For all lovers of the beautiful game, perhaps the most depressing outcome of the recent season was “Big” Sam Allardyce’s Blackburn Rovers kicking their way out of the relegation they so richly deserved.
Once again, Jabba has fashioned a truly hideous team, which is now perfectly set-up for his trademark brand of negative, route one, anti-football. Although Arsenal thumped Blackburn 4-0 at The Emirates this season, there was the usual price to be paid.
His Northern cloggers welcomed Andrei Arshavin to British football with a gift of four stitches; the customary “reducer” was delivered to Theo Walcott "early doors"; while the despicable El Hadji Diouf attempted to break Manuel Almunia’s leg. While I know that football is a physical (man’s) game and have absolutely no problem with teams being competitive, this policy is verging on pre-meditated assault and if the FA had any backbone they would throw the book at them. For good measure, they could also include the most obvious dive you will ever see from Morton Gamst Pedersen. Even the drones on Match of the Day could not stop laughing.
Allardyce’s approach to the game is not only a disgrace, but it is cheating the fans. Who really wants to pay good money to watch an endless display of fouling, grabbing, blocking, shirt pulling, time-wasting and cheating? Even the usually delusional Newcastle fans could not bear to watch any more of this rubbish. The Blackburn supporters have been rewarded for their fortitude by the club slashing the cost of their season ticket by £100 for next season to £199, an incredibly low £10 a match. Good value ? Not really, by my reckoning, that’s still about £10 too much.
If I were a Blackburn fan (and, thank god, I’m not), I might as well pay my hard-earned cash to watch the local rugby team, as Allardyce’s tactics resemble nothing more than a miserable parody of the oval ball game. A long kick into touch to gain territory, where they can contest the line-out, sorry, throw-in. Their designated fly-half is, in fact, the goalkeeper, whose main role is to hoof any free-kick into the opposition’s penalty area, where they can ruck, a.k.a. “win the second ball”, to their hearts’ content. Sam’s tactical master-stroke towards the end of the season was to convert Christophe (inevitably “Big Chris”) Samba, his Congolese 6 ft 4 in stopper, into a lock, sorry, striker.
Allardyce patented his “let’s get physical” method at Bolton, where his teams were obviously sent out to rough up the opposition. I still remember with anger a match at The Reebok Stadium where his pack of Orcs put three Arsenal players out of the game in the first half-hour. Cue mass media reaction along the lines of the Johnny Foreigner (that would be Arsenal’s French players) not “liking it up them”, as opposed to trying to stamp out (pun intended) this GBH football. During Sam's tenure at Bolton, his captain, Kevin Davies, officially committed more fouls than any other player in the Premier League for three seasons in a row - and he's theoretically a forward.
When you hire Fat Sam, you will also need to blow-out your backroom staff (physios, sports scientists, statisticians, Prozone analysts, dieticians, etc) to Fat Sam proportions, though why you need a large support team to, basically, tell the lads to get stuck in is far from obvious. Maybe one of them could spend some time thinking up what to do when his team has the ball.
In any case, the walrus-faced, gum-chewing meathead is getting more sensitive in his old age, as seen when he was so “humiliated” by the “dismissive and disrespectful” gestures from Rafa Benitez after another top side had put four past his boys. Sensitive Sam was clearly put up to this by his old mucker and mind games expert “Slur” Alex Ferguson. The Guardian’s excellent Fiver likened their performance to the popular 1980s ventriloquist act, Keith Harris and Orville, whose light entertainment consisted of Orville, a useless fat lump of gristle, getting upset about something trivial, when he would start to cry; Harris, the brains behind the act, would then give him a cuddle, sing Orville a song – and the audience would start to cry.
Maybe Sam is still smarting from a 2006 Panorama documentary, in which conversations with player agents suggested that he and his (football agent) son, Craig, had accepted back-handers as part of their transfer dealings while at Bolton Wanderers. Sam furiously denied all the allegations, threatening legal action against the BBC. He would be better advised to direct his complaints against his local postal service, as three years after the programme was broadcast, the BBC has still not received his libel writ.
This week Kevin Bond, the former Portsmouth Assistant Manager, was scheduled to bring his own libel case against the BBC for “Football’s Dirty Secrets”, but mysteriously dropped the case when it emerged that the BBC legal team was preparing to show the jury 50 hours of unseen footage, including three top-class managers being named and shamed for taking secret payments.
We may never know the identities of the managers who were “bung to rights”, but the documentary also incurred the wrath of Harry Redknapp, owner of a large house in Sandbanks, the most expensive property area in Britain. In his autobiography “Readies” advocated that those in football “should make the bucks while you can … if there is a chance to earn a few quid, take it, because it doesn’t last forever”. It would be kinda funny if Harry were guilty, if only to see his “pundit” son Jamie’s reaction: “That’s a lovely little arrest – he’s literally banged to rights !”
Another result of the Panorama accusations was a promise from Fat Sam to never speak to the BBC again in his lifetime. I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies, as we saw more than enough of Allardyce offering us his expert punditry on any other media outlet in a shameless attempt to pimp himself out for any job vacancy. However, you can’t help think of a big baby spitting the dummy while throwing toys out of the pram.
"I'm doing my job and tonight is very difficult in that time in itself."
However, since joining Blackburn, Sam appears to have made his peace with the BBC and we are once again privy to his unique ability to mangle the English language, as he delves into his dictionary of long words, not realising that it would help if he also understood the meaning. Maybe he is big enough (oh yes) to forgive and forget or perhaps he simply cannot resist the overwhelming desire to get his handsome face back on prime time.
Incredibly, during the hiatus after Sven’s departure, it was rumoured that Allardyce was in the frame (an XXXL frame) to be the next England Manager, only to lose out to the “wally with the brolly”, Schteve McClaren. What a choice for the long-suffering England fans. Talk about being caught between a cock and a lard face.