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Big Sam's folly

Sam Allardyce’s criticism of Wayne Rooney bit him on the nose last Saturday.

Tony Cascarino, 08 Nov 2006

I imagine Sam Allardyce will be feeling a bit foolish now after saying last month that Wayne Rooney’s form was so bad he ought to be dropped from the England team.

Rooney is never going to be a 25 goal a season man, but when he gets chances like he did on Saturday against Bolton, he’s a cool finisher.

It was a huge result for United who must now feel that they’re in with a real shout of winning the Premiership. If Man U get to Christmas without suffering any major injuries, I think you’ll see Sir Alex moving hell and high water to bring in Owen Hargreaves.

His broken leg is apparently healing well, and being second in the Bundesliga will make Bayern less reluctant to sell than they were at the start of the season. Being part of the England set-up, Hargreaves knows exactly what the Premiership’s all about and won’t need the sort of settling in period that, say, Andriy Shevchenko has at Chelsea.

Sir Alex joined Gordon Strachan this week in criticising the number of managers who’ve been sacked at this early stage of the season. Gordon went so far as to suggest that there should be a ‘sacking window’ to go with the transfer one, but it won’t work. A club that’s started the season with 8 or 9 defeats in a row has every right to change things in November rather than wait for January when they’re as good as relegated.

While I think it’d be wrong at this stage for either Alan Pardew at West Ham or Stuart Pearce at Man City to get the bullet, there are times when a manager has become so estranged from his players that the axe has to be wielded.

I was at Aston Villa when Jozef Venglos took-over from Graham Taylor and there were four or five players who literally refused to talk to him. He was trying to introduce foreign ideas, but didn’t have the ability to work out which ones were suited to the English game. The man didn’t know whether to stick or twist, and the club suffered hugely as a result.

I don’t hold with the suggestion that the West Ham players have been “unsettled” by talk of a takeover. The only thing players care about is whether they’re in the team on Saturday and their contract’s good enough. As long as their cheques are being signed, they don’t give a monkey’s who’s in the boardroom. Just as daft is blaming the club’s bad run on the arrival of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano. The Argentines weren’t playing at Chesterfield on Tuesday night when West Ham got dumped out of the League Cup, were they?

Given that he got them into the UEFA Cup last season, I think the board will give Alan Pardew another month and in that time he’ll turn things round because they’ve some decent players.

Stuart Pearce’s situation is somewhat different in that he doesn’t have the breadth of talent to finish above mid-table. Regardless of who’s filling in the team-sheet, City are not good enough to qualify for Europe.

Someone I have rather less sympathy for is Rafael Benitez whose insistence on rotating his squad is why Liverpool got thumped at Old Trafford. If Gonzalez and Garcia were really his best wide options against Man U, I’m off my head and know nothing about football.

Rule number one of management – know your best team. His resting of players ahead of big European games has destroyed any chance Liverpool might have had of winning the Premiership. The fans will give him the benefit of the doubt while they’re in the Champions’ League still, but get dumped out and the only thing that’ll matter to them is the side’s league position.

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