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Big changes as England manager Sam Allardyce blazes new trail

By Billy Weir

Published 08/09/2016

Big one: Just how big is Big Sam Allardyce? Very as that is a pint he’s drinking
Big one: Just how big is Big Sam Allardyce? Very as that is a pint he’s drinking

Tom Hanks is unlikely to be cast to play Sam Allardyce in any future biopic of England's new manager but, then again, the plot of this story is about as fanciful as a wee lad suddenly waking up and finding he has undergone all manner of changes and most of them big.

"It's another new dawn, another competition after another low at a tournament," said Mark Pougatch on Friday and a welcome ITV repeat as we all got a chance to relive one of the funniest things on TV all year - England's defeat by Iceland.

But there have been changes since then and one big one, the appointment of Big Sam as boss, a man whose career highlights reporter Gabriel Clarke told us included a League of Ireland title with Limerick and North West Pin-up of the Year when he played for Bolton. Big achievements.

Just the man, then, to end many years of hurt and deliver the Three Lions with a roar to Russia as World Cup qualifying got underway in Slovakia, where ITV had decided to stick with what they had - with no little, never mind big, changes to report as Pougatch was re-joined by Ian Wright and Lee Dixon.

"So, breathe deeply, you were rendered speechless, literally, after the Iceland game, have you got your mojo back?" enquired Pougatch of Wright as we all inwardly hoped this was one change they hadn't mastered.

"Of course my mojo is back, Sam's give me my mojo back, look at the smile on Big Sam's face. He's so happy to have the job, he's exactly what we need and he's exactly what the boys need, they need that big character, we've got a manager called Big Sam for crying out loud," said the no longer speechless one.

By now we had guessed it was a big night but, just in case you hadn't noticed yet, Dixon was keen to hammer it home.

"He's got a massive big job on his hands," he told us, while "the biggest thing that stood out at the Euros was that other teams had an identity" and Sam is a "big presence, he's the only manager of the last six that the players would be scared of." Like I said, big changes afoot.

Pougatch upped the ante a little with big words, in a vain attempt to leave Wright speechless, suggesting that Big Sam is "characterised as route one, fix bayonets, Neanderthal football" with the former England striker taking that on board before replying "he's not talking about humping it up there" as we all sniggered like Tom Hanks and swiftly moved on.

Clarke returned to bring some decorum to proceedings, catching up with Big Sam before kick-off.

"Well, Sam's spent the last 20 years preparing teams and stalking corridors before games but with that blazer (a big one) on now, what's the feeling?" he asked as we awaited a big, booming, reply.

"A little nervous I admit," whimpered not-so-big Sam, which touched a nerve with Pougatch who cast doubt on whether there would be any "show us your medals" from the players. Indeed, with so many Liverpool and Spurs players in the squad, Brasso expenditure must be huge.

And then the match which, suitably, was a big disappointment; a scoreless first-half leading commentator Clive Tyldesley, the patron saint of blinkered lost causes, offering crumbs of comfort and almost mentioning 1966 but I think he got away with it.

"The last England manager to lose his first game in charge? Alf Ramsey - it's not about how you start but where you finish," he said, although the chances of it being Sir Big Sam in 2020 looked as grim as the match until Martin Skrtel was sent off for his 17th bookable offence.

And then came the big breakthrough - or not as Theo Walcott's 'goal' was chalked off for offside, allowing expert commentator Glenn Hoddle to expertly guide us through what happened.

"If he just stays onside and scores that's a moment of magic, but it's ifs and buts. He was just offside plus he's got to put the ball in the net, which he didn't do," said Glenn, although hardly the most stupid thing he's ever said.

And it wasn't to be the most stupid for the evening either as another Walcott 'goal' was ruled out for offside moments later and led to so much angst in the studio after the final whistle it was almost as if they'd missed Adam Lallana had scoring to win it.

"What are they watching?" yelped Wright. The replay. "Which part of Daniel Sturridge did it hit, maybe I'm missing it?" barked Dixon. His foot. And you are.

