Why Sunderland target Sam Allardyce isn’t fondly remembered at Newcastle

Sam Allardyce
Sam Allardyce

Sam Allardyce isn’t fondly remembered on Tyneside.

Yet a poll suggests he’d be welcomed on Wearside.

History tells us that Allardyce’s teams don’t get relegated. They don’t win things, but they don’t go down.

Allardyce, the bookmakers’ favourite to be the next Sunderland manager, is on the club’s shortlist.

And 75 per cent of respondents to a Sunderland Echo poll want him to succeed Dick Advocaat at the Stadium of Light.

Back in May 2007, Allardyce’s appointment – then-chairman Freddy Shepherd’s last act at Newcastle United before presiding over the sale to Mike Ashley – was broadly welcomed by fans.

But eight months later he was gone. The fact that the team was 11th in the Premier League, a position Sunderland and Newcastle would gladly occupy right now, is often forgotten.

When attempting to make sense of Allardyce’s time at St James’s Park, a particular Press conference at the club’s Benton training ground comes to mind.

Just days after a fifth successive victory at St James’s Park, Allardyce – whose side were eighth in the league – was looking ahead to a game at Reading. Allardyce, it seemed, was going to the Madejski Stadium determined not to lose. He’d have taken a draw before a ball was kicked.

He talked, at length, of “nullifying” Reading. The plan seemed to be to stop them playing, and maybe, just maybe, a moment of brilliance would claim all three points. If you can’t remember what happened that day, you can probably guess the rest.

Newcastle lost 2-1, the winner, maybe ironically given Allardyce’s own tactics, coming from a set-piece.

Allardyce had fielded four central midfielders in Berkshire, and it was this seemingly over-cautious approach that all-too-often riled supporters.

This was a Reading side which had been leaking goals, so why hadn’t United just gone for it?

If they’d lost 3-2 having attempted to play on the front foot, maybe wouldn’t have been so bad in the eyes of fans.

And that media call, and that game, seem to sum up why it all went wrong for Allardyce on Tyneside.

Allardyce’s fractious relationship with North East journalists wasn’t helped by his tardiness.

He was well over two hours late for one Press conference, and another time a number of reporters walked out in protest when they were kept waiting for more than an hour.

Allardyce – who liked an audience – was on time the following week.

That didn’t matter to supporters. What mattered was performances on the pitch, and his team, and especially ageing defender Cacapa, had a nightmare against Portsmouth in early November.

They were 3-0 down by the 11th minute and lost 4-1.

There were good games and bad games, and some of his signings would prove far better than others.

And his decision to hand the captaincy to Geremi, a costly mistake, was odd to say the least. When Allardyce was brought to the club from Bolton Wanderers, the expectation was that he would evolve as a manager with better players at his disposal.

But better players, and a bigger budget, didn’t equal better football.

Allardyce bristled at the widespread view that his teams were long-ball merchants. To him, they were long passes. We’ll never know just where Newcastle would have finished that season had Allardyce not been sacked in January 2008. As it was, they finished 12th under successor Kevin Keegan.

Back then, Ashley was watching games from the away end and enjoying a pint with fans. Presumably, hostility from some influenced his decision.

Ashley, however, changed when he swapped the terraces for the directors’ box.

And the Ashley we’ve known over the past few years would have looked more kindly on a steady 12th-placed finish. Right manager for Ashley, wrong time? Certainly, the club wouldn’t have been relegated the following season had he stayed.

When Allardyce was summoned to St James’s Park after he had held a pre-match Press conference for a game at Manchester United, he was summoned to St James’s Park by then-chairman Chris Mort.

He thought it was to discuss progress in the transfer market. As it was, he was dismissed. A day or so later he went to the club’s training ground to empty his desk.

Allardyce told staff on the way out that he would be beat Newcastle on his next visit to St James’s Park.

He did just that.

Will he get the chance to put another one over Newcastle on October 25?