It’s a line that will go down in low-brow footballing history. Big Sam Allardyce, a man surveyed to humiliation and facing tunefully unified chants of abuse from his own supporters, is also a man who believes he’s managed to capture the “hearts and minds” of Everton fans.
How out of touch do you have to be?
The fact that Toffees fans are being entirely unreasonable in their contempt for the former England gaffer is neither here nor there. He’s taken them from a near relegation battle in an unsteady 13th to sitting comfortably in 8th, but still has very few supporters behind his cause. The amount of self-delusion it must take to have faith in that statement’s validity is beyond imagination.
But Sam hasn’t stopped there. He’s a generous guy underneath it all and has agreed to provide a few tips for what he describes as ‘the babbling horde of adoring Allardyce groupies’, ie: you lot.
No, we wouldn’t take it kindly either.
And so, with the conviction of a man who once laughed down the bearded giant that is Chico Flores, Sam has spelled out his most sincere advice for winning hearts ‘n’ minds. Take note, young Padawans, and follow in the footsteps of Big Sam The Preacher Man.
1) Gravy. Lots of it.
“It’s the ultimate tool to success is gravy. Whether you’re a Bisto philistine or a good old fashioned meat juice-n-grease sort of chap, gravy is the way to win. If you know your gravy, you know the way to a man’s heart. And, believe you me, I know my goddamn gravy.
“Drink it, look at it, bathe in it. I don’t care. Just worship the runny brown nectar. It’s a fine work of art and the mistress of all mankind. I don’t know where I’d be without it.”
2) Get rewarding
“People like a bit of recognition in this life, fellas. Let’s say they’ve done a top job, maybe saved a club from disarray. Everyone likes to be thanked.
“The conventional way to do this, as I’ve learnt, is through a complete lack of respect: surveys, banners, chants. You name it. Them rewards ain’t the rewards you want though.
“To win the hearts and minds, follow this kind of scheme. For the heart: thank the fans with something beautiful and evocative. Half price Pukka Pies? Do it. For the mind: something that gently oozes class and dignity, you wanna make ‘em think you’re appreciative. My go-to would have to be John Smith’s, maybe a tin per fan. Carling for the littluns. It means something personal.”
“I’m a stylish bloke, it’s true. Had GQ on the blower the other week tryin’ to get a photo shoot sorted. Obviously I had to turn them wetters down, I got a reputation among men’s men to uphold.
“Anyway, I prefer to showcase my style in the way I organise a football team. Win the fans over with something that gets ‘em going. Lumpin’, lumpin’, lumpin’. That’s what I say. Stick a big man up top and you’ll have thousands eating out the palm of your hand. You heard it here first.”
“Bare-knuckle, mano a mano. That’s the most effective way. I’ve petitioned the club to get some good old fashioned entertainment organised for the season’s half-time climax. The fans would worship me for it.
“None of them skinny lads with gloves, mind. I’ve got Big Steve and Sizeable John lined up for a few bouts. It’s all set to go. Club have put the kibosh on it, sadly. Something about not being ‘family friendly’ and ‘scaring the kids’. Bloody don’t know they’re born these days.”
5) Get ‘em boozy
“If they still ain’t singing yer name to high heaven, fall back on this bad boy. Take the John Smith’s trick a step further. Lump on the drink. Aldi are selling £3.89 bottles of red at the moment.
“Get ‘em pissed and they’ll be all yours. Jager bombs? Do it. Un autre bev? Daft question. El vino gonna flow? Hell to the motherf**king yeah.”
6) Step down
“I’ll be honest, you’ve failed yourself at this stage. If tips 1-5 don’t work for you, you’re barkin’ up the wrong tree like a Chihuahua with a Baobab.
“Make ‘em miss ya. Piss off. They’ll regret their lack of respect before long; be begging you to come back. You say ‘no’, naturally. Let them suffer. Then they’ll see who’s metaphorically boss. Winner.”