Belfast Telegraph

I have been let down by Allardyce: FA chief

Revealed: the story behind departure of England boss

By Ian Herbert

It is safe to assume that Sam Allardyce was not drinking pints of wine when he fulfilled one of his lesser known hotel engagements in September.

Across the table from him on that occasion, at a Soho establishment in central London, was the FA chief executive Martin Glenn - the man whose organisation had put just £3m a year plus bonuses his way, rather than the £400,000 floated by undercover reporters that same month.

Glenn was evidently doing the talking rather than Allardyce - the one who'd held court on third party ownership of footballers, Roy Hodgson, Prince Harry's backside and other topics with the reporters.

"I remember specifically saying to him: Sam, we've both got to work together," Glenn said of their meeting. "I told him: 'I've been at the FA 18 months, you've not done the England job, so here's what I've learnt.

"'Everything you say is going to be under a lot of scrutiny. Your decision-making is like a gold fish bowl and crucially, anything you say to anybody, just feel comfortable that it might be printed the next day…'"

The point was reinforced by the FA's director of communications Amanda Docherty and as 61-year-old Allardyce embarked on preparing for his first match in charge, the notion of him disregarding their requests for dignified professionalism seemed improbable.

That's because what struck Glenn most about Allardyce was how desperately he'd wanted the job in the first place. "He was the most thoughtful in all of the interviews about the psychological 'fear factor' which we think has bedevilled England," Glenn said.

The chief executive said back in July that his recruitment experience in running big businesses - United Biscuits, Walkers Snack Foods and Birdseye - were what he brought to the piece.

If he'd been replacing a finance director in any of those businesses, Allardyce's prominence in the Stevens Report, which the Premier League launched and funded in 2006, and a Panorama documentary might have rung alarm bells.

But if that body of work should have been a cause of concern, then no one raised it this summer. The FA have been impugned this week for having hired Allardyce in the first place, though the only objection at the time in the school of public opinion was that 'Big Sam' lacked sophistication.

Glenn was impressed with Allardyce's place on the board of the League Managers' Association.

Under pressure to replace Hodgson quickly, and feeling the heat of Sunderland's public fuming over the FA's entirely legitimate approach for their manager, he began asking around about him.

Glenn declared the day after England exited Euro 2016 to Iceland that psychological "brittleness" was their problem and it was his assessment that delivering a manager with personality was paramount.

"Yes he's Sam and he's loud so we did understand that he's not going to be the quietest person," Glenn reflected yesterday. "He's brash but he is in the middle of the fairway in terms of behaviour."

All told then, a recruitment process with the logic you would expect of someone with Glenn's professional antecedents. But what he did not factor in was the greed.

"It wasn't the case that he was left like an innocent in the woods," he said. "Which is why the thing was ever more a surprise. I do feel let down because I genuinely think for football reasons he was a really good choice and what we needed."

The 'thing' began unravelling at FA headquarters on Monday, when Glenn received a telephone call indicating there might be a serious problem.

Allardyce, back at home in Bolton for a golfing event, also immediately telephoned into Wembley. A conference call was immediately convened between him and senior FA executives.

On Tuesday, Glenn, chairman Greg Clarke and Docherty met to hammer out an understanding of the established facts and issues. An interview with Allardyce was scheduled for 1pm. It had finished by 2pm and by 3.30pm he had been told his England career was over.

"I think he accepted that," Glenn said. "I felt personally really bad for him, this is a guy who has wanted the job forever and realised he had made a colossal mistake and was broken by it but he was not in denial.

"It was a deep sigh and resignation saying 'I realise I messed it up'."

Allardyce subsequently protested that "entrapment has won" though Glenn will not enter the territory of whether the Telegraph's way of working was justified.

Glenn insisted that he will apply the same criteria in looking for the next manager.

"We want to get winners, Sam was a fighter and a winner. We are in the most competitive game on the planet, and we want people with the criteria to thrive.

"We have not won anything for 50 years, so we have got to be open minded about it."

Glenn deserves some acknowledgement for his prompt action. Condemnation of him for hiring Allardyce in the first place is unjustified and flavoured with hindsight.

But this was certainly the week when he discovered that football is not like selling frozen fish.

The game and its inconspicuous wealth can be a cesspit, we have discovered yet again.

"It's a rough and tumble old game," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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