Arise, the Allardycians: Big Sam’s five most-used players

Date published: Friday 1st December 2017 8:15 - Daniel Storey

Kevin Nolan Sam Allardyce Football365

Big Sam is in at Everton, but does he have a type? Yes: ageing foreign players and dependable servants…


5) Ivan Campo (143 Premier League matches)
“I’m not suited to Bolton or Blackburn, I would be more suited to Internazionale or Real Madrid. It wouldn’t be a problem to me to go and manage those clubs because I would win the Double or the league every time.”

And there began one of the more astonishing press conference rants in the Premier League era. September 17, 2010 was the day that Allardyce truly did dip himself in sugar and swallow himself whole.

Yet he has evidence. Kind of. When Campo joined Bolton from Real Madrid on loan in 2002, he was a 28-year-old double Champions League winner and La Liga champion, who had started in the 3-0 thrashing of Valencia in the European Cup final in the Stade de France in 2000. The expectation was that he would stay for a season and return to Spain, but he ended up signing a three-year deal under Allardyce.

“Sam taught me everything I know when I made the move from Spain to England,” said Campo last year. “He taught me how to adjust to life in the Premier League. Sam is a great coach and I have great memories of him. His man-management was the reason that he was able to attract the top talent such as Fernando Hierro to Bolton.”


4) Bruno N’Gotty (148 matches)
N’Gotty was the first of the foreign legion to join Allardyce’s cult Bolton team, joining on loan from Marseille six months before Youri Djorkaeff, Fredi Bobic and Stig Tofting walked into town. He initially joined on a loan deal after reservations about the move, but made it permanent at the end of his first season after falling in love with English football and Bolton’s relegation survival.

Whilst Bolton’s swagger during those glorious seasons was ensured by the attacking flair of Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha and Stelios Giannakopoulos, N’Gotty was the rock on which it was built. He played 172 times in all competitions, bringing with him experience from Lyon, PSG, Milan and Marseille. From winning the Serie A title alongside Alessandro Costacurta, Paolo Maldini and Roberto Ayala to playing alongside Anthony Barness. That’s the dream.

Having left Bolton in 2006 after 134 Premier League appearances, N’Gotty went to Birmingham and Leicester, where he eventually ended his career in England on loan at Hereford United. As you do.


3) Ricardo Gardner (164 matches)
When Gardner arrived in Bolton as a spindly teenager to meet then-manager Colin Todd, few at the club thought he would last the length of his first contract. Fifteen years later, as Gardner flew back home to start a new life in Jamaica, he was one of only 18 Bolton players to reach 400 appearances for the club. He scored in the Allianz Arena!

While Gardner joined Bolton under Todd, it was Allardyce who made him. The new manager switched him from left wing to be his new left-back, much to the chagrin of the rest of the squad. Gardner promptly excelled in training and in his first match, and was almost instantly converted to the full-back position that he would keep for the rest of his Bolton career.


2) Jussi Jaaskelainen (277 matches)
Like the No. 1 on our list, Jaaskelainen impressed Allardyce so much that he bought him at a future club. Like the No. 1 on our list, he had to wait until West Ham to get that deal done.

Jaaskelainen was actually brought to Bolton by Colin Todd in 1997, but became a cult hero after Allardyce’s appointment despite missing most of their promotion season with a serious ligament injury. He would stay at the club for 15 years before rejoining his former manager at Upton Park. In fact, Jaaskelainen was still playing Championship football for Wigan Athletic until last season, at the age of 41.

“I know that Jussi’s strength was the coaching that Fred Barber used to give him at Bolton which he lost,” said Allardyce in 2012, with Jaaskelainen impressing again in the Premier League. “I knew that when he got with our goalkeeping coach, he would put him back into a good frame of mind and rekindle all the old experience he used to have.”


1) Kevin Nolan (303 matches)
Morecambe and Wise. Sonny and Cher. Punch and Judy. Kylie and Jason. Big Sam and Kev. In a game of footballing word association, one will always follow the other. Nolan’s record under his master was outrageous. In 377 matches he scored 70 goals and assisted a further 21. The next top scorer is Kevin Davies with 35.

There is a misnomer that Nolan has played for Allardyce at three different clubs, but it is in fact only two. Nolan’s spell at Newcastle came long after Allardyce had departed, but I like to think that it was the lingering fragrance of his former manager that tempted Nolan into the move, as if he was on a Big Sam tribute tour.

Now manager at Notts County – another former Allardyce haunt – Nolan is in no doubt to phone if he has a problem. “I know if I give him a call we could have a discussion over anything,” he told the Daily Mail in January. “He is what I have to try and emulate.”


Daniel Storey

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