We look at the five biggest issues facing Sam Allardyce following his appointment as England manager.
The latest England post-mortem was relatively straightforward and the FA have spent less than a month since the Three Lions were embarrassingly ejected from Euro 2016 to send up the white smoke from Wembley to announce Roy Hodgson’s successor.
Sam Allardyce, Big Sam, Allardici has finally got the appointment he’s been waiting for.
He’s had run-ins with some of the biggest names in management, disagreements with fans and divided English football with his tactics, but now Allardyce faces the biggest test of his managerial career.
Here, we take a look at the five key issues Big Sam has to get right on the day he was presented before the media as the new England coach.
Shake the long-ball image
The biggest concern England supporters will have following the news of Allardyce’s appointment is a world of route one football and gritty but efficient football typified by Big Sam’s emphasis on “Position of Maximum Opportunity” (POMO), applied primarily in throw-ins, free-kicks and corners.
Former Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal, most recently, and famously, brought his long ball dossier to argue the case against Big Sam when he was manager of West Ham and, in fairness to Louis, Allardyce’s teams have placed an emphasis on moving the ball quickly from defence to attack.
England are still trailing the major European powers in terms of playing possession football so the need to take better care of the ball is vital, but as Portugal showed at this summer’s Euros, not essential.
Big Sam will also need to ensure his current win percentage of 34% improves dramatically but the former Bolton boss will feel he finally has the stage to show off just what he can do.
Advance the youth
With the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino and Claudio Ranieri all plying their trade in the Premier League, the England squad has never had it so good.
The FA’s emphasis on bringing through England youngsters will continue under Allardyce but opportunities to play Premier League football has become scarce so now would be the ideal time for the new Three Lions coach to encourage players to ply their trade abroad.
It’s no coincidence that Eric Dier was England’s best player over the tournament and the only player in the Euro 2016 squad to have enjoyed time on the continent. His stint at Sporting Lisbon was pivotal in developing his education to allow for the seamless transformation from central defender to defensive midfielder.
Across the tournament the Spurs man kept play ticking over with stats from WhoScored.com revealing that he completed 89.3% of his 67.8 passes per game, while his goal against Russia was undoubtedly the highlight having averaged 2.3 shots per game.
English players in general have been reluctant to go abroad which seems to stem from a wider problem in the UK regarding the willingness to learn a foreign language. A recent survey revealed that more than half of 18-24 year olds in the UK let their language knowledge affect where they travel, so it’s perhaps no surprise that Big Sam will have some opposition.
Protect the squad
Big Sam on a number of occasions has shown that he has an ego to match his nickname. The repetition of early exits from major tournaments, followed by inquests from the media, public and the FA have taken their toll on the players.
With Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling showing differing levels of how playing for England can have a harmful impact on performance, Allardyce must shield these talented youngsters before they are corrupted by the continuing negativity and another promising generation is lost.
Allardyce isn’t afraid to take the heat from all quarters and his big personality should be ideal for taking some of the flak that will come the team’s way.
He’s shown in the past he isn’t afraid to get his point across as this video where he laughs at Swansea’s Chico Flores feigning injury illustrates.
Win over the fans
The self-belief and confidence is something that will be welcomed by England supporters in the aftermath of Roy Hodgson’s meek reign.
His bold public showing of self-belief when in charge of Blackburn in 2010 was completely un-English when he claimed that he would be “more suited to Inter (Milan) or Real Madrid” because he “would win the double or the league every time” shows that he is ready for his chance.
Allardyce’s image as a man of the people will also be useful in repairing the damaged relationship between the public and the national team, but fans will only see this as an added bonus; it’s the results and performances that will fill Wembley during another meaningless midweek friendly.
Address the winter break question
It’s a subject that has been less prominent in wake of the Iceland defeat but the issue of a mid-season break will continue to raise its head as long as England falter at World Cups and European Championships.
Big Sam has had some strong views on the winter break and was a big supporter of the idea urging the Premier League to follow the rest of Europe earlier in the year.
Having witnessed Allardyce’s fiery character on a weekly basis it’s likely that he will give the football establishment a few headaches.