"There, it comes off his big toe," helped Pougatch as they finally saw what we could all see.

"Absolutely, I didn't see that," confessed Dixon as Wright went into hysterics that finally rendered him speechless.

Job done and it was left for a disgruntled former manager to complain about immigrants coming over here and taking our jobs.

"We've had more foreign owners than we've ever had, consequently more foreign managers, who bring in foreign players," said Hoddle, who played in France and had an academy in Spain before being sent to Coventry for saying daft things.

"Don't bring me good generals, bring me lucky ones said Napoleon," added Pougatch, moving swiftly on and attempting to bring an end to the little Englander talk with a littler Frenchman but this wasn't a night for wee men, this was a night for Big Sam.

The good, the bad and the ugly

The good: It is fitting that the new season of South Park is upon us just as another long-running series ended in another park south of the border on Sunday when Kilkenny’s reign as All-Ireland champions was ended by Tipperary. As Tipp legend Nicky English said on Sky, ‘Kilkenny are being out-Kilkennyed’ although John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer’s post-match hint on RTE that ‘we’re champions of f****** Ireland’ was language we wouldn’t even expect from Cartman.

The bad: And so the new season of Strictly is upon us with the usual sprinkling of sporting types, including BBC presenter Ore Aduba and gymnast Claudia Fragapane, with Greg Rutherford determined to emerge from the shadow of Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah and no longer be ‘the jumpy lad who won gold on Super Saturday, oh, what is it you call him’. There’s more chance of Ed Balls becoming Prime Minister…

The ugly: You had to feel for Jeff Stelling on Soccer Saturday as his beloved Hartlepool were hit for six by Stevenage with the Sky presenter’s mood getting increasingly grumpy as he handed over to reporter Bianca Westwood. “I have never wanted to talk to Bianca Westwood less than I do now, but I have to,” he said as goal number five rattled in. I couldn’t watch anymore; truly the cruelest Bianca since Rickaaaaaaay was dumped.

Maverick soars highest for Suzuki to strike gold at Silverstone

There are times when watching BT Sport that the words 'car crash TV' come too readily to mind but the one exception is their superb coverage of MotoGP, with the team at Silverstone on Sunday for the British Grand Prix.

This is not for the faint of heart, and I don't mean the racers, as the viewer has to sit through Moto3 and Moto2 races before we get to the main event, hence why BT arrive mob-handed, with two presenters in Suzi Perry and Craig Doyle, two pundits in former racers James Toseland and the wonderfully mad Colin Edwards and two prowling reporters in Neil Hodgson and Gavin Emmett.

You also have two commentators in Keith Huewen and Julian Ryder, so it was perhaps fitting that we'd have two takes at the race with the first cut somewhat short with a little 'bike crash TV' as Pol Espargaro and Loris Baz had a bit of a to-do on lap one.

"There's a red flag. It looked like there was just too much carnage," announced Huewen while we all wondered precisely how much carnage is just enough?

As we cut to one of them being stretchered away, Dr Ryder helped out with a diagnosis.

"There's Espargaro, obviously conscious but I suggest hurting a little bit," he said, although not fit for any more carnage for the time being as we got underway again once the track had been cleared.

More carnage ensued as Stefan Bradl crashed out with Huewen suggesting the German rider had a 'clothing malfunction' and who could blame him with the 'diminished adhesion flag being flown' - and if that isn't a euphemism, I don't know what is.

Of course the main flag being flown was for British hope Cal Crutchlow, who set off in pole position, but Spanish whipper-snapper Maverick Vinales stole his thunder and the show with an imperious ride to grab Suzuki's first GP win in years.

"If it wasn't for the Suzuki, we'd all be absolutely ecstatic," said a slightly biased Huewen, with Crutchlow battling for second and 'getting it lit up at the rear end there' as we reached for the diminished adhesion flag again.

But there was no stopping Maverick, as Suzi said he was the top gun on the day as Suzuki flags fluttered in the wind, although there is no truth in the rumour that Cal had sought the Iceman for his lit up rear end.

Belfast Telegraph

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