Irish priest 'will say mass for Big Sam'

An Irish priest who handed Sam Allardyce his first job in football management has said he “will say mass” for the “wonderful” new England boss.

Father Joe Young approached Allardyce in 1991 to offer him the management job at League of Ireland side Limerick.

The football-mad cleric, who was the club’s chairman at the time, said he is “absolutely delighted” to see his man move into the international game.

“He believed in the field of dreams,” Fr Young said.

Allardyce is expected to be confirmed as the new England manager on Thursday, leaving Sunderland after nine months in charge at the Stadium of Light.

He replaces Roy Hodgson, who quit after England’s humiliation at the hands of Iceland at Euro 2016.

Simple

Fr Young said Allardyce’s appointment is a “very emotional moment in my priesthood”.

“I’m so happy – I said mass for him this morning and I’ll say mass for him tomorrow morning,” he added.

“God bless him because he is wonderful.”

Fr Young took on the chairmanship at Limerick when the club had “absolutely nothing – just a simple ground, not even with a wall around it”.

And he settled on bringing the then-36-year-old Allardyce to the club as player-manager in the summer of 1991 by compiling a list of names and “putting a pen in the paper, [like picking] a horse for the Grand National”.

Allardyce’s time at Limerick was a resounding success as he led the club into the Republic of Ireland’s top flight after winning the first division.

Discipline

“I feel that he believed in what we were trying to do in Limerick – help young people come through and believe there was more to life than the welfare system,” the 62-year-old priest said.

“Until you include the excluded, how can we dream any more? Sam believed in that.

“He was a purpose-driven manager and I never experienced so much joy in the fact that he believed that if you don’t bring them through with discipline, forget about it.”

Allardyce left Limerick to return to England in 1992 as the club did not have the money needed to keep him, according to Fr Young.

In spite of that, memories of the big man still warm the priest’s heart.

“I loved him in the dugout, he was so focused,” he said.

“I believed in big Sam – he was absolutely brilliant and a maestro.”

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