Everton and Sam Allardyce, a club and manager mismatch borne of desperation
It was 2010 when Sam Allardyce went furthest in his arguments that he has been miscast as the relegation firefighter. “I'm not suited to Bolton or Blackburn. I would be more suited to Internazionale or Real Madrid,” he claimed. It did not kick-start a scramble for his services at San Siro or the Bernabeu. It did give an indication of his self-regard.
Eight years on, Allardyce’s suitability for Europe’s grandest jobs remains untested. What can be said is he is not suitable for Everton: as a chairman more attuned to sensibilities than Farhad Moshiri would have realised, he never was.
The 63-year-old Englishman remains an expert at steering imperilled clubs to safety: he did that within one game at Everton. It is the rest of his reign that has represented the problem.
Allardyce can tout an eighth-place finish, his highest in the Premier League since 2007, but it is an illusory achievement. Plenty of other numbers – any of the passing statistics, the reality Everton have had the second fewest shots on target this season, with just three in their last four home games against the elite – offer a truer indication of the standard of football.
Everton have endured one of the most ignominious seasons in their history and while it is not Allardyce’s fault that their European campaign was humiliating or that much of the £145 million (Dh724m) spent last summer was squandered, a series of dismal displays, devoid of ambition or attacking intent, assurance in possession or any semblance of a convincing strategy have underlined the sense that club and manager are a mismatch borne of desperation.
Allardyce does not understand Everton. He did not understand Newcastle United or West Ham Unite either, two other clubs where there is an expectation about the style of play, and despite his insufferable arrogance, his timidity in many matches has shown an inferiority complex. While Joe Royle’s "Dogs of War" and David Moyes’ various bands of brothers did not always come from the School of Science’s truest traditions, their shared commitment and the sense that they were genuine teams, greater than the sum of their parts, generated loyalty to a manager. Allardyce’s incoherent, uninspired collective have not. Players have failed to play to their potential for him. Even with wretched recruitment, Everton’s calibre of footballers means they should be far better.
Moreover, Royle and Moyes "got" Everton in a way Allardyce has singularly failed to. Dismissing his critics as a “small minority” on social media and infamously claiming he had won the “hearts and minds” of the Everton public amounts to a colossal misreading of the situation. Allardyce has been tone deaf, but anyone at Goodison Park with the capacity to hear would have heard supporters chorusing for him to go after both sides scored in last week’s draw with Southampton.
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Their advice should be heeded. The notion that the summer will be a cooling-off period and Allardyce can start again with a clean slate in August ought to be ignored. Everton have wasted this season because of some dreadful decision making. Next year could offer an unwanted repeat. It is eminently possible fans will turn on Allardyce on the opening day if he remains.
But it is not just about the personal and the vitriol. It is easy to ask for entertainment, progressive football, unity, clarity of thought and a long-term blueprint – who doesn’t want them? – but altogether harder to envisage Allardyce bringing any. He has an almost unparalleled ability to avoid relegation, but the demands at Goodison Park are altogether greater. And the Everton job is just too big for "Big Sam", a manager better suited to smaller clubs. It is imperative Moshiri recognises that as soon as possible.