New England boss Sam Allardyce is the latest subject of Manager Files, as we take a look at the tactics, mannerisms, demeanour and touchline antics of the game’s top bosses.
Navy suit. Blue shirt. Subtle dark tie with stripes. Bish. Bash. Bosh. The look was essentially Ron Manager with a modern twist. The haircut too was on point. And a nod surely to iconic 1990s wrestler ‘The Big Boss Man’. In short, on his big day, the jowly old yak had rarely looked better.
England initially set out in a 4-1-4-1 formation. Selecting two holding midfield players to face Slovakia didn’t reek of boldness and even when they went 4-2-3-1 the tactics were a bit puzzling.
The main talking point was Wayne Rooney. In the build up Allardyce had advised he would be playing him as his No 10. In the event though Rooney – playing his 116th England game and thus overtaking David Beckham’s outfield record – played impossibly deep in midfield.
England may have looked laboured up front but were impressive at the back. John Stones in particular looked very composed and that bodes well for the rest of their Group F campaign.
Big Sam was surprisingly restrained on his day of days. He clearly was revelling in all the attention and the man who once said “I don’t think there is any coach more sophisticated than me anymore” adopted a fairly enlightened stance throughout on the touchline.
During his time as a Premier League trouble shooter Allardyce sometimes liked to sit in the dugout and have a good old stretch and a rummage with his big mitts tucked away in his pockets. However he was all business in Trnava.
He threatened ever so briefly to lose it a bit when England scored deep into injury-time and punched the air but fans will have been largely impressed by his extremely passionate (and ultimately controlled) celebrations.
What they said
The result was all important but Allardyce spoiled a near perfect day with his bizarre post-match interview when he basically claimed Rooney can play wherever he want to on his watch.
Hot on the heels of Rooney’s ill-judged and frankly arrogant claim before the match that he would be playing on until the 2018 World Cup and then retiring afterwards Allardyce, when asked about the England captain’s position, said “Today Wayne Rooney played wherever he wanted to. He was brilliant and controlled midfield. I can’t stop Wayne playing there. He’s won everything at Manchester United, more or less, and at Champions League and domestic level…. Using his experience with a team and playing as a team member, it’s not for me to say where he’s going to play.”
Except it is Sam. It definitely, definitely is.
Allardyce was bold ahead of the match and set down a marker by announcing his team some 48 hours before kick-off. Roy Hodgson was famously – some world even say obsessively – secretive about his line ups.
Big Sam put his cards on the table early doors however in a move that suggested the opposition should worry about England rather than the Three Lions fretting about who they would be facing.
It was all pretty refreshing save for the fact he started with eight of the 11 players involved against Iceland in that wretched Euro 2016 encounter when England froze and were eliminated. The post-match comments were a worry too.
To state that Rooney has more experience at international level than he does was pretty ridiculous. And to allow Rooney that sort of power this early into his reign as England boss seems totally ill-advised.
The Allardyce era has only just begun and its a case of so far so good but the headlines in the red tops would have been much more scathing on Monday morning but for Adam Lallana squeezing a shot under the body Matus Kozacik in added time to give England a win.
It was hardly the dream start the former Bolton and Sunderland boss might have wished for. However Big Sam would do well to heed the words of former New York Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez who once mused ‘It’s better to be lucky than good’.