TRNAVA: England have a new lucky charm after their dramatic victory in Trnava – a shiny gold coin given to new manager Sam Allardyce by a Slovak fan.
Allardyce was able to celebrate a debut victory as England manager in the World Cup qualifier in Trnava courtesy of Adam Lallana’s 94th-minute winner.
Asked if he considered himself a lucky manager, Allardyce pointed to the coin and said: “A father and his son in a wheelchair came to the hotel this morning and asked if it was OK to have a picture. When we finished he said: ‘Let me give you a lucky coin.’ Here it is. I had it with me in my pocket, we won, so it’ll stay with me.
“I’m not really superstitious but I’m going to keep it. It’s got us a last minute winner. I wonder how far it will take us.”
Lallana’s first goal for his country – and the luck of the coin – provided Allardyce with three points, as important for their symbolic value as their practical purpose in the qualifying table.
Allardyce’s England might have gone one better against Slovakia than Roy Hodgson’s team managed in June, when they laboured to stalemate in Saint-Etienne, but they left it late to break down opponents reduced to 10 men after Martin Skrtel’s 57th-minute sending off.
Allardyce said later: “It was a bit nerve-wracking at the end. A 10 men scenario means you must win.
“It’s difficult to break them down, they’re going to try harder and defend longer but finally we got what we deserved with one in the last minute – perhaps their goalkeeper shouldn’t have stayed down injured so long.”
It had looked as though the game would end in frustration after Lallana hit a post and Theo Walcott had a goal disallowed for offside because of touch off Daniel Sturridge.
Allardyce said: “In the end we got the goal and it’s a deserved win. We broke them down pretty well apart from the final finish. When we got the final finish it was offside, we got a goal disallowed, Adam Lallana hit the post and eventually we got the goal.”
Most controversial was the role of captain Wayne Rooney on the occasion of his 116th cap, breaking David Beckham’s outfield record.
He played a deep-lying midfield role, as he had at Euro 2016 even though Jose Mourinho has restored him to an attacking position at Manchester United.
Allardyce declared himself happy with Rooney’s performance but curiously suggested that he had deferred to his skipper over where he played and even expressed surprise at how far he dropped.
“Today Wayne played wherever he wanted to. He was brilliant and controlled midfield. I can’t stop Wayne playing there,” said the manager. “I think that he holds a lot more experience at international football than me as an international manager.
“Yes he played a bit deeper than he does at United, but Wayne’s comfortable, when I talk to him, about the position. This is the most decorated outfield player in England. He’s won everything at Man United, more or less, and at Champions League and domestic level.
“Using his experience with a team, and playing as a team member, it’s not for me to say where he’s going to play. It’s up to me to ask whether he’s doing well in that position, and contributing.
“If so, great. We’d like to get him into goalscoring positions more. He’s been a goalscorer all his life and I want him to do that again, but he reads a game as he reads it. He read it very well, we won the game and dominated the game, outplaying the opposition.
“I must admit, he did play a little deeper than I thought he’d play today, but I was pleased with his performance.”
On the overall context, Allardyce said: “It’s the biggest job I’ve ever had. You know you’re leading the nation forward. Everyone is looking at you. They want you to show the way forward and be successful and it’s that much bigger when the nation’s watching you.
“I had a whole lot of messages today. It was impossible to try and attempt to reply to all the goodwill messages from across the country. In the end, everyone back home was waiting with bated breath and we scored the winner.
“Everyone back home is happy and can have an extra drink. The fans here were happy and the goal came in their end. We dominated the game and finally got what we deserved. The result did us justice in the end.”