Big Sam and Football’s Big Problem

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Sam Allardyce left his England post after just one game in charge

This week, Sam Allardyce confirmed himself as the embodiment of everything that is wrong with modern English football. The Daily Telegraph’s fantastic sting operation revealed “Big Sam” to be greedy, egotistical, naïve, and a million miles from the reality of everyday life in this, or in fact any other country.

 

When Allardyce took up his position at the head of the English game 68 days ago, he did so saying that the role was his dream job, and that leading the national side out at Wembley Stadium was something that he’d dreamt of for many years. Fast forward to the sting, which took place before he’d even managed his first game in charge of England, and Allardyce was slating the national stadium, openly questioning his players bottle to a stranger whom he’d never met, and informing the same stranger that you can easily bypass the Football Association’s rules on third party ownership. The Football Association, you may have noticed, who were Allardyce’s employers at the time.

 

All of this makes you wonder – was managing England really Allardyce’s career long ambition? Or was it the accompanying status that Big Sam was so in love with? After all, it took him less than a month to use his newfound status to try and secure a £400,000 fee for “keynote” speaking in the Far East. Why bother earning your £3 million per year salary scouting England players when, after all, you can go behind your employers back and make a quick buck on the other side of the planet?

 

However, Allardyce is not alone in the footballing world as being money hungry and so far up his own backside to quite realise that he was committing professional suicide when he referred to his predecessor Roy Hodgson as “Woy”, all while consuming what appeared to be a pint (a pint!!!) of wine. Just to watch a game on television you have to fork over an excessive monthly sum to either BT or Sky, with terrestrial channels such as ITV and the BBC relegated to highlights packages and international competition. Attending games in person is even more costly to the average Joe – West Ham charged £25 for some seats to their third round EFL Cup tie against League Two side Accrington Stanley, a princely sum when you consider they were charging a solitary pound for a fourth round Worthington Cup tie against Nottingham Forest as far back as the year 2000. Replica shirts? They’ll set you back £50, and they change every season. None of this matters to the people who run Premier League clubs, however, not now the game has spread across the globe and pre-season tours to Australia, the United States and Asia are now as lucrative as season ticket sales from loyal fans who live locally.

 

Again, none of this is Allardyce’s fault. But unfortunately for the Dudley-born former Bolton and West Ham boss, this whole sorry, money grabbing episode as seen Big Sam become the poster boy for greed within football, and the sport’s complete disdain for rules, regulations and anything else that threatens to connect it to the real world.

 

For anyone who feels even a smidge of sympathy towards Big Sam – just remember the next time you fork out a month’s salary for your team’s season ticket that Allardyce wasn’t content with the £3 million he was earning per annum. He was willing to jeopardise his “dream job” for a quick payday before he’d even set foot in the technical area at Wembley. He even said that his departure from the England job was a “victory for entrapment”. No, Sam. It was a victory for the people in football who maintain a shred of dignity and decency. Not that there are many left.

 

 

 

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Five Talking Points from the NFL Season So Far

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Carson Wentz is yet to turn the ball over in three NFL starts

The NFL season may only be three weeks old, but there have already been enough surprising performances to raise eyebrows across the league. Rookie QB’s have taken flight, previously successful teams have stumbled out of the gate and a host of veteran players have yet to hit their stride. See below for the five biggest talking points as we near the quarter point of the schedule – plus five things that shouldn’t have caught you unawares.

Carson Wentz is Kinda Good

Rookie quarterbacks aren’t supposed to be good. Rookie quarterbacks who played in one quarter of pre-season football aren’t supposed to be good. And Rookie quarterbacks who assumed the starting role eight days before the start of the regular season, well that hasn’t happened much, if at all, in the history of the NFL. Wentz has been simply phenomenal as he’s lead the Eagles to a 3-0 record and a 34-3 rout over the Steelers in the battle for Pennsylvania, refusing to turn the ball over and making a number of impressive throws including a deft 73-yarder to Darren Sproles after his protection broke down around him. Rookie head coach Doug Pederson deserves a great deal of credit for his game-calling nous, and at some stage Wentz will have to deal with adversity – but for now the former North Dakota State QB has unquestionably been the surprise of the young NFL season.

