SAM Allardyce has received some timely encouragement from former Newcastle United manager Sir Bobby Robson as he continues his battle to win over sceptical fans who are already starting to question his ability to lead the club.
Allardyce has been close to Robson for several years and, like most people in the game, has often called upon English football’s favourite knight for advice on various aspects of management.
And, as United’s under-fire manager struggles to convince his critics that he is the right man for the St James’s Park dug-out following a run of four games without a win, he revealed how some choice words from Robson have helped add steel to his conviction that he can succeed on Tyneside.
While Allardyce was not a universally popular appointment by former chairman Freddie Shepherd back in May, the majority of observers are still shocked to see him under so much pressure so early into his United career – including Robson.
“He just told me to stay positive but, then again, Bobby is never anything other than encouraging,” said Allardyce, who will be able to welcome Steven Taylor and Abdoulaye Faye back for the trip to Blackburn Rovers at the weekend to reinforce a back line which looked alarmingly flimsy during the 3-0 home defeat by Liverpool last weekend.
“There are a lot of people here who know him and were pleased to see him. He talks football 24/7 and I always take the opportunity to speak to Bobby when I get the chance, who doesn’t?”
When Allardyce was a young Premier League manager with Bolton, he can vividly remember how magnanimous Robson had been after Newcastle had beaten his team and how the former England manager had given him a similar piece of advice as he tried to repair United’s battered confidence after Saturday’s dismal show against Liverpool.
He explained: “I remember them (Newcastle) slapping us at Bolton and he said don’t worry, learn to accept defeats like this against bigger teams in your first year and then kick on and improve as you go on, but don’t pass it on to your players.’
“He taught me to put these defeats behind you and not let it affect you, or the players. Most importantly, don’t let it affect the team’s confidence and their performance, you have to have a positive attitude.
“That is more or less what he was saying to me again on Wednesday.
“He knows what this club is about, that this is not an easy club to manage, but if you get it right, it is great.
“He has had a few chats around the training ground and it was nice to see him out and about because he is not so well at the moment.” Despite the poisonous atmosphere at St James’s Park last weekend, when United’s manager and players were booed and jeered regularly during a depressing 90 minutes, Allardyce has no intention of shirking the challenge he has taken on.
And he is adamant his relationship with chairman Chris Mort remains strong as he denied he had needed to seek any assurances about his future this week.
“Just because somebody writes it in the papers, I should not be ringing or chasing the chairman, or the owner, to seek assurances
over my position,” he said. “My position is safe if I get results; my position is not safe if I lose football matches. It has never been any different anywhere else, not here, not at Bolton, not anywhere. I would not have lasted eight years at Bolton if I did not get results, so it is no different anywhere you go.
“Only our bosses can be more stable and more supportive and I believe there will be no knee-jerk reaction from my bosses. They are very stable and very supportive, and I hope that remains the case.”
Allardyce also moved to deny suggestions he has been told he will not have any money to spend in the January transfer window because he has not even discussed the subject with Mort yet.
He said: “I don’t have to persuade him to give me money to spend because we have not had the conversation yet. The strength in depth is never satisfying for a manager like me. There is never enough, there wasn’t enough at Bolton, so you will never be satisfied at a club this size.
“We need to decide in the near future what we will do in January and make decisions. It is on-going. We need to talk it through when we get the opportunity.”
FORMER Sunderland star Stephen Elliott marked his return to the Wolves starting line-up with the decisive goal as they kept their Championship promotion bid on track with a slender 1-0 victory over Colchester last night.
The Republic of Ireland striker, making his first start for eight games after injury, headed into an empty net to give Wanderers an undeserved lead after strike partner Freddy Eastwood’s initial header had been superbly saved from point-blank range by Dean Gerken.
Mark Yeates had earlier hit a post for the Us, who are now seven games without a win, but the home side were much-improved in the second half as they stretched their unbeaten run to five games.
In last night’s other Championship game, Roman Bednar scored twice on his full debut as West Brom spoiled Paul Sturrock’s return to Plymouth – leaving with a 2-1 victory.
Jermaine Easter netted for the home side but Bednar, on loan from Hearts, netted in the ninth and 43rd minutes to give Albion a win which moves them to within two points of leaders Watford.