Crystal Palace manager Sam Allardyce has added the “Big Sam” magical touch to steer them clear of relegation as the season reaches its climax.
The former England boss was appointed the manager of Crystal Palace at the end of December 2016. The club were positioned in 17th place and just one point above the relegation zone.
In fact, the club continued to plummet down the Premier League table under Allardyce’s guidance. His leadership skills were questioned and his ability to pull off another survival miracle were seriously in doubt.
After 25 games, Palace were in 19th place and relegation was becoming more a reality than a possibility. It was at this point that Selhurst Park were treated to a “Big Sam” master class, and the eagles are now six points clear of the bottom three following five wins in their last six league games.
It was foolish to doubt Allardyce like most including me did in the early stages of his Palace reign. Especially when you consider his track record for keeping teams in the Premier League, as he did with Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, West Ham United and Sunderland.
Allardyce has been continuously criticised for his “negative” tactics and dull style, which revolves around the old fashioned “long-ball” game. However, his scrutinised style has produced results and preserved various team’s top flight statuses during an underrated 26-year managerial career.
The King of Survival
Sam Allardyce had managerial spells with Limerick, Preston North-End, Blackpool and Notts County in the early stages of his career. His first big move was when he joined Championship team Bolton Wanderers in 1999.
The trotters were struggling in the bottom half of the table but Allardyce guided them into the playoffs in his first season. They were unsuccessful in their first attempts at reaching the Premier League but they tasted glory in their first full season under “Big Sam”.
Allardyce marginally avoided relegation in his first two seasons in the Premier League at the Reebok Stadium. He gradually assembled a very strong team, including the likes of Jay-Jay Okocha, Ivan Campo, Gary Speed and Fernando Hierro.
Bolton ventured into Europe during the 2005/06 season, after Allardyce guided them to a 6th place finish to qualify for the UEFA Cup for the first time in their history. The trotters reached the Round of 32, eventually being knocked out by French giants Marseille.
He wanted to push for the Champions League but chairman Phil Gartside was unwilling to meet his demands. This led to friction in their relationship and Allardyce subsequently resigned with two games of the 2006/07 season remaining.
A short spell at St James’ Park with Newcastle United followed during the 2007/08 season. He enjoyed a promising start to the season with 5 wins and 2 draws in the magpies opening 9 league fixtures.
They suffered a drop in form at Christmas, which led to Mike Ashley deciding to fire him in January 2008. It was an abrupt sacking, which was incredibly early in the former Bolton manager’s Newcastle career.
“Big Sam” returned to management with Blackburn Rovers in December 2008 and guided Blackburn from 19th place to 15th in his first season. Rovers finished in 10th place at the end of the 2009/10 season but a catastrophic takeover was looming.
Despite the club being in 13th place, Venky’s, the new owners of Blackburn Rovers, sacked Allardyce in December 2010. His style of play was criticised once again and this continued on the brink of his appointment by West Ham United.
The supporters questioned his philosophy but he achieved promotion to the Premier League at the end of the 2011/12 season. The hammers finished 10th place, 13th place and 12th place during Allardyce’s three-year reign in the top flight at Boleyn Road but the club didn’t renew his contract.
His next challenge was set to prove very difficult when he joined relegation-threatened Sunderland in October 2010. The black cats had earned just three points from their opening 9 games and were 19th place.
It was the pure relentlessness gained from Allardyce that helped steer Sunderland away from danger. They subsequently finished 17th place and two points above local rivals Newcastle United.
He was rewarded by being appointed the permanent manager of England, although this lasted for only 67 days. Allardyce resigned due to allegations of malpractice but he was later cleared of any wrongdoing.
Crystal Palace appointed Allardyce in December 2016 to replace former manager Alan Pardew. He’s performed his magic and steered them away from the relegation zone, it’s still mathematically possible for them to experience the drop but “Big Sam” will be forming a big barrier to prevent them from doing so.
For me, Sam Allardyce is the most underrated manager in Premier League history. He’s performed miracles and achieved success with limited resources and received very little credit for his managerial achievements.
He dragged Bolton Wanderers from the bottom half of the table in the Championship into Europe in the space of just six years. He steered Sunderland away from certain relegation, to assure them of another year in the Premier League.
Despite this, the 62-year-old has continuously come under scrutiny for his style, character and performance. Give the guy a break. How many more clubs can he rescue from the drop until he’s finally heralded as a hero?