SAM ALLARDYCE has been a fool to lay himself exposed to the dirty tricks of the media. While people have lambasted “Big Sam” for being “greedy” and loose-lipped, both accusations which can be aimed at many football folk, let’s not forget the trickery that led him to leave the England job.
Allardyce is a typical old-school football man – as one newspaper rather unkindly said at the time, “he looks and sounds like a lump of mutton”. He’s arguably from a different age, the clichéd world of the car-coated football manager who probably likes a flutter on the horses and a pint of beer in his cul-de-sac world where the lingua franca is decidedly non-PC. In other words, he’s no different than half the people you find in a Premier League stadium.
He’s rarely out of work, because his methods, while unlikely to find their way into a book like Jonathan Wilson’s Inverting the Pyramid, are effective and fit-for-purpose. To Allardyce, football is an industry and it’s how he feeds his family. It’s a fragile world, so the temptation to grab as much as you can is often too much to resist.
Football, though, is seen differently by those that are on the sidelines – people who, despite their devotion to a club and to spending a large percentage of their disposable income on watching that club, cannot possibly know what it is like to be immersed in the game and its trappings. Media coverage tells us what’s on the surface, but rarely do we go beneath the veneer or indeed rely on the game for our living. Allardyce has been involved in football since he was a young lad. He knows no different and he’s spent most of it in the old industrial heartland of football – the Boltons of this rarified world.
For some reason, we think of football people as being somehow elevated to a moral plane of their own – that their jobs are, in some way, vocational. It’s not unlike the rock fan who looks deeply into the lyrics of their favourite band and sees things that go beyond mere rhyming words. Perhaps it is because we see football as escapism that distracts us from relatively humdrum lives?
Allardyce has been set-up by “investigative journalists” – he has been tricked and deceived. And has he actually done anything illegal? He’s apparently tried to milk his position, but is he any different from any businessman, politician or sportsman who has used his or her name to secure financial reward? Do we not live in an age where players are valued for their image rights as much as their football ability?
And as for talking about “getting round” hurdles with regards to sensitive issues like third party ownership (a practice that has been outlawed but undoubtedly still exists), do we not also operate in a society where tax avoidance/evasion/efficiency is being sold to us by financial advisors? There are companies that specialise in loop-holing legislation and regulation, from lawyers assisting property developers to step-out of their social housing obligations to the husband using his wife’s tax allowance. Glass houses and stones and all that.
Earning extra income, if approved by your employer, should not be a problem and although it might paint you as being a little mercenary, it is surely within everyone’s gift?
What’s going to happen now is that the ailing Daily Telegraph is going to sell a lot more newspapers for a while, but they have also set themselves up for a loss of credibility. Because if you perform dirty tricks, you will do it again – not unlike the work colleague that bad-mouths everyone else in the team to you. You know only too well that they are also criticising you to your co-workers.
Has the newspaper also been duped? Given Allardyce has been under scrutiny before, did the Football Association not go through a due diligence process? There were enough nudges and winks going on when the name Allardyce was ever mentioned. Had they since gone cold on the idea of the only English option and decided they want, after all, a black-suited mafia boss manager from continental Europe to prowl the Wembley touchline?
The debris has yet to be sifted through, but over the coming days, the moral code of English football is going to be decimated on a piecemeal basis – and if the law has been broken, rightly so. Today it’s Allardyce, tomorrow it’s Tommy Wright. I won’t weep for Allardyce, because he’s been a mug and, after all, he’s a born survivor, but I can’t help feeling the media and some of the FA should be questioning their own behaviour.