Most managerial lives end in failure. They conclude with the sack or a slide to show that powers are waning or the gradual realisation that they are being overlooked for the sort of jobs they would once have got.
Sam Allardyce did not quite offer a definitive statement of retirement when he left Crystal Palace but he gave that impression. He took his leave in surprising style, but seemingly underpinned by satisfaction. Perhaps Allardyce, like his friend Alex Ferguson, has orchestrated his departure in a manner and a time of his choosing. Demand for his services remains high. Chairmen of floundering clubs have him on speed dial. In one sense, he goes with his reputation intact.
“Palace gave me the chance of rehabilitation,” Allardyce said. Rescuing them from relegation seemed restorative and cathartic. He retains the skills that have made him very employable. And yet, as Allardyce will be aware, he is defined by his briefest job, the post that seemed the pinnacle. His one-game reign as England manager will feature in the first line of his eventual obituary. His downfall, a product of boastful foolishness and panic more than a case of genuine wrongdoing, will continue to define him in others’ eyes.
■ Sam Allardyce strikes again: For Sunderland 2016, read Crystal Palace 2017
Perhaps not his own, though. A man who has raged against much sounded at peace with his decision. Certainly it is one his wife, Lynne, wanted him to take years ago. Before he accepted the Sunderland job, let alone the England and Palace posts, Allardyce felt he was set up for life: not just his own, but his children’s and grandchildren’s as well. He can enjoy the sort of existence that would have been hard to imagine as his playing career was winding down and he was facing financial ruin when a business venture was going under.
Perhaps the subsequent, remarkable renaissance in his fortunes explained the egotistical persona. A 26-year stint in management is testament to the prowess of a man who has often been underestimated. By taking Bolton Wanderers to top-eight finishes in four successive seasons, he established himself as their greatest manager since the 1958 FA Cup winner Bill Ridding.
Never the dinosaur of caricature, he was a progressive force. Those privileged to watch Jay-Jay Okocha and Fernando Hierro know that there is more to Allardyce than the simplistic assumption he just played long-ball football.
Ambition drove him to leave his adopted hometown club. More high-profile jobs, whether Newcastle United, West Ham United or England, raised questions about his style of play. In between them, Allardyce settled into a role as an escapologist, if appointed mid-season, or damage-limitation expert, if granted longer.
His resignation means Tony Pulis is the lone remaining exponent in a genre fashioned by the cost of relegation from the Premier League. They pursued 45-point strategies with mathematical precision. They put an emphasis on set pieces and clean sheets. They got results with a minority share of possession. They have been enduring successful at what they did. Perhaps it is reflection of his significance that Newcastle, Blackburn Rovers and Sunderland were all relegated in their first full season without Allardyce.
It may seem a warning to Palace. Allardyce’s focus on the short term is often necessitated, but he rarely lays foundations for something greater. He would have kept Palace up next season as well but instead a club that tend to employ old-school Brits have the chance to plan further into the future.
A reported interest in Marco Silva is understandable. The paradox is that the Portuguese, while given a tougher hand to play than Allardyce, went down with Hull City. In contrast, Allardyce goes with his proud record of never being relegated from the Premier League still intact.
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