Pints of gravy all round, today is officially Sam Allardyce’s first day as England manager.
Big Sam needs to guide the national team through a World Cup qualifying campaign to make the plane for Russia 2018, but before that there was the matter of addressing the UK media.
England’s glorious new leader held court to map out his approach to the impossible job. Here’s a taste of the big talking points to come out of Big Sam’s coronation…
Is Wayne Rooney done as England captain?
Remember when Steve McClaren took on the England job, stripped David Beckham of the captaincy and ostracised him from the squad? Well, Allardyce hasn’t quite done that with record goalscorer and perennial tournament under-achiever Wayne Rooney but the initial omens aren’t good.
Allardyce refused to give a definitive statement on the Rooney-as-captain debate, leading pretty much everyone to jump to the same conclusion: the Manchester United man’s skipper days might be numbered. “It’s far too early to make any predictions in that area,” Allardyce said when quizzed on Rooney’s captaincy.
Sammy Lee is back in business
Lee was present at Allardyce’s inaugural press conference, and the big man revealed that his former Bolton Wanderers assistant will be part of the coaching team. He has previous in the England setup as part of Sven-Göran Eriksson’s staff (comparative glory days by Euro 2016 standards). The Big Sam/Little Sam dynamic will be back in action… let’s just hope he gives old number two Phil Brown a wide berth.
Don’t expect those dance moves to return
After saving Sunderland from Championship oblivion in May, Allardyce was filmed throwing some insane dance moves at a wedding in Marbella a few weeks later. Will we see those on the touchline at Wembley?
“Obviously being successful not just qualifying for the World Cup but going as far as we can,” Allardyce said when asked what it’d take to see him re-enact Saturday Night Fever again. “I’m not sure you’ll catch me dancing in the near future.”
A Jermain Defoe comeback?
Allardyce’s Sunderland sharp-shooter Jermain Defoe has been in the international wilderness for a while, but the new England boss cited him heavily in his opening press conference. Defoe, Allardyce says, is proof that the he’s more than just a long ball specialist.
“Style of play has always been a tag for me that I can’t shake. I played with Jermain Defoe down the middle on his own, at 5’10”, last year. The style of player associated with me cannot really be associated with me when we spent all year playing with Jermain Defoe up front,” he said.
“Working on people’s strengths is the main factor – we worked on Defoe as a player who can’t play up front on his own. ‘Jermain Defoe can not play up from on his own, Sam!’ What did Jermain Defoe do? He played up front on his own and scored 15 goals in the Premier League.”
Big Sam Allardyce was born ready (for the England job)
Snubbed a decade ago in favour of Steve McClaren, Allardyce said he was ready for England then and he still is now.
“I was good enough then. So I don’t know, perhaps it was political, I don’t know?” Allardyce said. “There’s obviously a difference and, without criticising the old regime too much, a much more streamlined FA now. With the development of this site [St George’s Park], it’s much more forward thinking than it was in 2006.”
Despite decades of disappointment, Big Sam doesn’t see the England job as a poisoned chalice. “Not for me. I’m hardened over many, many years,” he noted. “You toughen yourself because you take the good with the bad otherwise you wouldn’t do it. I’m here because I think I’m tough enough to take it, so bring it on lads.”