Sam Allardyce has resigned as manager of Crystal Palace and in the space of 24 hours I went from wildly optimistic to terribly pessimistic.
Going in to the summer break I was, for the first time in ages, optimistic about the future.
We had a manager of proven Premier League ability, a backroom staff of proven Premier League ability and together they had the scouting network to uncover gems such as Luka Milivojevic. Who knew what players we might pick up for a bargain price?
But on Tuesday afternoon I received my first disappointment of the day when I heard that my favourite James Bond, Roger Moore, had died. Then I began to hear rumours that Big Sam had left the training ground after clearing out his belongings.
Surely this was just posturing? But the reports kept coming and coming until the official statement from Sam came later in the evening.
The build up to his resignation
The intimation was that there was a problem over transfer budget. I put this down to the usual stories which seem to surface every transfer window and through nothing more about it.
It is quite usual for a manager to want more money to spend and that a chairman wants to spend less money. They butt heads and thrash out a deal. There’d been speculation that Sam wasn’t happy with how much he was given to spend in January, something I don’t think is true.
In his press conference on Sunday after the game, Sam was about to leave the room when a reporter asked him a question which didn’t go reported but may have given a hint of what was to come.
He was asked “How long do you think you’ll go on managing for?” to which Sam replied “Until I wake up one day and think I don’t want to do this any longer.”
Apparently that was within two days.
The official story
The official line is usually quite different from what really happens. As we’ve seen with the Pulis/Parish situation, the truth came out much later and it turned out that Parish wasn’t to blame as many thought he was, including me.
It is said that Sam and Steve Parish had a meeting on Monday regarding plans for the summer. At some point during the meeting, Sam said he didn’t want to go on managing Crystal Palace and in fact wanted to spend more time with his family.
It is said that there was no argument over transfer funds, wage budgets, who to buy, who to sell or anything else.
My opinion on what happened
In my opinion, based on what I’ve read, heard and been whispered, Sam and Parish had a meeting. At the meeting certain budgets were discussed as were team structure.
Sam didn’t think the transfer budget on offer was big enough because of the amount of strengthening we need, particularly in defence, but it was enough to keep us in the division.
He was told he’d need to offload one, maybe two of our highest earners to finance signing Sakho. In reality that would mean Townsend, Cabaye or Benteke leaving.
I am also led to believe Sam wasn’t happy that Damien Delaney was given a new contract because it was done without him knowing about it though he approved Julian Speroni’s new contract.
In reality Sam didn’t leave because of a row over budgets. He wanted more money to be made available because he thought with his budget in mind we’d be fighting for top 10 but the budget on offer we would probably be lower-mid again next season.
In other words Sam didn’t want to have another stressful run in to a season like he has done this year. He wanted to build the club and take us up the table quicker than he was able to.
So the official line is true. From a certain point of view.
My view of Big Sam before becoming Palace manager
I’ll be the first to admit that I was never a fan of Sam Allardyce. He had been accused of things in the past and had been investigated, which he was proved to be innocent of any of the accusations.
When he got the England job I thought it was a step backwards because he is, what I would call, an old fashioned manager yet he promised to pick players on merit and not on reputation.
The first thing he did was keep Wayne Rooney as captain. Rooney had been getting a lot of stick for his performances so making him captain signalled he’d be automatically selected, hardly revolutionary.
His first England squad was announced and it contained all but two players who were a dismal failure in the European Championships. It could be argued that the season was only a couple of weeks old so there wasn’t any form by which to go on. Fair enough but it was still a disappointment, especially for a couple of our players.
When Sam was caught up in the sting and eventually was sacked I thought it was a little excessive. Sure, Sam had said some wrong things but he had not actually done anything wrong. It was all about things he said he could do, would do or might do.
I think he was made an example of and had been treated unfairly but I didn’t shed a tear for him. I didn’t really care to be honest.
My view on Big Sam after becoming Palace Manager
By the time Alan Pardew was finally sacked we were so much in dire straits we could have changed our name to Mark Knopfler with the players singing a version of Money For Nothing, because that sums up their performances to that point.
When it was announced that Big Sam has been appointed I was relieved that we had a manager who knew all about the fight that was ahead and he had the skills we needed, much like when Pulis arrived.
However, I knew that it didn’t matter who we had in charge if he wasn’t able to appoint his own back room staff we were only going to be changing the captain on the ship of fools. Mistakes would still be made.
Thankfully, Keith Millen and Andy Woodman were let go pretty soon to be replaced by Sammy Lee and Martyn Margetson, who both had worked with Sam before and had been with England. Also let go was John Salako and in came a fitness coach and a sport science analyst.
I have no doubt that Keith Millen is a nice guy but he clearly wasn’t up to the job. We needed an assistant who could advise Pardew or butt heads with him when things were not going right. And things were not going right! We also needed to get rid of the two mate Pardew appointed because they were clearly not up to the job either.
I and most other sane minded fans knew things wouldn’t change overnight and Sam had to do a lot to win over us as football fans. He almost got a win in his first game had it not been for Christian Benteke forgetting how to take a penalty.
But after a couple of months and some poor results along the way things picked up and we managed to keep 5 clean sheets in the second half of the season compared to just one in the first half of the season.
Big Sam got the team up to get wins against Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. Yes there were some horrible results against Sunderland, Burnley and Manchester City but luckily the destination was worth the journey and safety was achieved.
During this time my opinion of Big Sam changed. In his dealings with the media he always came across as honest, straight about what was needed and wasn’t afraid to drop people like Dann and give the captaincy to someone else like Puncheon.
Sam has an eye for a player and while we have known about van Aanholt, Schlupp and Sakho who knew about Luka Milivojevic? He could well be our midfield linchpin for years to come.
It’s a shame Sam didn’t want to take a chief scout or director of football job but I can appreciate it is best to walk away completely rather than still having a foot in the door.
I not only came to like Sam as a person but gained a massive amount of respect for him as a manager. Sure we had some bumpy results but we got some memorable results too.
If you offered me a 3-0 won over Arsenal in exchange for a 5-0 thumping at Manchester City I’d have taken it, if we got to stay up. Beating the champions at Stamford Bridge and beating Liverpool at Anfield (again) are things that will live in the memory far longer than the defeat at home to Sunderland.
I am 47 and it was pretty rough going through this season, I can imagine how a 62 year old felt and it’s no surprise he doesn’t want to do that again.
So, good luck in your retirement, Sam. If you are going to do a u-turn and come back to management, do it after a year off or failing that, if we come calling in December!