Sam Allardyce’s elation at being appointed England manager – the job he had wanted and unashamedly craved throughout his career – was unconfined. The joy lasted 67 days until his departure.
As he sat in the July sunshine waiting to deliver his first message to England’s fans as Roy Hodgson’s successor after failure at Euro 2016, Allardyce said: “I can’t stop smiling because I’ve got this job.”
The smiling stopped for Allardyce and those who appointed him after just one England match, following a newspaper sting alleging he was trying to use his job to negotiate a £400,000 personal deal and which also heard England’s manager offering advice on how to “get around” rules on player transfers.
If this is the darkest day of Allardyce’s career, then it is also a desperate low for the Football Association as the man appointed to take England into the future leaves after just 90 minutes of World Cup qualifying action in Slovakia.
How did it come to this?
Allardyce was attending a golf day at Stoke Park, within easy reach of Heathrow, when the allegations that wrecked his short career as England manager were about to emerge.
The 61-year-old’s mind should have been on finalising England’s squad to face Malta at Wembley on 8 October and the subsequent trip to Slovenia for World Cup qualifiers.
Now, instead of focusing on whether to recall Manchester United teenage striker Marcus Rashford to the full squad, he was confronted with the claims that would destroy his hopes of holding on to his dream job.
The worst fears of Allardyce and the FA were confirmed when the Telegraph published details of their secretly-filmed conversation with an unguarded England manager in early August shortly before 22:00 BST on Monday, continuing the chain of events that would lead to his departure.
Allardyce, who had meetings in Mayfair and Manchester with undercover reporters posing as representatives of a fictitious Far East firm that wanted to buy players, had been caught up in an expose discussing a proposed £400,000 arrangement that would see him fly to Singapore and Hong Kong to address investors in the non-existent company.
He insisted he would have to clear such an arrangement with the FA but was also heard in conversation about how third-party ownership of players can be circumnavigated, in contravention of existing FA and Fifa rules, and criticising his predecessor Roy Hodgson – including mocking his voice – his former England assistant Gary Neville, as well as the FA’s decision to “stupidly” rebuild Wembley at a cost of £870m.
Allardyce also complained that the FA’s president, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, did not attend meetings and he made unflattering remarks about Prince Harry.
He outlined the psychological barrier England’s players face and which had contributed to their failures – although this is a subject he has addressed regularly since his appointment.
The FA asked to see The Telegraph’s evidence on Monday evening, as well as holding a conference call with the embattled Allardyce, who left his home in Bolton at 07:00 BST on Tuesday in his Mercedes to meet his employers at Wembley.
It must have been a long drive back to Bolton for Allardyce – a drive he will never take as England manager again after failing to convince FA chairman Greg Clarke and chief executive Martin Glenn that he should keep his job.
|England’s shortest serving full-time managers (and the longest)|
|Name||Games in charge||Time in charge|
|Sam Allardyce||1 (2016)||67 days|
|Steve McClaren||18 (2006-2007)||One year, six months, 18 days|
|Kevin Keegan||18 (1999-2000)||One year, seven months, 17 days|
|Terry Venables||23 (1994-1996)||Two years, four months, 29 days|
|Glenn Hoddle||28 (1996-1999)||Two years, nine months|
|Don Revie||29 (1974-1977)||Three years, seven days|
|Walter Winterbottom||139 (1946-1962)||18 years|
Did the FA have to act over Allardyce?
Sam Allardyce is an acquired taste to many, both as a “call a spade a spade” personality and a manager whose tactics have often been decried by his detractors as basic and over-physical.
It is a label that irks the man who once claimed if his name was “Allardici” he would be more revered – and his England vision, outlined during his interview at FA board member David Gill’s house in July, is believed to have been perceptive and modern.
So it will have been with a heavy heart that the FA’s hierarchy listened to Allardyce at Wembley on Tuesday afternoon before parting ways with the manager they thought would lift the post-Euro 2016 gloom of the Hodgson era.
If the FA felt there was any justification for keeping Allardyce, it would surely have given him the benefit of the doubt. There will have been no serious appetite for the decision that was eventually taken unless it was unavoidable, no desire for further upheaval after a single game in charge, that 1-0 win in Slovakia.
|Sam Allardyce’s Premier League record|
In the final reckoning, the FA clearly felt that as guardians of the rules and the body that judges others, Allardyce’s words on third-party transfers, his naivety and poor judgement in discussing intimate FA and footballing matters with relative strangers, the notion he might even consider himself as a potential advisor to this albeit fictitious company, weighed too heavily against him, making Tuesday night’s split inevitable.
There will be others who will have a measure of sympathy for Allardyce falling into a trap, who will agree with his remarks about Hodgson’s management, Neville’s contribution, England’s players and the spending on Wembley. They will point to the fact he insisted he would not strike that £400,000 deal without consulting the FA.
And those who feel his punishment is harsh will believe his remarks on third-party ownership were part of a private conversation while his comments on the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry were crass but hardly the stuff on which such jobs as England manager should be lost.
Ultimately, however, the bigger argument goes to the heart of the lack of judgement and loose-tongued approach shown by England’s manager, the footballing figurehead of the FA.
The bottom line is the FA must be credible, show leadership and demonstrate authority – and it was decided Allardyce could not stay under those circumstances.