Allardyce: A forward-thinking maverick
Miracle worker Allardyce is up there with the elite
|CRYSTAL PALACE||LEICESTER CITY|
Much has happened to Sam Allardyce since the fall of 2015 when his imaginatively titled autobiography Big Sam hit the shelves.
The book was published several months after he had parted company with West Ham, and a few weeks before he was appointed Sunderland manager.
His miraculous act of managerial escapology at the Stadium of Light last season then led to him being appointed England boss last July.
It was the culmination of a lifelong dream; a dream that turned sour in a swanky London hotel over several glasses of wine. But one chapter of his book that remains particularly poignant this week for Arsenal fans is the one titled "Allerdici 1 Wenger 0".
Allardyce is a man who oozes self-confidence, and relishes pitting his wits against the so-called elite managers - even when the odds appear to be heavily stacked against him.
To illustrate that point, when Allardyce was manager of Bolton, he regularly fielded a centre-forward pairing of Dean Holdsworth and Michael Ricketts.
By contrast, Arsenal were spearheaded by Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp.
However, despite this rather stark disparity in quality, Allardyce led the Trotters to four impressive wins against the then high-flying Gunners.
"There was one time Wenger wouldn't shake hands with me at Highbury because we got a draw. I saw him ripping his tie off and throwing it to the floor in anger," he wrote in Big Sam.
"He takes it all very personally and has an air of arrogance.
"He's not one for inviting you into the office for a drink after games. He's a fantastic manager, I cannot deny that but, the more I could wind him up, the more I liked it."
No doubt Allardyce enjoyed every second of his Crystal Palace side's display in the 3-0 win over the Gunners in midweek - a result that saw the Eagles climb half a dozen points clear of the bottom three.
A team that looked virtually dead and buried a month ago have now won five of their last six games, including a remarkable victory at champions-elect Chelsea.
I'd argue that very few managers could have instigated such a remarkable turnaround in fortunes.
The turning point for Palace and Allardyce was a humiliating first-half performance against his old club Sunderland in February, when the Eagles found themselves 4-0 down against one of the worst teams in Premier League history.
By 7am the next morning, the shell-shocked players were made to relive the entire ordeal in front of a video screen at the training ground. As the gruesome video played, Allardyce painstakingly pointed out every single error. There were plenty.
The 62-year-old Englishman has since gone on to transform the club's fortunes.
He regularly e-mails his players detailed tactical guides and nutritional advice, as well as easy to absorb, bite-sized chunks of information about opponents.
Sports psychologists and motivational techniques are also used, personalised training regimes for players are implemented, as well as cryotherapy chambers to aid swift recovery.
Forget his "old school" image, Allardyce is a forward-thinking maverick.
The chapter of his autobiography where he refers to himself as "Allerdici" is telling - Allardyce firmly believes that he should be mentioned in the same breath as the game's top managers.
In a pre-match press conference ahead of his Blackburn's Premier League match against Fulham in September 2010, he said: "I'm not suited to Bolton or Blackburn, I would be more suited to Inter Milan or Real Madrid.
"It wouldn't be a problem to me to go and manage those clubs because I would win the Double or the league every time.
"Give me Manchester United or Chelsea and I would do the same, it wouldn't be a problem.
"It's not a problem to take me into the higher reaches of the Champions League or Premier League and would make my job a lot easier in winning it."
Allardyce was widely ridiculed for this outburst; an outburst no doubt borne of sheer frustration at the press and public's fascination with glamorous foreign coaches.
However, when you consider his achievements in the six or seven years since that infamous press conference, it's difficult not to agree with him.
Richard Lenton is the lead presenter at Eleven Sports. Join Richard and his studio guests for Eleven's live coverage of the Premier League, which includes tonight's matches between Tottenham and Bournemouth (7pm), and Crystal Palace v Leicester (10pm), as well as tomorrow's showdown between West Brom and Liverpool (8pm), and Middlesbrough v Arsenal on Tuesday morning (3am). For more details, visit www.elevensports.sg