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Sam Allardyce: England sting affected my mental health, but lower league bosses got worse | Soccer News

Sam Allardyce: England sting affected my mental health, but lower league bosses got worse | Soccer News

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

For Sam Allardyce, the memories of his time as England manager are still very raw. Unsurprisingly, he says it was the hardest time of his life and the greatest strain on his mental health.

Becoming England boss marked the pinnacle of his career, the “dream job” he envisioned when he entered management, but which seemed a world away from teenage Allardyce when, as a teenager, he started his journey in football with semi-professional side Dudley Town.

Growing up in the Black Country in the late 70s, the topic of mental health never came up.

Picture:
Allardyce in his only game in charge of England – a friendly against Slovakia in 2016

“No one 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 played one game in a row – a 1-0 win over Slovakia in World Cup qualifiers.

He resigned after a national newspaper accused him of impropriety – a charge he has always denied. But the media and public pressure that followed the Telegraph story, Allardyce says, was unbearable and forced him to leave.

“It was very difficult going through those times with me and the family,” Allardyce says. “But we managed to get through that with the help of others, and more importantly – in the end, coming back to football and putting that aside and having great success at Crystal Palace.”

I asked him how he had tried to relieve the mental tension, when he was on the front pages of all the newspapers and the world’s media camped outside his house.

“I think at first you walk away, you try to hide, and then you have to be like ‘go ahead and face it’.

“You have to leave the past in the past. Yes, you can dwell on it and think about it, but you have to move on and look to the future. And I see the rest of my career as really just being adorable. Leaving school at 15 and playing football and managing football clubs.”

Allardyce admits his move to England was unique and pained him in ways he had never experienced before. But he says the nature of football management means there are extreme daily pressures on mental health that people outside of football simply cannot understand.

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

Picture:
Allardyce looks on during England’s friendly against Slovakia

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

That’s 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, saving your job, saving your income to pay your mortgage, your children and your wife’s well-being.

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

“Many of our managers who cannot find another job after having had one fall into great distress and financial difficulty, which can lead to suicidal feelings.”

Allardyce admits he became known as a “firefighter”, being parachuted into jobs, often in the middle of a season, tasked with trying to keep a club in the Premier League.

Picture:
Bolton Wanderers captain Gudni Bergsson and manager Sam Allardyce (centre left) lift the trophy, after the Domestic Division One final against Preston at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. Bolton are promoted to the FA Premiership after def

After being promoted to the First Division with Bolton in 2001, he kept them six times and then steered Blackburn, Sunderland, West Ham and Crystal Palace to safety.

He says “there is no doubt” that repeatedly taking charge of clubs embroiled in relegation battles has taken a toll on his mental health.

His proud record of never experiencing relegation as a manager was lost when he took charge of West Bromwich Albion, which fell a year ago.

“I think West Brom were obviously the toughest of them all and turned out to be that in the end. I couldn’t save them from relegation, although we got a big improvement.

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

After three decades in football management, Allardyce says he has learned a few techniques to try to ease the pressure. But it’s a job that takes everything.

“I used my family, went on vacation just to try to detach myself from them,” he says.

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

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

“You talk to the sports psychologist, you sit with him for a long time and he helps you deal with these situations.”

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

This is the harsh reality that all football managers face on a daily basis.

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

In the UK and Ireland, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email [email protected] or [email protected] Sky also offers viewer and customer support, which can be found here.


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