Telegraph - January 26, 2006
Allen's motivational powers vital for Cup
By Simon Goodley
It is last Saturday evening at Heathrow Airport's Terminal Three and the check-in clerk is just informing her passengers that their flight to Abu Dhabi has been cancelled. What bad luck for her. One of the passengers is Brentford manager Martin Allen and, as anybody who has watched him address referees from the technical area knows, he is no diplomat.
"I had 16 players with me and I informed her that we were Brentford Football Club and then told her in no uncertain terms that she better get us out there as soon as possible," Allen recalled. "Within 15 minutes new tickets had arrived."
And so Allen's latest FA Cup motivational session ahead of Saturday's fourth- round clash at home to Premiership strugglers Sunderland had begun, albeit in considerably more comfort than in the same round last year. Then, rather than a Middle East break, the eccentric Brentford manager swam across the freezing river adjoining the hotel where his team stayed prior to the replay against Hartlepool, principally to teach his players "to stop talking and go out and do it".
"It was warmer diving into the pool in Abu Dhabi," said Allen. Despite his excellent start in football management Allen doesn't take himself too seriously, which explains why he is seen as an outspoken but also popular figure.
At Oldham in December, he was given Christmas presents by the home fans ("I got some socks and some chocolates. It's better than getting abuse, isn't it?"), while at Stockport in the first round he was applauded to the dug-out, chiefly because he had written an unsolicited letter to the Cheshire club last season congratulating them on their support.
On the flip side there are others with whom he might not exchange festive gifts. He has been known to clash with match officials, while even his own board receive the odd mouthful. "Last year, before we played at Southampton in the fifth round, one of our directors said it was our Cup final. That was an insult to our players."
The make-up of the board is changing now after last week's takeover of the club by the Supporters' Trust and the installation as chairman of former BBC director-general, Greg Dyke.
"Only time will tell what will happen but there are big debts at this club," the manager continued. "This club need sponsorship and revenue. They could now go to a new level with the new chairman." That unflagging belief, along with brutal honesty and a decent sense of humour, are the characteristics that mark Allen out. "I don't think it will be a giant-killing [if Brentford win on Saturday]," he insisted. "Of course we are underdogs. A lot of their players came from this level, but nobody can forget they won the Championship with those players."
"I know of him [Mick McCarthy] and I see what he's made of," he continued. "You can tell he is a quality bloke, but I'm certainly not going to talk to him after the game. I can't see the point with that. I think that's a bit hypocritical."
The Sunderland manager is big enough to recover from such brusque treatment. Let's hope the check-in girl is too.