This week Blackburn Rovers (my team, I should add) sacked their manager, Sam Allardyce, despite being in a decent position and having won our last three home games. The new owners, the V H Group (aka Venkys, the Rao family) quickly became villains in the eyes of the tabloid press and were used as evidence for the dangers of foreign ownership.
Yet, Blackburn’s owners have every right to bring their own man in, indeed, by sacking Big Sam straight away they avoided the kind of scenario that happened at West Ham and Manchester City. Messrs Gold and Sullivan took the club over and kept Gianfranco Zola on as manager reluctantly, sacking him at the end of the season after a complete breakdown in the relationship between the owners and manager. Mark Hughes suffered the same fate at Manchester City when Sheik Mansour took over the club. Historical precedent showed that retaining a manager who wasn’t the owners choice has never ended well.
Big Sam’s fate was sealed after losing 7-1 to Manchester United at Old Trafford, a result that came as a massive shock for the Rao family, who saw their new acquisition utterly humiliated. The new owners threw a VIP party at the family’s headquarters in India to show off their prized possession and watched in shock as goal after goal went past Paul Robinson. They witnessed their side have two shots all game and play with two holding midfielders. It looked as though the manager had given up on the game long before the first goal went in (after two minutes).
With a transfer window looming, the Rao family were reluctant to hand their cash to a manager not known for producing scintillating football. Their shock at the Old Trafford was compounded by the fact that £6m striker Nikola Kalinic did not even make the squad, and a goalscoring record of 38 league games and four goals made the player seem like money down the drain. Then there was Herold Goulon, a free agent who was hauled off after 28 minutes, looking woefully out of depth and proving why he was released by Middlesbrough. Pascal Chimbonda (£2.5m), was at fault for roughly five of the seven goals and has not been played since.
Of all of Big Sam’s singings, Steven Nzonzi, injured for most of the season, looks to be the only one who could command more than was paid for him. At the start of the season Blackburn found themselves with four right backs, yet money was supposed to be tight. Why then, should they hand over their hard-earned cash to a manager whose track record when given money was disappointing?
At Newcastle Allardyce spent good money on the likes of Geremi (whose “legs had gone” according to former manager Jose Mourinho), David Rozenhal (sold after one season) and Claudio Cacapa (released on a free). His shortlist of players for this January’s transfer window was a who’s who of ageing strikers with no potential re-sale price; namely Roque Santa Cruz, John Carew and Robbie Keane. Instead Venky’s wanted young players who played the game the right way and could potentially be sold for a profit. Signing 30+ strikers on big wages was not part of their plan.
Allardyce is not renowned for playing expansive, passing football, something that Blackburn’s new owners wanted from their side. And who could blame them? They had paid £40m of their own money for a football team and were well within their rights to want someone who could fulfil their wishes. Blackburn’s biggest goal threat this season has not been Kalinic, our £6m striker; instead it has been Chris Samba, a 6’ 4” centre-back sent forward for every set-piece.
Watching your side play a game aimed at winning free-kicks, throw-ins and corners is not enjoyable for anyone, and certainly not for someone who has paid millions for a club. At Newcastle Allardyce once spent half an hour telling his players how to stop a certain opposition player, in the end a player finally asked: “but what do you want us to do when we’ve got the ball?”.
Big Sam did a brilliant job with my football team, make no mistake about it. He took us from certain relegation to mid-table and one game from Wembley. He made Ewood Park a fortress and built a solid enough team. However, with new owners and big ambitions, it was the right time for Allardyce to go. Keeping him on any longer would have been self-defeating; if he had beaten West Ham and Stoke at home it would have made him unsackable. By moving quickly and pro-actively, we hopefully go into this transfer window on a new and exciting path; there was no need to delay.