The wacky world of English managerial jobs has turned yet again, with dismissed England manager Sam Allardyce listed among the candidates to replace former Italian international and New England Revolution head coach Walter Zenga at Wolverhampton.
Gruff, blunt Allardyce stepping into a job vacated by the flamboyant, elegant Zenga? Strange but not out of the question.
Zenga got the boot earlier this week, just 87 days after being hired by Wolves, who are struggling near the bottom of the League Championship in 18th place. The BBC reported Friday that another candidate, Nigel Pearson, has already been interviewed for the job. He was dismissed by Derby County three weeks ago.
Door, er, candidate No. 3 is Paul Lambert, another well-traveled manager who has been looking for work since getting the pink slip last spring from Blackburn Rovers, which hired former Houston Dynamo head coach Owen Coyle just a week after he ended his MLS stint.
Wolves sporting director Kevin Thelwell is spearheading the search for a new manager after apparently not participating much in the hasty hiring of Zenga after the European Championships. That move was conducted by Jeff Shi, a board member appointed by the team’s owner, Fosun International, to find a successor to Kenny Jackett, who had been selected by Thelwell three years ago.
Jackett was cut loose just a week after Fosun took over ownership of the club. Zenga previously coached Red Star Belgrade, Steaua Bucharest, and Palermo – as well as Al Shaab in the UAE – and didn’t fare well in the English game. A 1-0 loss to Leeds last weekend left Wolves with a 4-6-4 record (W-L-T) and 16 points, just two points above the relegation zone.
Representatives of Fosun International visited the team offices Friday to monitor the managerial search. Rather than gamble again on a Continental option such as Zenga, they are seeking a British manager with experience in the Premier League or the championship.
All three of the candidates have managed a team promoted to the Premier League. Allardyce took Bolton and West Ham into the top flight, Lambert did the same with Norwich, and Pearson is the man replaced by Claudio Ranieri after going up with Leicester City. The new owners have emphasized that they want promotion, and quickly.
Interim manager Rob Edwards, the former first-team coach, has run the training sessions this week and will select the squad to play at Blackburn Saturday, but the 33-year-old is deemed too inexperienced to lead a promotion push. Wolves plummeted from the Premier League all the way to League One in back-to back-seasons before Jackett lifted them back up to the League Championship by winning the League One title of the 2013-14 season. Wolves have finished 7th and 14th in the Championship.
Allardyce may not be ready to jump into a new job just yet, especially considering the steep drop from England manager to the Championship. His tenure with England lasted just 67 days and one game, a 1-0 defeat of Slovakia, yet he can work while the English FA conducts an investigation into his comments -- recorded clandestinely by newspaper reporters posing as businessmen -- about “getting around” FIFA restrictions regarding third-party ownership of player contracts.
The BBC reported Allardyce would prefer to wait for openings -- presumably in the Premier League -- that might open up in the New Year. Sooner rather than later, it looks like Big Sam will be back in business.