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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Michael Butler

Sam Allardyce, Leeds and football heritage

Leeds players following their 4-1 gubbing at Bournemouth.
Leeds players following their 4-1 gubbing at Bournemouth. Photograph: Steven Paston/PA


Sam Allardyce was presumably in the middle of “doing a Ray Winstone”, which, for those uninitiated, involves retiring to Spain with his wife, lying in a deckchair and soaking up the sun. Happily retired and with the karaoke bar just a short taxi ride away, he was enjoying the views from Casa St James’, a fancy villa on the Costa Blanca purchased with the £4m pay-off he received from Newcastle in 2008, when the phone rang. Now, a return to the north of England beckons, with Allardyce charged with “doing a Steve Evans”, which, for those uninitiated, involves swooping in on a short-term deal to save Leeds United from relegation, not – and Football Daily knows what you were thinking – turning up to Elland Road in a sombrero and beach shorts, even if that does feel oddly appropriate for Big Sam.

Javi Gracia looks certain to be the man to make way, with the news of his imminent sacking softened slightly by a probable reappointment at Watford in a few months’ time. The Spaniard will have lasted only slightly longer than Brian Clough at Leeds, despite a points-per-game ratio to rival the great Don Revie, albeit with a slightly smaller sample size. But the point is, strictly in terms of results, Gracia was not that bad. If Leeds accumulated the 1.25 points per game that Gracia achieved in his nine games through the entire season, they would currently sit 11th, a win shy of the top half. But this is the business end of the season, and as anyone who has watched a Sol Campbell slide tackle knows, momentum can be a powerful thing. The manner of the 4-1 defeat by Bournemouth was obviously too much for the Leeds board to take, and sacking a manager is pretty much the only drastic step a suit can do to arrest a slide with four games remaining.

Leeds fans will be hoping for that ethereal “new manager bounce”, and if anyone bounces, it’s Big Sam. Who else has the audacity to pair Kevin Nolan with Jay-Jay Okocha at Bolton or West Ham’s Carlton Cole with … Kevin Nolan? Who has the innovation to sit down at a fancy restaurant and order a pint of wine, or the rhetoric to begin a video announcing his appointment as England manager with: “Get that smile. I can’t imagine … I can’t imagine why we can’t get that smile.” Just think what those eternal words could do to Patrick Bamford’s confidence. Allardyce bravely fighting off relegation is football heritage. Sorry, Javi. Sorry, fellow relegation candidates Southampton, Everton, Nottingham Forest, and Leicester City. Sorry … um Manchester City (Leeds’ next opponents). Nobody is getting in the way of this narrative.


Join Scott Murray from 8pm BST for hot Premier League MBM coverage of Arsenal 3-2 Chelsea.


“To be very clear, it is our moral and legal obligation not to undersell the Fifa Women’s World Cup. Therefore, should the offers continue not to be fair, we will be forced not to broadcast the Fifa Women’s World Cup into the ‘big five’ European countries” – Gianni Infantino, overlord of an organisation that recently trousered a cool $7.5bn of revenue from the past men’s World Cup cycle, threatens broadcasters that a TV blackout of this year’s tournament is on the cards in Europe unless they stump up more readies.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino
Today, Gianni feels emboldened. Photograph: Patrícia de Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images


Further to Marcio Aquino on player refunds for sub-par performances (Friday’s Football Daily letters), why not take this further? Every time a team a fails to win, the players’ win bonuses are divided among the paying fans, rather than staying in the owners’ bank account. With modern e-tickets, this must be possible” – Mark Blunden.

Before Chelsea again makes fools of themselves at Arsenal, might it be a good time to remind everyone that the Blues are level on points with … Plucky Little Bournemouth?” – JJ Zucal.

Send your letters to Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Mark Blunden.

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