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Allardyce: foreigners better value for money

 

The Newcastle manager would like to buy British, but imports are cheaper and better

 

Joe Lovejoy

 

Too many foreigners in English football? Yes, and there always will be, says Sam Allardyce, until more is done to make the domestic product competitive again. Of the seven players Allardyce has signed since he became manager of Newcastle United in May, five are not English, and he makes no apology for that. On the contrary, “Big Sam” insists that foreigners provide much better value for money, and there is such a dearth of top-quality English players that they command prohibitive fees.

 

The reason for this sad state of affairs is not hard to identify. It was articulated last week by Sir Trevor Brooking, the Football Association’s director of football development. He admitted the clubs’ academy system was not performing as it should. Amen to that, says Allardyce. The northeast, and Tyneside in particular, has traditionally been a hotbed of young talent, but no more.

 

“Our academy here just let the whole of their final year go without signing even one of them as a professional,” says Allardyce. “It means the young boys we’ve been getting aren’t good enough, and obviously that’s a concern. We have to do better in terms of development. I’m concentrating on the first team at the moment, because that has to be my priority, but in the near future we’ll have to look at the kids’ set-up.”

 

Bolton under Allardyce featured more imports than most (he rates France’s Youri Djorka-eff his best signing), but he cites the difference in size between his old club and his new one; the competition Bolton faced from so many other Premier League teams in the northwest; and the fact that he still managed to bring through Kevin Nolan, Nicky Hunt and Ricardo Vaz Te as youth scheme products. Warming to his theme, he says: “There’s such a shortage of experienced Premier League players available that we are getting Darren Bent, with just over two years at top level behind him, going for £16m. I wouldn’t say Bent is the proven article yet, but he cost Totten-ham £16.5m. Compare that with Arsène Wenger getting [Eduardo] Da Silva, a proven international striker, for €12m [£8m] and probably half Bent’s wages, and you’ll see why good judges buy abroad.

 

“It has become a worldwide search. In my playing days, clubs could look around at home and come up with a top centre-forward, like [Paul] Mariner, [Joe] Royle or [Malcolm] Macdon-ald. What have we got on offer in Britain now? [Peter] Crouch, [Kevin] Davies and [shola] Ameobi. Enough said.”

 

Men of goodwill feared for Allardyce’s well-being when the chairman who hired him, Freddy Shepherd, sold the club to Mike Ashley, a 42-year-old billionaire (Sports Direct), who then considered selling it on for a £20m profit. He decided not to, but the fact that he contemplated the sale was scarcely an indication of long-term commitment to the cause. There was further cause for concern when Chris Mort, the corporate lawyer whom Ashley installed as chairman, spoke of the need to refinance the club’s debts, which, at £80m, had taken the new regime by surprise. “The new people didn’t realise what buying the club was going to cost in the end,” says Allardyce. “The need to service the debt will impact on my spending, which is not what I wanted, and from that point of view you could say the job is not exactly as it appeared in the brochure, but Mike’s willingness to spend £11m this past week on Jose Enrique [from Villareal] and Alan Smith [Manchester United] is an encouraging sign.

 

“Whether the new owner will let me spend as much as Freddy would have is something we’ll find out come the end of August [when the transfer window closes] but there’s a few players I’ve targeted, either for August or when the window reopens in January, and so far, so good.”

 

Apart from Enrique and Smith, Allardyce has recruited Joey Barton (from Manchester City), Mark Viduka (Middles-brough), Geremi (Chelsea), David Rozehnal (Paris Saint-Germain) and Claudio Cacapa (Lyon) and let 10 go. He hopes to make two more signings “within the next few days” and is satisfied with his work in the transfer market to date. “Smith, Barton, Viduka and Geremi are hugely experienced in the Premier League, which is important,” he says. “Then there is Rozehnal, a defender good enough to play for the Czech Republic, and Jose Enrique, who is renowned in Spain [where Allardyce has a home] as one of their best young full-backs. I know everyone over there was surprised when he agreed to come to Newcastle.

 

“Then this last week I picked up an experienced centre-half from France. Claudio Cacapa was the Lyon captain and their defensive rock for five years. Because he is unknown in this country, people are saying, ‘Who’s he?’, but he’s a big player. His experience and what he has achieved in the game, including in the Champions League, means he’s what I call a proper man, and if you’re not a real man, you can’t be a winner. Gerard Houllier vouched for his character, and he worked with him for three years.”

