By Andrew Warshaw
September 28 – The good news is that he left with a 100% record. The bad news is that it comprised one solitary game in a reign that lasted just 67 days, the shortest in history.
Whether or not you believe that Sam Allardyce was guilty of no more than poor judgment and terrible indiscretion, and was a victim of entrapment – and there are a fair few who do – English football has been plunged into embarrassment and ignominy yet again.
Just a week after UEFA’s new president Aleksander Ceferin visited London for his first official overseas visit and praised the country he said had given football to the world, so the man appointed in the summer to restore pride in the English national game has succeeded in doing just the opposite – cast into the wilderness after finding himself the victim of a newspaper sting whose revelations were simply too damaging for him to survive.
In a matter of hours, the job Allardyce craved and coveted turned into a nightmare, with headlines across the world reporting the sudden demise of the man who was fondly known as Big Sam. To their credit the English Football Association, in the past guilty of prevarication and foot-dragging but with a new and modern-thinking chairman now at the helm, acted quickly and decisively, making it clear that too much integrity had been undermined by Allardyce’s actions and too much damage inflicted.
But even that couldn’t prevent critics pouring scorn on a country that has long prided itself on good governance – taking on FIFA in the process – but which, having found itself ridiculed for performances on the field at Euro 2016, has now become, as several pundits put it, a laughing stock following the Daily Telegraph’s sting that caught Allardyce on film meeting undercover reporters posing as a consortium of Far East businessmen and advising them how to circumvent regulations outlawing third party ownership – banned in the UK since 2008.
In the footage, he was also seen mocking his managerial predecessor Roy Hodgson, criticising England players as well as negotiating a £400,000 deal with a football agency for him to represent the company to Far East investors and be a keynote speaker at events.
Within hours of the Telegraph publishing its revelations Allardyce, whose first and only game in charge was the 1-0 World Cup qualifying victory in Slovakia earlier this month, was summoned for crisis talks with new FA chairman Greg Clarke and CEO Martin Glenn. But the writing was already on the wall and despite offering a “sincere and wholehearted apology” he left his job by ‘by mutual consent’.
Clarke, who succeeded Greg Dyke during the summer but did not appoint Allardyce, said: “The issue for us was one of our employee’s behaviour and whether he could carry on as England manager having said some of the things he said on television. He admitted that his behaviour was foolish and put his position in jeopardy.”
In a farewell statement of his own, Allardyce said: “Further to recent events, the FA and I have mutually agreed to part company. It was a great honour for me to be appointed back in July and I am deeply disappointed at this outcome. I offered a sincere and wholehearted apology for my actions. Although it was made clear during the recorded conversations that any proposed arrangements would need the FA’s full approval, I recognise I made some comments which have caused embarrassment.”
As England’s under-21 coach Gareth Southgate was put in temporary charge of the national team, Glenn, like Clarke, did his best to maintain the standing of English FA which has striven for years to find the man to restore past glories and thought it had found that man in Allardyce even though his appointment had split opinion.
“It’s been a really painful decision because obviously we’ve only just hired Sam, and Sam we think is a great fit for England manager and we think could have been extremely successful,” Glenn said.
“But the FA is more than just running the England men’s team. We’re the guardians of the game, we set the rules and we have to be seen to apply those rules consistently and evenly, whether you are the England manager or someone low down in the organisation. And so that consistency, that trust that people have in us to be behaving in the appropriate manner is core to what any football association is about and is certainly true of the English Football Association.”
But to make matters worse and add salt to the wounds, within hours of those comments the Telegraph followed up their Allardyce revelations with another blockbuster expose, publishing allegations of under-cover transfer payments to no fewer than eight former or present Premier League managers. Five of the un-named eight have denied the allegations while three are yet to comment, the paper said.
Despite all its efforts at damage limitation, the entire episode represents untold embarrassment verging on humiliation for the FA which has been at the forefront of criticising the corrupt behaviour of others yet has now been exposed to having some nasty skeletons in its own cupboard. The impact globally cannot be over-estimated. No longer can English football’s voice be considered the moral arbiter of right and wrong – if it ever was.
As for Allardyce, he barely had a chance to prove himself, his honeymoon period cut short before it even began, vacating a role that has become not only a poisoned chalice but, for whatever reason, the Impossible Job .
Meantime, Allardyce’s immediate priority will be to get away from all the media scrutiny following his shock exit.
“Unfortunately it was an error in judgment on my behalf. I have paid the consequences,” a clearly emotional Allardyce told reporters outside his home in northern England. “Entrapment has won on this occasion and I have to accept that. I’ve apologised to (the Football Association) and all concerned.”
He said he could say no more about his sacking as he had a confidentiality agreement with the FA and was going abroad. “I’m going to go away and reflect on it. I’d like to wish all the England lads, Gareth, and the staff all the very best,” he said. When asked if this was his last football job at 61, he replied: “Who knows. We’ll wait and see.”
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