Big Sam deserves Real respect
Sam Allardyce seems to be more laughed at than lauded nowadays, but TEAMtalk's Ian Watson believes the Blackburn boss deserves more respect. Allardyce insists he was talking with tongue-in-cheek when he claimed he would be "more suited to Inter Milan or Real Madrid", but still the Rovers boss is viewed by many as comedy character rather than a top Premier League manager. Allardyce has been widely mocked before for his gruff exterior and his portly figure but now his knockers are using his ambition and self-confidence as a stick to beat him with. Look beyond the dour demeanour, however, and what you have is a boss who deserves to be held in the same high regard as another British manager - David Moyes. Compare their records and there is very little between the two. Some might even say that Allardyce's accomplishments with a 'small club' such as Bolton outweigh Moyes' achievements at Everton. That in no way belittles Moyes' Toffees tenure, but I fail to see why one is much more revered than the other. While Rovers' recent achievements have hardly grabbed many headlines, the job Allardyce has done since December 2008 should not be forgotten. The former central defender took over at Ewood Park with Rovers languishing in the drop zone at Christmas and going nowhere but the Championship. Allardyce, however, steadied the sinking ship and by May had steered Rovers safely away from the threat of relegation. In his second season and first full campaign in charge, he lead the Lancashire side to a top-half finish, and managed all this while turning a very tidy profit in the transfer market - no mean feat. Despite his understated success at Ewood Park, it is for his achievements 15 miles down the A666 that Allardyce deserves to be looked upon as not only one of Britain's brightest managers, but also a pioneer. When Allardyce took over at Bolton in 1999, the Trotters were slowly going nowhere in the bottom half of the Championship. When he left eight years later, the Reebok Stadium had become home to an established Premier League side and some of Europe's top players, who under Allardyce's guidance had taken the club to four consecutive top-eight finishes, two UEFA Cup campaigns and a League Cup final. Not only were the Trotters transformed on the pitch, but with Allardyce at the helm, they had become one of world sport's leading innovators off it. Allardyce was greeted by a lovely new stadium when he arrived at Bolton but a shoddy old training ground, where worked a full-time backroom team only five strong. Eight years later at their state-of-the-art Euxton base, the number of staff had swollen to more than 20, with some of the world's top sporting teams and franchises now looking upon Bolton as an example of how to apply sports science and psychology to achieve peak performance. Few realise how close Big Sam came to landing the England job in 2006 on the back of his success at the Reebok Stadium. Allardyce is understood to have blown the FA away with his application and presentation, but the suits at Soho Square opted to play it safe - or 'bottled it' depending on how you look at it - and appointed Steve McLaren instead. Newcastle, however, were delighted to offer Allardyce a chance on a bigger stage in 2007, but only five months into his - and Mike Ashley's - first season in charge, the Magpies sacked Allardyce, with the new owner keen to appoint his own man. With Ashley and without Allardyce, the Toon were relegated a season-and-a-half later. After a very creditable opening 18 months at Ewood, Allardyce should be able to consider his Toon-tainted reputation repaired. But still he is seen as a figure of fun by supporters and some elements of the media - probably the same people who look upon Moyes as a man destined for great things. As a boss, Allardyce is great at getting the very best out what he has. Granted, that hasn't been achieved by playing the prettiest football but as a manager, substance is surely more important than style. Big Sam has shown time and again he can do it with more limited players; there is nothing to suggest he cannot repeat the trick with more talented troops. Perhaps he will never manage Real or Inter, but Allardyce deserves great respect for what he has achieved - certainly more than many currently give him.
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