Blackburn turn to Allardyce after Souness talks collapse

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The Independent Online

Blackburn Rovers will today present Sam Allardyce as their new manager after talks broke down with Graeme Souness over his return to Ewood Park. Allardyce, who has signed a three-year contract, will meet the players and coaching staff today before giving a press conference this afternoon.

The appointment comes six months after Blackburn overlooked Allardyce in favour of Paul Ince, who was sacked on Tuesday morning after a run of just three wins in 17 Premier League games, with the club second from bottom of the table and, in the words of their chairman, John Williams, in danger of being "cut adrift".

Williams moved quickly to meet Allardyce in Manchester yesterday, following initial talks on Tuesday evening, after it became clear that he could not reach an agreement with Souness, who is believed to have asked for more funds to be made available in the January transfer window.

The former Blackburn manager, who was in charge for four years until 2004, winning the Carling Cup and gaining promotion back to the Premier League, is also understood to have demanded a more lucrative remuneration package than Allardyce. Perhaps crucially, Blackburn were also unsure as to whether Souness was fully committed to a return to management.

Allardyce, who is likely to bring in his own back-room staff and dispense with Ince's assistants, who include Archie Knox, Ray Mathias and Karl Robinson, has been told there is limited money available and will, hopefully, get to reinvest if, as expected, Roque Santa Cruz is sold to Manchester City next month.

Another coach, Nigel Winterburn, has already said he expects to be dispensed with and will tear up his one-year contract if asked. Although Allardyce will make his own appointments, he is unlikely to be able be able to hire the extensive back-room staff he employed at his previous two clubs and accepts that state of affairs.

Allardyce has been desperate to return to management after being sacked by Newcastle United in January following a turbulent, unhappy nine months at St James' Park which hugely damaged a reputation built on eight years of success at Bolton Wanderers, whom he led to four top eight finishes in the Premier League and into European football.

Following Roy Keane's departure, the 54-year-old publicly stated his interest in the vacant Sunderland job, and asked to be interviewed by the chairman, Niall Quinn, but did not figure prominently on their shortlist and, with that realisation, turned his attentions to Blackburn, which is a club with far fewer resources.

Given his travails, it is amazing to recall that he was interviewed by the Football Association, in 2006, to become Sven Goran Eriksson's successor as England manager – but then the FA also spoke to Alan Curbishley before appointing Steve McClaren to the post.

"I'm very, very pleased indeed but any more than that I'm not saying at the moment," Allardyce said last night as he departed a hotel in Manchester following Blackburn's announcement that he had been appointed. "I'll look forward to the press conference tomorrow."

Allardyce's immediate availability made him an attractive proposition for Williams and the Blackburn board, who were determined to get a new manager in place ahead of Saturday's vital league meeting with Stoke City following six straight defeats and 11 games without a victory and with the club five points from safety.

"You can't underestimate how much of a boost a physical presence could have on Saturday for what is an absolutely mammoth game," Williams said. "Everyone needs to know how big this game is, as this is a time the club really needs to come together."

Williams had interviewed Allardyce, along with McClaren and Michael Laudrup following Mark Hughes' departure for Manchester City at the end of last season before finally, after much deliberation, choosing Ince as Blackburn's manager. However, it is understood that while there was hostility from Blackburn supporters over Allardyce's potential appointment, he impressed Williams. Allardyce also disputes that he withdrew his candidacy after hearing that Ince had been interviewed, claiming there had been a "misunderstanding".

Interestingly, and given Blackburn's plight and with Allardyce's record of pragmatic success on a fairly limited budget, that hostility from the fans has dried up. A poll in the local newspaper, the Lancashire Evening Post, rated Allardyce as clear favourite among supporters, polling almost half the vote, ahead of the former Internazionale coach Roberto Mancini, although the Italian was never a candidate.

There were always mixed feelings about Souness and yesterday he categorically ruled himself. "It doesn't surprise me to see my name in there but I'm not your man, I can definitely say that," he said. However, it is understood that this only followed talks with Williams that did not have a successful conclusion.

Allardyce's appointment was welcomed by club captain, Ryan Nelsen, who said: "His reputation is fantastic and everyone I have talked to only has good things to say about him."

Blackburn play successive league matches against Allardyce's former clubs, Newcastle and Bolton, next month.

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