IF nothing else, the public humiliation of Sam Allardyce teaches us one thing. Be careful what you wish for.
Sitting before the media after being unveiled as new England manager, a bullish Big Sam told the assembled press pack: “I’m here because I want to be. I’m here because I want the challenge. I’m here because I’m tough enough to take it. So bring it on lads!”
Ok, thought the gathered hacks. You’re on.
Two months and one drab win over Slovakia later, we’ve learned that Big Sam may well be tough, but he’s certainly not the sharpest tool in the shed.
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The Daily Telegraph wondered if a man who had just landed his “dream job” would be willing to advise a Far East business syndicate on how to break the rules imposed by his own employers.
The carrot they dangled wasn’t even of Elmer Fudd proportions – £400,000 for a man on £3m a year – but it proved plenty big enough.
“Is that third party ownership a problem though?” Allardyce was asked during a meeting at a swish London hotel with the syndicate’s represesentatives (who were really undercover reporters).
It was a reference to firms owning the economic rights to a player, a shadowy practice banned in England eight years ago.
“It’s not a problem,” responded Allardyce matter-of-factly. “You can still get around it.”
Sam then spelled out just how it could be done. Instead of owning a player you “own the agent”, getting a slice of the agent’s fee when the player is sold on.
“You’ve done a deal with the agent where you’re getting five per cent of the agent’s fee,” he told these people he didn’t know from Adam. “Which is massive for doing about two hours work, like.”
There was also discussion of fees. £100,000 a time for the England manager’s services.
“Your guys set the agenda out of what it would look like,” Allardyce instructed.
“Me flying out on – on a day... landing in Hong Kong or Singapore, staying in this hotel, meeting these people, doing that keynote speech, travelling back either two days later or one day later.”
After the tape was made public, one wag on Twitter quickly insisted Allardyce should face the full consequences of his actions.
“Sam Allardyce is a disgrace and needs to be punished, humiliated and made an example of,” said comic Steve Bugeja. “Therefore he should continue as England manager.”
But in truth the FA had no choice but to remove him from the job, even if the official wording is “by mutual consent”.
You cannot claim to be moral guardians of the game while employing a manager prepared to tell any Tom, Dick or Harry how to break the rules.
Given the uproar on these shores over the way Fifa has been run down the years, there was simply no wriggle room.
Allardyce’s comments about “Woy” and Gary Neville were by the by. Unprofessional maybe, but it was his naked greed that put him out of a job.
Yet even after being shown up as a man willing to put money before morals, tough guy Sam was crying foul.
“Entrapment has won on this occasion and I have to accept that,” he bleated to the press pack gathered outside his home.
It was silly, said Allardyce. An error of judgement. The inference seemed to be that he’d been stitched up by the papers.
But Sam and the paper in question were actually – and unwittingly in Allardyce’s case – doing football and all those who follow the game a favour.
They have peeled back the shiny veneer of English football and shown us what lurks beneath.
Eight past and present Premier League managers are now said to be in the frame over taking transfer bungs.
If nothing else, the legacy of Sam’s stupidity must be to leave us with a cleaner game. And that 100 per cent winning record, obviously.
Labour: More divisions than the Chinese armed forces
THEY may call the position of England manager the impossible job but I reckon leader of the Labour Party is giving it a pretty good run for its money.
The re-election of Jeremy Corbyn was a surprise to no one. But it’s done sweet FA to solve the internal problems that make Labour unelectable.
Calling them a rabble would be an unfair slight on rabbles. They’ve got more divisions than the Chinese armed forces.
The split between Blairites and Corbynistas is bad enough, but it’s all made so much more chaotic by the fact that not even the party leadership can decide what they want to do.
Despite Labour officially backing the renewal of Trident, Jeremy Corbyn says he will continue to campaign against it.
And while many connected with Labour – not least Morley’s answer to Fred Astaire himself, Ed Balls – admit their lax immigration policy while in power was to blame for their election wipeout, Corbyn’s position boils down to a blithe “the more, the merrier”.
Typically, this was spelt out just hours after Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves warned of “riots” on the streets if MPs don’t listen to voters’ concerns on immigration.
Interviewed by the BBC, Corbyn said it had been “a very busy year” since he was first elected last summer. But he added: “It’s fun and I enjoy it.”
I’m glad someone is.
Come to think of it, Theresa May must be pretty chuffed too.
TV sequels show dearth of fresh ideas
I’M getting sick of TV companies milking every successful show until it’s a dried out husk that makes you wonder what you ever saw in it in the first place.
The first series of Broadchurch was proper edge of your seat stuff. The second was an implausible, muddled facsimile, made worse by the fact there was no real need for it in the first place.
Except of course the need to keep the goose that laid the golden egg alive by any means possible.
Now we have the return of BBC2’s The Fall, starring Jamie Dornan as serial killer Paul Spector and Gillian Anderson as the detective desperate to catch him. Which she did, way back in series one.
But what was a gripping cat and mouse game all too predictably descended into far-fetched fodder in order to spin it out for another series – or two, as it turns out.
John Cleese ended Fawlty Towers after just 12 episodes because he didn’t want to churn out an inferior version.
How times change.