 

Not too many would have vouched for Barton, who was in court, accused of assaulting a former Manchester City teammate, Ousmane Dabo, as we spoke. Allardyce guffaws at the mention of the latest “bad boy” he is attempting to tame – El-Hadji Diouf is another to spring readily to mind. “Beware Joey Barton!” he exclaims, adding: “I relish the challenge of dealing with any idiosyncrasies good players bring with them. The difficulties they cause, on or off the field, are always, for me, manageable situations, and I wouldn’t turn down a good player for those reasons.

 

“Joey Barton is a highly talented player who became frustrated at City because he saw them going nowhere. He tells me he is looking for help to deal with his temperament, which is a clear indication to me that he wants to improve, not just as a player but as a person. It’s my challenge to help him there, but from what I’ve seen of him, he’s halfway there on his own.”

 

When he is restored to fitness (he is on crutches with a broken toe), Barton will share the attacking duties in midfield with Smith, whose transfer tested even Allardyce’s renowned powers of persuasion. “Alan was terribly upset about leaving Manchester United and hung on as long as he could, but in the end he realised he wasn’t going to get enough games there. He wants to play centre-forward, but he’s an allrounder who can operate in a number of positions. Ideally, when everybody is fit, I see him as a central midfield player who will score as many goals from there as he did up front. I told him, ‘It won’t always be centre-forward, you know’, and he said, ‘I just want to play’. He has a lot of attributes and is a terrific lad. The public perception of him is very different to the reality. For example, people are flabbergasted when I tell them he doesn’t touch alcohol and never has.”

 

Newcastle’s problems last season, when they were down from seventh to 13th in the Premier League, were transparently obvious: a porous back four with the error-prone Titus Bramble at its heart conceded too many goals, while an attack deprived by injury of Michael Owen scored too few. Only Obafemi Martins (11) managed double figures in the league, with Kieron Dyer next best on five. It is a return that everybody, especially Viduka and Owen, the first-choice strikers, expects to improve. Allardyce has calculated, almost to the last goal, what Newcastle need to do to finish in the top six and qualify for Europe. Bolton did it in 2004-5 with only 49 goals in total. Using that success as a model, he says: “If Viduka gets eight, Smithy six, Owen 12, Martins 10, Ameobi six and the centre-halves get three or four from set-plays, and we get the number of clean sheets I’m looking for [double figures is the minimum] I know where we’ll finish.” He is not prepared to spell it out, but sixth is the target. It comes with a warning: “We’ve a long way to go, but if we support each other, we’ll get there. There will be hard times when it doesn’t go as well as we all want. When that happens, we have to stick together. If we can do that and get through it, we’ll get better and better, but it’s important the public realise they have a part to play. One of the things I’ve picked up on is that a lot of the players are finding it increasingly difficult to play at home.

 

“The fans are so demanding, and while we all accept they are the most passionate and supportive of all when things are going well, there is a downside, which is how they single out individuals for criticism in a way that becomes destructive. It doesn’t only affect that one player, it gets to the others too. They all think, ‘When’s it going to be my turn?’

 

“It was Scott Parker towards the end of last season and Nicky Butt before him. To his credit, Nicky has overcome it. He’s gone through it, come out the other end and now the fans like him, but not everybody will do that. The supporters need to understand we all want to be successful and are all trying all the time. It doesn’t matter whether you like a player’s personality or not, he will try his best.

 

“Sometimes, because of the pressure, it may not look like it. It can get to the stage where they can’t see beyond the end of their noses. Abuse can make you fearful of accepting a pass, let alone making one, and unable to express yourself. We need more of a happy medium. If we’re crap, of course everybody is entitled to say so. That’s fine, but don’t say we’re ‘diabolical’ or ‘it’s an absolute disgrace’ when we’ve been borderline poor. What we don’t want is a knee-jerk ‘This player should never wear a Newcastle shirt again’, because nailing somebody like that won’t make him better, it will make him want to leave.”

