Sam Allardyce cut his managerial teeth at Limerick FC, a club where he is fondly remembered for his achievements 25 years on. Father Joe Young, who had taken over as chairman just months earlier, gave the big centre half his first leg up on the ladder to try out all the big ideas he had formed in his time in America.And his astonishing impact on the team in just one season left assistant manager Billy Kinnane in no doubt the new England manager was heading right for the top. Big Sam stayed with Kinnane during his time at the club and the landlord still misses the days when the £170-a-week gaffer had at least one of his infamous flip charts in every room in the house.Click on the video link to see how Allardyce restored pride to a club which, just months earlier, had been relegated to the second tier of Irish football for the first time. Also See: Allardyce: I cant stop smiling 10 things about Big Sam What they said about new boss Who will Allardyce play? Custom Cleveland Browns Jerseys
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. Just ask Arsenal fans. However, Arsene Wenger has repeatedly told anyone willing to listen that finishing in that spot is more important than winning a cup competition.TORONTO – It was just over eight hours before game-time that Peter Horachek was officially named the interim replacement for the since-deposed Randy Carlyle. Suffice to say that big changes werent on the immediate horizon for the sputtering Leafs. When you have one day to go in there theres only small tweaks you can do, Horachek said ahead of his debut behind the bench. As we go forward there may be things that we may talk about changing. Change came in small doses Wednesday night for the newly-led Leafs, but the ultimate result remained the same. And that was the eighth loss in the past 10 games for Toronto, who fell out of a playoff spot at the official midway point of the season. There were some good things, said a composed Horachek after a 6-2 loss to the Capitals. We out-chanced them. Our possession numbers were better. We outshot them. But we gave up some poor timely goals. Changing a broken record wasnt going to be easy nor would it happen in a matter of hours. The Leafs were consistently poor in holding the puck and keeping it out of the net under Carlyles leadership, showing slight improvements in both categories Wednesday under Horachek and a revamped coaching staff – with Steve Staios added to the bench from the player development sector of the organization. Second-worst in the league in shot suppression entering the night, Toronto held Washington to just 26 shots and did indeed hold a pretty fair lead in the possession battle at even-strength. Horachek knew he couldnt change much in a day, but attempted a few tweaks at practice a day earlier. Chief among them, said Stephane Robidas, was improved cohesion in the defensive zone. I think thats what hes trying to implement, Robidas said. And thats something that we worked on yesterday in practice and something I think well keep working [on] and well keep looking at video. Beyond the needed structural fixes, Horachek also took to shaking up a lineup that had become stale amid a recent batch of injuries. The most notable change saw the standard, but troublesome top line broken up. Phil Kessel instead teamed with possession demons, Nazem Kadri and Daniel Winnik, for much of the night and did so effectively. Kessel earned better than 60 per cent possession at even-strength, a vast change – albeit in one night – for a player whos been consistently the Leafs worst this season. Such possession prowess helped Toronto earn its first goal, a Winnik deflection that beat Braden Holtby. Still, familiar troubles remained. Those timely goals that Horachek spoke of saw the Leafs yield an ill-timed shorthanded goal less than two minutes after tying the score and then another marker – Washingtons fourth – 42 seconds after Trevor Smith cut a two-goal deficit in half. The Capitals seemed to score with the limited opportunities they did have. Torontos coaching staff counted a tidy 12 scoring chances, Washington scoring five before adding another into an empty net. Weve got to eliminate those issues where were making things happen to ourselves, Horachek said. But we did a lot of things that we wanted to do and sometimes its just going to be harder at first than we want it to be to get back into the win column. Horachek managed to affect positive change during a 66-game stint in Florida last season under similar circumstance. The Panthers possession numbers inched upward under his direction. What the newly-minted interim head coach really offers the Leafs though is an opportunity to grade what looks to be a flawed roster under different direction. Brendan Shanahan and his front office team can utilize the second half of the season to determine how much of what ailed the club in recent years was tied to coaching and how much was tied to the limitations of personnel thats been locked into place for the long-term. They have 41 games exactly to paint that picture. Five Points 1. Resolve One word Horachek used repeatedly in his first day on the job