Sam Allardyce: ‘Bring it on, hey lads. I’m hardened over many, many years’

New England manager won’t be drawn on whether Rooney will retain captaincy

Sam Allardyce moved to show his strength on his first day as England manager as he shelved plans to hold a Wembley friendly.

The Football Association had held advanced discussions with possible opponents for September 1st, with Croatia and the Czech Republic both mooted, and were ready at one stage to sign off on the match before announcing Roy Hodgson's successor.

But Allardyce, who was appointed on Friday and held a first press conference on Monday, has seemingly had some early influence on the schedule.

Rather than preparing for a welcome match at the national stadium, he will conduct additional training sessions with his squad at St George’s Park ahead of their opening World Cup qualifier in Slovakia on September 4th.


That means his first game at Wembley will be against Malta on October 8th, part of a double header that also sees England travel to Slovenia three days later.

Allardyce believes he is tough enough to deal with the England job and the move to cancel the friendly is an early example of his influence.

He had already declared “bring it on” and dismissed suggestions the job was a poisoned chalice.

Allardyce replaced Hodgson after the former manager quit following England’s disastrous Euro 2016 campaign, where they were dumped out of the competition by Iceland.

England also failed to get out of the group at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and have not won a major competition since lifting the World Cup 50 years ago.

Not scared

But Allardyce, who left Sunderland this week after keeping them in the Premier League last season, is not scared of the job. He said: “Bring it on, hey lads. I’m hardened over many, many years. You toughen yourself for whatever job you take. You take the good with the bad, otherwise you don’t do it – don’t bother.

“I am here because I want to be here, because I want the challenge, I’m here because I think I can make the team better and I think I’m tough enough to take it.

“People see me as being able to turn a club around very quickly and I suppose that comes with taking West Ham up, saving Blackburn Rovers and now saving Sunderland. I consider myself to be much more than that, but that is the sort of label I’ve been left with.

“I can turn things around pretty quickly and get amongst teams to try to create a successful journey and a successful journey starts with all of us pulling together.

"I have managed world class players, Fernando Hierro, Youri Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha, Gary Speed, Nicolas Anelka, Michael Owen.

“The good thing about really talented players is they make your life easier. They know what you want and it takes you less time. Working with the England elite players is going to be exciting for me.

“When it comes to winning no trophies or cups, unfortunately as an English manager I never really got the chance to go right to the top of the Premier League. But look at what I’ve achieved over the years, like not being relegated, and they are big achievements, difficult to do.”

Allardyce, who has added his former Bolton assistant Sammy Lee to his coaching staff, was interviewed for the job in 2006 but lost out to Steve McClaren.

Well equipped

Since then he has managed Newcastle, Blackburn, West Ham and Sunderland and believes he is well equipped to take the England job.

He said: “I was good enough then. I don’t know (why he did not get the job), perhaps it was political. It’s obviously different and much more streamlined with this development and site (St George’s Park). It’s much more forward thinking than it was in 2006.”

Allardyce also refused to be drawn on Wayne Rooney’s future as England captain, saying it was too early to reveal his choice ahead of the World Cup qualifying campaign.

“It’s far too early to make any predictions,” he said. “I’m going to leave that until we meet all the players and get all the coaching staff together and plan for the internationals in September. It’s my first day in, I’m getting my feet under the table and meeting everyone.”

Allardyce has been labelled with playing direct football during his career, a tag he rejects, but said England players must adapt to playing the styles he wants to ensure they are successful.

“I expect the players to be very flexible and adaptable,” he said.