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How To Ruin Your Dream Job: Lessons From Big Sam

It is often said that securing a job is not enough, what you do with it afterwards makes all the difference. This was indeed true for a certain Sam Allardyce, erstwhile manager of the English football national team, whose fall from his dream job was swift and fatal. To put in context, he lasted for only 67 days and managed the team for just one game. His story is one that posterity will scrutinize with a sad glee of how and why this happened.

In an age where importing mercenaries for glory is the name of the game, Allardyce was English football’s boy done good. He hadn’t managed elite clubs, or too many elite players, but he was a down-to-earth, straight-talking product of the game. His appointment was a triumph for the little man, for the idea that the Bolton manager could be as sharp as Jose Mourinho, given the chance.

Allardyce wasn’t an imported mercenary, in England for the money like Sven Goran Eriksson or Fabio Capello. He hadn’t been around the block with Switzerland and Finland like Roy Hodgson. In fact, his last job if that was to be called a rehearsal and an advert for the England manager role was one he barely excelled in. It was a survival act as Big Sam was able to keep Sunderland in the elite league by a whisker. And then, he landed a £3m-a-year plus bonuses contract in July. It was his dream job. The delight of frolicking from Old Trafford to Stanford Bridge to see English talents was the stuff of fulfillment for Big Sam. The prospect of winning a trophy with the national team and covering himself in glory was mouth-watering. Yet, like a swift burning candle, the light has been put out and it is now a case of reminiscing over what might have been.

Sam Allardyce was sacked/forced to resign primarily for reasons that bordered on integrity. The Football Association called time on his stint over scandalous dealings and comments he made to reporters, whom he believed were businessmen from the Far East. The Daily Telegraph subsequently revealed videotaped conversations in which Allardyce expressed a willingness to help agents and investors skirt FA rules on transfers and player ownership. Allardyce also mocked his England predecessor, Roy Hodgson, and his ex-assistant coach, Gary Neville. Allardyce believed he was talking to representatives of an Asian firm willing to pay him £400,000 ($520,000) to deliver keynote addresses at corporate events. But doing so might have represented a conflict of interest between England’s national team and players whom the fictional firm might represent. The Telegraph interviewed and subsequently exposed Allardyce as part of an ongoing investigation into bribery in English football.

The Allardyce story is a classic case of how to lose your dream job and while accusing fingers will be thrown his way, a bit of inquest is required. For some of us, the goal is to land a dream job with all it’s great specs and juicy perks. However, some find out quickly that having attained that height, there is an insatiable quest to want more, to desire more, to want to stretch the boundaries. Big Sam wanted more. He wanted to be Robbie Williams. He wanted to be a keynote speaker; a goal more miniature than the greater goal. In life, in business, we must watch that part of us always asking for more, that need to influence, that integrity compromise that is always flirting at the door. No doubt, Big Sam will live to regret his action. He will be spoken of in derision by many and pity by some (Jose Mourinho said ‘I felt sorry for him’), but what history will always tell us is ‘Here is a man undone by his own insatiable cravings for more when he had more than enough from life.’


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