BLACKBURN captain Ryan Nelsen last night expressed his dismay at the shock sacking of manager Sam Allardyce, saying he was “devastated” by the actions of the club’s new Indian owners.
Allardyce was shown the door despite Rovers being five points above the Premier League relegation zone in 13th place, amid rumours of conflict with the Ewood Park hierarchy over transfer policy.
And in a fresh twist to the unexpected move, Allardyce is now being tipped to replace Avram Grant at West Ham after a flurry of unusual betting activity.
“I am devastated for Sam. He had an absolutely fantastic relationship with all of the players,” said Nelsen.
“Everyone respected him. He took the club out of the doldrums really. We were in massive trouble with no money. He solidified us and put us into a top 10 position, and again he did it on a shoestring.
“I’m just getting over the shock of it. We’ve got to get over it, but at the moment I want to say, and I can speak for nearly all the players I’m sure, that they will be devastated. He was a very likeable character.”
The former Newcastle and Bolton boss (right) released a statement via the League Managers’ Association declaring his astonishment at the dismissal.
“I am very shocked and disappointed to be leaving Blackburn Rovers,” said Allardyce. “I am extremely proud to have managed this club and I enjoyed a fantastic relationship with the players, my staff and the supporters.”
Blackburn’s owners, Asian poultry giant Venky’s, acted in the wake of Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Bolton but said the decision had not been knee-jerk. “We have taken this decision as part of our wider plans and ambitions for the club,” read a statement from Rovers. “We would like to put on record our thanks to Mr Allardyce for his contribution to Blackburn Rovers.”
Allardyce’s sacking came just hours after some bookmakers reported a number of large wagers on him and Grant to be the next top flight managers to leave their posts. Grant is under huge pressure at Upton Park, with the Hammers three points adrift at the foot of the table and with just one win from their last 11 league games.
Former Ajax and Tottenham manager Martin Jol was the favourite to replace Allardyce last night, while some speculation linked Rovers with former Argentina coach Diego Maradona.
Venky’s, run by the Rao family, publicly backed Allardyce last month following the completion of their £43m takeover of the club in October.
EVEN before Venky’s had completed their takeover of Blackburn last month, their relationship with Sam Allardyce looked destined to be a fragile one.
From one of the Indians’ first public utterances Allardyce learned he would only be granted a £5m transfer kitty and that his target was merely to finish in the top 12.
While it may have pointed to greater job security for Allardyce, it was hardly what an ambitious man yearning to bolster his squad would have wanted to hear.
His sturdy record – Rovers are 13th – is no reason for his departure, so suspicion rests on a falling out behind the scenes. With sports agency Kentaro said to be advising the new owners on transfers, there was potential for tension.
And with the looming January window demanding boardroom strategy be drawn up now, it was an even more combustible brew.