West Ham United v Nottingham Forest - npower Championship

by Bob Lethaby

My last bill for Sky TV and Broadband came in at a whopping £105:00 for a month spent watching barely any television, so yesterday, I cancelled it. This is not an easy task when you have a pitiful Scottish woman desperately trying to talk you out of it so she can keep her low paid job within the Murdoch empire based in an offshore tax haven.

When asked why I was cancelling, I nearly told the lady that it was not her fault, it was just that I had come to hate football and I hated Rupert Murdoch more. However, she was nice, so I kept it more polite than that as I didn’t want her enduring an outburst that was simmering within and waiting to explode into a volley of abuse reserved for Murdoch, not her.

A couple of hours later ‘Big Sam’ Allardyce had resigned, and I felt totally vindicated by my personal assumption that football is a dirty sport awash with crime and corruption.

When Allardyce was appointed 68 days ago, something in my brain was telling me that he and his son had been subject of a Panorama investigation many years ago that hadn’t made them look particularly clever.

I dismissed these thoughts as my mind playing tricks on me as there was no way, I thought, that after narrow escapes when Terry Venables was manager and later, when Harry Redknapp was nearly appointed manager, the FA would not go near anyone that offered the merest whiff of toxicity.

I am wrong, my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me, there was an investigation.

In 2006, Panorama showed two agents claiming they paid bungs  (illegal payments ) to Allardyce, an allegation Allardyce denied. Allardyce’s son Craig was also filmed giving it large about how he could get access to his father to do deals for Bolton; it was alleged that Craig was receiving secret payments to which Allardyce said;

“As a father, of course, it is painful to watch your son talk tall and exaggerate his influence for financial gain.”

I can remember the Panorama investigation more clearly now and it was as I recall, a bit half baked, with Allardyce and Harry Redknapp looking a bit shady without Panorama actually having any concrete evidence of wrongdoing. It was like a job that was left only 75% complete.

It was enough (along with a tax inspection) to put the FA off an approach for Redknapp when he was a red hot favourite for the job but for reasons that are beyond me, not Allardyce, who has always been tarnished as the sort of bloke one could imagine being associated with the ‘brown envelope’ culture.

The FA legally, could not have turned Allardyce down for the position based on a Panorama documentary that was only based on allegations but they could have easily not have approached him for the job for ‘football reasons’ particularly as he is seen by many, perhaps unfairly, as a tactical dinosaur.

England will never find out whether it was tag that was justified.

When Allardyce became manager, he claimed that he was so happy he “could not stop smiling”so at what point he thought it would be a good idea to go to meeting to discuss a fee for advice on the illegal ownership of footballers, I just can’t comprehend.

I could comprehend it if the England manager’s job was voluntary and that £400k was to him, a life changing amount of money that it would be to most people reading this blog, but he was getting paid £3 million per annum plus expenses and God knows what other fully legal commercial opportunities that come from being in one of the most high profile jobs in world sport.

It reminds me of when Hugh Grant was dating Liz Hurley but still couldn’t help pulling over to give Divine Brown ‘directions’.

England now have to be very careful when choosing their next manager as there are allegations flying around all over the place that Big Sam is just one of many who is not averse to dealing in the unsavoury art of agents, bungs and third party ownership.  This led to some MP or another saying on the radio this morning; “It makes you wonder if football is transparent!” A statement that makes you wonder why he hadn’t chosen a career as a detective instead.

What is more galling is that before installing Roy Hodgson (who is now looking like a national treasure) the FA spurned the advances of Pep Guardiola, who had decided his reign at Barcelona was over and was tempted by what he saw as an opportunity to dramatically improve the English national team.

At what point did the FA decide not to even interview him (Guardiola) given the fact that Roy Hodgson was hardly lighting the touchpaper that would explode into one of the most exciting and dynamic football teams England has ever boasted?

The FA are as much to blame as anyone, their recruitment process over the decades has been somewhere between ordinary and dismal with only brief flurries of what could be described as entertainment amongst a dirge of antiquated desperation from an uninspired group of players frozen in fear by the thoughts of their impending annihilation in the press.

I am told that after you cancel Sky, you are inundated with telephone calls begging you to come back by offering all sorts of deals and short term free packages, however, after seeing what English football stands for, they will get a short shrift from me.

The beautiful game just gets uglier.

You can read more of Bob’s ace writing here