They think they’ve seen everything at Leeds United – they’ve honestly seen it everyone – But when was the last time they heard their manager pop in the UK judiciary?
Long story short: Sam Allardyce (because he is) wants longtime lieutenant Sammy Lee on his staff now he has a Leeds job. However, Lee is participating in jury service, so Allardyce can’t have him. Lee is 64, and the criminal justice system is somewhat important, but Allardyce believes a judge who will not parole him has “left him unemployed”, despite the fact that Leeds make up a four-match declaration, and a three-and-a-half gig performance. weeks. Allardyce is not overly diplomatic. “I find that to be really, really, really bad judgment,” he says.
This 12 minutes after Allardyce’s press conference, his first after agreeing to fight the fire, Leeds plotted lighting at their home. Before he got to Lee, the experience had been like Allardyce’s greatest success, like a man who never strayed or changed an iota in his time out of football.
If you’ve forgotten him or if the memory is blurred, you remember him now, that thick-skinned confidence to say what he thinks and not worry about how to read it. Soon, he’ll tell us he’s as good as Pep Guardiola, and he’s not kidding.
He knows what he’s doing, though, because he’s been in the game for decades and has extensive experience working in the media. Inevitably, questions trickle down to Allardyce’s character, the caricature made frustrated – fairly or unfairly, choose your side – as a 68-year-old not what modern football wants to see when you look in the mirror. Fashions have changed, the game has moved on and it is never lost on Allardyce speaking of him in these terms, as one of the men of yesteryear.
He insists, “A lot of people think I’m old and outdated, and that’s far from the truth.” “I may be 68 years old and I look old but there is nobody ahead of me on the football field. Not Pep, not Klopp, not Arteta. It’s all with me. In terms of knowledge and depth of knowledge, I’m up there with them. I’m not saying I’m better than them but definitely as good as they are.”
It’s Sam Allardycio’s reference, the feeling he always had that a sexier exterior would have won him sexier careers. “There, I gave you a headline,” he jokes, not by accident. In one fell swoop, Allardyce-on-a-par-with-Pep gives the rest of the club – players and board members – a day off from appearing in them.
He likes to represent the old guard as he throws a soft punch at Crystal Palace fans who got tired of Roy Hodgson two years ago, only to have him return in a temporary role this season and put their fears of relegation to bed immediately. . And that’s what Allardyce got at Leeds, albeit with sharper levels of urgency and less wiggle room.
He thinks he can make the difference with a team that is 17th with 30 points and has four games to play. He believes he can tighten them up at the back and has noted that while Leeds are not bad with the ball “there is a huge problem with possession”. And you know he’ll start there, although his observation that a 2 percent improvement in each player would equate to a 22 percent improvement across the field isn’t entirely accurate in a mathematical sense.
He will obviously pay close attention to who in the team handles the pressure, who is fragile – the balance of confidence levels. But he doesn’t give the feeling that he thinks he’s got this for sure. “It’s too early to tell,” he says. “All I can do is hope for the right reaction.”
Allardyce was at 7 a.m. Wednesday, back at 100 mph after nearly two years out of management. How do we get back to the cold weather from the beginning of standing? “It’s adrenaline when you get in, right?” , he says, and while his body language doesn’t make it sound like he crawled over broken glass to get here, you can tell he’s quietly delighted to be back “in the big time,” as he puts it; Mix it up, chew the spread, release the breeze. He says he has “never moved so quickly in my life to a position. Yesterday, a zoom call. Here I am.”
His previous job at West Bromwich Albion failed, ending in relegation from the Premier League, but he makes a fair point about that. It was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and due to the relevant rules designed to slow the spread of the virus, clubs were unable to operate as they would normally be able to, as face-to-face contact has been restricted, and no one is free to. Do what they like, everything is different. Even press conferences have been held on Zoom and he jokes about it when he shakes hands with people at the end of yesterday. Taking the West Brom job in the first place, he says, “was a bad decision on my part”.
For him the first day at Leeds was a training session and talks with the players, a chance for them to tell him what they thought could make them better. Over the next 48 hours, he will try to dig tactical ideas into her and it will go according to the predictable script when he says ‘the goalkeeper and the back four are the priority’.
Almost they should be. Leeds conceded 23 Premier League goals last month and allowed 67 goals in 34 league games so far this season. And they got Manchester City away after that. “It’s a nice, easy Saturday,” he says. “But it was done. Brentford did it. Brentford won there (last November). Shocks happen.”
The biggest shock to him was that Leeds had ever contacted him. Whatever Allardyce is seeking from management now – longer chances or shorter bursts like this one – he has assumed that with a month to go the Premier League is finished with management changes until next season.
And in fact, it should have been. Leeds had no intention of taking emergency measures of late.
Allardyce wishes he had more games to go to. He is seeking six points out of the next four. “It’s a tough challenge, but someone had to do it,” he says, which is basically the situation. “I would have liked it to have been taller. We need to get a surprise win from somewhere.”
It’s so clearly in his element that the desire for more time off could be twofold: more games to keep Leeds in, sure, but more likely the realization that he’ll get a taste of management again just as this job ends at home to Tottenham on the 28th. May.
Can he last longer here? Allardyce replies, “Never say never,” and we should never say that he carries himself with a lack of self-confidence. He pointed out that Leeds needed a better team anyway. “If I stay, I don’t want to be in a relegation battle from the start.” So no, he wouldn’t beg for it.
But then, Allardyce really doesn’t need to beg for anything. This is a free hit for him. If Leeds stays up, they get credit – and a nice bonus. If they go down he asks what was he supposed to do? It’s an odd juxtaposition of a coach in a no-beaten-lose situation for a club that has everything on the line and it’s not easy to see if these opposites will square off in this four-legged shootout.
Allardyce says preserving Leeds with so little racing left would be as big an achievement as any of his.
Leeds waited anxiously to see the weight of his influence, and they crossed their fingers that they were little more than a footnote on his resume when they come out the other side.
(Top photo: Leeds United Football Club)