was resolve. He talked about a change in the attitude of the group. Everyone has to be accountable for this situation, Horachek said of the Carlyle dismissal, shortly after directing his first practice. Everyone touches this situation and when it happens we all should be upset with ourselves and upset with the situation that weve put ourselves in. We have to have resolve now and we have to have a determination and a purposeful practice and purpose in how we approach our day-to-day. Horachek said the teams preparation and attitude ahead of both practices and games had to improve. I think weve seen good hocckey with our group, he said, [but] I want resolve.dddddddddddd I want to see that attitude. Whats the best thing we can do for our teammates? [Its] give a good attitude and be a person of direction, a person of leadership. We need that coming from everybody and I think everybodys capable of bringing that. 2. Communicator Horachek becomes an NHL head coach for the second time. Replacing Kevin Dineen previously as the temporary bench boss in Florida, he landed in Toronto this summer with the reputation of a strong communicator. You have to make them feel like its okay to talk to them, said Horachek, coaching his first game opposite Barry Trotz, with whom he teamed for years behind the bench in Nashville. My door is open, they can come in and have their opinions [and] I can tell them whats going on. I can [give] them an opportunity to say what they want. Theyre not feeling like my thumb is on top of them, theyre feeling like were in this together. Im going to be very clear, he continued, about what they have to do and when they make mistakes they have to understand that thats part of it. Im going to be very clear that if they do something that the team doesnt want them to do that thats something they have to correct. 3. Five-Man Unit Horachek went right to work in his first practice Tuesday in attempting to cue change in the defensive zone. He spoke of the functionality of a five-man unit after Wednesdays game. What we used to call five, five and five. We want five guys in the defensive zone, in the neutral zone and in the offensive zone, said Horachek. Its all connected and we believe thats the way it has to be. Playing defence, its just a commitment. Its a five-man unit, added Robidas, who checked back into the lineup after four games as a scratch. You cant be spread out and you cant have D running out of position and forwards running out of position. Weve got to know our role. Weve got to know where we need to be on the ice. Its got to be automatic. 4. Two Weeks On, Two Weeks Off Under the microscope more than any player after the Carlyle firing came down at around 9:20 a.m. on Tuesday, Phil Kessel didnt seem much bothered by the critique of his first head coach in Toronto, Ron Wilson. Wilson told TSN Radio that Kessel is two weeks on and two weeks off, noting damningly that he couldnt rely on Phil. I didnt hear anything that Wilson said. No clue, said Kessel when told of the stinging comments Wednesday morning. I dont really care to be honest with you. Sometimes I go cold out there, he said of his reputation for inconsistency. I dont think Im any different than anyone else in the league. He understood, however, the criticism coming his way in light of another troubled season, one that saw Carlyle fired at the 40-game mark. Weve made the playoffs one year here, said Kessel. Thats what happens, theyre going to come after you. Its never fun, but its part of the business and we just handle it. 5. Skids Kessel offered his own insight into the teams failure during a tenure in Toronto that spans more than five seasons. Were always right there every year, he said of the playoffs, and then all of a sudden we just hit these rough patches and weve just got to find a way to not go through them and play good hockey all year long. You know youre going to lose a couple games here and there, but you cant go on long losing streaks like weve had in the past. I think that happens every year with us and weve just got to somehow kick that. The Leafs improbably won 10 of 12 earlier this year before losing seven of the next nine. Carlyle was fired shortly after that ninth loss, a 5-1 drubbing in Winnipeg. Stats-Pack 53-43 – Even-strength possession battle Wednesday favouring the Leafs. 12 – Number of times the Leafs have held an opponent under 30 shots this season. 14:30 – Ice-time for Roman Polak, who missed a good chunk of the first two periods after taking a Troy Brouwer shot to the face. 28 – Games between goals for Daniel Winnik, who scored his second this season against Washington. 21-17-3 – Leafs record at the midway point of the season. Special Teams Capsule PP: 0-2 Season: 19.9 per cent (13th) PK: 0-2 Season: 82.5 per cent (12th) Quote of the Night There were some good things. We out-chanced them. Our possession numbers were better. We outshot them. But we gave up some poor timely goals. -Peter Horachek, assessing his first game as the Leafs interim head coach. Up Next The Leafs host Columbus Friday before hitting the road for four straight. 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