Sam Allardyce: Why England manager had to be let go by FA
Sam Allardyce's elation at being appointed England manager - the job he had wanted and unashamedly craved throughout his career - was unconfined. The joy lasted 67 days until his departure.
As he sat in the July sunshine waiting to deliver his first message to England's fans as Roy Hodgson's successor after failure at Euro 2016, Allardyce said: "I can't stop smiling because I've got this job."
The smiling stopped for Allardyce and those who appointed him after just one England match, following a newspaper sting alleging he was trying to use his job to negotiate a £400,000 personal deal and which also heard England's manager offering advice on how to "get around" rules on player transfers.
If this is the darkest day of Allardyce's career, then it is also a desperate low for the Football Association as the man appointed to take England into the future leaves after just 90 minutes of World Cup qualifying action in Slovakia.
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How did it come to this?
Allardyce was attending a golf day at Stoke Park, within easy reach of Heathrow, when the allegations that wrecked his short career as England manager were about to emerge.
The 61-year-old's mind should have been on finalising England's squad to face Malta at Wembley on 8 October and the subsequent trip to Slovenia for World Cup qualifiers.
Now, instead of focusing on whether to recall Manchester United teenage striker Marcus Rashford to the full squad, he was confronted with the claims that would destroy his hopes of holding on to his dream job.
The worst fears of Allardyce and the FA were confirmed when the Telegraph published details of their secretly-filmed conversation with an unguarded England manager in early August shortly before 22:00 BST on Monday, continuing the chain of events that would lead to his departure.
Allardyce, who had meetings in Mayfair and Manchester with undercover reporters posing as representatives of a fictitious Far East firm that wanted to buy players, had been caught up in an expose discussing a proposed £400,000 arrangement that would see him fly to Singapore and Hong Kong to address investors in the non-existent company.
He insisted he would have to clear such an arrangement with the FA but was also heard in conversation about how third-party ownership of players can be circumnavigated, in contravention of existing FA and Fifa rules, and criticising his predecessor Roy Hodgson - including mocking his voice - his former England assistant Gary Neville, as well as the FA's decision to "stupidly" rebuild Wembley at a cost of £870m.
Allardyce also complained that the FA's president, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, did not attend meetings and he made unflattering remarks about Prince Harry.
He outlined the psychological barrier England's players face and which had contributed to their failures - although this is a subject he has addressed regularly since his appointment.
The FA asked to see The Telegraph's evidence on Monday evening, as well as holding a conference call with the embattled Allardyce, who left his home in Bolton at 07:00 BST on Tuesday in his Mercedes to meet his employers at Wembley.
It must have been a long drive back to Bolton for Allardyce - a drive he will never take as England manager again after failing to convince FA chairman Greg Clarke and chief executive Martin Glenn that he should keep his job.
|England's shortest serving full-time managers (and the longest)|
|Name||Games in charge||Time in charge|
|Sam Allardyce||1 (2016)||67 days|
|Steve McClaren||18 (2006-2007)||One year, six months, 18 days|
|Kevin Keegan||18 (1999-2000)||One year, seven months, 17 days|
|Terry Venables||23 (1994-1996)||Two years, four months, 29 days|
|Glenn Hoddle||28 (1996-1999)||Two years, nine months|
|Don Revie||29 (1974-1977)||Three years, seven days|
|Walter Winterbottom||139 (1946-1962)||18 years|
Did the FA have to act over Allardyce?
Sam Allardyce is an acquired taste to many, both as a "call a spade a spade" personality and a manager whose tactics have often been decried by his detractors as basic and over-physical.
It is a label that irks the man who once claimed if his name was "Allardici" he would be more revered - and his England vision, outlined during his interview at FA board member David Gill's house in July, is believed to have been perceptive and modern.
So it will have been with a heavy heart that the FA's hierarchy listened to Allardyce at Wembley on Tuesday afternoon before parting ways with the manager they thought would lift the post-Euro 2016 gloom of the Hodgson era.
