Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce has insisted that his feud with Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger is consigned to history as the pair prepare to reignite their Premier League duel at Emirates Stadium tomorrow.
Allardyce and Wenger endured a combustible relationship when the former was manager of Bolton between 1999 and 2007, a team which the Frenchman consistently accused of adopting over-physical tactics.
Under Allardyce’s command, Bolton won four and drew six of 16 matches against the Gunners, while in his recent autobiography the 61-year-old revealed he loved winding up an “arrogant” Wenger.
“I have had some fun with him. Those early days were years and years ago and it’s been much more amicable, our meetings, not just on match days, but also off the field when we have bumped into each other,” said Allardyce, who has guided the Black Cats out of the relegation zone since his appointment in October.
“But I have always had a huge amount of respect for Arsene and his quality as a manager. Winding-up became a procedure that we all use if and when we feel it necessary.
“I have always thought he is a fantastic manager and he’s done a fantastic job. I might have wound him up a time or two, but never disrespected him.”
Arsenal’s injury worries deepened yesterday with midfielder Santi Cazorla set to be sidelined for at least three months after picking up a knee injury against Norwich on Sunday. Forward Alexis Sanchez is expected to be out with a hamstring injury until the Christmas period.
“It’s always a disappointment to lose the players at an important moment of the season,” said Wenger. “But on the other hand, it’s a great challenge to take for the team and a great opportunity to show that we are ready for a fight and we can deal with it.”