Allardyce blames international calls for defeat
Newcastle United manager Sam Allardyce believes his Magpies side were reeling from the effects of a wearying international week when they lost to Derby on Monday night - but admits he used to take advantage of similar situations at Bolton.
The Magpies boss saw the majority of his first team squad link up with their national teams during the past fortnight and they put in a noticeably jaded performance against a team who battled hard for every ball and scored the only goal of the game through a stunning debut strike from Kenny Miller.
Miller, who missed Scotland's famous 1-0 win over France as he worked his way back from a hamstring strain, was one Derby player who did not have international commitments and his performance was comfortably better than Newcastle's Michael Owen.
Owen, on the other hand, shone for England in their vital Euro 2008 qualifiers, scoring three goals in two games.
At Pride Park he lasted less than an hour, contributing little before being substituted as a precaution over a tight groin.
Allardyce, who does not believe the 27-year-old will miss United's meeting with West Ham on Sunday, believes there could be a link.
'We've had 14 players on international duty over the last two weeks and they have not performed as they did before they went away,' he added.
'Unfortunately, having just a few days back with them since Friday probably ended us, I think.
'Judging by some of our players' performances (against Derby) compared to what we've done to the other four teams we've played, I think that's the case.
'I don't suppose Billy (Davies, Derby boss) has so many internationals away, certainly not as many as we have had.'
Although Derby did see a clutch of players represent their countries - including several of Miller's Scotland team-mates and the likes of Claude Davis and Benny Feilhaber - Allardyce believes the Rams benefited from less disruption to their routine.
'If you've got two weeks to work at getting better and coping with the Premier League that makes it better,' he said.
'I used to seek that advantage when I was at Bolton when bigger teams came to play us and it works well.'
He added: 'The performance was always going to be scrappy against Derby because they were going to be fired up after waiting two weeks for this game after the Liverpool result.
'We think we should have had a penalty when Dean Leacock hauled down David Rozehnal on the corner [of the penalty area]. The ref doesn't give it and they kick it up the other end and we lose to a wonder goal.
'There's nothing you can do when someone strikes a ball like that and it goes in the top corner.'
Davies, meanwhile, believes his side are merely starting to shrug off the hangover of appearing in the play-offs when most sides were in their close-season break.
'I think the extended end of the season has an effect the following season on certain individuals,' said Davies.
'The pulse was missing. Having got to the play-off final, with the short rest period, some players start quite slowly and it takes them some time.
'It was the same this season. I always had that concern with us being four weeks behind in terms of our preparation and that's why we started sluggishly I felt.'