As the Three Lions prepare to kick off their World Cup campaign, former manager Sam Allardyce ensured his meticulously-planned team talk was not going to be wasted – delivering it to cuddly toys he had assembled in his back garden.
The one-game wonder was spotted giving the emotional speech to 23 characters – including a giant Peppa Pig, crochet duck and a Jellycat Bashful Bunny – hours before England took on Tunisia at the Volgograd Arena.
“When Big Sam doesn’t answer the door he’s usually in his shed, so I just let myself round the back,” explained pal Terrence Flump.
“But when I got to his patio I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He was calling this weird little knitted cat thing Welbs and telling it to ‘press fucking high up’.
“He’d even put a little pair of gloves on a Winnie the Pooh, keeping a completely straight face as he gave it some final instructions about rolling the ball out to the full backs.”
Friends close to Allardyce say the former Bolton and Newcastle boss took his exit from the national team hard.
“After he’d told the teddy bears to ‘get out there and get fucking into them’ he turned round and spotted me,” Flump added.
“He burst into tears, telling me this should have been his tournament and that he’d been working on the team talk for over a year and couldn’t bear to see it wasted.
“He then started rambling about the penguin Beanie Baby’s ability to deal with set-pieces.
“It was a nightmare. I’d only dropped by to give him his Chubby Brown DVD back.”