Craig Nelson: Beleaguered Big Sam is deflecting attention from his under-pressure mate Moyes
Updated 12:30pm Sunday 12th January 2014 in Sport
IT is hard to imagine David Moyes burrowing his way out from under the media microscope at the moment, but his old mate Sam Allardyce is doing a good job of taking some of the pressure off him.
Both managers went into this week’s Capital One Cup semi-finals on a hiding to nothing.
Even the most emphatic of victories for Manchester United at Sunderland would have had stopped the knives being sharpened for Moyes on the tabloid sports desks.
And Big Sam was setting himself up for a fall by courting the wrath of West Ham fans – sending out a scratch side for their FA Cup tie at Nottingham Forest just a few days before they travelled to Manchester City.
What the former Bolton boss got was probably what he deserved – two comprehensive hammerings followed by a public dressing down from his side’s supporters that heightened with every one of City’s six goals.
In a rational world, resting your best players for a third-round cup tie so they are fresh for a semi-final makes perfect sense.
Even against a team on form, like City, the odds of relegation-threatened West Ham making it to Wembley from the last four of the Capital One Cup were much shorter than they were of making it through five rounds of the FA Cup.
But Sam’s admission he was willing to sacrifice the FA Cup broke the golden rule of football.
Pretty much any other transgression can be forgiven, just as long as fans can see their team putting in 100 per cent effort towards winning every game.
The flak being aimed at the former Wanderers manager makes for difficult viewing, as is the sight of such a much-loved figure in these parts seemingly buckling under the strain.
But while Moyes can profess to being a close friend of Allardyce, the Hammers’ 6-0 thrashing at the Etihad must have brought a sigh of relief from the beleaguered Scot.
It kept the United boss off the back page for 24 hours at least.
If I didn’t know any better, it almost seemed Big Sam was taking one for the team – Team Alex.
You can imagine the call coming through from master manipulator Sir Alex Ferguson: “Listen Sam, my man is struggling here, what can you do to take the heat off?”
“Would conceding 11 goals and scoring none in back-to-back cup defeats help?”
“That should do it.”
Of course, such talk is nonsense.
There is only so far even Sam would go to help a friend.
But until matters come to head at Upton Park, Moyes will continue to be sheltered from the full force of the whirlwind that is almost certainly heading in his direction.