 

It’s not just the players who are under pressure. Allardyce is the seventh manager in the past decade to attempt to awaken this most soporific of giants. Good men, such as Kenny Dalglish and Sir Bobby Robson, have seen their careers perish in the process. The latest to try says: “There’s enormous expectation here that comes not just from the size of the club and its history, but from its expenditure over the past few years. They’ve spent a lot and it hasn’t brought success. Kevin Keegan had a couple of second places [in 1996 and 1997] but look at the team he had. How could players that good not even win a cup? Lack of success over a prolonged period can get to you. Look at [golf’s Colin] Montgomerie. He’s never going to win a major because it’s gone on so long. If he had a six-inch putt to win one, I bet he’d miss. You need to crack it to release the pressure and allow the talent to come to the fore. Even [sir] Alex [Fergu-son] nearly didn’t make it at Manchester United. It took hima long time [more than six years] to win his first title. He won’t admit it, but the pressure got to him and he was psyched out by [Leeds United’s] Howard Wilkin-son the year before he finally got there. He should have won it ear-lier, but once he broke the back of it, nobody could stop him.”

 

Allardyce has been given three years. It may just be enough.

 

The making of Sam Allardyce

 

- Sam Allardyce, 52, was an uncompromising defender who played for a host of clubs, including Bolton, Sunderland, Millwall, Coventry, Tampa Bay, Huddersfi eld, Preston, West Brom and Limerick in a playing career that lasted almost 20 years

 

- His first managerial post was as an assistant to Brian Talbot at West Brom before becoming player-manager at Limerick

 

- A brief spell as caretaker manager at Preston ended when the club appointed John Beck. He was then named Blackpool manager in 1994, but was sacked the following year

 

- Next came Notts County. He joined in January 1997, but was unable to prevent relegation. In 1997-98 they won promotion from the Third Division by 17 points

 

- In September 1999 he returned to Bolton and guided them to the First Division playoffs and FA Cup semifi nals

 

- They were promoted the following season and have remained in the Premier League ever since

 

- He was interviewed for the England post last year before Steve McClaren got the job and quit Bolton last April before joining Newcastle United on May 15

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That's a great read.

 

“If Viduka gets eight, Smithy six, Owen 12, Martins 10, Ameobi six and the centre-halves get three or four from set-plays, and we get the number of clean sheets I’m looking for [double figures is the minimum] I know where we’ll finish.”

 

That bit there instills me with so much hope and confidence in the bloke. Nothing is left to chance. I know you can't quantify for every little detail in football, but this sort of planning is such a breath of fresh air.

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Great stuff from Big Sam as ever and good to hear that 1 or 2 more players are likely to arrive before the end of the transfer window.

 

But one of the most important parts, and i agree totally with him is the problem the fans have become at home which has become pretty destructive. The completely shite, negative and at times just unpleasant atmosphere at St. James directed to the team and individual players made it a place most of them didn't want to play and as Sam says, they would likely want to avoid gettign the ball and if they did would'nt maybe do much with it.

 

Of course the players and certainly the two managers can take their share of the blame, but if the fans got behind them like they used to instead of booing everything, whigning and targetting certain players for abuse it would really help out Allardyce with what he's trying to achieve. Unfortunately to a large number of fans abusing players and letting everyone know how angry they are has become far more important that backing the team for 90 mins.

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That's a great read.

 

“If Viduka gets eight, Smithy six, Owen 12, Martins 10, Ameobi six and the centre-halves get three or four from set-plays, and we get the number of clean sheets I’m looking for [double figures is the minimum] I know where we’ll finish.”

 

That bit there instills me with so much hope and confidence in the bloke. Nothing is left to chance. I know you can't quantify for every little detail in football, but this sort of planning is such a breath of fresh air.

 

Everything is planned under Big Sam!

 

And lets be honest, all things going well, all those players are capable of scoring more than there set targets there, yes even Shola!

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Thanks for that, very interesting article.

 

Allardyce: foreigners better value for money

 

“It has become a worldwide search. In my playing days, clubs could look around at home and come up with a top centre-forward, like [Paul] Mariner, [Joe] Royle or [Malcolm] Macdon-ald. What have we got on offer in Britain now? [Peter] Crouch, [Kevin] Davies and [shola] Ameobi. Enough said.”

 

Not a very encouraging read if you're Ameobi though :lol:

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Thanks for that, very interesting article.

 

Allardyce: foreigners better value for money

 

“It has become a worldwide search. In my playing days, clubs could look around at home and come up with a top centre-forward, like [Paul] Mariner, [Joe] Royle or [Malcolm] Macdon-ald. What have we got on offer in Britain now? [Peter] Crouch, [Kevin] Davies and [shola] Ameobi. Enough said.”

 

Not a very encouraging read if you're Ameobi though :lol:

 

Not at all - what a shame, eh? :nufc:

 

Bet MattM4 will be in agreement :yes

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