New boss Sam Allardyce targets England fear factor as he delays captaincy decision
Former Sunderland manager points to his successful track record in first outing with UK press pack as Three Lions boss
New England manager Sam Allardyce vowed on Monday to break the psychological barrier hindering the performance of the country’s big-name players at international level.
Allardyce also revealed he has not yet made a decision on who will captain England, which leaves the Manchester United skipper Wayne Rooney – heavily criticised for his performances at Euro 2016 – sweating on whether he will retain the armband.
England’s campaign at last month’s European Championships under predecessor Roy Hodgson culminated in a humiliating exit to Iceland in the last 16, despite boasting a squad packed with Premier League talent. Hodgson quickly quit.
Allardyce, speaking at his first press conference, at St George’s Park, following his appointment, will seek to address that faulty mindset as England bid to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“The pressure on players at international level we will be looking at in depth,” said the 61-year-old Englishman, nicknamed “Big Sam”, who lost out to Steve McClaren for the England job 10 years ago.
“I will exploit all areas for the benefit of the players. The key element is to get among the staff in place and talk about the programme going forward, particularly psychologically.
“It’s not about potential now. It’s about standing up and being counted even though some of those experiences have been bitter.
“Potential is a word I don’t like to use too much. You want the actual quality of the player producing his best immediately.
“I think this group is very experienced and going forward can be producing more performances and better results. It’s not just about qualifying, but going as far as we can.”
It is anticipated that Allardyce, a former manager of many clubs including Bolton, Newcastle, West Ham and most recently Sunderland, will not make a call on Rooney’s captaincy until the players join up for the World Cup qualifier with Slovakia on September 4.
“That’s far too early to make predictions in that area,” Allardyce said, when asked if Rooney would continue as skipper.
“I will leave that (the captaincy) until we get together and plan for the qualifiers.”
Allardyce, who guided Sunderland to Premier League safety last season having taken over with them in a desperate position, has never won a major trophy and acknowledged the England job is the “biggest challenge” of his managerial career.
Allardyce believes, however, he has the right credentials for the position and remains confident the “Three Lions” will progress under his stewardship.
“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,” said the man who has faced criticism down the years for long-ball football.
Jose Mourinho famously once described Allardyce’s football as “19th century”.
“I can turn things around pretty quickly. I can create a successful journey and that starts with us all pulling together,” added Allardyce.
“What is my style? Pragmatic. Choosing styles and systems depends on who we are playing.
“My coaching technique is to win a football match – home or away, whether we are at Wembley or not – and adapt to the style we play to the opposition.
“I think the bonding of the team is exceptionally important. A game of football is to be enjoyed.”
Allardyce confirmed Sammy Lee, his former assistant when he was in charge of Bolton Wanderers, will become part of his back room staff.
He also called for the introduction of a winter break in the Premier League to help boost the national team’s flagging fortunes.
“I have been an advocate of that for 10 years or more. The demand on players is enormous,” he explained.
“The Premier League is the best league in the world so demand has to be on the players. It would help the Premier League and us at international level if we could try and achieve it.”