“So that’s Allardyce sorted. Who’s next?”
“HOLD THE FRONT PAGES!!!!”
“We’ve got them! The agents went on tape and named names!!!”
“Who is it? Any juicy names in their?”
“Well, the first one, the greediest is called Manager 1. After that, there’s Manager 2…”
As soon as the FA announced they were meeting to discuss his future, Sam Allardyce’s fate was sealed. There was no stonewalling, no staunch defence, just a realisation on their part after the Slovakia game that Pete Townshend was right all along: meet the new boss, the same as the old boss.
Allardyce’s football career is in a brief hiatus. It’s a very forgiving industry, consistently rewarding failure; he’ll be back and no doubt there’s a book to be written, of course.
The FA has appointed Gareth Southgate in the interim and it’s not a bad move. There won’t be japes in the same way Joe Mercer brought a smile back to the England camp in the 70s – ask Ray Parlour, who fell foul of Southgate at Middlesbrough. Still, penalty practice ought to be interesting…
The Daily Telegraph may go on to actually name names of those taking bungs but I doubt that their lawyers sphincters will loosen enough for that to happen. Whether clubs will take action is another matter but depends on the circumstances. Underperforming managers may find their tenures ended on the grounds of poor results, with football gossip the real cause.
Have we moved any further forward in this issue? At the moment it doesn’t feel that way; there’s a lot of innuendo in the printed word and it feels like 1995 all over again. As with then a ‘name’ has fallen but as with then, others skirt close to the edge but don’t actually fall. Brian Clough was named by Alan Sugar in court but never outside as he couldn’t prove the allegations and although the FA inquiry felt the evidence was strong at the time, no action was taken as he’d retired from football by that time.
Will this ‘clean up’ the game? I’m not sure; some of the agents are finished, that’s for certain but the bigger fish? It’s going to take a lot more than this to do any good. That shouldn’t stop journalists trying either; they just need better evidence than this.
On to more important matters and Arsenal are back tonight. Basel arrive and three points is an absolute must, not just for qualification purposes but to build on the Chelsea performance. That display from start to finish, has to become the norm if the squad is to achieve anything this season in any competition.
In terms of team news, Arsène didn’t give anything away in particular. We knew Coquelin and Giroud were out anyway, and the only other change I expect is Ospina in for Cech. It’s the opportunity for redemption for the Colombian after the Olympiakos debacle last season and unless there is a repeat of that, I can’t see Wenger changing his policy on team selection for the cups.
It leaves the line-up as:
Like Ospina, Theo Walcott is on a redemptive path. After last season, quite a few – myself included – wouldn’t have shed a tear if he’d left in the summer. Provided the money was re-invested, of course. His form was awful and his career had stagnated. He was out of the England squad which although disappointing from his point of view, meant he dodged the bullet once again after another woeful tournament.
He has impressed at the start of this season. There’s a good case for Player of the Month and the goal against Chelsea was just reward for his efforts. But like Arsenal in the last decade, there’s always a feeling with Walcott that he should deliver more.
It’s something he recognises:
“Where did my change in mindset come from? It probably was from myself.
“I found it difficult last year, coming towards the end of the season I didn’t get opportunities but I was still working hard. It is probably from then, I spoke to many people and it maybe woke up something in my system. I am completely different.
“I just want to be better and better, people have had so much faith in me and you never give up. I tend to think I need to repay people, but I also think I need to do it for myself now. Maybe in the past I was thinking about others and not myself.”
It’s the right thing to say of course, it always is with Theo. At 27, we are still talking about the potential he had rather than what he delivered. Injuries have interfered but the lack of consistency in his performances over the course of a season has been a source of frustration to us. And to him as well, he makes no bones about that.
Surprisingly, it’s taken ten years for the penny to drop and that is a maddening aspect of it. Either he wasn’t listening or the right things weren’t being said to him. That he seems to have taken the initiative to resolve his loss of form is encouraging; will we finally see the best of Theo week in, week out? I hope so but I’m not holding my breath.
If he does learn, then there’s inspiration for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Suffering similar tribulations in his career at the moment, if Theo can turn it around so can Ox. There’s a lot of competition for places in the wide midfield roles – in any midfield role – at Arsenal at present and there’s a sense that a ‘big’ name is going to leave. They don’t come any bigger than Oxlade-Chamberlain at 17 letters.
But that’s for another day. We rode our luck in Paris and got a result. Tonight is about asserting ourselves on this group.
Finally, a quick note that there’s a new post on Dad’s Jukebox.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.