Sam Allardyce’s assertion that ‘entrapment’ was a key factor in England departure was true to an extent, but his inability to kick an old habit was key to his downfall.
After the 1-0 victory in Slovakia earlier this month, now remembered as Allardyce’s only match in charge of the national team, the former manager revealed that he attributed the win to a lucky coin, given to him by the father of a Slovakian boy in a wheelchair. Allardyce promised to keep it with him, but presumably its luck didn’t extend beyond the pitch.
In many ways, this is a strange case, insofar as that it is one that seems to be based on morality rather than any genuine wrongdoing. Indeed, FA chairman Greg Clarke isn’t even sure if Allardyce broke any rules in what he said to the undercover reporters, or any dealings that were agreed upon.
— Bryan Swanson (@skysports_bryan) September 28, 2016
However, the association has to be seen as whiter than white nowadays. It would be incredibly hypocritical to start slinging mud at FIFA when they can’t even get their own house in order.
What would be a fair assumption, however, is that if this was a club, rather than a national team, then Allardyce would still probably be in a job this morning. In a normal environment, his actions were probably not enough to lose his job – but he should have understood that the England job is not a normal environment.
Certain standards are expected of the national team manager and Allardyce simply hasn’t lived up to them. Granted, the FA now have some very tough questions to answer themselves, but this was a huge embarrassment for them that they just couldn’t afford to ignore.
Allardyce has said today that he is deeply embarrassed and saddened by his actions, but the more likely scenario is that he is only sorry he got caught. If this was an unwitting manager caught up in something that he had no knowledge of, or was clearly in over his had about, it would be one thing – but this was clearly just Big Sam being Big Sam, with all the hubris of a man that either didn’t realise how good he now had it, or just didn’t care.
The FA had to know that this was a possibility. Allardyce has had enough scandals and allegations thrown at him down the years, from the BBC Panorama investigation ten years ago to controversy surrounding his ties to agent Mark Curtis, the increased exposure he would be facing as England manager meant that more skeletons come could bundling out of the closet.
However, at the very least they would have expected him to maintain some professional dignity while he was representing the country, to leave that arrogant (and always with a hint of suspicion if not outwardly dodgy) Big Sam character at the door, to have some maturity. They didn’t know that Allardyce was going to talk so freely to undercover reporters, but likewise it shouldn’t come as a huge shock.
Openly mocking his predecessor Roy Hodgson and labelling HMRC as ‘the most corrupt business in the country’, while not particularly damaging, is a perfect illustration of the hubris of the man. Looking to top up his £3m a year England salary to the tune of £400,000, before he had even taken charge of his first match, is unbecoming and greedy.
Advising anyone on how to circumvent FA rules on third-party ownership, even putting himself in that situation, was either breathtakingly stupid on his part or jaw-droppingly arrogant. History suggests that it is the latter, and that in itself shows that he was never going to change. If even getting his dream job cannot convince him to stop this then what has he to lose now?
Allardyce waited almost three decades to get his hands on his England job – but ultimately, Big Sam just couldn’t stop being Big Sam. He leaves the role in a disgrace entirely of his own making, and English football has been thrown into turmoil for the second time in less than a year.
It wasn’t for the love of money that is he is now unemployed, though that would have been a nice bonus. No, it was Allardyce’s love of being the influential, anti-establishment, master of his own domain and general kingmaker that brought his reputation to its knees.
Simply put, his arrogant sense of self-importance took precedence over his own career.