Sunday, 26 June 2011

Un Lion Ne Meurt Jamais

Sam Allardyce has ­confessed he still dreams of becoming England manager, writes Tom Hopkinson in today's People. The new West Ham boss even ­reckons that a successful debut season in the Upton Park hot-seat will put him in the frame to succeed Fabio Capello. The 56-year-old is on a two-year contract and his priority is to take the Hammers back into the Premier League. If he achieves that, thinks Hopkinson, with his England ambitions still burning ­brightly, then the West Ham/Allardyce ­partnership could prove very ­successful indeed.

Allardyce said: "Without any dreams or goals I would need to pack in ­management. It was a pretty distant dream that I might one day be considered for the England manager’s job when I ­started out at Limerick, but 15 years later I went very close. You have to reset your goals and your dreams, and my dream, first and foremost, is to make West Ham as ­successful as I ­possibly can – not only by getting ­promoted, but by establishing them in the Premier League. But if by ­fulfilling that dream you are brought closer to another one, then obviously that’s what you consider. In fact, it’s what you do the job for. That’s not being disloyal to any football club, it’s about always having ambition and striving to be better. If you have achieved, the club has achieved. You try to leave a club in a better position than when you acquired it and I’ve always felt that’s the one thing I have done. Winning leagues and cups is deemed the ultimate success, but when you re-invent a football club and start putting processes in place for when you’ve left, then the basis of a ­sustainable, successful football club is there for somebody else to take on. My job now is to re-invent West Ham in terms of stability."

Allardyce clearly still feels he has a point to prove to Newcastle owner Mike Ashley, who sacked him in 2008, and to Venky’s, Blackburn’s chicken farmer owners who followed suit last season. Despite his experiences at those clubs, however, he didn’t have to give much thought to working for another set of high-profile owners in David Sullivan and David Gold. He added: "I like a challenge. This game is very challenging and I made a bad statement about 11 years ago when I said I would retire when I reached 55. This is the life I want to lead. As precarious as it might be, I have been doing it for such a long time and it is because of the feeling of winning and bringing success to a football club. There have been some decisions made that I couldn’t control and that hurt my reputation. Now I have to rebuild my ­reputation here at West Ham. This job is not very good for your health. It is pretty ­damaging but, ­unfortunately, it’s a bit like being addicted to cigarettes. You need the nicotine fix – and I need the fix. I need the adrenaline running through my veins on a Saturday and I need the feeling of guiding a team to victory. The only time I questioned if I’d had enough was when I had a couple of stents put in at Blackburn. I said to the cardiologist, Mr Rowlands, 'Is that enough for me?' and he said, 'Not really, you’ll be all right and you can’t do without it'. This game can be close to giving you a heart attack at times, but I’ve survived so far."

West Ham fans will be ­desperately hoping Allardyce survives – and succeeds – this coming season and keeps those England dreams bubbling. If he doesn't, then he can always seek sanctuary in David Gold's newly installed panic room. According to the Mirror, the terrified football tycoon has turned his home into a fortress after learning he is on the hit list of Britain’s most wanted armed robbers. The West Ham co-owner has spent £250,000 installing CCTV, a direct phone line to the police and the aforementioned panic room. Gold, 74, has been ­living in fear since being told by police that he was a target of the gang, who have carried out a series of violent raids on rich businessmen.

He was given the warning after a crowbar attack which almost killed Phones4u founder John Caudwell. Police believe the gang, made up of a hardcore of 20 thugs led by a 'Mr Big', research every aspect of their victims’ lives and movements before striking. Mr Gold, who is worth ­£360million, said his friend Mr Caudwell had spoken to him and left him in little doubt about the threat he faced. He told the Sunday Mirror: "From the ­information the police gave me, it was a question of when, not if, the gang would try something. When I spoke to John Caudwell he told me, 'you’ve got to take this seriously because this gang is going to kill someone'. I have been terrified."

