Not long ago Sam Allardyce could be found rekindling a love for crown green bowls at his village club with a few mates.
It involved grass, the challenge of pitting his skill against an opponent with a spherical shape and, no doubt, a sneaky bevvy afterwards.
But, much as he embraced bowls, there was something missing.
Swapping the bowling lawns for a winter relegation scrap at West Brom with the odds piling up against you hardly seems like fun.
But Allardyce is happy to be back in his natural habitat – even if his relegation-busting reputation could be smashed at the Hawthorns.
“Much as I love my wife Lynne I missed being back in football and the daily interaction that gives you. In normal times it wouldn’t have been so bad because you can still get out and about, meet friends and travel.
“But being stuck at home means you are in a much smaller world and I missed working.
“It wasn’t so bad last summer because at least we had some decent weather to be outdoors and I got back into bowls again. It was a popular game around Bolton when I first went there as a youth player and it was nice to pick it up and have some fun playing again.
“It’s an intriguing game, trying to get the weight and bias of the bowl working correctly. I’m no pro but I’m not too bad,” he laughed.
“Once winter came, though, that was it and I realised I wanted to work again and be back in the Premier League.
“People have questioned why I took on West Brom. They say my record of never being relegated is in danger of being broken this season.
“But that’s not a concern for me. It’s not about my past. It’s about what I can do now, can I take on the challenge.
“That’s the way I’m approaching it, in a positive light. I’m not thinking about failure. If it doesn’t work out I can promise West Brom fans it won’t be for the want of trying.
“A big concern has been making sure I don’t catch Covid because you are going into an environment full of young people where maybe the risks are greater. But we are tested twice a week and the protocols in place are excellent, although it makes management extremely difficult.
“The players are split over three dressing rooms at the training ground. We can’t have a team meeting with all the squad together so we have separate meetings in smaller groups and they can’t take too long.
“That’s not ideal when you are discussing a game plan and tactical details that involve the whole team.
“We even have to travel to games in three coaches – it’s a whole different world to the last time I was in management at Everton.”
The end game hasn’t changed though – winning. And Allardyce doesn’t need telling that West Brom are heading back to the Championship unless they start picking up points.
“We have to stop losing, it’s as simple as that,” said Big Sam.
“I’m not asking the players to win every game, just take some points from games then you give yourself a chance.
“I smile when people say you’ve got to play this way or that. The key is defending properly, keeping clean sheets, picking up one-nils.
“That’s why Manchester City are top. They’ve sorted their defence out. It’s why Liverpool won the Champions League, the Premier League.”
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