…..and spit on you.
Evening. Late in the day I know. Blame the students. Everyone else is.
So, it’s Blackburn on Saturday and the return of Sam Allardyce and El Hadji Diouf to the scene of some of their greatest triumphs.
It is fair to say that opinions on Big Sam are somewhat split. Everyone can agree that he led the club to pinnacles that no one could have forseen when he took the club over in October 1999. However, some say that his legacy was tainted by first, openly seeking the England job when the team was in dire need of refreshing and then leaving as he ‘needed a rest’, before appearing in front of the press as Newcastle United’s manager a short sixteen days later.
This then is the problem. Here we have a man who, by his own admission, is ambitious and has been all the way through his career. And you can date this back to his football career when, as soon as Bolton were relegated in 1980, he jumped ship to Sunderland. We loved it when he said if his name was Allardici, people would be falling over themselves to praise him for the job he had done at Bolton. His percentage record as manager is only bettered by Armfield, Rioch and Todd in the modern era, and they managed what they did, for the most part, in the lower divisions.
He brought players to the club with the repuation of Jay Jay Okocha, Youri Djorkaeff and Fernando Hierro. Indeed, Hierro had decided to retire to the luxury of Qatar before Allardyce managed to persuade him to swap the heat and dry for the cold and damp of a north west England.
He managed to harness the unpredicitability of Nicolas Anelka, turned him into a team player and made him a marketable commodity again. Anelka’s success at Chelsea is partly down to the way that he was played at Bolton by Allardyce. And he also managed to make one of football’s most reviled players, El Hadji Diouf, into a folk hero. El Hadji Diouf will spit on you, apparently.
So, there is no doubt that Big Sam did enough for us to respect what he did for us and to take some polite applause on Sunday. But a rapturous reception?
When he appeared at St James’ Park on May 15 2010 there were many who were outraged. Newcastle have been a bigger club than Bolton but, at that time, had finished below us. A backwards step? Well, history has seen and judged that, although most agree that he wasn’t given enough time by the trigger happy Mike Ashley. However, the speed with which his ‘rest’ came and went left a sour taste in the mouth and it was apparent that he had been seduced by a larger budget.
When he was fired by Newcastle, we had our own problems and while his dismissal may have been met with a few ‘told you so’, it came and went with little mention Bolton way. When he appeared at Blackburn eleven months later, it seemed that had returned to the kind of football club that he could run. Small, hard core of fans, middle ranking. That he has done this with maybe even less money than before shows that maybe he reached too far.
Which leads us to El Hadji Diouf. At the end of his final home game for Bolton he said that it was, indeed, his final game for Bolton. Little matter that he still had a season left on his contract. Bolton had rescued Diouf from his Liverpool nightmare and had made him a cult hero. A quick trip to Sunderland, just like his current manager in 1980, and he found himself surplus to requirements, ending up back in Lancashire a short six months later. He is still hated by opposition fans, but is less of a cult hero at Ewood than at The Reebok. In a way, however, you couldn’t blame him for wanting to leave Bolton. If you don’t respect the manager, there is no point in being there. Little surprise, then, that he ended up back under Allardyce.
So respectful applause then for both of them on Sunday. Then we will remember that we are playing the Dingles, and give them a good going over.
A preview of the game tomorrow.