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The bittersweet return of Sam Allardyce - what can West Brom fans expect this season?

Fan-favourite former Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce has returned to management, taking up the vacant post at West Brom. What can their fans expect? Joseph Tulip attempts to explain...

West Bromwich Albion v Aston Villa - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The return to football of Sam Allardyce will undoubtedly evoke mixed emotions for Sunderland fans.

His chest-thumping antics at the end of that memorable 3-0 win over Everton in May 2016 will live long in the memory, for it was the day Big Sam completed his mission to keep us in the Premier League in emphatic fashion.

But with hopes of good times to follow, the former player, who coached at SAFC during the early years of Peter Reid’s reign, made a sharp exit.

His bizarre departure, during half time of a pre-season friendly at Hartlepool that summer led to Allardyce becoming England manager.

While fans understood it was his dream ticket, many felt let down by both Allardyce and the FA at the timing of the move.

It didn’t give his predecessor, David Moyes, long to prepare for the start of the season, and we all know the disaster which followed.

Who knows? Had England not come calling for Allardyce at a time when Sunderland needed him most, we might have escaped the horror show of successive relegations.

FBL-WC-2018-ENG-SVK-TRAINING Photo credit should read ANTHONY DEVLIN/AFP via Getty Images

If West Brom fans are wondering what to expect from the vastly experience 66-year-old – we can tell them many good things - and they shouldn’t be worried about Sunday’s home defeat to Aston Villa.

But they musn’t think too far ahead, for Allardyce in the latter half of his managerial career has developed a habit of working his magic before moving swiftly on, instead of building on his good work.

When Allardyce joined Sunderland in October 2015, he wasn’t an overnight success. We had the makings of a decent, yet underachieving squad.

It wasn’t until he was able to make his mark in the January transfer window that we saw his style come into its own.

He introduced the three Ks – Kone, Kirchoff and Khazri - a trio of superb signings who created a new spine, breathing new life into existing players by creating effective partnerships, particularly in defence and midfield.

Under Allardyce, every player knew his role. It might be a cliché, but we became well organised, disciplined and hard to beat.

It’s a myth, however, that Big Sam is simply a long ball merchant. At Bolton, Allardyce moulded flair players such as Jay Jay Okocha into his well-drilled team.

And at Sunderland, the likes of Khazri were given licence to be creative within a structured framework. He knew the value of pace, with Duncan Watmore, a player Allardyce named ‘The Roadrunner’ key to hitting teams on the break.

Sunderland v Everton - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

By the time we comprehensively defeated Everton on that memorable day in May, we had a competent side which was full of confidence.

Allardyce has joined West Brom slightly later in the season than he did with us, but it will be interesting to see who be brings in next month to mould the Baggies into his style.

It might seem like Allardyce is a world apart from his predecessor, Slaven Bilic, and the Croatian’s pleasing-on-the-eye style which earned a draw against Manchester City in his final game.

But make no mistake. Allardyce is not old-fashioned, and he’s not a dinosaur. He’s technical – his dedication to sports science, nutrition, tactics and preparation are well documented.

Allardyce is progressive in his thinking. His teams are efficient and play to a clear objective which his players always seem to understand and embrace.

Big Sam’s exceptional man management skills usually get the best out of his players, who are generally prepared to run through walls for him.

For West Brom fans, there’s much to look forward to. I’ve no doubt he’ll keep them up. But when he leaves – where next?

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