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On This Day (2016): Worst kept secret in English football is made official as Big Sam leaves

Big Sam broke our hearts as he left for England, setting off a chain of events that has us facing a 4th year in League One - and it was only 5 years ago.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

It was perhaps inevitable, but on this day, only five long, distant years ago, the news was made official that Sam Allardyce was to leave Sunderland and become the manager of the England national team.

It was only the previous October when Allardyce returned to Sunderland, where he had a brief stay during his playing career and was a part of the coaching setup under Peter Reid, after taking over from Dick Advocaat.

The ex-Dutch national manager resigned as manager with the club sitting in 19th in the Premier League after a 2-2 draw with West Ham United at the Stadium of Light.

Enter stage left, Sam Allardyce.

Sunderland Manager Sam Allardyce Gives First Press Conference Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

After a defeat in his first game away to West Bromwich Albion, Allardyce took charge of his first game at the Stadium of Light against Newcastle United. A crowd of almost 48,000 saw us demolish Steve McLaren’s side 3-0, where a sweeping move for Fletcher to score our third with moments of the game left was the cherry on the icing of the cake.

It still took a while to fully get going under Allardyce as a run of five straight defeats during December proved, but only 2 defeats in the last 14 Premier League fixtures after the January transfer window, meant we were safe for another year finishing 17th - with Newcastle occupying the final relegation position two points below in 18th.

It was a celebratory end to the end of the season with Allardyce playing to the crowd after a 3-0 win over Everton, which being live on Sky, ended with Niall Quinn on the pitch telling us this was the beginning of something special, and with the way we felt, we believed him.

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

The following month in June, we also had the European Championships to look forward to with Roy Hodgson’s England and life was good.

But as the national side suffered their worst humiliation since 1950 in round of 16 with a 2-1 defeat to Iceland, the inevitable resignation of Hodgson, which happened almost immediately after the defeat, sounded the alarm bells within our fanbase.

What followed was a month of speculation and typical FA dithering and process, with Allardyce on a shortlist that was said to have included Jürgen Klinsmann, Eddie Howe and Steve Bruce, who had recently resigned from Hull City.

Then, as Sunderland began our pre-season program at Hartlepool United on Wednesday 20th July, things began to visibly move. As Sunderland went into the half time break three goals to the good, with Allardyce in the away dugout on his mobile phone, he was conspicuous by his absence in the second half.

Hartlepool United v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

By Friday, Sunderland had eventually agreed a £3m compensation package with the FA, which was boosted from the original £2m payment that was expected to the parted with for a manager with only one year remaining on his contract - and Sunderland released a statement.

Sunderland AFC confirms the departure of Sam Allardyce, who takes up the position of England manager with immediate effect. The focus of everyone at Sunderland AFC now is on moving forward quickly and decisively, with the appointment of the club’s new manager to be confirmed at the earliest opportunity.

It was judged in most circles that the FA had not behaved in the best manner towards Sunderland, in an attempt to capture their new man for as little outlay as possible. Credit was given to Ellis Short for not accepting what the FA were demanding and holding out for the extra compensation.

Allardyce had signed a two-year contract with the FA, and it wasn’t a surprise to anyone. The delay in the appointment meant that rumours regarding his replacement had already seemed to have settled on David Moyes.

This set off a chain of events that now sees the club entering a fourth season in the third tier.

Just five years ago - time flies.


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