When Sam Allardyce became the first man to manage both Sunderland and Newcastle United – and kept the Black Cats safe from relegation


Sam Allardyce is a polarizing figure in English football. The charismatic Englishman has had his moments, especially at Bolton Wanderers where his team played exciting and attacking football. However, in modern times ‘Big Sam’ is seen as something else entirely: a relegation survival expert. The reason opinion is divided is that, in order to achieve his aim, he often resorts to a style of football that is a return to the old days. It’s not pretty, but more often than not it was effective. This was first evident in his brief reign at Sunderland, which saw him keep the Black Cats safe from relegation.

Six years have passed since his appointment to the Stadium of Light, we look back at a rollercoaster season for the club and Big Sam himself.

background

The 2015–16 season was not exactly going well for Sunderland. In his first 8 bouts, he recorded five losses and three draws; Results like this just scream relegation form.

The owners apparently felt something had to change, which is why manager Dick Advocaat was fired during the international break. its replacement? Sam Allardyce, who was officially appointed on 9 October 2015.

The brief for Big Sam was simple: ensure the club survives in the Premier League. Given that he was only on a two-year deal, it was clear that avoiding relegation was the only goal.

Incidentally, the appointment made Allardyce a history maker: he was now the first man to manage both Newcastle United and Sunderland. The crossing of the Tyne–Wear derby divide had surprisingly never been done up to that point.

Given his tenures at Newcastle and later West Ham United were forgettable, expectations from Allardyce were initially low. But that will change with time.

Sam Allardyce earns the ‘survival expert’ tag

The rise in fortunes was not immediate; Indeed, under Allardyce, the club yo-yoed in terms of form and results. His tenure began with a 1–0 defeat away to West Bromwich Albion, and the next game was a derby against Newcastle.

Sunderland were keen to win that one and it showed, as they thrashed their rivals 3–0 at home. However, far from being a turning point, it proved to be a false dawn.

There were losses to Everton and Southampton, before picking up wins against Crystal Palace and Stoke City. Yet a consistent run of form did not come, as they lost their next five games in a row.

However, losses were expected: four of the five came against Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool. This was not ideal, but it was expected given the circumstances of the club.

This was followed by back-to-back wins over Aston Villa and Swansea City but again, good results were not forthcoming. Their next four matches saw two defeats (to Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City) and two draws (to Liverpool and Bournemouth).

However, the turning point of his season came at home against Manchester United. They shocked the Red Devils 2–1, and it was the start of a golden run in their last game of the season.

Following United’s victory, they would only lose two of their remaining 12 matches. Seven draws and three wins, including a 3–2 defeat of Chelsea, ended the season in 17th place – just one place above the drop zone.

To make things even sweeter, the team that finished 18th and got relegated was none other than Newcastle United. And Allardyce was clearly the man of the moment.

His approach to the season saw him well-received for his organized, disciplined approach to the game.

Result

Sadly for both club and manager, this season was as good as it was. Allardyce left the job to take up the position of England manager. He lasted one game and was fired after becoming involved in a betting scandal.

Sunderland would go back to the Championship the following season, and shocked everyone by being relegated again for a second time in their first season in the Second Division.

The club is currently in League One, although the ownership changes portend hopes for a brighter future.

Meanwhile, Allardyce is almost retired from management. He took similar survival-first jobs at Crystal Palace and Everton, being successful at both clubs.

But he suffered the first relegation of his career with West Brom in the 2020–21 season, where he could not save the team despite monitoring an improvement in form.

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