Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mouth Almighty

Everyone seems to be talking about swine flu these days, but it’s come to something when Big Sam Allardyce thinks he can further raise the nation’s awareness of its dangers. The Blackburn Rovers manager recently made the remarkable claim that his players had passed on the virus to Chelsea, after the Premier League had refused to allow them to postpone the fixture, even though they had two cases of swine flu in their squad. The self-appointed global expert on the H1N1 strain stated:

There’s no doubt we could have passed it on. When you look at the medical side of it, this is a very infectious virus we have.

Leaving aside the fact that his players at no stage got close enough to the opposition during their 5-0 drubbing to pass on any infection, it is doubtful whether his team of clodhoppers is capable of passing on anything; certainly they appear to have no idea how to pass a football. Maybe he was concerned that El-Hadji Diouf, with his history of aiming spittle in the direction of others, may have infected the Chelsea players (or indeed spectators and ball boys).

"Cleverer than he looks"

In fact, it is far more likely that Allardyce is suffering from a close relation to swine flu, namely whine flu, which is a seasonal disease that has affected the likes of Fat Sam and Lord Ferg for many years. Symptoms include a total inability to accept any responsibility whatsoever when your team loses and a tendency to shoot your mouth off no matter how limited your knowledge of the subject. If Blackburn were really suffering so badly from swine flu, why not mention this before the game, instead of raising it as an important issue only after his team had been so comprehensively beaten?

Actually, we already know the answer to that question, as Jabba kindly informed us of the real reason, when he launched a stinging attack on his players for not following his masterful game plan. He described their performance as “pathetic”:

What looked as if it was working so well tactically in the first half completely went out of the window in the second half. I can’t understand the mentality of my players losing what I asked them to do. They went 2-0 down and tried to score three.

"Lump it!"

What on earth got into the Blackburn players? Trying to win a game of football – have they no shame? Apart from further de-motivating his squad by placing all the blame for the defeat on their shoulders, while boasting of his own tactical genius, this shows the limit of Allardyce’s ambition. He would prefer to lose a game by one or two goals, giving them “something to work on”, rather than attempt to win a match. He further explained his football philosophy, when he said that “ability comes after mental toughness and resilience”, though anyone who has ever had to endure watching any of his teams would surely already know that only too well. Before the game, he had suggested that the way to beat Chelsea was his favourite “tactic”, the dead ball situation, in other words, boot it to the far stick, where a pack of hefty thugs will be waiting to elbow their way into position, hoping for a lucky deflection. Unfortunately for him, this Neanderthal method is no longer a surprise to the big clubs (as Allardyce calls them).

Nor did it work in Blackburn’s next away game, when they lost 2-0 to Manchester United. Following the thrashing they received at Chelsea, this time Allardyce seemed to be far happier with his players, as they had followed his instructions – and lost. Well, it was only by two goals, right? Of course, his post-match press conference was never likely to be all sweetness and light, and Big Sam duly obliged, when he moaned that his side had a perfectly good ruled out for offside:

It’s so far onside, it’s unbelievable. It’s not even a close one. I’m not saying it would have changed the game, but with four minutes still to go, you never know. It might have made United edgy.

Of course, anything is possible, but the fact remains that United had absolutely battered Allardyce’s team for the entire match and this effort was just about Blackburn’s first shot on target. Talk about grasping at straws.

"I blinded you with science"

I suppose that it is a little surprising that Allardyce dared to question a decision at Old Trafford, given his well-known relationship with United’s manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. Well, I say relationship, but it’s more master and servant than a partnership of equals. We witnessed this last season, when Sensitive Sam complained that Rafael Benitez’s gesture to celebrate a Liverpool goal was disrespectful and had humiliated him, but not after the match; no, only after the purple-nosed one had spoken out.

The Wigan manager, Roberto Martinez, alluded to this when he reportedly suggested that some of his top-flight colleagues were little more than Ferguson’s loyalists. Martinez subsequently denied making the comments, but we all know who he’s talking about: Steve Bruce, Alex McLeish, David Moyes, Gary Megson and, yes, the walrus-faced wonder of Blackburn. Allardyce’s reaction to Martinez’s quote contained all of the pomposity that you would expect from this “elder statesman”:

Welcome to the Premier League, Roberto. Keep your mouth shut in the future. I just think Roberto has learnt a harsh lesson about what happens in the Premier League, if you start diverting away from you and your club business.

Just as well that Sam “accepted” Martinez’s apology. Take another look at his reaction – how does that come across to you? Shall we agree on patronising, xenophobic and self-important? No, the best adjective would be hypocritical, given that Allardyce presents himself as the rent-a-quote from the North, quite happy to give us the benefit of his wisdom on all matters football (and everything else under the sun), especially other clubs.

"Dress code: smart casual"

After yet another defeat away from home, when his team was humbled 6-2 by Arsenal, Allardyce borrowed another page from the Ferguson play book, when he attempted to deflect attention away from his abject team by, guess what, blaming the match official. He went as far as demanding that the referee be sacked after failing to give his side a penalty. Demonstrating no awareness of the sweet irony, he whinged:

I try not to say too much publicly and say it through the system, but unfortunately the system is not working, so I have to be heard.

Surely no danger of not being heard, when we have to sit through your excruciating English every single day. You even begin to wonder whether Sky Sports News sponsors this posturing pillock. He continued:

Major decisions like that could take you into the danger zone of relegation. If you want to get relegated, you want to get relegated by you not doing your job properly, or your team. Not by major decisions like that going against you.

