Perhaps it's something to do with the job. Perhaps the overwhelming oddness of the position — the shadows of 1966, the constant scrutiny, the on-again, off-again calendar, the increasing irrelevance of international football when set against the all-consuming Premier League, the insistence from the FA that the England manager stand as some kind of moral paragon — drives those that inhabit it to do strange things, to kick out against common sense. Some, like Sam Allardyce, talk themselves right out of the job they've been given; others manage to cling on through the strangeness until results do for them instead. They come back without their reputation, or laid out upon on it.
Or maybe the job just acts as a focus, a lens through which each manager becomes even more themselves. After all, what Allardyce was invited to contemplate, then filmed enthusiastically contemplating, was a silly thing for the England manager to do but an entirely in-character, maybe even predictable thing for Allardyce to do. Whispers and innuendos have followed his career for years, first became explicit in 2006 when the BBC's Panorama accused him of materially benefiting from transfers into and out of Bolton Wanderers — Allardyce promised to sue, but didn't — and then bubbled up again during his time at West Ham, when Ravel Morrison complained that Allardyce was pressuring him to change agents.
Which is why it was slightly strange to see him given the job in the first place and, perhaps, why he's been so quickly bounced out of it again. As former FA chairman Greg Dyke said after Allardyce left his position, the FA expect the England manager to be "whiter than white," which isn't the first or even the last thing that springs to mind when considering Allardyce. You have to wonder if the question came up in the interview …
"By the way, Sam, one more thing. No more hidden camera exposés, okay? No more mucking about on the side. You're England manager now."
"Won't be a problem."
Ron Howard voiceover: "It would be a problem."
… and if his departure is motivated not so much by the specifics of his indiscretion as by a sense of this all being terribly unbecoming. After all, the Telegraph's investigation has on Wednesday connected eight as-yet unidentified current or ex-Premier League managers to backhander payments into Swiss bank accounts and carrier bags stuffed with cash; in comparison, Allardyce's attempts to winkle himself out a keynote speaking gig and dismissing transfer regulations seem fairly small beer. Or wine, if you prefer. Allardyce's own statement after the sacking refers to "comments which have caused embarrassment." Ultimately, there can be no greater crime than to connect (or perhaps re-connect) the seamy underbelly of English football to the hallowed institution that is, in theory, the England team. It's a nightmare, getting stains out of white shirts.
Or maybe it's just the thundering hubris and clanking idiocy of the whole business. 67 days into his dream job and he's allowed himself to be wined, dined, and carefully nudged into mocking his predecessor, criticising (however justly) his players and Wembley stadium, hand-waving regulations brought in by his employers (regulations designed, in part, to prevent serious abuses of vulnerable footballers), and trying to top up one of the biggest salaries his sport has to offer. None of which screams "extremely competent" or "I've got this job, don't worry" or even "I'm England manager. Why would I want to do anything else?"
Even the positive parts of his comments, the insistence that he'd have to run everything past the FA and the assertion that the days of being able to buy managers and players are gone, sit within the wider sense that this is not a conversation the FA would want to be happening, and not a conversation that Allardyce should be allowing to happen.
Allardyce has claimed that he was attempting to assist a friend and accused the journalists of "entrapment," but entrapment generally hinges on the notion that the victim was induced to do something they probably wouldn't otherwise have done, and that's not really going to fly here. There may be more to come, too; in Wednesday's Sun, Neil Ashton has written that "for too long [Allardyce's] skewed social views have been protected. By the game. By his employers. By us, in the media." And when the press decide that it's time to come over all moral, to stop patting backs and reach for the knives, it gets messy.
Either way, the FA have chosen to look ridiculous now rather than risk looking more ridiculous later, and have ended up in a situation where Gareth Southgate, who specifically stated he couldn't do the job a few months ago, will take charge of the next four games, while the FA's CEO Martin Glenn, who happily admits that he's "not a football expert," looks for a permanent replacement.
The country can settle down for a bumper-length edition of The Search, a chaotic process that beats most England games for entertainment, that causes otherwise rational people to start saying things like "right, but what about Steve Bruce?" in apparent seriousness, that will provoke at least one earnest national debate about the morality and appropriateness of "going foreign," and will likely end with some midtable Premier League club releasing their manager with gritted teeth, as all their careful future planning crumbles. Assuming, that is, most of the available candidates aren't also named by the Telegraph over the next few days. Maybe they should just give Wayne Rooney the gig. He's got time on his hands at the moment.
As for Allardyce, he's taking some time out to reflect and to mourn, to come to terms with being a man who achieved all he wanted to in his career and then broke it all to pieces. The trivial immortality of a 100 percent win ratio will presumably be of little comfort. Still, he can be certain that in a few months time, some underachieving Premier League club will take stock, panic, and give him a call. Maybe it will even be Sunderland, where things seemed to be going well. Maybe, in a few years' time, this will all seem like a strange dream. A momentary departure from hard reality, from the place the universe thinks Sam Allardyce should be, the place he was desperate to escape. Weren't you England manager, once? A sigh. A pause. Not really.