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Big Sam pillow talk is waking Blackburn's sleeping giantzzz

27 Nov 2010 00:39:14

Big Sam pillow talk is waking Blackburn's sleeping giantzzz

EXCLUSIVESam Allardyce will arrive at Old Trafford with his Blackburn teamtoday on the back of a good night's sleep. It is always the same thesedays. Better team, better health and better pillows. 'We have looked in to sleep deprivation, ' said Allardyce. 'It's an amazing area. If you get the right pillow and the rightmattress, it can make a huge difference to how you play. How aboutthat? 'It helps you sleep longer, deeper and better. It will help youfeel more rested and then you can perform better. Fighting fit: Sam Allardyce is in rudehealth again and planning to extend hiscareer 'We found the experts in that field and asked them what might help us. This is what they gave us and it's there for the players now.' On Friday morning at Blackburn's Brockhall training centre found Allardyce on great form. Wide awake, indeed. A ground frost and a temperature of -4˚C had delayed training ahead of one of his team's biggest winter examinations today but he wasn't in the mood to worry. Recent wins over Aston Villa, Newcastle and Wigan have lifted Blackburn to within four points of the European places. Today's game against Manchester United represents an opportunity rather than something to fear. Just as importantly, though, Allardyce is in rude health again. It is exactly a year since the 56-year-old had surgery to widen a coronary artery. He admitted yesterday that the experience terrified him but also that he has returned to his work feeling invigorated. 'This is beautiful isn't it?' he smiled as we talked on the pitch at the club's indoor training centre. 'You find me on a good day because we have three wins in four. You say I am more like my old self but this is a bit more than my old self because I have been through a lifechanging experience. 'If you talk to people who go through things like this they will tell you that you embrace it and you change your life accordingly.' When Allardyce is on good form, there are few more inspiring football men to be around. The enthusiasm for his work pours from him. 'I have never been more relaxed,' he said. 'I have never been enjoying my job as much. I am still massively driven for success. If I hadn't been then I would have stopped. But I know how to cope, how to relax. Relaxed: Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce at Northcote Hotel 'I said I wouldn't go past 55 as a manager but it will be longer now, much longer. I originally said that because I felt the pressure so much in the early days. 'It was a really, really scary situation to find yourself in last year. There was a huge number of people who said to me, "Oh Sam, I have had one of those and I feel great". But you do wonder in the early stages after the surgery if it will be the same for you. But the operation has opened up the artery and the blood flow and oxygen levels are up and of course that has made me feel better. 'My wife told me to pack it in, of course. There was a serious conversation to be had. But I took the right advice. I am not in danger.' It has, however, been a slog at Blackburn. He arrived almost two years ago with the club second from bottom of the Premier League and in financial difficulty. It has not been easy for a manager who arrived with question marks being asked of him after a disappointing spell with Newcastle and a period out of work. 'Last year was transition and I was very uncomfortable,' he recalled. 'I was fearful for what we were going to do. The aim was to save the football club and overcome the financial problems. If you get those two wrong then they add up to the sack, don't they? 'Managers do amazing jobs to cope with and solve clubs' financial problems and then, later on down the line, find themselves out of a job. I was concerned about that. I was worried about the massive risks we had to take on players like Steven Nzonzi, Nikola Kalinic and Franco Di Santo. Big risk: Rovers striker Nikola Kalinic 'These were young players who had to perform in the Premier League and replace players like Roque Santa Cruz and Tugay. 'Do you realise how hard that is? Comfortable, I was not. 'The fear that these players may not perform and we would find ourselves back where we were when I took over and that I would be looking for a new job was very real. It gets to you. 'It would have been a long way back for me in this business. At this level we have less opportunity to make mistakes and get away with it than the managers do at the very top of the league.' The Premier League without Allardyce would be a poorer place. He is not loved by all, however. He is still criticised for his tactics. This week he even had to hear Blackburn's new Indian owners suggest that his team may wish to play more entertaining football. Talking beneath a banner encouraging young Blackburn players to 'Pass and Move', he said: 'At Blackburn, the fans are entertained by putting the ball in the opponent's box and creating chances to score goals. Not particularly by making 35 passes in your own half. 'It is the same all round the country. Fans are entertained by a hightempo game with lots of chances. That is what we deliver and why we are a worldwide brand and everybody wants to buy it. So don't knock it. 'The perception of me is one that has never changed. It's just because we decided to play a certain way against the big boys to try to win a football match. The assumption was then that we did that in every game, which is rubbish. 'The image comes from Bolton where I had an exceptional group of world-renowned players. Everybody has forgotten about that. 'But if we talk about El Hadji Diouf, Nicolas Anelka, Jay-Jay Okocha, Fernando Hierro, Kevin Davies, Youri Djorkaeff, Ivan Campo, Vincent Candela, Gary Speed, Kevin Nolan and Jussi Jaaskelainen then you see a team that had about 30-odd medals between them. We counted them. I put them in one team and people said we played long ball.' Current Bolton manager Owen Coyle has been credited with assembling a new, entertaining side. Chairman Phil Gartside has been known to suggest a new style was needed on Allardyce's departure in 2007. Dunn and dusted: Blackburn made it a winning start for their new owners last weekend against Aston Villa 'Phil Gartside goes with the flow, doesn't he?' smiled Allardyce. 'Very disrespectful, yes. But then I have probably been disrespected more than any other manager of Bolton since I left. That's life, I suppose. It's not right but we had the greatest time, the fans had the greatest time and I gave them the greatest era they ever had.' Allardyce has been looking for the next piece of knowledge that could help him steal a yard. He said: 'We had a long and rewarding day this week when somebody presented us with something that could be beneficial to get in and use. I can't disclose what it is but it was interesting and could help us get 0.05 per cent more than we are getting now from our players. Maybe it could be one per cent, if we are lucky.' Whether it is as beneficial as a good night's sleep remains to be seen.  I want Santa Cruz back! Allardyce targets Rovers return for City flopAll the latest Premier League team news ahead of the weekend  Explore more:People: Kevin Nolan, Kevin Davies, Jay-Jay Okocha, Sam Allardyce, Steven Nzonzi, Fernando Hierro, Gary Speed, Roque Santa Cruz, El Hadji Diouf, Owen Coyle, Nicolas Anelka, Ivan Campo Places: Newcastle


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