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Monday 5 December 2016

England seat too hot for Big Sam

English FA decide Allardyce’s fate following 'sting' by British newspaper - after lasting just 67 days in the job

Sam Allardyce. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Sam Allardyce. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Gareth Southgate (pictured) will replace Sam Allardyce for now.. Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire.

Sam Allardyce took the England manager's job knowing his tactical approach to the game, which had long divided opinion, would come under scrutiny like never before.

Yet little could Allardyce, his supporters or his critics imagine it would be his "inappropriate" actions off the field that would snatch away the dream job he prized for his entire career before he had barely had a chance to prove himself.

Allardyce left his post last night by mutual agreement with his employers at the English Football Association after having been in charge for just one match and 67 days. England Under-21 boss Gareth Southgate will take charge of the senior side for the next four games in an interim capacity.

It followed a Daily Telegraph investigation that caught him on film offering advice about how to bypass rules on player transfers and claimed he had used his role to negotiate a £400,000 pounds deal to represent a Far East firm.

"Allardyce's conduct, as reported, was inappropriate of the England manager," read an FA statement. "He accepts he made a significant error of judgement and has apologised. However, due to the serious nature of his actions, the FA and Allardyce have mutually agreed to terminate his contract with immediate effect."

It was a sensational end to the brief reign of an old-school manager with innovative ideas whose achievements at some of England's lesser clubs persuaded the FA to change its ambitious approach to managerial appointments.

He had just helped Sunderland avoid relegation from the Premier League - the sort of achievement that had become bread and butter to the Dudley-born manager, working on budgets that Premier League big guns would have regarded as pocket money.

Yet he always believed his skills deserved a bigger stage - and the England job was perfect for them, he thought.

After all, he told reporters a few years back, he was more suited to Inter Milan or Real Madrid than the likes of Bolton or Blackburn. "I won't ever be going to a top-four club because I'm not called Allardici, just Allardyce," he once said.

Inevitably, his appointment as national team manager divided English football.

He had been cleared by the FA over allegations in 2006 of receiving bungs from a players' agent and was seen by critics as an arrogant purveyor of a brand of football that belonged in the Stone Age.

He invariably had to fend off criticism that his teams played a long-ball style, and that his players overdid the physical side of the game. But there was more to Allardyce than brawn. He embraced the benefits of sports science long before most, using sophisticated tactical analysis and everything from yoga sessions to food supplements to get the best out of his players.

When the FA came calling, Allardyce's pride could not be more obvious. Viewers of an official video produced shortly after his appointment were greeted by a beaming smile from the football fanatic who declared it "the right time" for him to take the top job.

He described managing England as "the ultimate goal", but with his methods and preferred style of play alienating many in the media and in the stands, he probably knew his honeymoon period in the job might not last long.

Adam Lallana's goal five minutes into stoppage time of Allardyce's first - and, as it proved, last - game in charge of England, against Slovakia on September 4, spared him much criticism, although the match was hardly an auspicious start.

He knew time might not be on his side, but after being taken in by undercover investigative reporters, claiming to be businessmen keen to make use of his expertise and experience in the player transfer market, his tenure was shockingly short.

Allardyce gave a "sincere and wholehearted apology" for his part in the messy divorce.

"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," Allardyce said. The embarrassment is mostly his.

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