IT would not have gone down well with Roberto Mancini but it was no surprise to see Sam Allardyce offer Carlos Tevez a return ticket to West Ham.
Tevez became arguably the most vilified footballer in the world when Mancini accused him of refusing to go on as substitute in Manchester City’s Champions League defeat at Bayern Munich.
Mancini received almost universal sympathy and support from his fellow managers for having been put in such a difficult situation and was applauded for announcing that, as far as he was concerned, Tevez was “finished” at City.
But amid all the furore Big Sam tried to take the errant Argentinian on loan. And even when his initial approach was rejected out of hand, he let it be known that, regardless of what Tevez had or had not done to become public enemy number one, he wasn’t prepared to give up.
“If our chairman can find the money and Tevez wants to come, then we will have him,” Allardyce said. “I have had great players in my teams and they generally win you games.”
We saw that first-hand here in Bolton where we were privileged to see Youri Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha, Ivan Campo, Fernando Hierro and Nicolas Anelka wearing Wanderers’ colours.
In fact during his reign, Wanderers built a reputation for attracting talent that appeared to be beyond their capabilities, both for reasons of finance and status.
But most of those players were other clubs’ cast-offs – immensely talented individuals who had either lost their way, were surplus to requirements or considered to be past their sell-by dates.
Kevin Davies was on the scrapheap after being dumped by Southampton in 2003 but Allardyce offered him a chance to revive his career, and Wanderers are still reaping the rewards.
With the blessing and backing of his Bolton bosses, Allardyce often took gambles other managers were not prepared to even contemplate – and in the vast majority of cases, the gambles paid off.
Picking up Okocha on a free transfer but on big wages was a major coup but Wanderers had already taken advantage of Marseille’s financial problems to recruit the outstanding Bruno N’Gotty and rescued World Cup and European Championship winner Djorkaeff from his nightmare at Kaiserslautern.
Djorkaeff was a trophy signing who raised the Reebok profile to new levels and, in turn, Wanderers gave him the opportunity to revive his international career.
Big Sam then took Campo from Real Madrid and although it looked a dodgy decision to begin with, it turned out to be a magnificent bit of business – similarly with Bernabeu legend Hierro whose Reebok stay was memorable but disappointingly brief.
Even better was the success Wanderers had in offering Anelka a way back to mainstream European football when they paid Fenerbahce £8million for a player who 16 months later was traded on for almost double that amount.
Some gambles didn’t come off: Stig Tofting arrived from Denmark with a colourful off-field reputation and ended up in jail for assault. And, although he will argue that some of his happiest playing days were at the Reebok, opinions are divided on El-Hadji Diouf’s spell with Wanderers – a talented and effective entertainer to some while to others a player of questionable character who became an unsavoury liability – even at the bargain price of £3.5m.
But Big Sam had no qualms then, just as he would have no qualms now about taking Tevez, who earned hero status when he was previously at Upton Park.
Personally, I would be delighted if he was banned from playing football anywhere in the world for a long time.
I wouldn’t touch him with a barge pole and I’d be disappointed if Allardyce did anything that gave Tevez a way out that he clearly does not deserve.
But the fact is that some of Big Sam’s happiest days as a player were enjoyed at Preston where he was one of a team of “misfits” – veterans, discards and ne’er-dowells – which John McGrath put together and which won promotion as runners-up in Division Four in 1987.
I can see where he's coming from, but on this occasion I think Big Sam would be wiser not to get involved and let City deal with Tevez as they see fit, without any outside interference.