Skip to content

Sam Allardyce: England sting affected my mental health but lower league bosses have it worse | football-news

“Every man and his dog tried to destroy me and my family and that it was very difficult to get through.”

For Sam Allardyce, the memories of his time as England manager are still very raw. Unsurprisingly, he says that he was the toughest period of his life, and the biggest strain on his mental health.

Becoming England boss marked the pinnacle of his career, the “dream job” he had imagined when he first stepped into management, but one which seemed a world away from the teenage Allardyce when, as a teenager, he began his journey in football with semi -professional side Dudley Town.

Growing up in the Black Country in the late 70s, the subject of mental health was never mentioned.

Image:
Allardyce during his only game in charge of England – a friendly match against Slovakia in 2016

“Nobody can take that away from me,” he told me. “I got the best job in this country, which is the England manager’s job.”

Allardyce was appointed in July 2016 on a two-year contract. He lasted just 67 days, and had one game in a charge – a 1-0 win against Slovakia in a World Cup Qualifier.

He resigned after a national newspaper sting accused him of impropriety – an accusation he has always denied. But the media and public pressure which followed the Telegraph’s story, Allardyce says was unbearable and forced him out.

“That was very difficult to get through those times with me and the family,” Allardyce says. “But we managed to go through it with the help of others, and more importantly – in the end, getting back into football and just putting that to one side and being very successful at Crystal Palace.”

I asked him how he had tried to alleviate the mental strain, when he was on the front of every newspaper, and the world’s media were camped outside his home.

“I think initially you take yourself away, you try to hide away and then you’ve got to say to yourself ‘get out there and face it.’

“You have to leave the past in the past. Yes, you can dwell on it and you do have thoughts about it, but you’ve got to move on and look to the future. And I look upon the rest of my career as really just being lovely. To leave school at 15 and play football and manage football clubs.”

Allardyce admits his England departure was a one-off, and pained him in a way he had never experienced before. But he says the nature of football management means there are daily, extreme, mental health pressures that people outside football simply cannot understand.

“If you really look at the dugout in a game that tells it all, body language is everything in terms of communication,” he says.”I think that tells it all – the stress levels that you go through as a manager, at all levels.”

Sam Allardyce watches on during England's friendly match with Slovakia
Image:
Allardyce watches on during England’s friendly match with Slovakia

He says the media focuses on the managerial elite, but the mental health pressures for managers further down the football pyramid are often overlooked, and all the more extreme.

That is why he works so closely with the League Managers Association, offering to advise and mentor coaches who are relatively new to the industry.

“In the lower leagues it’s about saving your livelihood, about saving your job, about saving your income to pay for your mortgage and your children and your wife’s welfare.

“And that can be much more stressful than for a manager in the Premier League. Lower down, I think the pressures might be greater, you know.

“Lots of our managers that can’t find another job after they’ve had one fall into great distress and financial hardship, which may cause suicidal feelings.”

Allardyce admits he has become known as a “fire-fighter”, being parachuted into jobs, often midway through a season, charged with trying to keep a club in the Premier League.

Bolton Wanderers captain Gudni Bergsson and manager Sam Allardyce (centre, left) lift the trophy, after the Nationwide Division One play-off final against Preston at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.  Bolton are promoted to the FA Premiership after defeating Preston 3-0.
Image:
Bolton Wanderers captain Gudni Bergsson and manager Sam Allardyce (centre, left) lift the trophy, after the Nationwide Division One play-off final against Preston at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. Bolton are promoted to the FA Premiership after def

Having won promotion to the top division with Bolton in 2001, he kept them up six times and went on to steer Blackburn, Sunderland, West Ham and Crystal Palace to safety.

He says “there’s no doubt” that repeatedly taking charge of clubs involved in relegation battles has taken its toll on his mental health.

His proud record of never having experienced relegation as a manager was lost when he took charge of West Bromwich Albion, who went down a year ago.

“I think West Brom was obviously the most difficult of all and proved to be in the end. I couldn’t manage to save them from relegation, though we got a vast improvement.

“I think that you slip into categories. Maybe you don’t want to, but you do. You can’t fight against it. You just have to face it. So if somebody else wants you to get them to get them out of trouble, then you look at that situation and say, can I help you?

After three decades in football management, Allardyce says he’s learned some techniques to help try to alleviate the pressure. But it’s a job that is all-consuming.

“I used my family, I went on holiday to just try to break away from it,” he says.

Sam Allardyce (second, right) jokes with Gareth Southgate (left) who replaced him as England manager
Image:
Allardyce (second, right) jokes with Gareth Southgate (left) who replaced him as England manager

‘Could you ever switch off,’ I ask him? “Yeah. I had to learn to. It took some time, but if you talk with the right people [it can help].

“You speak to the sports psychologist, you sit down with them for a long period of time and they help you manage these situations.”

So what advice would one of the most experienced managers ever, give to current managers, to help alleviate the pressure? “Keep winning,” he says, bluntly. “If you don’t keep winning you don’t stay in a job.”

That is the stark reality that all football managers are faced with, on a daily basis.

Sam Allardyce was speaking to Sky Sports News at the LMA’s ‘Shining a light on Suicide’ launch, which encourages everyone to do the 20-minute online training video, which might help them save a life if someone they know or meet is having suicidal thoughts .

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or via email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. Sky also offers support for viewers and customers, which can be found here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.