Sam's big mistake was trying to turn Newcastle into Big Bolton

Last updated at 22:10 09 January 2008

Big Sam's curious aberration was to turn Newcastle into Big Bolton. But the big Toon rebelled, turning its cheek against midfield sterility, set-pieces and the high ball over the top.

Allardyce's sacking is not a

shock. This is the Newcastle


Sam Allardyce

Hang out the bunting for

the new guy, give him bundles

of money to spend and then

raise the noose above the

Gallowgate End before he has

had a chance to impose his own


The great mystery applies to

Allardyce instead. Throughout

the last phase of his successful

spell at Bolton Wanderers, Big

Sam was telling anyone who

cared to listen that he could

coach carpet football with the

best of them, and handle the

most egotistical dressing-room


His meticulous work on

setpieces, direct play and sports

science at the Reebok Stadium

was, he was eager for us to

believe, a purely pragmatic

attempt to make a small club


How could he hope

to out-pass Arsenal or

Manchester United on Bolton's budget?

But Allardyce was bursting

out of his corset. He craved the

England job. He thought he was

English football's coming man.

So along came Newcastle to

give him that chance. Quite

why he tried to revive the

northeast's sleeping giant by turning

them into a richer version of the

smaller club he had taken into

Europe remains a riddle.


charitable explanation is that

he inherited a mass of

corporate debt, sub-standard players

and takeover chaos, and fell

back on what he knew,

believing perhaps that he could

reintroduce the champagne

football of the Kevin Keegan

and Bobby Robson years once

the club had settled down.

That opportunity was

snatched away by the new breed

of chairman who picks a

Barclays Premier League club off an

investment menu the way the

rest of us order a Thai meal.


think I'll have that one,' Mike

Ashley might have said, before

joining the Toon Army behind

the goal in his replica shirt, from

where he looks like a fabricated

fan as well as an absentee owner.

By some weird law of physics,

there comes a point when a

manager appears doomed

before he truly is, and this

happened with Allardyce around

the time Joey Barton got

himself arrested on the streets of

Liverpool one day at 5.30am.

If signings are the ultimate

standard by which a manager is

judged, Allardyce made a ropey

start, taking Alan Smith and

Geremi from the Manchester

United and Chelsea reserves,

installing the immobile and

sometimes indolent Mark

Viduka up front and convincing

himself he could reform Barton.

Panic spreads across

Newcastle with special force. By the

time Ashley lurched for the

P45s, the fans had already

decided Allardyce's teams

would just launch the ball over

Michael Owen's head, while the

manager could not escape his

startling declaration that he

didn't want his future being in

the hands of his own players.

That outburst spoke of the

uniquely centrifugal forces that

affect life at St James' Park.


fair bet is that it was instantly

regretted by Allardyce, who has

been around long enough to

know the risks of disassociating

yourself from your own team.

But his biggest miscalculation

was to impose an alien style of

play on a club who cling with

increasing desperation to a

more artistic tradition.

Big Sam chose the wrong

town to make this mistake.

Newcastle have become an

asylum up on a hill, convinced

of their destiny but run by

people with no history of making

good footballing decisions.

The coming and swift going of

Allardyce ends the Freddy Shepherd-Hall family era with a bang,

not just for him but his recently

recruited legion of specialist

helpers: innocent bystanders in

another season of wackiness.