Crystal Palace

We caught up with Sam Allardyce, manager of Crystal Palace, just before lunchtime.

Interviewer: “So, Sam, what did you make of the FA Cup giant-killings at the weekend?”

Big Sam: “If managers choose to rotate their squads that’s entirely up to them; if the younger players are hungry enough they’re good enough.”

Interviewer: “You don’t think the likes of Hull or Watford missed a trick somehow – keeping the momentum going and all that?”

Big Sam: (Projecting a huge globule of spit towards the goal) “Manchester United will have spoiled Hull’s appetite for cup matches last week. I mean they won and then, apparently, they didn’t. It’s difficult to cope with is that. As for Watford, some nice Greek tavernas…”

Interviewer: “Did you notice your predecessor Alan Pardew in the stands at Sutton United yesterday?”

Big Sam: “You know what his problem was – and it happened after I left Newcastle too: diet. I mean ice baths are one thing, but diet? Give me a traditional Sunday lunch every time -every day, if possible – not some bunch of sour grapes from BT Sport.”

Interviewer: “You didn’t think a giant-killing could have been on the cards at Selhurst Park, though?”

Big Sam: “Manchester City are no giants. Paella will never take the place of pies.”

We are temporarily interrupted by a tiny figure running towards us from the far side of the training pitch where I am standing and Sam is slouching against a low brick wall, a half-eaten bacon roll and two-pint mug of tea nestling up to him. The little man gets bigger as he gets nearer, but not much. I finally realize that it’s Sammy Lee, his cheeks red and his hair steaming like Sam’s tea.

Little Sam: “Schlupp’s not as bad as we thought, boss.”

Big Sam: “Excellent, is it beef or oxtail?”

Little Sam: “Er… I’m not sure, boss, but it definitely isn’t hamstring?”

Big Sam: “Excellent. What about our friend from the Low Countries – you should be able to answer that one? Ha Ha Ha Ha.”

Little Sam: “I haven’t seen him yet, boss; didn’t know he’d arrived – you know what the trains are like from London Bridge.”

Big Sam: “I think you’re getting your places mixed up…”

Little Sam: “Tower Bridge is it, boss?”

Big Sam: “Holland. Patrick’s from Holland.”

Little Sam: “My mistake, boss, I thought he was from Sunderland.”

Big Sam: “I wasn’t harping on about the north-east for once.”

Little Sam: “All the same, I haven’t seen Andros today either, boss, but that fat bloke from Jim White’s keeps asking after him.”

Little Sam: (Projecting a huge piece of gum towards the goal) “He’ll be here in good time; otherwise we’ll confiscate his dinner money. He knows that. He’s a sensible lad. Now: I’m starving; is Christian finally responding to my new training regime or not?”

Little Sam: “Er… he’s still got the noose around his neck, boss, but no damage done providing he keeps jumping and trying to head the imaginary ball you told him about. It’s only if he stands still that it hurts…”

Big Sam: “Off you go then. And leave the napkins alone. Folks will think you’re doing the dance of the seven veils.”

As Sammy trots off (in the sadly mistaken belief that he is galloping), I bravely decide to ask Sam one more question.

Interviewer: “So do you think Van Aarnholt is the answer to your problems?”

Big Sam: “Well he does know a lot of good fish dishes – far more than Carl Jenkinson will have learned from when he stayed with those slippery eels in the other part of town – and getting crosses into the two big lads – Ben and Teke – can’t hurt can it? We’ll have to leave it there, though, my guts are ringing warning bells. It’s dog eat dog down here you know.”