This article originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.
When we look back on the tenures of the most recent England managers, we can pinpoint the exact moment that their careers went to shit. Each of them has a defining mistake, an iconic slip up from which there was no recovery. For Steve McClaren, it was the moment he opened his infamous umbrella on the sidelines of England's Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia. For Fabio Capello, it was his failure to rein in John Terry before he staged a baffling one-man revolution in an impromptu press conference at the 2010 World Cup. For Glenn Hoddle, it was that split second in which he decided to air his opinion that disabled people had sinned in a former life, proof that there is no limit to the idiotic ways in which a man's time as England manager can come to a wretched and ignominious end.
Now, it looks like it's Sam Allardyce's turn to make a catastrophic, career-defining error. He has allowed himself to be taken in by a clever sting by The Telegraph, and has been caught on camera advising what he thought were businessmen on how to circumvent transfer regulations. On top of that, he has been caught agreeing, in principle, to a £400,000 deal with a fictitious company (actually a group of undercover reporters) and – wait a fucking minute, is he drinking a pint of white wine?
Of all the questions thrown up by The Telegraph's investigation, this is the one which has captured the public imagination. In one screengrab from their secret film, it appears – appears – that Big Sam is drinking a pint of wine. It might just be a trick of the light; it might just be the close proximity to an actual wine glass; it might just be a pint of extremely flat lager, left to languish in the pale glow of the overhead lighting. That's not what England fans want to believe, however. They want to believe that their champion, the people's champion, Big Sam, does his dirty deals over a massive, fuck-off pint of white wine.
Say what you like about McClaren, Capello, Hoddle and the like, not a single one of them could polish off a pint of wine with the same panache and enthusiasm as Sam Allardyce. Whether he is drinking a pint of wine here or not (and, let's face it, he's probably not), we, the nation, are comforted by the idea that our national team manager could undermine the FA's rules on third-party player ownership while simultaneously necking just over half a litre of Hardys Chardonnay. We need a leader, a true leader, to manage England, and nothing says 'leadership' like the ability to knock back an imperial measurement of Jacob's Creek. We want a proper Englishman to guide the country to footballing glory, and proper Englishmen drink their wine in pint glasses. That is the way that our lord and saviour JD Wetherspoon intended, and anything else is an abomination against God, against Harry, against England and St. George.
Can you imagine Sven-Göran Eriksson drinking a pint of wine, or Roy Hodgson for that matter? No, of course you can't, and that's the problem. When Hodgson was eating dinner with the England squad at Euro 2016, he was probably there, sipping away at a nice, stemmed glass of Bordeaux, commenting on the nose, the flavours, the soft texture and the subtle notes of blackberry and plum. All the while, Wayne Rooney would have been sat opposite him, wearing the blank expression of a child who has just tried to comprehend the concept of infinity for the first time.
Sam Allardyce understands the nature of this disconnect. Wayne Rooney is a good, honest Englishman, and only responds to good, honest, English things. That's why, if Big Sam wants a sneaky glass of Vouvray, he has the common decency to drink it out of a pint glass, the greatest emblem of modern Englishness. What's more, he'll make sure that pint glass was blown in the West Midlands, and packaged in a good, honest, English warehouse by good, honest English labourers on minimum wage.
If Big Sam now loses the England job, as looks likely, he will at least have left on an unbeatable high. With a 100% win ratio, he is statistically the most successful England manager of all time and, with the people choosing to believe he drinks his wine from a pint glass, also the most popular with both players and fans. He is England's saviour, Bacchus made flesh, the Epicurean gourmand we all wish we had the stamina to be. There he is, white wine pouring down his chin, shirt soaked through with Chablis, leaving St. George's Park with two fingers raised to the haters. There he is, wanging back Blossom Hill from a Bombardier glass, a true patriot, a man unashamed.
When we look back on Sam Allardyce's exceedingly short reign as England manager, we won't remember the unethical rule bending, nor the questionable payments to which he apparently agreed. We will remember him for drinking a pint of off-license standard Lambrusco, whether he actually did so or not. We will remember him for restoring some pride to this great nation, by putting away a medically inadvisable amount of £3 Sauvignon Blanc. If there was any justice in this country, we wouldn't be sacking Big Sam, we would be praising him. Double his wages, extend his contract, and a pour that man a good, English, 14% pint.