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Why Firing Sam Allardyce Probably Wasn't Insane

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It's not exactly usual for a chicken-processing company to acquire a football team, but that's exactly what Venky's did when they acquired Blackburn Rovers for around £50M in October. Eyebrows were raised when the new owners said they'd be more than happy with mediocrity (12th place, apparently, would be just fine), but they were raised even further when Sam Allardyce, who had guided Rovers to... well, mediocrity, was unceremoniously given the boot. Apparently discarding a bastion of fundamentally boring lump-it-long football is enough to get most of the media riled up.

Here's what our old friend Paul Hayward has to say about the situation:

At Blackburn Rovers, a former president of the World Poultry Congress (Anuradha Desai) fires Sam Allardyce three months after seeing her first game of football, citing an aesthetic allergy to the style of play.

Analysts are working on a theorem for the new instability in owner-manager relations but the following will do for now: the less an owner knows about football the more likely he or she is to sack the manager (emphasis mine).

-Source: Guardian.

There's (naturally) a swipe at Moneyball in that article too alongside various frothings about the incompetence of women and the impending nihilism epidemic of '11, but let's not talk about Paul. Let's talk some Blackburn.

I must not know a lot about football, because I see plenty of reasons to fire Sam Allardyce. Let's go through the big ones:

  • A fundamental allergy to playing the game in a remotely interesting way. Blackburn are the kings of the long ball. A long pass every now and then is fine, but when the team is built around hoofing it into the area, knocking down the opposing goalkeeper, and stabbing the loose football into the forcefully-unguarded net, I feel that the sport loses a touch of romance. If it's not the most cynical strategy ever applied to football, it's close.
  • Rampant thuggery. They attack in such a way that removes any need for intelligent play - why would defending be any different? It isn't. Defend en masse and kick any poor bastard too slow to get out of the way. Defending is a dark art at the best of times, but if they want to play like it's the middle ages they could at least give the other team morning stars to even things out. Yes, I would hit Ryan Nelson with a mace. I might pay for the pleasure.
  • Dinner savings. Yeah, I made a fat joke. Sam Allardyce is an ugly fat man and I hate him (this may not be a legitimate reason to fire someone, but it doesn't help Ol' King Walrus' cause).
  • He wanted to buy Robbie Keane in the transfer window. This isn't just grounds for firing for gross incompetence, it's a capital crime in most civilised countries. Robbie Keane is awful. Allardyce wanted to spend money on him. Big Sam's lucky they didn't cut his tongue out or something.

In case it isn't blindingly obvious, I despise the way that team plays. It might be effective and might bring results, but their play has all the aesthetic appeal of pancaked roadkill. And that's Allardyce's style. No team of his has ever played football in a way that could be considered remotely attractive, and it's not a personnel issue. Blackburn are the least enjoyable team to watch in the league. I recognise that's just an opinion - and I'd like to point out that I have nothing against Blackburn fans or their team in the abstract sense - but if my boss thought I was the most obnoxious person in the world I'm reasonably sure I'd be getting the axe. So what if the team's doing adequately in terms of results? If the owner doesn't like watching their own team, and it's probably the manager's fault, fire the manager.

That doesn't seem so crazy to me. They don't like his style, thought someone else would be better suited to build a team they wanted to watch, they got rid of him. So why is the media flipping out about it?