Gold, who also owns the Ann Summers lingerie firm, has turned a suite of his 30-room Surrey mansion into panic rooms. In the event of a robbery, he will lock himself and fiancee Lesley Manning behind heavy triple-bolted steel doors. Once inside, he has a direct line to the police and can watch any raiders on a TV screen linked to more than a dozen CCTV cameras. Guards patrol the 55-acre estate 24 hours a day. Mr Gold said he improved ­security after a near-fatal bout of septicaemia in February. "It made me realise how vulnerable I am," he said. "I wanted to take ­whatever measures I could to defend myself and Lesley. I’ve done everything I can and I feel much safer now. But I’m still on red alert until this gang is caught." Police have been following up new leads on last November’s raid on Mr Caudwell’s Staffordshire home after it featured on Crimewatch. Three men from Liverpool were arrested but later released on bail.

Talking of robbery, Chris Hughton believes the Hammers have pulled off the steal of the summer in landing midfielder Kevin Nolan. Birmingham’s new chief says West Ham boss Sam Allardyce has pulled off an amazing Championship transfer coup and admitted he would have chased his old Toon captain himself if Big Sam had not snapped him up first. He said: "Kevin will be massive. He was outstanding in the Championship season and again last season. He will consistently score goals from midfield, doesn’t miss many games, and has a good influence on the dressing room."

In fact, Nolan could inspire West Ham the way Billy Bonds used to, agrees Sam Allardyce. The Hammers boss has tipped his new acquisition to bring Bonzo-style leadership to the Hammers cause next season. The manager was asked whether the club's new midfield recruit could be the one to show the drive and determination demonstrated by Bonds during his incredible Boleyn Ground career between 1967 and 1988. Allardyce said: "He is a great leader on and off the field. It is very important that we get a team spirit and unity. He could be that [Bonds style character], but I don't want to put too much pressure on him."

The manager, who helped Nolan rise to prominence during their time together at Bolton Wanderers, said he expected the 28-year-old to be "a much better player than one I last remember." He added: "He is in the prime of his career. He has chosen to pay me a really good honour. Not just that he wants to play for West Ham but that he wants to play for me again because he enjoyed his time. Hopefully we will both benefit by that."

While Nolan settles in, Scott Parker has reportedly been told he can leave for £7m as wage bill forces West Ham's hand. The Mail is running the same story it has been carrying for months; namely, the club are ready to listen to offers for the Footballer of the Year. The midfielder, 30, has been linked with Tottenham, but so far neither they nor any other Premier League club have made a positive attempt to sign the highly regarded England man.

New Upton Park boss Allardyce has still to discuss Parker's future with him, but sources close to the club have indicated that the player's wages, believed to be about £60,000 a week, would force them to let the skipper move on, especially now they have signed a ready-made replacement in Nolan. Allardyce, of course, has experienced the disappointment of losing Parker before. Despite being successful enough at previous club Newcastle to earn an England recall after a two-year absence, Parker did not enjoy on Tyneside the kind of popularity he later experienced at Upton Park and was sold by Allardyce to West Ham.

While the Parker story is the only West Ham related rumour to make the Sunday tabloids; the chattering Twitterati have been keeping themselves amused by breaking one tranfer story after another. It started this morning with news that West Ham had agreed a £2.5m fee with Leeds United for Ivory Coast winger Max Gradel (medical scheduled for Tuesday for the really ambitious ITKs). By lunchtime, there was a slew of reports that Peterborough striker Craig Makail-Smith had also agreed a £3m transfer (variously turning down Stoke City, Norwich City and/or Leicester City depending on who you happened to be following). A few hours later, came the distressing news that West Ham and Ipswich are locked in a tug-of-war over the free transfers signing of 34-year-old thug-for-hire Michael Brown. Followed by the claim this evening that an official 400k bid has been lodged for James McLean of Derry City; and tonight's story that Stoke keeper Thomas Sorensen has been lined up as Rob Green's replacement.

From potential signings to a potential star already in the ranks with the news that Pablo Barrera was a stand-out performer in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final. The winger was the hero for Mexico as they triumphed with a 4-2 defeat of the United States. Barrera pulled his side back into a thrilling contest in Pasadena, California with Mexico's opening goal, having seen the US race into a two-goal lead through Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan. Mexico's equaliser came via Andres Guardado and, with the score at 2-2, Barrera then got his second - and the game's decisive goal - five minutes after the interval. Mexico never looked back from there and added a fourth via Giovani Dos Santos to claim a memorable victory.

Finally, it is 8 years ago today for the passing of Marc-Vivien Foe. God bless and RIP the most indomitable of lions.

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