Leeds United hire Sam Allardyce as manager after firing Gracia

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Sam Allardyce

Sam Allardyce will make an unlikely return to the Premier League as the 68-year-old former England coach was hired by Leeds United until the end of the season after the relegation-threatened club fired manager Javi Gracia.

Allardyce’s last coaching role was at West Bromwich Albion for the second half of the 2020-21 season, when he failed in his short-term mission to keep the team in the Premier League.

That has not stopped Leeds from turning to Allardyce, previously regarded as a survival specialist, as the replacement for Gracia, who leaves after two months in the job and after winning only three of his 12 games in charge.

Leeds lost five of its seven games in April and conceded 23 goals in that period – the most in a single month in Premier League history. Gracia’s last game proved to be the 4-1 loss at Bournemouth on Sunday.

The team is in fourth-to-last in the table, only out of the relegation zone on goal difference with four games remaining.

According to British newspaper The Times of London, Allardyce will earn more than three million pounds ($3.75m) if he keeps Leeds in the Premier League. It is his ninth managerial job in the top division and the sixth time he has been hired during a season, both of which are records.

“Obviously, there’s a tingle that runs through your veins when you take over a football club,” Allardyce said in an interview with British radio station talkSPORT, which was given before his appointment was officially announced on Wednesday.

“I know it’s in a lot of trouble. I’ve seen a lot of trouble before and hopefully – I could have done with a little bit more time, but four games – hopefully, we can make a difference and keep this fabulous club in the Premier League.”

Allardyce said he was “shocked” to get the opportunity.

“I never thought at this stage of the season, there would be jobs offered,” he said. “When the phone popped up with a name that I knew pretty well, I knew who it was straight away. So it took me about two seconds to say yes.”

Allardyce’s four-game stint starts with games against two of the top three – Manchester City away and Newcastle at home – before a trip to West Ham and a season-ending home match against Tottenham, who are fighting for European qualification. West Ham and Newcastle are two of Allardyce’s many former clubs.

Despite his impressive record as a club manager, Allardyce lasted only 67 days and one match as England boss before being forced out after a newspaper sting in 2016.

In the space of about a year, Leeds have gone from having something of a cultural phenomenon in Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa in charge to appointing Allardyce, an old-school English manager who has taken charge of 537 Premier League games.

Nowhere is Allardyce’s preferred direct, pragmatic style better exemplified than the name of his weekly podcast, which is called “No Tippy Tappy Football”.

It is proving to be chaotic week at Elland Road, with director of football Victor Orta losing his job on Tuesday.

And it is a wild season in general in the Premier League, with a record 14 managers having been fired this season as the pressure on clubs to either qualify for Europe or stay in England’s lucrative top division takes its toll.

There are now six teams with interim managers – Southampton, Leicester, Crystal Palace, Tottenham, Chelsea and Leeds.

The arrival of Allardyce continues something of a trend of clubs appointing experienced managers to realise end-of-season objectives.

Another former England coach, 75-year-old Roy Hodgson, was hired by Palace in March for the final weeks of the season as the team plunged towards the relegation zone. Palace has won four of its six games under Hodgson and has virtually guaranteed its safety.

In the second-tier Championship, Middlesbrough appointed 74-year-old Neil Warnock as manager in February in a bid to avoid relegation. It appears to have worked, with the team having moved out of the drop zone heading into the final week of the season.

Allardyce’s last coaching role was at West Brom in 2020-21, when he failed to keep the team in the Premier League.

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