Sam Allardyce looks to be in pole position to become the next England manager after his club Sunderland revealed Wednesday they granted at his request permission to speak to the Football Association.
The 61-year-old Englishman, who was interviewed for the England job 10 years ago but lost out to Steve McClaren, spoke with the three-man FA panel on Tuesday about succeeding Roy Hodgson, who resigned after England were beaten by Iceland in the Euro 2016 last-16 clash.
Sunderland, who Allardyce saved from relegation last term, made clear they wished the situation to be resolved as quickly as possible so they can prepare for another tough campaign in the Premier League.
“The Football Association contacted Sunderland AFC to seek permission to speak with our manager as part of what was supposed to be a confidential discussion process with potential candidates for the position of England manager,” read a statement from Sunderland.
“At Sam Allardyce’s request, we agreed to this.
“Sam is very much key to our plans. After what was an extremely challenging season, we are keen to see a period of stability, both on and off the field, and we want him to remain as manager of our football club.
“The ongoing speculation over Sam’s position is extremely damaging to Sunderland AFC, particularly at this crucial time of the season and we urge the FA to respect the disruption that this process is causing and bring about a swift resolution to the matter.”
Allardyce, who apart from an Irish championship with Limerick City in 1992 has never won a major domestic trophy, is one of several names who have been linked with one of the trickiest jobs in the sport.
A fellow former no-nonsense central defender Steve Bruce, now manager of Hull, Arsenal’s veteran handler Arsene Wenger, the United States’ German coach Jurgen Klinsmann and young Englishman Eddie Howe, who has impressed at Bournemouth, have all figured in talk about the job.
Allardyce, though, is the odds on favourite with English bookmaker William Hill for, despite not winning anything significant in his managerial career with among others Bolton, Newcastle, Blackburn and West Ham, he generally engenders respect and is seen as a great motivator of players.
His remarks of 10 years ago which fell on stoney ground that England was heading into an ‘abyss’ may have been ignored by the FA then, but resonate now after successive failures at major championships.
Since Swede Sven-Goran Eriksson guided England to the 2006 World Cup quarter-finals, losing to Portugal on penalties, they have either failed to qualify for a championships — Euro 2008 which cost McClaren his job — or failed to get past the first knockout stage in the subsequent two Euros and two World Cups under the autocratic Fabio Capello and then Hodgson.
Allardyce’s remark after he lost out to McClaren sounds even more propitious: “The problem isn’t now, the problem is in the future.”