Sam Allardyce's first match in charge of England will be the 2018 World Cup qualifier away to Slovakia on 4 September, it has now been officially confirmed. The Football Association (FA) was believed to be trying to schedule a home friendly debut three days before that trip to central Europe, with widespread reports suggesting that Ante Cacic's impressive Croatia side would provide the opposition at Wembley.
Those plans now appear to have been scrapped, however. A statement released via the Three Lions website read: "Sam Allardyce's first game in charge of England will be the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Slovakia.
"The FA explored the possibility of a friendly fixture at Wembley Stadium on 1 September, but new manager Allardyce is keen to use that time to get to know his players ahead of the trip to Trnava. The Three Lions face Slovakia on Sunday 4 September at the City Arena with a kick-off time of 6pm local time."
Perennial major tournament dark horses Croatia would likely have provided a stern test of England's credentials under the new regime, having won widespread plaudits at Euro 2016 following Group D victories over Turkey and holders Spain.
Led by impressive midfield duo Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic and spearheaded by the impressive form of Inter Milan winger Ivan Perisic, they were even being tipped by many as potential winners of the competition before being knocked out in the first knockout round by eventual winners Portugal in a dire affair at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis in Lens that was won courtesy of a dramatic extra-time winner from Ricardo Quaresma.
Allardyce was officially unveiled to the media as England boss during a press conference held at the National Football Centre at St George's Park in Burton-upon-Trent on Thursday morning (25 July). The vastly experienced 61-year-old, not a universally popular choice given his lack of elite level experience and a long-term association with a very direct style of play, insisted that it was " far too early" to say if Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney would remain as captain, and confirmed that former Bolton Wanderers assistant Sammy Lee would be joining his coaching staff.
Ex-Sunderland boss Allardyce, a statistics obsessive famously overlooked for the role in favour of Steve McClaren a decade ago, also reiterated his long-term stance that English football should introduce a winter break and insisted that he did not view the national job as a poisoned chalice. Predecessor Roy Hodgson stood aside at the end of his four-year reign following a humiliating 2-1 defeat to Iceland in Nice.
"Not for me. I'm hardened over many, many years. You toughen yourself for whatever job you take because you take the good with the bad. Otherwise you don't do it. Don't bother. I'm here because I want the challenge, because I think I can make the team better and I think I'm tough enough to take it so bring it on lads."