Sam Allardyce took the England manager’s job knowing his tactical approach to the game, which had long divided opinion, would come under scrutiny like never before.
Yet little could Allardyce, his supporters or his critics imagine it would be his “inappropriate” actions off the field that would snatch away the dream job he prized for his entire career before he had barely had a chance to prove himself.
Allardyce left his post on Tuesday by mutual agreement with his employers at the Football Association after having been in charge for just one match and 67 days.
It followed a Daily Telegraph investigation that caught him on film offering advice about how to bypass rules on player transfers and claimed he had used his role to negotiate a 400,000 pounds ($520,520.00) deal to represent a Far East firm.
It was a sensational end to the brief reign of an old-school manager with innovative ideas whose achievements at some of England’s lesser clubs persuaded the FA to change its ambitious approach to managerial appointments.
Instead of tracksuited young coaches like Glenn Hoddle, Kevin Keegan and Steve McClaren, or proven continental bosses such as Sven-Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello, they plumped for a 61-year-old who had won very little but achieved a great deal.
After Roy Hodgson resigned in the wake of England’s poor showings at successive World Cup and European Championship tournaments, the FA turned to the man known fondly throughout the game as ‘Big Sam’.
He had just helped Sunderland avoid relegation from the Premier League — the sort of achievement that had become bread and butter to the Dudley-born manager, working on budgets that Premier League big guns would have regarded as pocket money.
Yet he always believed his skills deserved a bigger stage — and the England job was perfect for them, he thought.
After all, he told reporters a few years back, he was more suited to Inter Milan or Real Madrid than the likes of Bolton Wanderers or Blackburn Rovers, unfashionable clubs that he took to heighI won’t ever be going to a top-four club because I’m not called Allardici, just Allardyce,” he once said.
Inevitably, his appointment as national team manager divided English football.
He had been cleared by the FA over allegations in 2006 of receiving bungs from a players’ agent and was seen by critics as an arrogant purveyor of a brand of football that belonged in the Stone Age.
He invariably had to fend off criticism that his teams played an unattractive, unimaginative long-ball style, and that his players overdid the physical side of the game.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was among those whose frustrations boiled over when facing one of Allardyce’s uncompromising teams, while Jose Mourinho, when at Chelsea, accused his West Ham side of playing 19th-century football.
But there was more to Allardyce than brawn.
He embraced the benefits of sports science long before most other managers of English teams, using sophisticated tactical analysis and everything from yoga sessions to food supplements to get the best out of his players.
When the FA came calling, Allardyce’s pride could not be more obvious.
Viewers of an official video produced shortly after his appointment were greeted by a beaming smile from the football fanatic who declared it “the right time” for him to take the top job.
He described managing England as “the ultimate goal”, but with his methods and preferred style of play alienating many in the media and in the stands, he probably knew his honeymoon period in the job might not last long.
Adam Lallana’s goal five minutes into stoppage time of Allardyce’s first — and, as it proved, last — game in charge of England, against Slovakia on Sept. 4, spared him too much criticism, although the match was hardly an auspicious start.
He knew time might not be on his side, but after being taken in by undercover investigative reporters, claiming to be businessmen keen to make use of his expertise and experience in the player transfer market, his tenure was shockingly short.