Stoke City: Nzonzi a keen admirer of Allardyce
STEVEN Nzonzi admits Sam Allardyce could be a pretty scary man to play for during their time together at Blackburn.
Nzonzi lines up against Allardyce's West Ham this evening with fond memories after signing for Big Sam in the summer of 2009.
But he confesses his old boss could cut a terrifying figure whenever he lost his rag with players.
"He looks very tough," whispers the softly-spoken Frenchman, tempted to look over his shoulder in case the big man happened to be listening.
"Of course he shouted, he shouted at everybody, but I think he is a good manager.
"He is good because every player respects him and every player wants to work as hard as they can for him.
"With Sam Allardyce it is always a good team and always a strong team. Strong defensively, so we will have to be strong as well.
"They have started the season very well and have some very good players.
"Yes, it was very good to work with him, but now he is in the past and I am focused on Stoke City.
"I can see similarities (with Tony Pulis). You can say all the players respect him and want to be strong for him."
Nzonzi, still a shy man now, was only 20 when he made the potentially career-changing decision to leave France for England when he joined Blackburn from Amiens three years ago.
"It was a good opportunity for me," he recalls, "and so I couldn't say no.
"There were a couple of teams in France interested at the time, but in France we know the Premier League is one of the best in the world."
Nzonzi, below, turned out 97 times during his three years under Allardyce and then Steve Kean at Blackburn, but his progress was such that his time at Ewood Park was always destined to end once they were relegated last May.
Up popped Stoke City at the end of the summer transfer window to bolster their midfield with a player appearing to possess both the ability and the athleticism to dovetail neatly into the next phase of the team's development.
Common consensus would appear to have Nzonzi down as Stoke's best summer signing to date – with Geoff Cameron a close second – following an immediate and successful integration into the heart of their midfield.
And he goes into this evening's clash in fine fettle after winning the sponsors' man-of-the-match award following the narrow 1-0 win over QPR last time out.
"It is always good to win and take the three points," he says modestly, when asked about the Champagne.
"I just try my best to play as good as I can. The lads are always behind you and always help you on the pitch and in training.
"It has been quite easy for me to settle at Stoke City because of the manager, the staff and the players, so I am happy."
That sponsors' award was no doubt inspired by one particularly memorable moment in the first half against QPR when, in a rare foray deep into enemy territory, he emerged from a three-man move down the right to pull the ball back for Peter Crouch to go close.
A tantalising glimpse into the natural instincts at his disposal in the final third of the pitch.
"Yes, I would like to score, but it does not matter when," says Nzonzi, who bagged a modest five in those 97 games for Blackburn.
"It is not really important, as long as the team wins. That is the most important thing.
"If I feel good and if I can get forward, why not?"
And goalscoring certainly shouldn't be alien to a player once plying his favourite sport much further up the pitch.
"Yes, I play striker when I was young, when I was about 13 and 14.
"But later on it was thought I was better in midfield to pass the ball."