Maybe the Cowboys Don’t Need Romo After All

Last season, Dallas saw their campaign fall apart following what felt like Tony Romo’s millionth broken collarbone injury, but this year the script has taken an upward turn for Jerry Jones’ franchise. Ezekiel Elliot rushed for his first career 100-yard game on Sunday night against the Chicago Bears and has increased his yardage total from each game to the next, while rookie QB Dak Prescott has been efficient and avoided the turnovers that plagued the likes of Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden in 2015. The defense hasn’t been horrible, either, and it’s entirely possible that Dallas will be fighting for a play-off berth by the time Romo returns, if he returns, later on in the year.

Were the Carolina Panthers a one-time Deal?

Probably not. But alarm bells are sure to be ringing in Charlotte after Cam Newton and co. lost their second game of the young season to Minnesota, whose stifling defense picked off Cam three times and sacked the reigning MVP on six occasions. Admittedly the week one defeat to Denver should never have happened (Carolina missed a game-winning field goal try as time expired), but even with Kelvin Benjamin back in the fold it’s not gone to script for Ron Rivera’s men so far in 2016. The one saving grace for the Panthers? The Saints, Buccaneers and Falcons are unlikely to put too much pressure on them for their division crown following slow starts.

Has Anyone Seen Goff?

So this is kind of awkward for Jeff Fisher and the rest of the Los Angeles Rams top brass. After trading up to the first overall pick in May’s first year player draft, the Rams decided to select Jared Goff ahead of Wentz and so far the L.A QB has taken a grand total of – zero snaps. Goff didn’t even dress in week one, and although he’s since been promoted from third to second on the Rams depth chart it’s been a huge disappointment that he’s been unable to displace the mediocre Case Keenum as the top dog in the city of angels. Goff struggled in pre-season play and his relaxed attitude which was on display in Hard Knocks has come in for criticism in some quarters, especially when compared to the focused intensity displayed by the number two pick in the draft, Wentz. It’s likely we’ll see Goff in action sooner rather than later, but when we do the pressure will already be on for him to at least perform adequately following the success of Wentz and fellow rookie Prescott.

How Much More Time Will Gus Get?

For some, the Jacksonville Jaguars were the popular sleeper pick to emerge as a play-off calibre team in 2016. Blake Bortles threw 35 touchdown passes last season and with the signings of Chris Ivory and Malik Jackson it was thought they’d improve both their rushing attack and defensive line. However, the team has struggled as much as ever (they haven’t made the play-offs since 2007), and Bortles has been dire as the Jags have fallen to 0-3 for the third time in head coach Gus Bradley’s four seasons in charge. Bradley labelled his job a rebuilding one upon taking the reins in Jacksonville, but the lack of improvement from years one to four could condemn him and lead to the former Seattle defensive co-ordinator being the first coaching casualty of the season. More worrying for Jags fans has been the regression of Bortles, who has now thrown 45 interceptions in just two and a bit seasons in the league.

And Five Entirely Predictable Stories…

  1. The Browns are still the Browns, even missing a gimme 46-yard field goal to beat the Miami Dolphins Sunday.
  2. Bill Belichick is a genius who could probably win with Donald Trump at QB. Or Hilary.
  3. Odell Beckham Jr. and Josh Norman clashed again during their second career meeting. The winner, by split decision, was however the kicking net that Beckham unsuccessfully shoved in a childish strop.
  4. Blaine Gabbert is still not a good NFL QB, and Chip Kelly is still not a good NFL head coach.
  5. Why did Chicago give Jay Cutler a new contract last season? The mind boggles.