represented by that squad of players, that same season? 8th. And we’re not including two players (Flowers and Paine) who were from the second division. The second division! But the madness does not stop there. Not a single player came from third-place team Burnley. Compare that to how many just crawled from Tottenham Hotspur. See how that worked out.

One can only hope that a manager used to working with a range of players may actually select from them. So if Allardyce gets the nod I am going to smugly, with arms a-folded knowingly, watch the national team improve. Like my vinyl copy of Station to Station, it’s since been replaced by a shiny new CD, but I’d have it on my turntable any day. It’ll be good to have you back, boss.
Johnny Square-Brackets


The Big Sam is The One
I’m no Big Sam fan, but let’s consider the facts:

– He’s English.
– Has The Pashun.
– Great at getting the best out of sh*t players for six games in the summer.

Bring on the success (And Kevin Nolan!)
Scott, AFC


…Like the majority of the mailbox it seems, I’m not exactly thrilled at the idea of Big Sam but I can’t see a better alternative, so I guess we just have to deal with it (much like Brexit – the similarities continue to pile up).

One thing I haven’t seen mentioned about the tactics Allardyce is that because they are simple/straightforward and the players have clearly defined roles, the squad should be able to pick them up quite quickly. This is going to be important when the international manager spends so little time with the players, and the successful teams at the Euros were either packed with talented players (not realistic for England) or well drilled (thinking Wales, Iceland – Italy were well drilled but also had serious talent at the back, so harder to draw a comparison).

I’d wager that a fair few of the players have used these tactics before, at either youth or senior level. If that is the case, staying compact, and breaking with pace, making the most of set-pieces, and playing ‘percentage’ football should be easy enough to implement. This would help us avoid the issue we saw in France, where a team of relatively talented players struggled to play in a coherent manner – this must have been at least partly influenced by their inability to pick up the new tactics, necessitated by the emergence of some players over the course of the previous season.

Downside – he is one of the few people I can think of less suited to the role of being the ‘face’ of England than our new Foreign Secretary.
Jack (Why are we targeting Pogba when our back four still looks pretty shaky?) Manchester


Backing Big Sam from India
I hope this gets published as I realize I’m late to the Big Sam debate, but I thought it might be interesting to offer a non-British view (I am Indian).

I think the FA should appoint Big Sam. Without agreeing with the reactionary PFM view, IMO there is a case for preferring an Enlish manager. International tournaments feel more authentic and international-ly when the coach is from the same country as the team. That way the world gets to see not only the best talent that a country has to offer but also its current view on how best football should be played. I don’t recollect Germany, Spain, Italy, Holland, Brazil, Argentina etc. ever having appointed a foreign manager (even when all they had was Dunga).

It may be an uncomfortable thought that Big Sam represents the ‘English’ way given the managerial gold that abounds in the Premier League, but to the extent there is an English way, he is probably one of the best representatives of it.

Secondly, the choice is not Allardyce vs Pep or Mourinho, its Allardyce v Klinsmann or Martinez. By and large, the best managers are less likely to want to manage national teams. Established coaches who manage international teams are typically those who are attracted to the prestige of the job (such as a Del Bosque or a Conte), and the FA is not going to find a good foreign coach for whom the England job will have the same pull (Wenger may be an exception but he’s probably more English than French at this point).

Thirdly, national teams are typically not well-oiled machines but a bunch of players who play together occasionally under a coach who doesn’t have the time and continuity to evolve a sophisticated system. Think Argentina and the turgid (though effective) football they can produce despite their dazzling talent. Teams like Spain, Germany and Italy are rare for having a group of players who by and large play together, whether its at youth team level or by virtue of being from the same club or system. You need the Big Sam-type skills more at the national level, as Portugal just demonstrated.

So I say *uck it, get Allardyce in and revel in his Englishness. Let him be as big of a PFM as he can be. Let him represent one-dimensional tactics and not get confused like Hodgson in trying to keep everyone happy.
Uday (and if you aren’t convinced, Winty said the same thing, so there), AFC, Delhi


International football is not rocket science
I read with interest comments in yesterday’s Mediawatch regarding the need for England to appoint a manager to will give entertaining, free-flowing football to the great English public, and that Big Sam will be “boring fans to death” and thought to myself, who gives a f*** about entertainment?

How do we define an entertaining, international football match? Is it the same way we define an entertaining, free-flowing Premier League game? Lots of goals, high skill level, tactical battles on the sidelines? Have any of these commentators watched qualifying for a major international tournament, because if they have they will notice that a) England have done really well at them, scored lots of goals etc. so that’s the first part covered but high skill level and tactical battles from the likes of Andorra? The Faroe Islands? I’m doing them both a disservice, just to prove my point, but in the life cycle of an England team, two years between start and end of a tournament, you play 20ish games, a third of which are friendlies squeezed into a bloated calendar, another quarter, straightforward home wins and another quarter fair to middling games that might pique the interest and its only the rest (16.66% if my maths serves me right) will be of any importance. So over the course of two years, England will only play 16.66% games that are of any importance, so why should we care if they aren’t entertaining, with fast, free-flowing football?

