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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008, 19:52 GMT
Big Sam's wrong turn

By Paul Fletcher

Sam Allardyce during Newcastle's FA Cup tie at Newcastle
Allardyce's reign at Newcastle came to a sudden and abrupt end

Sam Allardyce walked through the doors at St James' Park last May talking about trophies and qualifying for Europe.

It was the big move for Big Sam after he had established Bolton Wanderers as a Premier League club for the best part of eight successful years.

Less than eight months later and Allardyce's largely miserable tenure on Tyneside came to a sudden end.

It was perhaps an apt metaphor on his reign at Newcastle that the 53-year-old's last game in charge, the FA Cup tie at Stoke, saw Allardyce drenched and sodden on the touchlines as he watched his team toil to a goalless draw against Championship opposition.

A man who two years ago was considered a very realistic candidate to succeed Sven-Goran Eriksson as England coach after what was rumoured to be an excellent presentation to the Football Association, now finds himself out of work.

It was a shock when he walked out on Bolton last April, with the club on the verge of qualifying for the Uefa Cup after a highly successful season. Allardyce arguably had a job for life at the club.

The suggestion from within the Reebok Stadium was that Allardyce felt he had taken a club like Wanderers as far as he could and hankered for the sort of job that could see him add trophies to his CV.

In short, Newcastle has proved to be a very bad turn for Big Sam.

Newcastle must have seemed the ideal option for Allardyce - a club that was not too big to demand a manager with a proven record of winning trophies but one that clearly had the capability to win them.

The Magpies are a club with a huge fanbase but trophyless since the 1969 Fairs Cup.

Allardyce could have made himself a legend on Tyneside by succeeding where so many had failed and clearly intended to do so.

"I've left a football club that is very, very healthy," said Allardyce upon his Bolton departure.

"So when my time to leave Newcastle does come I hope I have done the same here."

Yet his words upon his arrival also carried what has proved to be a prescient warning.

"I'm not saying I can get it right at the flick of a switch," added the 53-year-old.

"If there are some sticky times I hope we can get over them."

Born: Dudley, 19 Oct 1954
Playing career: Bolton, Sunderland, Millwall, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Coventry, Huddersfield, Preston, West Brom
Managing career: Limerick City, Blackpool, Notts County, Bolton, Newcastle

In one sense the clock may have started ticking just weeks into his reign when Mike Ashley took over at the club.

Allardyce was Freddy Shepherd's appointment.

Billionaire Ashley chose to watch matches in the stands with the supporters. As the frustration of the fans increased and the boos intensified he cannot have been immune to the sentiment around him.

The Newcastle fans demand flair as well as success. Allardyce came to the club as a man who built teams that were physical, competitive and hard to beat.

In that sense it was never going to be a match made in heaven.

Allardyce's Newcastle did not possess much that caught the eye and yet as the season wore on there was little mettle or doughtiness to suggest real building work was under way.

The progressive thinking and methods Allardyce introduced at Bolton - the ProZone, t'ai chi, yoga and Pilates - did not seem to be working and his transfers looked less than inspired.

Allardyce brought in some quality players in the likes of Mark Viduka and Alan Smith (Ashley took to wearing Smith's number 17 on the back of the replica shirt he favours at matches).

Owner Mike Ashley watches Newcastle from the stands
Owner Ashley watched his teams from the stands

But his record in the transfer market at Newcastle - the first club at which he was given real licence to spend - was disappointing.

At Bolton he had developed a reputation for resurrecting the careers of talented players who had lost their way, footballers such as Nicolas Anelka, El-Hadji Diouf, Ivan Campo and Jay-Jay Okocha.

But at Newcastle Allardyce, a former central defender, paid 6.5m for Jose Enrique and 2.9m for David Rozehnal, while Claudio Cacapa arrived on a free transfer from Lyon. All are defenders and all have, at best, been disappointing.

Allardyce described Joey Barton's arrival as a "coup" when he paid 5.8m for the midfielder last June. Barton has been troubled by injury, criticised the Newcastle fans and spent the new year in prison.

All of this has clearly been enough to persuade owner Ashley that a club hardly known as a touchstone for stability is best served by yet another change of manager.

Whether he is right to sack Allardyce less than eight months into what is clearly a huge job to transform Newcastle into a trophy-winning team is a matter for debate.

What seems certain is that in trying to take his managerial career to a new level Allardyce made a huge mistake.

But although his stock may have fallen don't expect him to be out of work for very long.

Allardyce reign ends at Newcastle
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Allardyce tipped to bounce back
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Comment: Magpies madness
09 Jan 08 |  Newcastle United
Stoke 0-0 Newcastle
06 Jan 08 |  FA Cup
Allardyce hits out at his players
27 Dec 07 |  Newcastle United
Waddle demands Allardyce backing
04 Dec 07 |  Newcastle United
Newcastle fans vicious - Barton
01 Dec 07 |  Newcastle United
Ashley boosts stake in Newcastle
15 Jun 07 |  Business
Shepherd shocked by Newcastle bid
24 May 07 |  Newcastle United
Newcastle name Allardyce as boss
15 May 07 |  Newcastle United
Allardyce resigns as Bolton boss
29 Apr 07 |  Bolton Wanderers
Allardyce made massive impact
29 Apr 07 |  Bolton Wanderers


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