Harsh words, indeed. Talk of relegation makes me think of the dream ticket for the drop zone, at least for most lovers of the beautiful game, which would be the unholy trinity of Blackburn, Hull and Bolton. How do you like them apples? As far as I can see, there are only two dangers to this fantasy: (a) there’s a very good chance that at least one of Phil Brown, Gary Megson and Allardyce will get the sack and be replaced by a manager who knows what he’s doing; (b) there are even worse sides in the Premiership than them.

"Suck on this"

In any case, I would respectfully suggest to Big Sam that the reason his team is in the relegation zone is less to do with the odd refereeing cock-up and more to do with their appalling away form. For a manager famous for building sides that are difficult to beat, he must have noticed that Blackburn have lost their last 10 (ten!) away games, including 5 this season, conceding 32 goals in the process. It’s not even as if they are showing any signs of improvement, as they have shipped 16 goals in the last 4 matches alone. Obviously, Sam has the answer with his patented credo of “the best form of attack is defence”:

The basis for starting to turn your season around comes from clean sheets. Teams like ours are very rarely free-scoring.

You can say that again: during this dire away run, his team has mustered just 4 goals. The role reversal from the days when the southern “nancy boys” were mashed “oop north” is richly ironic and deeply satisfying.

"You don't know what you're doing"

It would appear that Big Sam has been found out. I have always believed that he’s a footballing dinosaur, whose route one tactics belong in the lower divisions. Sam the Sham is a charlatan, who has somehow fooled the media into believing that he is a scientific coach by hauling an enormous back-up team of assorted experts around with him. It’s about time that a chairman asked why you need so many physios, therapists, statisticians, etc, when the only message to the team seems to be, “run around, kick the other team hard and lump it up to the big bastard up front”. Apparently, after a two-hour team talk at Newcastle, one of the players dared to ask, “but what do we do when we have the ball?”

Allardyce’s reputation, for what it’s worth, has been made by grinding out points with no nonsense football. At Bolton, this belligerent buffoon built a team in his own image, namely a bunch of ugly, functional, no frills shit-kickers. The passing years have not softened his stance:

This is a physical contact game and fans love the commitment. I’m a bit passionate about it, because it has become a game for pansies.

His politically incorrect views are arrant nonsense. These days any reasonably good team simply passes the ball around his one dimensional, aggressive players, taking their tough tacking out of play.

"With respect, I disagree"

A couple of weeks ago Allardyce tried to divert attention away from his dreadful record by taking on Giovanni Trapattoni, when he demanded an apology from the Republic of Ireland manager, after labelling his comments about midfielder Steven Reid’s long-term injury as “disgusting, disgraceful and completely out of order”. Ignoring the fact that nobody had noticed Trapattoni’s quotes about Reid until Sam opened his big trap (sic), I wonder what happened to his frequent calls for respect between managers. Let’s not forget that Trapattoni is probably the most successful manager in the history of Serie A, winning the league title 6 times (as well as the European Cup). Compare that to Allardyce’s record: his career highlight was securing Bolton’s promotion to the Premier League – via the play-offs. When Allardyce was asked whether he had actually spoken to Trapattoni, his response was curiously childish, “No, and after what he said, I don’t want to”.

Another Italian in Allardyce’s crosshairs is Fabio Capello, whose only crime is to have the England job that Big Sam incredibly thinks should be his. He cannot believe that the FA selected Capello (winner of countless league titles with Milan, Roma, Juventus and Real Madrid) over him (winner of Division Three with Notts County):

At the time I should have got it and I really don’t know why I didn’t. It had to be political for me, rather than my credentials.

He simply cannot understand how the FA “went for another foreigner”, despite Steve McClaren’s disastrous reign. However, he does not blindly support all British managers, only those who have “longevity and the experience of making mistakes in the lower divisions” – like a certain Sam Allardyce. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Allardyce’s belief that he is perfectly suited to coach the national team is unwavering. Looking for reasons why the FA have not yet contacted this tactical colossus, he wonders whether his “external look isn’t to everybody’s liking”.

"Really love your tiger feet"

It is true that Fat Sam is carrying more than a few extra pounds. Evidently growing up in an era when meat was cheap, there is more than a little of the late, great Les Dawson about him, though unfortunately none of the humour. No man should be judged by his appearance, but when you look like you get full value for your money on a Speak Your Weight machine, you really should not suggest that your players should lose weight or complain that England has become a “fat, lazy nation”, as Big Sam has done in the past. Who are you calling overweight, fat boy?

But this annoying lump of lard takes self-regard onto a different level. Is there anybody else who rates himself quite so highly with so little reason? When he left Bolton, he explained that he was determined to get “silverware”, so naturally chose to join Newcastle United. When that joke of a club sacked him, he informed the waiting world that:

Newcastle was not big enough for me. It didn’t live up to my ambitions in the short time that I was there.

Don’t worry, Sam. I’m sure that the Manchester United job will be waiting for you once Fergie leaves. Or at least it will in your own huge head.

"Big mouth strikes again"

If, by some miracle, United don’t bring Sam’s brand of scintillating, total football to Old Trafford, he can always fall back on a media career. Some days, when you cannot escape this incontinent imbecile, it’s as if he has already started. It makes you pine for the time when he refused to speak to the BBC, after the allegations of corruption made against him on Panorama. Allardyce threatened to “sue the BBC over the false and highly damaging allegations”, but the postal strikes affected him earlier than the rest of us, as the letter has still not been received three years later.

Sam’s constant media exposure brings to mind the old maxim, probably by Mark Twain, that, “it is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt”. Or to put it in terms that Fat Boy Dim would understand: keep your big gob shut.

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