As a player, Sam Allardyce was a no- nonsense centre half of the old school who would scythe his opponent down from behind but then help him back on his feet in the days when it was both expected and accepted as part of the game. Honest and hard working, his play typified an era when satellite television was nothing more than a blurred picture of sputnik.
Now if Newcastle had persevered with his services, there is no doubt in my mind that the Geordies would still be watching Premiership football, albeit, perhaps, not quite in the Kevin Keegan style of play, but nevertheless still in the top flight.
The problem was, you see, that up at St. James’ Park, they like their teams to entertain and attack, a notion which seemed to be beyond his comprehension up there. “You don’t know what you’re doing” they bellowed loud and long until the inevitable parting of the ways.
Sam has returned to the safe backwater of another Lancashire club where expectations of flair and flowing football are just an afterthought as long as premiership status is retained. Make no mistake, the system works and will get results, but in grinding out those results and I use the word grinding literally, the “dogs of war” mentality engendered by Joe Royle takes on a whole new dimension to where teams are bullied into submission if it is allowed to take place. In bending the rules to the absolute limits, Blackburn have now adopted the manager’s persona, originally honed at the Reebok, before he had ideas above his managerial station prompting a move to the North east.
How “refreshing” then that he chose to somehow justify his player’s behaviour at Anfield by insisting that the foul count was somehow an inaccurate reflection of the afternoon’s proceedings. Now if he had turned round and said, “look, we cannot compete financially with Liverpool but we can get in their faces, match them physically and unsettle them”, the reaction of us all would have been, o.k. fair enough, we don’t have to like it but at least you’re being honest. In adopting his holier than thou attitude, though, “Big Sam “ left himself open to justifiable ridicule. The watching nation and 40,000 inside Anfield saw multiple yellow cards and several players who were lucky not to take an early bath. The Blackburn manager was right in saying his side deserved more from the game in terms of chances created but was kidding only himself in terms in trying to justify the antagonistic way his team played on the day.
Similar “defending” displayed at the Britannia stadium, saw the horrific injury to Aaron Ramsey in a challenge that was roundly condemned by Arsene Wenger who has now seen three of his players sustain potentially career threatening injuries whilst playing the “beautiful” game. The fine line between playing hard but fair and downright thuggery seems, indeed, to be miniscule nowadays. Ryan Shawcross is nationally accepted as one of the best central defenders in the country and his call up to the national side proves that point, but we were told that he was devastated by the consequences of his challenge and that he would never deliberately hurt another professional. If that is the case, you have to ask then why he went for the ball that way and in similar circumstances in the future, will his conscience be his guide or the win at all costs, again, be the overriding mindset?
In giving young Mr. Shawcross the benefit of doubt, that courtesy cannot be extended, for example, to Pascal Chimbonda who publicly tried to circumcise Maxi Rodriguez with his size ten boots in clear view of our friend, Mr Allardyce. Of course the esteemed manger of Blackburn Rovers did not see the misdemeanour of his own player, which is about the only trait he has in common with the learned manager of Arsenal Football club.