I’ve never been a great fan of Boardroom directors and owners at soccer clubs that pretend to know the game and how to run a football club, and probably more so since the advent of the “Super Owners” who bring colossal amounts of money into a club to radically transform the playing staff almost overnight, so it is with a certain level of enjoyment that I’m watching developments at Ewood Park, Blackburn, as the club struggles to get themselves off the bottom of the English Premier League.
If you cast your mind back to December 2010, Blackburn Rovers were nicely placed in 13th position in the League following on from a Top Ten finish the previous season. Sam Allardyce had joined the club in December 2008 after an albeit unsuccessful spell at Newcastle United, but nevertheless, he had been credited for saving Blackburn from relegation in 2009 which over the years has become his specialty. When new Indian owners, Balaji Rao and Vekatesh Rao, took over control of the Lancashire club, they had stated that they expected to be entertained by stylish football, which frankly, is not one of Big Sam’s strongest suits. There were some rumors that ownership were unhappy especially following a recent 7-1 hammering at Old Trafford by Man Utd but on November 26th 2010, ownership had given Allardyce a vote of confidence with a promise of funds available for the January transfer window.
Allardyce’s career has been peppered with stints at less than successful clubs but for the majority of his work, he had managed to prevent his club from sinking any further into the depths of anonymity, whilst at the same time, setting up a solid base to help the club survive in the long term. Blackpool, Bolton, and even Newcastle to a degree had benefited from his somewhat unusual style of management which involves the use of more physical type tactics along with statistical analysis to prepare his training sessions and his success had put him in the frame as a top contender for the England manager’s job following Steve McClaren’s departure, the position eventually going to Fabio Capello.
When the chop finally came for him at Blackburn, it was a surprise to almost everyone. The playing staff were less than happy as they felt that Allardyce had done an outstanding job in turning around their fortunes, but ownership had reasoned that they wanted to take the club to the next level in the Premier League and become a regular Top Five or Six team and to also produce attacking, entertaining football for their fans. They had figured that Sam was not the man to do that so out he went, laughing all the way to the bank with about $7m in compensation. The football world fully expected the Rao brothers to then pursue a top name to run their club but to everyone’s surprise, they elected first team coach Steve Kean to take over permanently.
Well, folks. Here we are 10 months later. Blackburn sitting in the bottom two of the Premier league with only four points from seven games and some rank awful performances behind them, and fans holding protests both in the stadium and outside. Cast your eye over to East London and West Ham United where Sam Allardyce is now manager after taking over the manager’s job following the club’s relegation from the Premier league last season. sitting in 4th place only 4 points off the top, West ham look set to have a serious shot at getting back into the top flight at the first attempt. As far as Steve Kean is concerned, the sword is about to fall as the Rao’s have promised an action plan to rectify the season.
I have never been a great fan of Allardyce or his tactics because I think they are limiting but if I owned a club that was struggling to compete with the big clubs, or in West Ham’s case, a club that had fallen on rough times, then Sam would be my man. He has an ability to get something out of nothing and while that to some people is a demeaning feature, in the world of football, it is worth it’s weight in gold.
Interesting how what goes around comes around.