If the FA felt there was any justification for keeping Allardyce, it would surely have given him the benefit of the doubt. There will have been no serious appetite for the decision that was eventually taken unless it was unavoidable, no desire for further upheaval after a single game in charge, that 1-0 win in Slovakia.
|Sam Allardyce's Premier League record|
In the final reckoning, the FA clearly felt that as guardians of the rules and the body that judges others, Allardyce's words on third-party transfers, his naivety and poor judgement in discussing intimate FA and footballing matters with relative strangers, the notion he might even consider himself as a potential advisor to this albeit fictitious company, weighed too heavily against him, making Tuesday night's split inevitable.
There will be others who will have a measure of sympathy for Allardyce falling into a trap, who will agree with his remarks about Hodgson's management, Neville's contribution, England's players and the spending on Wembley. They will point to the fact he insisted he would not strike that £400,000 deal without consulting the FA.
And those who feel his punishment is harsh will believe his remarks on third-party ownership were part of a private conversation while his comments on the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry were crass but hardly the stuff on which such jobs as England manager should be lost.
Ultimately, however, the bigger argument goes to the heart of the lack of judgement and loose-tongued approach shown by England's manager, the footballing figurehead of the FA.
The bottom line is the FA must be credible, show leadership and demonstrate authority - and it was decided Allardyce could not stay under those circumstances.
What now for the FA?
FA chairman Clarke has barely got his feet under the desk before having to deal with one of the biggest crises he will ever have to handle in his new job, namely presiding over the sudden leaving of one England manager and starting the search for another.
Clarke has certainly shown himself to be a man of decisive action, but for chief executive Glenn there will be frustration - perhaps even embarrassment - that Allardyce lasted only one game before being brought down for non-footballing reasons.
Allardyce was the unanimous choice of the FA's selection panel to succeed Hodgson. He impressed Glenn, then acting chairman David Gill and technical director Dan Ashworth hugely.
Now it is back to the drawing board - and perhaps some of the men who were on the drawing board when the FA prepared its post-Hodgson succession plan.
England Under-21 coach Gareth Southgate will take charge for the next four games, the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovenia, the group game against Scotland at Wembley on 11 November before a friendly at home to Spain four days later.
The 46-year-old stated in early September that while he wants the senior job one day, he did not feel ready to assume responsibility now.
If he makes a success of his brief stint in charge might he change his mind? Would the FA make efforts to persuade him he was ready?
Southgate may not believe he is ready yet but he still has the first chance to make a case for becoming successor to Allardyce.
Steve Bruce was also interviewed before Allardyce was appointed. He has since stepped down as Hull City boss and is available should the FA wish to revisit his credentials.
At the time, the 55-year-old said: "It has got to be the prime job that any Englishman could ever want to have."
Bournemouth's Eddie Howe, 38, was also regarded as a contender, although he is only just into his second season in Premier League management, while Alan Pardew's name was also creeping up in the betting.
Howe, although guarded on speculation, admitted he would "love the chance" when speaking in August.
The FA was determined to act swiftly following Hodgson's resignation. It will start forming its plans in the next in the line of succession just as quickly.
What now for Allardyce?
Allardyce will surely be broken by the pace of events in the hours between the Telegraph's revelations and his departure. The England job was one he felt should have been his as far back as 2006, when Steve McClaren replaced Sven-Goran Eriksson.
It will hurt even more that he has effectively engineered his own downfall after the briefest taste of the footballing experience he wanted more than any other. All his years at the likes of Bolton Wanderers, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers, West Ham United and Sunderland had been building towards the pinnacle with England.
Allardyce felt the stars were finally aligned as he said: "It is the right time. I'm at the right age with the right experience."
He was also perfect for the FA with his willingness to buy into the development of coaches at St George's Park, making it the hub of his and England's activity in a way Hodgson never did.
Now, suddenly, he has let the job of his dreams slip through his grasp inside 10 weeks.
Allardyce's candidacy for England was bolstered by his brilliant work in ensuring Sunderland's survival in the Premier League last season. He is sure to interest other clubs as the season progresses.
Will Allardyce reciprocate that interest? The England experience will leave him heartbroken and maybe even embittered.
Will one of English football's most enduring figures want the stresses of day-to-day management after such a spectacular rise and fall in the winter of his career?