You have the Premier League played nine months of the year, and if you can’t get your desired quota of FF-FF then there are plenty of other leagues to satisfy you. England need a competent manager who can adapt his style of play to suit the opposition and get the best out of the players he has at his disposal. The competitions the FA want to win come around once every two years, arseing about with philosophies and asethically pleasing football is what club football is for. International football is for getting p***ed in the summer sun, cheering on players you normally hate and hoping that by some fluke you can score a goal more than the other team on at least five occasions so you can go dance in a fountain and have an open-top bus parade. It’s not rocket science, so that’s why Big Sam might well be the answer.
Dave, AFC, London


Allardyce = Brexit? Oh do shush
Honestly, what is wrong with you people? Allardyce = Brexit? And you wonder why the English national team does so poorly at tournaments.

Whether or not you think Allardyce should be England manager based on his managerial ability seems to have become irrelevant very quickly during this discussion. So many people are taking one look at him and thinking that, because he’s English and has said a few daft things in a Yorkshire accent (looking at you Allardici) that he’s not right for the job. He can’t be. He loves meat pies. He speaks without a sexy twang. He probably secretly voted leave.

Bullsh*t. Judge him on his qualities within football and stop stereotyping him the same way that, if done to somebody else, you would be horrified and disgusted by.

At the end of the day, most fans want to have a good time watching their team and, hopefully, win the tournament. They don’t care about all the politics both within and outside of football. The vast majority simply do not give a damn whether the manager is a man, woman, black, white or a robot that makes every decision with a coin flip. There’s always going to be a few d***heads, sure. Just don’t be fooled into thinking they are the majority.
Jon, mind you I don’t think he’s right for the job anyway, Germany


Why are England panicking already?
You basically pushed the self-destruct button following an awful World Cup performance in SA 2010. You admirably decided to follow the lead of Germany and Spain in completely overhauling the infrastructure/coaching, wanting to have players playing in the same system all the way through the ranks. All admirable moves that I think would have a positive effect on your national team.

However, following a (slightly) surprising exit at the hands of a very well organized team playing beyond their individual level, you decide to hit the self destruct button again. All because it took longer than six years to see any benefit.

It took Germany more than six years to produce their current crop of stars. Toni Kroos was 10 when they overhauled their system, Ozil was 11 and Draxler was 6. They are currently reaping the rewards of taking measures to improve their youth development.

So even if England were to have an instant impact on talent being developed, the crop who benefitted from this change would be 16 right now. Even Rashford would have been fairly far along in his development by the time this was implemented.

Now you are ready to abandon the idea of developing technically proficient footballers in favour of returning to long balls target men and pashun.
And for some bizarre reason you seem to wonder why you can’t succeed at tournaments.
Jack, Dublin (At least it provides us all with great entertainment)


Rafa for England?
Some of the names being bandied about for the England job right now are truly uninspiring, mainly because if the FA wants to go English (and judging from the press, it appears they do) the options aren’t great.

Howe has done good work with Bournemouth, but I feel like it could be too soon for both parties. I mean, would he really want the poisoned chalice that is the job of being England manager at this point in his career? Conversely, do the FA really want to appoint someone with just one season in the top flight under their belt?

I don’t feel like anyone is enthusiastic about Southgate, not the fans, the FA nor the man himself. Seems like he was only ever considered on the basis that he’s already hanging around the place a lot because of his U21 work.

And surely, surely the FA isn’t really considering Hoddle? We didn’t win anything with him before and nothing that he’s said or done in the intervening years has convinced me that we’ll be any more successful with him the second time round.

Steve Bruce is, to be blunt, just a bit of a poor man’s Allardyce.

Which bring me to Big Sam. If the FA is truly determined to appoint an English manager then he’s probably the best of the lot we have right now. I’ve actually always been something of a closet Allardyce fan, he is excellent at what he does. If I was Premier League club facing a relegation battle I would fight tooth and nail to get Big Sam in the manager’s seat.

But rather than someone who can organise a team (although don’t get me wrong, this is definitely something that we need to improve) and in some cases get average players playing above their potential, we need someone who can get our actually good players to play to their potential, which they demonstrate weekly at their clubs.

Personally, I prefer all of the foreign names being linked with the position – Klinsmann, Wenger and Hiddink – in each case for slightly different reasons.

But I’m mystified as to why Rafa Benitez hasn’t been mentioned for the job (although maybe he has and I haven’t noticed?!). The guy has managed at the very top level, speaks the language, has experience of English football, etc. Although he has said he’ll stay at Newcastle, he has an escape clause and I’m sure that they wouldn’t begrudge him for swapping the Championship for the England manager job, so he could potentially be easy to lure.

But the main reason why I think he would be good for the role is his track record in tournaments. Because that’s what we need, someone who can win actual tournaments, not just top qualifying groups. Although his league record is patchy Wikipedia informs me that he is the only manager in history to have won the UEFA Europa League, UEFA Super Cup, UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup.

Liverpool were by no means the best team in the CL the year they won it, and he won the Europa at Chelsea under what could certainly be described as ‘difficult’ working conditions, given the hatred that was directed at him by some people and the fact he knew he was going at the end of the season no matter what.

Beating better teams under high-pressure and difficult working conditions? That’s basically the England manager job description! The man is basically a tournament specialist and I think that makes him ideally suited to international management. He’s certainly better than the English options being touted…
Galen (and no, I’m not a Liverpool fan), New York


What are you worth in current transfer market?
Age: 26
Position: Midfield to start with, then just follow the ball
Current Team: Local bulls*** league team in a small Nevada, US town
Skillset: Decent ball control, wonderful passing range in a small field when under no pressure.
Estimated Value in current market: £20,000

Post your resume and estimated value in current market rate.
Sajal, US

More Related Articles