Yesterday we learned the surprise news that Sam Allardyce and the English FA had agreed that “Big Sam” would no longer continue as England football manager, and this after only one game in charge. The reason was he was caught in the act of doing dodgy dealings, where he could benefit financially, that was deemed incompatible with being the role model we expect of England football managers.
While news has already moved on, this is not before another English football manager (Barnsley’s Tommy Wright) has also been sacked for financial motivated corruption. This begs the question, before I move on, why money plays an important, not always altogether wholesome part in top flight football, and in Big Sam’s case, with his reported 4 million pounds a year salary, leaving us bemused by it all.
Reactions are many, not least overwhelming sadness that this happened. Football pundit, Alan Shearer, made much of English football having already sank to a new low when the English team was defeated in the European championship (which made the way open for Big Sam’s appointment) and it has now sank even lower. One of my Facebook friends lamented on what he saw as double standards operating. Big Sam was caught in the act and the FA felt forced to act, but what about many other examples of corruption we don’t punish? Myself, while I don’t expect managers to be paragons of virtue, I do expect a certain standard of integrity and decorum and for that reason, with regret, I felt Big Sam had to go.
While I have given up long ago being an enthusiast when it comes to top flight football, I still have a romantic attachment to following football at the very top, i.e. Internationals. I go back to following England under its very first manager, Walter Winterbottom, who stayed, in the job 16 years, followed by Alf Ramsey, the most successful, who stayed in the job 11 years. The tenure for those managers that followed was shorter, often a lot shorter, the longest being Bobby Robson, 8 years. Usually, it was a lack of success or some fall out between manager and the FA that meant the manager had to go, and here we are today, speculating on who will take on what many have come to see as a poisoned chalice.
I confess, while getting the right manager is important (I had big hopes for Big Sam), I suspect however good he is, his hands are tied. But then there is no excuse for dodgy dealings. Commercial interests, big money and big named clubs rule the roost and until we have system where International football is given the priority it deserves (if need be taking player out of playing for their clubs for longish periods) we will not have the success we all want for our national team. And yes, appoint a manager that has high standards of integrity etc., but in return to letting him operate as if he were running a club, don’t pay him the obscene amounts we are seeing. Being England manager is a big responsibility but it is also the biggest honour in the game. He deserves all the support he needs.