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Henry Winter: Big Sam's mission


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A personal ambition has always been to outlast Sam Allardyce at a football dinner, swapping rounds and repartee until the waiters were not just asking whether we had homes to go to but were laying breakfast. For a while, naively, I clung to the dream, but was forced to bow out, hoarse of voice and bleary of eye. When it comes to late-night football debates, Allardyce can talk anyone under the table, and it is this passion for his profession that makes him ideal for Newcastle United.

 

No other city in England is as obviously obsessed with football as Newcastle. Allardyce's big pal, Sir Alex Ferguson, enthuses about the 'Chronicle' vendors who shout "world-shattering news, read all about it", only to discover it's an injury update on a Toon reserve. Ferguson always chuckles over this being front-page news while stories about global plague, famine, and pestilence are tucked inside. Football dominates life on Tyneside just as St James' presides over the local skyline.

 

If the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse rode into Newcastle on match-day, they would politely be pointed the way to the Blaydon Races as everyone else heads to St James'. Nothing can come between a Geordie and the Gallowgate. Home-grown No.9s, like Alan Shearer and Jackie Milburn, are deified here.

 

So Big Sam will fit in well in the land of the Bigg Market. The hunger for heroes in black-and-white will find an echo with Allardyce. He has always loved taking on the establishment, trying to outwit Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Rafa Benitez and particularly Arsene Wenger. The Newcastle faithful are crying out for success, and Freddy Shepherd's latest manager can satisfy that craving.

 

The real 'impossible job' in football is being recruiting officer for the Freddy Shepherd Fan Club but Newcastle's chairman deserves praise for appointing Allardyce and for getting the timing right. Some past managers were parachuted into the St James' dug-out during the season with transfer funds spent and pre-season team-building long gone. Allardyce has time, and money, to make an impact.

 

But he will need to work fairly quickly. A brooding figure called Roy Keane looms on the horizon, like a stubble-chinned gunslinger itching for a shoot-out. In the impassioned world of North-East football politics, where shop-floor lives can be made misery by another team's supremacy, Shepherd needed a managerial warrior to combat the threat of Keane. Allardyce will relish picking up any gauntlet thrown down by Keane.

 

Initially, some dissent was detected in the ranks of the Toon Army over Allardyce's suitability. Too long ball, they claimed. Remember Bolton Wanderers - all those direct missiles launched towards Kevin Davies. What about their reputation for being overly physical reputation? And didn't he once work as director of youth under Peter Reid at Sunderland?

 

The Bolton myth can be swiftly dispelled. Under Allardyce, they were brilliantly organised, every player knowing his assignment and even mavericks like Nicolas Anelka and El-Hadji Diouf sweating overtime for the team. Newcastle have just acquired a coach hailed by Gary Speed, a man not given to hyperbole, as "the best I have ever worked with".

 

While playing for Tampa Bay Rowdies, Allardyce learned all about conditioning, diet and motivation from the local American football team. If Newcastle's new manager throws the book at an ill-disciplined star, the chances are the tome will be a sports science manual. He will give Newcastle players direction, tactically and temperamentally, and rarely has a team so needed strong leadership.

 

Allardyce will never promise Sexy Football as Ruud Gullit did here. It will be Safe-Sexy Football, sensible and occasionally thrilling. Newcastle fans should not expect a rollercoaster ride with the constant threat of derailing as under previous regimes. Allardyce offers steady development towards a cup.

 

Wor Sam shares many qualities with the Toon Army: an excitement at his match-day mission, and a desire to prove himself. This is Allardyce's big chance - and Newcastle's. He will give Tynesiders plenty to talk about late into the night.

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If the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse rode into Newcastle on match-day, they would politely be pointed the way to the Blaydon Races as everyone else heads to St James'. Nothing can come between a Geordie and the Gallowgate. Home-grown No.9s, like Alan Shearer and Jackie Milburn, are deified here.

 

 

:D

 

All Geordies would die for NUFC to win a throw in, Sam is the bestest managers ever etc. etc.

 

I usually like Winter but that article was a pile of arse licking shit.

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Guest alex

Was it Leazes or HTL who felt Winter wasn't fit to report on football because he'd had a private education?

Leazes iirc. Not that the bloke has a chip on his shoulder about that sort of thing or anything.

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