SAM Allardyce has a vision -- that he will leave a legacy at Bolton Wanderers that will stand as a testament to his tenure as manager.

Three years into the job, he is still striving to establish the club as a force in the Premiership but his open-minded, forward-thinking approach is setting standards that are the envy of football. Here, in the first of a five-part series, GORDON SHARROCK gives an insight into Big Sam's revolution

The appliance of science

SAM Allardyce picked a winner when he read the works of a certain Dr Robert Haas, whose advice on diet and nutrition helped Martina Navratilova play her way to the top of the world tennis rankings.

The book was Eat to Win, which gained a reputation as the sports nutrition "bible", and it changed Big Sam's approach to personal fitness -- and not just his eating habits. The only trouble was that he was already 28 and, having been brought up in the old fashioned ways (pre-match meals of fillet steak, training runs that ended with players throwing up) he discovered the appliance of science too late to make it really count.

But he has made up for it since.

Today he is one of the most 'switched-on' managers in football. In his three years at the Reebok he has assembled a backroom staff that boasts as many degrees, as many 'ologists' and as much scientific expertise as any club in the Premiership ... and then some.

Because, although the old Wanderers' centre-half retains many of the old-school values of honesty, commitment and a mental strength to match any of his physical attributes, he is famously receptive to new ideas and developments. He was not the first top flight manager to employ a sports psychologist, but he broke new ground when he signed one up on a full-time

'24:7' basis.

Now, prompted by Mark Taylor -- his trusted head of science and medicine -- he employs doctors, sports scientists, nutritionists, dieticians, a chiropractor and has recently recruited a doctor of Oriental medicine to complement his conventional medical staff. Now he is considering adding meditation to the growing list of specialist services on offer to his highly-paid Premiership stars.

When he arrived in October 1999, Allardyce inherited a backroom team of seven; now his support staff is fast-approaching 40 -- and he is still building.

"We couldn't afford to buy players," he recalls of his early days in the job, "in fact we were forced to sell them. But there was one thing I was determined to get right and that was the support service we provided for the players.

"And the only way I could do that properly was to cover every department with the best people I could find, then bring them all together, not only performing as individuals but importantly as a team. The team spirit on the field had to be matched by a team spirit among the back-up staff.

"The experts had to be excellent at what they did but they also had to fit into the Sam Allardyce mode. We have to get on, irrespective of qualifications and degrees."

Now the boast is that, although they cannot compete with the high-rollers at the top end of the transfer market, the players they do sign -- World Cup winners and academy recruits alike -- will want for nothing. If there is a service not on the list, Wanderers will do what they can to provide it.

"I'd have loved all this in my day," Allardyce says, mulling over missed opportunities. "I played my last league game as player-caretaker-manager at Preston when I was 38 but I would certainly have played at a higher level for longer. I'd be a lot richer now and I might not have needed to stay in the game because when I finished playing I still had to pay the mortgage and

provide for my family."

Although Allardyce is receptive and pioneering in his approach, he does not suffer fools. There have been many whose ideas have been deemed unsuitable.

"It is trial and error," he explains. "There have been quite a few people who have been here and gone and we have never talked about them. They have turned out to be not what we were looking for.

"But Oriental medicine is an avenue of prevention and cure that we are going down now and I believe it's an important area to move into. It can play a huge part in everybody's life -- and not just in the Far East but in the Western world."

Allardyce has benefited himself from sessions with Jon Brazier -- the Lytham-based doctor of Oriental medicine who has been attached to Wanderers for almost 10 months. But he does not force such unconventional methods on his players and there is not the slightest hint that anyone who rejects it will be looked on any less favourably, as was the suggestion when Glenn Hoddle controversially employed Eileen Drury and her so-called 'mind games' when he was England manager.

"Everybody can try it and those who don't think it works for them don't bother again," he explains. "Those who think it works have a great deal of faith in him and get a lot out of his sessions. We haven't touched on meditation yet but I know Willie Donachie (Sheffield Wednesday's assistant manager) believes in it and it is something we might get into a some stage."

Allardyce is still a big believer in the old-fashioned principles of good coaching and man management and likes nothing better than being on the training ground with his players. But he admits that technological aids are proving a big help on the tactical as well as medical front.

"It took me the best part of 18 months to get computers into this club, but now, if you come and watch the staff, nearly everybody is tapping away on their laptops, logging their information onto our database, which is hugely important to us. We log everything: the medical, the physical, the psychological, the technical and the tactical. We record how we handle various situations -- a game, for instance; if we won it, what did we do by way of preparation?"

Prozone -- the computerised match analysis system -- has become an essential coaching aid and, coupled with the expertise of Professor Paul Balsom, exercise physiologist and match analyst of the Swedish national team who is a consultant at the Reebok, offers precision assessments of performances. "Today, players will rarely sit through a full video of a game," Allardyce adds. "But Paul and our Prozone lad will come up with specific clips and hit you between the eyes with them. Sometimes a 25-minute session with them can be as good as you could get on the training ground.

"They are powerful tools and we must use them -- not just on a negative basis but positively too. We don't want players frightened of them, we want them to use these tools to improve themselves."

The transfer of knowledge is not a one-way street though. Allardyce claims the specialists have learned much from working at the Reebok.

"Paul Balsom is a major asset but I have no qualms about blowing my own trumpet and saying Advance (the Preston-based company that has seconded psychologist Mike Forde to the Reebok) have learned as much from us as we have learned from them and I know working with us has been a real eye-opener for Paul. "All of a sudden, after the meticulous planning he has been able to do over a couple of months for an international game, he's been confronted with the day to day ferocity of the Premier League with its training schedules and pressures.

"If I need something for 2 o'clock, I have to have it for 2 o'clock! But he's adjusting.

"Everyone is always doing something here and, for me, it is a great sign that I have to insist on my staff taking time off.

"You are onto a winner when you have to force them to take a break.

"That shows their dedication and their commitment and justifies my claim that they are the hub and the catalyst of this club's success."

NEXT: Mark Taylor, head of medicine and science