'Pragmatic' England manager Sam Allardyce yet to decide on Wayne Rooney
New boss says it is 'far too early' to decide whether Three Lions' skipper will stay as he talks up his achievements
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New England manager Sam Allardyce says taking charge of the national team will be the "greatest challenge" of his career - refused to confirm whether Wayne Rooney would remain as captain.
Speaking at his first press conference since being confirmed as the Three Lions' boss, the 61-year-old outlined his philosophy, making it clear England would adopt a more "pragmatic" approach under his stewardship.
He also renewed calls for a mid-season break to help reduce the physical and mental strain on the players.
"This will be the greatest challenge for me in my long career and hopefully I will be as successful as I have in the rest of my career," he said.
Addressing questions over his suitability for the role, he said: "I have managed some world-class players. I saved clubs and never got relegated - and they are not the same as winning the FA Cup or League Cup, but they are big achievements."
Allardyce also discussed his own style of management and turning English potential into reality, saying players "have to stand up and be counted".
He said: "My coaching technique is to try and give the players the opportunity to win a football match wherever they are playing, be it home or away, and to make them aware of the opposition, which may change the style of how we play.
“I think the bonding of the team is exceptionally important and trying to create a good team spirit. And have some fun, the game of football is to be enjoyed and I've enjoyed my life in the game for many years,” he added.
As for Rooney's captaincy, it was "far too early" to make a decision, he said.
Allardyce's position was confirmed on Friday. After saving Sunderland from relegation last season, he now replaces Roy Hodgson, who resigned in the wake of a humiliating defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016 that saw England knocked out of the tournament in the first knockout stage.
News of his appointment has not been well received everywhere. Writing for the International Business Times, Steve Busfield, says: "It is a sad reflection of English football and its coaching options that Sam was probably the best available candidate. He has a strong track record of avoiding relegation from the Premier League, and perhaps this should be the realistic target of England's ambitions: avoiding humiliation and getting the best out of what appears to be dwindling playing resources."
Allardyce as England manager: What to expect from Big Sam
Sam Allardyce is set to be named as the new England manager today when the FA meet to rubber stamp his appointment.
The appointment of the former Bolton, Blackburn and West Ham manager is likely to be controversial given his lack of trophies and his reputation for agricultural tactics.
He "is likely to polarise opinion but, whatever your view, Allardyce does deserve better than to be scorned as a one-dimensional caricature, a real-life Mike Bassett", says Matt Dickinson of The Times.
As a manager Allardyce has always defied expectations, of himself and of his teams, so what do we know about Big Sam and what can England fans expect?
He was not an elite player
Allardyce, who hails from Dudley, was an old-school bruiser of a centre back who made almost 600 appearances over the course of a 21-year playing career during which he represented 11 teams including Bolton Wanderers, Preston North End and Millwall.
He also spent a year with Tampa Bay Rowdies in the US, where he developed a taste for sports science.
"If he loved a battle, and a beer after, he was not so daft as to be blind to the importance of skill," says The Times, which says he idolised Bolton and Preston team-mate Frank Worthington. "As England manager, Allardyce will have the chance to show he can draw the flair from Daniel Sturridge, Ross Barkley and Dele Alli."
He has proved himself as a club manager
It is widely accepted that every team that Allardyce has managed has improved under his tenure. He has never been relegated from the Premier League and he performed another escape act with Sunderland last season.
"In managing Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United, West Ham United and Sunderland he has built up vast Premier League experience and has proved himself to be an outstanding club manager," says Matt Hughes of the Times.
His image is at odds with his methods
Back in 2005 The Guardian said he had a "head like a blacksmith's anvil". But the paper added: "He may look like an off-duty butcher but Allardyce flies in the face of conventional methods."
He advocates meditation and has used tai chi to help get the best from his players. And in 2006 he famously arrived for his first interview for the England manager's job armed with a PowerPoint presentation only to find that the FA did not have a means for him to deliver it.
"Allardyce is an innovator, for sure, but more than that he has proved himself [to be] someone who can evolve and respond to any challenge," says Matt Lawton of the Daily Mail.
The 61-year-old is also keen to get involved in the work of the national football centre at St George's Park, where the future direction of English football will be thrashed out.
"Depending on which side of the fence you sit, this is either a pragmatic decision made at a time of great instability for English football, or a regressive step towards the past in an era where the game is more expansive and complex than ever," says the Daily Telegraph.
So what's in store for fans watching England under Big Sam?
Possession is not key
"Under Allardyce, Sunderland averaged 40 per cent possession [last season], of which 21 per cent of all passes were long passes. That’s a huge contrast with England at Euro 2016, who enjoyed 62 per cent of possession across their matches, and only nine per cent of their passes were long passes," says the Telegraph.
Portugal, who won Euro 2016 did so without dominating possession, and Premier League champions Leicester also triumphed without the ball.
There will be a tactical plan
Roy Hodgson appeared all at sea at Euro 2016, but Allardyce is unlikely to lose his tactical focus, even if it means making unpopular team selections, and most observers agree that a team managed by Big Sam would not have wilted against Iceland.
"Jose Mourinho once accused Allardyce’s West Ham side of playing a style from 'the 19th century' to secure a precious point at Stamford Bridge. But Mourinho failed to recognise Allardyce's success in coming up with a tactical plan that worked," notes the Mail.
Team spirit will improve
Perhaps the thing that should excite England fans the most is the impact Allardyce will have on morale.
"Creating a sense of togetherness and keeping boredom at bay are the most difficult tasks a national coach has to address," says Tony Evans of the Evening Standard. "There is little time for intensive work on the training ground so clear communication and uncomplicated tactical instructions are vital.
"Those who played under Allardyce speak of his ability to foster an esprit de corps. They also attest to the manager's uncompromising attitude to any drop-off in performance. Underachievers will not be tolerated. Egos will have to be checked in at the door during England get-togethers."
So is he the right man for the job?
Most observers are prepared to give Big Sam the benefit of the doubt. How long the honeymoon lasts remains to be seen.
"Allardyce will make England difficult to beat," says Evans of the Standard. "If they need to foul and disrupt the pattern of the opposition, he will inject niggle into the game. When they have the chance to play, they will be expansive.
"A nation will groan at this appointment but there is no Englishman more suited to the job. England expects very little. Big Sam will deliver more than anticipated."
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