Sacked Allardyce deserved better
Sam Allardyce had no inkling of what was lurking around the corner only nine days ago when Blackburn Rovers rose to eighth place in the Premier League with victory against Wolves.
Aston Villa had been beaten in Blackburn's previous home game and Allardyce was revelling, as usual, in what he effectively regarded as a career-long struggle for managerial acceptance.
He admitted: "We never get credit for things, but that's the way it is. We are just a small town club enjoying ourselves by winning football matches. The fortress of Ewood Park is back and the walls are getting higher."
He may have at least expected credit inside that Lancashire fortress, but the walls were not high enough to prevent Allardyce being unceremoniously bundled off the premises by Blackburn's new Indian owners, the Rao family, who recently purchased the club for £23m.
I asked Allardyce what he felt he had to do at Blackburn to receive the approval rating he believed he was due after taking the club from peril to respectability in the Premier League in just two years.
He replied: "Keep winning football matches. The most important thing is winning and entertaining and I think our fans will be happy we have beaten Aston Villa and Wolves at home in consecutive games without conceding a goal.
"If you get the maximum out of your players you can't ask any more than that."
Troubleshooter Allardyce is unlikely to be out of work for long - photo: Reuters
Blackburn have lost one match since then - Sunday's narrow 2-1 away defeat by Allardyce's old club Bolton - but the new Ewood Park hierarchy have swiftly decided that he is not the man to provide the winning and entertaining football they demand.
Allardyce does not seek, or indeed receive, sympathy, but there does seem a heavy sense of injustice that the solid, if unspectacular, job he has done at Blackburn has earned him the reward of dismissal.
The clue may have come in the gap between Allardyce's understandable description of Blackburn as "a small town club" and what power brokers Balaji and Venkateshwara Rao have in mind for their investment.
Introducing themselves to Blackburn's fans via the match notes against Wolves, Balaji Rao said: "We see real sustainable growth for the club moving forward, both within the UK and also internationally and we intend to exploit our in-depth knowledge of the Indian market in particular, and beyond that the whole of Asia."
If we cut through the business jargon, this could uncover the "wider plans" they have for Blackburn - and perhaps they felt Allardyce was simply not big enough to carry them as far and wide as they want.
This, however, is a high-risk strategy because most sound judges would suggest Allardyce was the perfect man for a club of Blackburn's current stature, a manager with a proven track record of getting results at this level and keeping teams in the top tier.
Whichever Premier League clubs Allardyce has managed he's always provided plenty of bang for the owner's buck.
Blackburn lie 13th in the table, but according to statistics compiled by writer Paul Tomkins, Allardyce's team has the third lowest cost per point in the Premier League in relation to transfers, though this does not take into account wages and signing-on fees.
So while Chelsea have invested just over £3m to win each point, Blackburn have spent just under £400,000.
As recently as three weeks ago, Anuradha Desai, chairman of Venky's, the company now behind Blackburn, told Allardyce he "deserved a chance". If this was a chance, it was a brief one.
Since succeeding Paul Ince two years ago, Allardyce moved Blackburn out of relegation trouble, put them in the Premier League's top 10 last season and made a respectable start this term. This is, by most standards, highly-creditable work.
It is a gamble from the Rao family to sack a manager with Allardyce's pedigree, and one they will presumably have measured carefully, but the new men at the top at Ewood Park might need to learn to walk in the Premier League before they run.
Allardyce was more or less a guarantee of Premier League survival. He was dismissed by Newcastle under similar circumstances when owners changed, and that was a decision they were able to reflect on at leisure in the Championship.
This is not to say the same will happen at Ewood Park, but the Raos have put themselves in the spotlight and under pressure almost as soon as they have walked through the door by taking making such a speedy move.
The private thoughts of Blackburn's measured and highly-respected chairman John Williams might also be revealing, as the decision to sack a manager who has steadied a club that was heading for the Championship before his arrival hardly squares with the Rovers chief's publicly stated desire for "important stability" as the new Ewood era got under way.
Former Blackburn Rovers midfield man and BBC Radio 5 Live pundit Robbie Savage said: "I know the chairman John Williams well but it's obviously the owners who have made this decision. Sam was doing a good job, what do people expect? He will be very disappointed."
It is a mood reflected by Blackburn's players, with captain Ryan Nelsen "absolutely gutted" by the decision as he hailed Allardyce's "unbelievable job".
Allardyce's methods and refusal to be burdened by any modesty about his managerial abilities have ensured he is a figure who always polarises opinion, but judgement of his work at Ewood, if based on results rather than perception of his ego, suggests he has been a success.
Despite what many regard as a basic style, Allardyce has always been an advocate of football's scientific methods, and he insists his pursuit of success is based on a meticulous analysis of the game's percentages.
Even during the convincing win against Wolves, there was still an undercurrent of dissent from some Blackburn fans, especially when it became clear Allardyce had ordered his side, not unreasonably, to protect their lead.
A period of measured possession football was met with loud jeering and vociferous criticism of Allardyce, ironic as one of the accusations levelled at him is that he is too happy to ignore the passing game in favour of the more direct approach.
And for all the brickbats habitually aimed in Allardyce's direction, Blackburn were not simply a one-dimensional side. They were formidable on home turf, had a good mix of youth and experience, all achieved on a limited budget.
Only last week, when reflecting on Chris Hughton's sacking by Newcastle, Allardyce might have been predicting his own fate when he said: "Sometimes quick decisions are made based on the way the game is today. There is so much money involved in it now that it is almost as important as winning a game of football, in some cases even more important.
"That causes people to worry more quickly and make quicker decisions, whether they are right or wrong. It is their football club. They are entitled to make those decisions and we have to live with the decisions that they make. All we can do is move on."
Allardyce's obvious regard for his talents as a manager will cause some to revel in his downfall, but this must not disguise the fact that he has done as well as could reasonably have been expected at Blackburn and deserved more time to convince his new owners that he was the man to take the club forward.
Such is Allardyce's bullet-proof self-belief that he will spend his first night out of work convinced he will soon be back in management - and he is likely to be proved right.
It is coming to the time of the season when troubleshooters are required, and Allardyce is sure to get the call sooner rather than later.