Why Sunderland should have a lot to look forward to

He’s the gum chewing, former no nonsense defender that has a style of football that upsets some and pacifies others.

Sam Allardyce was regularly criticised by West Ham fans in his four years at the Upton Park club, but when you looked at what he was asked to do and what he did, then there is an element of success.

His style of play may not have been to everyone’s liking and certainly wasn’t the ‘West Ham way,’ but he was asked to get promotion and keep them in the Premier League. He did that and no more. It’s not easy to get a team recently relegated to the Championship back into the Premier League at the first time of asking but that’s what Sam did, albeit via the play-offs. Since then, there have been forays into the bottom half of the table at the Boleyn, but he did exactly what was asked of him.

West Ham’s plight in the second half of last year was a bit of a disaster, as they crashed out of the FA Cup, 4-0 away to West Brom, and slid from fourth in the league at Christmas down to 12th with only three wins in the league after the New Year.

Although Sam’s return to East London was one to forget for Sunderland last weekend, he can be rightfully proud of handing over the reins of a stable club to Slaven Bilic. Don’t forget that although Big Sam didn’t seem to use the talents of the academy on many occasions, he did make some shrewd signings that are paying dividends now. Adrian, Cheikhou Kouyate, Aaron Cresswell, Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia were all Sam Allardyce signings.

Bilic praised Allardyce just recently by saying: “Sam did great for West Ham.

“He has managed for 20 years very successfully, and he took West Ham at a moment when we were in the Championship. He got us up straight away and stabilised us in the Premier League, so he did a great job here.”

At Sunderland, he will become another hero if he can keep them in the Premier League. Allardyce is always touted as the man you want if you need to stay up because at this point, he has never been relegated from the top division. Never say never, though.

His job is tough because The Black Cats are inconsistent to say the least, but they can now concentrate on the league with only 10 games to go. His defensive formation and the addition of Kirchhoff and Kone should enhance a frail defence, though Kone’s use of the ball at West Ham was appalling while Kirchhoff is playing more as a midfielder.

Allardyce knows just how hard this job is going to be and it’s probably the toughest he’s had so far. Talking to BBC Sport, the 61-year-old ex-West Ham manager said: “It’s a flaw in our character on occasions.

“We’re creating more chances than the opposition, but we’re not converting them – and at the other end, we’re always conceding the goals.”

This is going to be a struggle, but if anyone can, then Sam can.

Before all of these struggles ever occurred, Allardyce managed Limerick, Blackpool and Notts County before managing Bolton Wanderers from 1999 to 2007. Sam came to prominence with Bolton and led them to a League Cup final, as well as guiding them to UEFA Cup qualification for the first time in their history. He made big name signings too, as the likes of Jay Jay Ococha joined his revolution and made the club one that was difficult to beat.

Big Sam made it very apparent that he was disappointed not to get the England job in 2006 and subsequently left Bolton due to a lack of silverware. In 2007 he joined Newcastle, but that was short lived, as in 2008, following a string of poor results and fan protests, Allardyce left and found life at Blackburn not much better. Despite some resounding results against the big four, the club didn’t seem to progress very much and it’s said that Allardyce was just unlucky at Ewood Park, but once again he was sacked.

You have to remember that whilst his footballing style hasn’t always been richly admired, Sam’s teams do get results. He has never been relegated from the top flight, he has the ability to stabilise teams and if you reflect on his early managerial career, Allardyce’s spell at Bloomfield Road included him leading Blackpool to their most successful season in years. At Notts County, he won promotion at the first attempt by finishing top of Division Three in 1997–98.

Notts County broke several club and national records, winning the title by a 19 point margin and becoming the first post-war side to win promotion in March. At Bolton it was top 10 finishes and European football, and so it goes on.

He may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Big Sam is a safe pair of hands and Sunderland have a better chance of staying up with him than without him. He deserves more credit than he often gets.