“When putting together this year’s programme I knew we had to have an football event, so I asked for London’s best manager,” said Press Club chairman Doug Wills when introducing Sam Allardyce on Tuesday evening. “But he wasn’t available so we got Sam!” Not one of the game’s delicate flowers, the West Ham boss joined in the laughter, easy in the knowledge that this month at least he is not only the capital’s most in-form manager, but for the Premier League as a whole.
Allardyce, who counts a weekly Evening Standard column on his CV alongside very successful stints at Bolton, Limerick, Blackpool and Notts Counnty, joined the Standard‘s Ken Dyer in conversation at a special London Press Club event. The fitting venue was the recently reopened Rileys Sports Bar in Haymarket, previously the Sports Cafe.
He spoke candidly in front of an audience that included Swindon Advertiser editor Gary Lawrence, Evening Standard sports editor Tim Nichols, jewellery designer Imogen Belfield and the Telegraph‘s Kenneth Kawamoto.
The comparison between the newer football club owners from overseas with those more familiar with the British game was brought up, a subject familiar to the West Ham manager both through his experience at Blackburn Rovers and the completely different experience with David Gold and David Sullivan this season, who kept faith during a poor period around Christmas.
Allardyce alluded to Jose Mourinho’s recent accusation that the east London side played ’19th-century football’, saying of early encounters with the Chelsea boss, “I’ve seen him play 18th-century football! But he’s good for the game. He thinks he’s God, but I enjoy him.”
He reflected on his experience as one of the front-runners for the England job in 2006, describing the process as “very interesting” but fees that his chance has now gone.
In a mainly light-hearted encounter, the one real subject of Allardyce’s ire was post-match interviews. “They are becoming so boring because you can’t slip up – it’s the same old questions trying to get the same reaction out of you,” he said – adding that players now often had to be persuaded to face the press.