Big Sam Faces His Toughest Test as He Takes on the Big Job

Under a month has passed since England’s disastrous Euro 2016 defeat to Iceland, yet a new era is already underway.

Ten years after missing out to Steve McClaren, Sam Allardyce is set to take his turn as the England manager, replacing Roy Hodgson, who resigned immediately after that defeat in Nice.

The 61-year-old always looked a likely candidate for the role given his experience of managing in the top flight. The only obstacle that stopped him from being the outright favourite was the possibility of the FA hiring a third foreign manager. The fact that Allardyce is English is likely to be a bonus, as it avoids the age-old debate surrounding hiring foreign managers.

England’s calamitous Euro 2016 campaign left many desiring the best candidate for the job regardless of their nationality but there are undoubtedly still people who feel uneasy at the prospect of a non-English head coach, particularly after the disappointing Fabio Capello era.

Allardyce also has a respectable record. He first began to gain serious attention at Bolton. After leading the Trotters back to the Premier League, he established them as a top half club during his time at the Macron Stadium and also memorably led them into Europe in the 2005/06 season.

He also has a particular knack of bringing solidity to clubs in turmoil, which given England’s struggles in France, is another understandable reason why the FA might have approached him.

Blackburn were languishing in the relegation places when they sacked Paul Ince in December 2008. They turned to Allardyce, who led them to safety that season and a top half finish the following campaign.

He faced a similar challenge when he was appointed West Ham manager six months after his exit from Ewood Park. The Hammers’ six-year stint in the top flight had come to a catastrophic end when they finished bottom of the table in 2010/11. Allardyce was under immediate pressure to take them back to the Premier League but he achieved it at the first attempt as they defeated Blackpool in the play-off final.

He went on to replicate his achievement at Bolton by establishing West Ham back in the top flight before his departure in May of last year, laying the foundations for their successful 2015/16 campaign under Slaven Bilic.

So when Sunderland found themselves struggling at the beginning of last season after parting company with manager Dick Advocaat, it seemed only natural that they should turn to Allardyce. He repaid their faith by saving them from relegation at the expense of local rivals Newcastle.

Of course, there are more than a few who doubt Allardyce’s suitability for the job. Some might reasonably point out that he lacks experience of managing at the top level, with that single season with Bolton his only experience of managing in Europe.

Others may also highlight that his time at Newcastle, one of the more demanding jobs in English football where the expectations are usually high, was short-lived and unsuccessful, although some have argued he was not given enough time at St James’ Park.

However, it is important to consider Allardyce’s predecessors when debating his appointment, particularly the two foreign coaches. Sven-Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello had hugely impressive CVs when they took on the England job, having won numerous major trophies during their time at top European clubs, yet they were still unable to transfer that success onto the international stage.

It is also worth taking on board Wales’ recent success at Euro 2016. Before taking the Wales job, Chris Coleman’s last post was a short-lived spell at Greek club AEL. Before that, he was sacked by Coventry City after finishing just above the relegation zone in the Championship.

Succeeding at a major international tournament is very different from succeeding domestically. The games come thick and fast and it can all be over in an instant. There is very little room for error.

It is essential to get a manager who the players will respond to. Much has been made by Allardyce’s backers of his attention to detail and man-management abilities, skills that are crucial when it comes to major tournaments.

Some have reasonably suggested that England’s defeat to Iceland would not have occurred if Allardyce was at the helm due to those very same traits.

Even for a manager as experienced and daring as him, Allardyce certainly faces the toughest challenge of his career to pick up the pieces of English football following Euro 2016.

Few doubt there are talented individuals in the England set-up, but this will be a crucial time in their international careers after a bitterly disappointing tournament in France.

If Allardyce can lead England into a brighter future, it will represent a huge personal triumph and help silence those who have long questioned his credentials and approach to the game.