Just over two weeks ago, Everton Football Club were close to being a basket case and the threat of a relegation fight loomed.
A terrible start under Koeman saw form, performances, confidence and self-belief all disappear and with his dismissal, David Unsworth took on the unenviable position of caretaker manager to contain and repair the damage.
Unsworth to his enormous credit gave the task his all, knowing it would only be a temporary assignment as the club would move quickly to recruit a full-time replacement… wouldn’t they?
Names a-plenty were mentioned and Sam Allardyce ruled himself out of contention as attention quite publicly switched to Marco Silva of Watford.
Watford said no, Silva said nothing and time dragged on as Unsworth and the fans waited to learn when Silva and Watford would part company.
With rumours of possible disagreement within the higher echelons of the club, the name of Sam Allardyce resurfaced, and it proved more than just paper talk.
Many Everton supporters were appalled that the School of Science were preparing to offer their top job to a man reputed to be little more than a relegation escapologist.
Others though wondered if the biggest club job he could ever have imagined would see a different Sam Allardyce. Could the undoubted but misfiring talent in the Everton squad react and adapt to his methods and could he react and adapt to handling more better quality players than he’d ever had to work with.
Whatever proved the conduit between Big Sam and the club, we’ll probably never know. But in just over two weeks of his arrival for the West Ham game and the Blues securing their first away win in eleven months with the hard-fought victory at Newcastle, Evertonians largely don’t care as the managers arrival has had a quite remarkable effect.
Whilst Allardyce honestly takes no credit for the walloping of West Ham in Unsworth’s final game in charge, his presence in the Main Stand alongside Farhad Moshiri probably was a factor of sorts. It’s his presence since and his well known penchant for defensive organisation and sticking to basics that has seen the dramatic and immediate turnaround in the Blues fortunes.
Huddersfield were beaten professionally, almost a junior team won comfortably in the final Europa League game in Cyprus and a dogged, but thoroughly planned and executed rearguard action in the derby to nullify Liverpool provided the platform for the win at Newcastle.
So what is the Allardyce magic formula?
He himself said after the game at St.James’s that the way the Blues defence has played since baffles him as to how many goals were conceded prior to his arrival.
He preaches a simple mantra of not conceding, not losing possession in your own half and playing your own football in the opposition half of the pitch.
It can’t be that simple can it?
Apparently it must be, because in the four games since Big Sam arrived, Everton have conceded just one goal.
Big Sam has cancelled Christmas for his squad until such time as he feels the clubs position warrants the players letting their hair down. He’s also committed himself to having one on one meetings with all the players so he can assess their attitude, commitment and outlook towards the club.
Could these meetings result in one or more players leaving in January?
Despite the turnaround, the universal opinion amongst the supporters is the squad still needs a new left back, centre back and a striker. And if Allardyce is going January shopping, as he says he already has 31 players… the inference being that incomings might need to be balanced by one or two departures.
One question many Blues fans would like a definite answer to is the future of Ross Barkley. Will Big Sam want to and be able to talk Barkley into changing his mind about not signing the contract he was offered before the end of last season?
Many Blues fans would love Barkley to remain an Everton player, the thought of him linking in midfield with Rooney and Sigurdsson is positively salivating.
With the club now in mid-table and not hovering dangerously above the dreaded drop zone, some are already thinking that the pragmatic approach of Sam Allardyce coupled with the greater resources that Everton can and undoubtedly will provide in the transfer market could see a future nobody envisaged.
His first two weeks in charge of Everton have gone as well as anybody could ever have imagined. These early results have earned him a huge slice of time with supporters desperate for a return to challenging for silverware.
Could Sam the firefighting, relegation escapologist be set to become Sam the surprise?
Who’d have thunk it?
From my blog – andycostigan.wordpress.com