Big Sam believes in winning by making jokes

West Brom coach confident of keeping Baggies in top tier

Head injuries to players and especially concussion is a hot topic at the moment.

In Summary

•The jokes paid off as West Brom looked much more confident against Liverpool and they played well to take a point of the title favourites.

•He was the last manager to beat the Reds at Anfield over three years ago and he is unbeaten after taking his previous four different clubs to Liverpool; Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Everton and West Brom.


West Brom manager Sam Allardyce
West Brom manager Sam Allardyce

Sam Allardyce lived up to his reputation this week as his West Bromwich Albion team left Anfield after taking a point off Liverpool. How did he do it given the Baggie’s results have been dreadful all season?

He said, “Taking pressure off the players is a big part of it. As soon as results fall away confidence drains away. Positivity has to involve hard work and good leadership— it is about pointing out the things we are doing wrong and the things we are doing right. I am not sure how they have taken to me yet. I have cracked a few jokes and got some strange looks back. I have come back into the Premier League to be among the West Brom players and enjoy their company. They must interact with each other and have a sense of humour. Having fun with each other is a part of the building process. I’m not sure what they think of me the manager having a joke but I’m here to enjoy myself and while we might get miserable when we lose and happy if we win, between times we have to enjoy things.”

The jokes paid off as West Brom looked much more confident against Liverpool and they played well to take a point of the title favourites.

It is interesting that Big Sam must have a blueprint which annoys Liverpool. He was the last manager to beat the Reds at Anfield over three years ago and he is unbeaten after taking his previous four different clubs to Liverpool; Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Everton and West Brom. Sam said after the Liverpool game that he believes he can keep West Brom in the top tier after analysing his current crop of players but the fight is going to be an enormous challenge as we go into the new year.

United set to extend Cavani’s contract

Manchester United's Edinson Cavani
Manchester United's Edinson Cavani
Image: FILE

Edinson Cavani is both impressed and pleased that Manchester United have looked after him well since he joined from PSG. He and his family had two full-time assistants to help them look for a house in the Manchester area and they have settled in perfectly.

He is happy and he is in the best frame of mind to help United. I am delighted to report that Manchester tipped me off on Sunday that the club is ready to extend Cavani’s contract beyond the end of the season. The Uruguayan has a one-year optional extension and that will be triggered.

33-year-old Cavani has become a firm fans favourite after scoring four goals since he joined from PSG and has several assists.

Manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer said: “At the moment, it looks like he has a few years left in him. I won’t say anything else but he has made a great impact since he came here. He is definitely a starter and players have to believe in themselves and I believe in him. We have good competition for places but he will probably start more games than he will not start.”

Cavani turns 34 in February and will be involved for Uruguay in the Copa America, due to be played between June 10 and July 11 so he will probably miss the main part of next pre-season training. Cavani inherited the famous No.7 shirt worn in the past by George Best and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Solskjaer said: “When he came here he asked me if he could wear the Number 7 shirt. I was never in any doubt that he would wear it with pride. He is so meticulous and professional. His habits and everything about him shows why he has had a great career. Even at the age, he is now, he is one of the fittest players we have got.”

Concussion substitutes to be allowed

Head injuries to players and especially concussion is a hot topic at the moment. In an attempt to make the sport safer, both the FA and the Premier League have agreed to trial the use of concussion substitutes which will not be part of the three-substitute rule allowance.

Many clubs have been criticised for allowing players to continue after sustaining a head injury so they are not reduced to ten men. Arsenal’s David Luiz is a typical example after his clash with Raul Jimenez of Wolves. Jimenez went to the hospital but a heavily bandaged Luiz carried on but had to eventually be substituted.

January will see the trail begin. The FA want to allow up to two concussion or head injury substitutions but the opposing team will also be allowed the same number of changes so no unfair advantage can be gained.


Klopp answers the question of Salah leaving

Following on from my story last weekend that Mo Salah’s agent has linked the striker with both Real Madrid and Barcelona because Jurgen Klopp had upset the Egyptian, the manager hit back this week.

He said: “I can’t understand why anybody would want to leave Liverpool. We have won trophies and we all won them…I do not understand why somebody would want to go. I think the only reason to leave Liverpool at the moment is the weather! What other reason could there be?

"This is one of the biggest clubs in the world and we pay good money, maybe not the most in the world but we pay good. We have a sensational stadium, with outstanding supporters and a fan-base all over the world— our colours are red, which is the nicest colour anyway, so where is the reason to leave?”

Klopp met with Mo Salah after my story was published in several countries and they had a frank and meaningful discussion. Klopp denied there was any problem with Salah but he also added that any player linked with Real or Barcelona would be proud but that did not mean they wanted to leave. Salah said this week that anything that happens is up to Liverpool.

Jimenez returns to watch Wolves

Wolves' forward Raul Jimenez celebrates
Wolves' forward Raul Jimenez celebrates

It was nice to see Wolves striker Raul Jimenez return to Molineux for the first time since sustaining a fractured skull against Arsenal when he clashed heads with David Luiz. He sat in the stands and clearly enjoyed watching his team hold Tottenham to a 1-1 draw.

Chelsea’s Alonso could join Crystal Palace I am a fan of Chelsea left-back Marcos Alonso. I think he is a good defender who can make darting runs along the left line and work closely with his midfielders.

However, he has fallen out of favour and manager Frank Lampard has not used the 29-year-old since he was subbed at half time against West Brom in September. There were reports, phoned to me, that Alonso was so angry he left the stadium and tried to watch the second half on the team bus.

Lampard was apparently annoyed and this led to the player’s demise within the Blue’s squad. I am told that Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson is keen to sign Marcos following in the footsteps of Gary Cahill who left Chelsea for the South London club and has been a great success.

Foden grow frustrated at City

I am hearing from Manchester City that Phil Foden is growing frustrated with his lack of playing time. The 20-year-old has started only one of City’s previous league matches and has been an unused substitute in three of their past five matches.

Foden started against Arsenal on October 17th but has played just 172 minutes of football in the league since that time and came on as a sub against Newcastle last weekend. Foden is fully committed to City and manager Pep Guardiola says he is possibly the best young prospect he has ever worked with. However, the manager does not consider Foden ready to regularly start matches as yet.

Interest in his skills have come from Spain, where Real Madrid are said to be keeping a watch on the youngster’s progress. Foden himself sees himself as a central midfield attacker but Guardiola has pushed him wide on most occasions and the player has voiced his disappointment.

Lampard furious at crowded Chelsea schedule

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard

Frank Lampard came out with all guns blazing after losing the battle against Arsenal. He criticised the FA for scheduling Chelsea for two games in 48 hours.

He said: “We will have conversations, we will talk but not much actually gets done at the critical time. It was decided that we play twice in 48 hours when other teams that are challenging at the top of the league play twice in three days, and have an extra 24 hours recovery time. I don’t see how it is fair. I think it is wrong and it’s not going to be the best for the players to play at their top level. Lampard thinks the FA only pay lip service to the dangerous demands on players after refusing to move the Villa game back a day.

Burnley manager stays loyal to his squad

Whereas most managers complain about not having enough money available to bring in new players, Burnley manager Sean Dyche is satisfied with the small amounts the northern club have spent.

He said his current Burnley squad has his backing despite just being outside the relegation zone but they have achieved a 1-0 win at Arsenal.

Dyche explained: “I’ve always said that when everyone is fit, regardless of not signing lots of players, we still believe in the squad and how it can compete. We have been unfortunate with the number of injuries so is it helpful if we can get some new players in? Yes. Is it vital? Not always.”