Sam Allardyce badly wanted to be the next England coach before the Football Association opted for Steve McClaren. Now the Bolton manager is driven by a desire to avoid becoming the next Steve Bruce.
After a scoreline that flattered Tottenham, despite Martin Jol's attempts to portray it as a triumph of brute force over finesse, Allardyce admitted to a "fleeting moment" during England's World Cup demise when he wondered: "What if it had been me?" Then he got on with the task at Bolton, spurred by his friend Bruce's relegation with Birmingham.
Allardyce's modest aim was to "make sure everyone knows I'm still one of the top managers in the Premiership". But a place in such élite company, real or imagined, is riven with insecurity. "Two years ago, Brucie would have been a nailed-on top candidate for England because of what he achieved as a player and because he was doing top-half finishes with Birmingham," he said. "Suddenly he gets in the bottom half and he isn't even in the frame."
His efforts to cement his standing, and Bolton's, by revamping the squad were largely frustrated during the close season, when Allardyce was "unsuccessful in most of what I tried to do". The problem was not a lack of resources but what he termed a Europe-wide "crisis" over fees and wages.
"I've been out in that market all summer and it has terrified me," he said. "The players are saying, 'Come on gaffer, we haven't got enough'. I tell them we want quality, not quantity, but we've been outbid left, right and centre."
The two players he did manage to recruit, Abdoulaye Meite and Quinton Fortune, set Bolton back a mere £850,000, yet they enjoyed more auspicious debuts than Dimitar Berbatov and Didier Zokora, on whom Jol lavished nearly £20m. The Dutchman noted that a visit to the Reebok is always a physical battle.
The message, however, did not appear to reach Berbatov or Zokora, while some reckless lunges by Benoit Assou-Ekotto suggested that the left-back from Lens had interpreted it too literally.
The contest was effectively over before Spurs settled. Kevin Davies headed the opening goal from a corner after the referee missed Meite's foul on Davies' marker, Calum Davenport, and Ivan Campo soon bludgeoned a spectacular long-range second. The Spaniard's assured passing also gave the lie to Jol's jibe that Bolton do not play through midfield but "live off corners and throw-ins".
The Spurs manager said his young team may need "a couple of weeks" to integrate the newcomers. Berbatov is mobile and silky in the Tottenham tradition, even if he looked a deep-lying Teddy Sheringham type rather than a target man here. Zokora sits deeper than his predecessor, Michael Carrick, and we must wait to see whether he possesses the England man's penchant for a pass.
Similarly, rushing to judgement on the long-term prospects of either club on the evidence of one match would be as unwise as taking pre-season games as any sort of guide. Spurs had been undefeated in seven friendlies, whereas Bolton failed to win any of theirs.
Goals: Davies (9) 1-0; Campo (13) 2-0.
Bolton Wanderers (4-3-3): Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Ben Haim, Meite, Fortune; Nolan, Campo, Speed; Diouf, Davies, Vaz Te (Giannakopoulos, 86). Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Tal, Smith, Fojut.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Lee (Huddlestone, 75), Davenport, Dawson, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Jenas, Zokora (Keane, 59), Davids; Berbatov, Defoe. Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Gardner, Ziegler.
Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).
Man of the match: Fortune.
Attendance: 22,899.Reuse content