Sam Allardyce's Parallel Universe

  • December 03, 2012 | By Largehat
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With West Ham United riding high in the Premier League and Bolton struggling in the Championship, Largehat takes a look at the work of Sam Allardyce.

This post reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Burnden Aces as a website.

Picture the scene.

Sam Allardyce, granite featured man mountain, jumping up and down on the touchline - feet actually leaving the turf, I should add - as one of his reinvented former cast offs delivers the coup de grâce to one of the Premier League Big Four, and it's another three points in the bag for his patchwork outfit of rejects and mercenaries.

A vast, warm smile cracks wide, forming a chasm across that stony, weathered face. An event reserved only for such occasions. That satisfied smile that seduces all doubters, that smug smile that ends all debates about styles of play, that satiated smile that tells you that Big Sam's substitutions turned the game around. It's going to be a happy weekend for the big man.

Fifty yards away, Jussi Jääskeläinen, a wheaty wet mop of hair bobbing up and down atop his angular frame, runs towards the delirious fans behind the goal, throws his arms in the air and slides along the turf in triumph, all elbows and gloves. There's nothing more difficult in English football than coming from behind to win a Premier League game against a top club, and the veteran shot stopper from Mikkeli, Finland, knows this better than most. He's been here before.

It was beautiful to watch. Only torn away from this magical scene at Upton Park yesterday afternoon, was I, by the fast approaching kick off at the Reebok Stadium, for Bolton Wanderers vs Ipswich Town, which was in every way a far more numbing experience.

Back to reality with a bump and frozen extremities. There was nothing remotely festive or magical about Saturday's helping of football at BL6, and there has been very little to brag about since Sam Allardyce's departure from Bolton in April 2007. Since then, special days for Wanderers fans, on which our team bloodied the nose of an elite club, can be counted on raw fingers, without troubling toes.

I've long believed that relegation from the Premier League is inevitable for all but four or five clubs. If it doesn't happen in any given season, it could happen the next season, or the season after that. But happen it will. Only the richest clubs in the country can avoid being sucked into the abyss of Championship football indefinitely.

Swansea City, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion, Fulham. Even Newcastle United. They will all be relegated again one day soon. It is the way of things. They're engaged in a perpetual battle to pick up 40 points a season. This is the first order of business for all owners, managers and fans.

Qualifying for the Europa League, you say? An extra raft of loss-making midweek games which carry just enough gravitas to please the fans in the short term, perhaps, but not lucrative enough to justify fielding a full strength side, nor actually attempt to win, for the most part. A distraction from the 40 point priority.

Managers, players, tactics, these are all transitory factors. Yes, they contribute to the percentage chance of survival in any given season, but in the bigger picture, they all come and go, and the above mentioned clubs, plus Bolton Wanderers - and many others - don't have the infrastructure to aspire to be one of England's elite clubs. With every passing year post-1992, the gap between the haves and the have-nots grows ever wider. Three of these clubs have to go down every season.

They're playing Monopoly against an opponent who has hotels on Mayfair and Park Lane, and if they go round the board enough times, eventually they will land on one of those squares. It's a statistical certainty.

Yet there's something about that Dudley-born former manager of ours, something special that reposes confidence in his ability to be an exception to this merry-go-round. Yes, there were close scrapes in the early years of the last decade, but I personally never believed he would take us down, always believed he had an ace up his sleeve, an extra little bit of know-how, the last minute stamina of champions, a cunning plan to ensure our survival. Other strugglers had mortal managers but we had Big Sam. Big Sam won't let us go down. Big Sam will keep us up. Big Sam will save us.

Fast forward to the present day, and Wanderers are in the abyss of the Football League, and unless any readers win the Euromillions or sleep with a Russian oil oligarch, Bolton Wanderers are in one of the troughs of a perpetual cyclic bell curve of league status fortune. Our historical league position is in that 18th-20th slot. Right on the relegation zone money.

Chances are, we'll probably be back in the Premier League again relatively soon, and possibly within the next two or three years, but to stay there for more than a decade again, we will need to become the plaything of a billionaire, or failing that, the life's passion of a born winner on the touchline, and they don't grow on trees.

Which takes me back to that real, and yet strangely parallel universe I visited watching the lunchtime kick-off on Saturday, in which West Ham United fans are rapturously re-living our recent history, expertly masterminded by Big Sam.

It's like being jilted by the love of your life and then invited to their wedding five years down the line, watching West Ham on the telly these days. You regard the event with a bittersweet curiosity. The relationship was over but it's no less painful to see anybody else have what you had with them. There's a part of you that wants their new life to fail - to prove they were better off with you - but deep down, you want them to be happy. Good luck our Sam. You keep sticking it up 'em.

Sky Bet League One Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
11 Ipswich Town 20 27
12 Cheltenham Town 19 27
13 Bolton Wanderers 20 26
14 Accrington Stanley 19 24
15 Charlton Athletic 20 23
View Full Standings >>


Who is Bolton's 2020/21 Player of the Year?
56.86% Ricardo Santos
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10.64% Alex Baptiste
9.94% Eoin Doyle
2.52% Antoni Sarcevic
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0.42% Nathan Delfouneso
0.28% Ryan Delaney