Written on the back of a number of conversations with my older brother, a lifelong Blue who longs for artistry as well as industry from Everton Football Club.
Sam Allardyce has done well in his still short time at Everton, remarkably well, you could even say he’s worked a miracle.
A team that had forgotten how to defend now does, and does it extremely well. Nothing flash, nothing fancy and sometimes ruggedly, they simply defend and protect a young goalie who’s rapidly regaining the form we expected of and hoped from him.
This was exactly what was expected of him, this is his trademark, we pretty well knew he’d pass this test, although maybe not quite so quickly.
The real and acid test for Sam Allardyce is… can he get Everton to play and play as Evertonians want Everton to play?
The solid base is now there, what Evertonians now want to see is their team leave the dressing room, take the field and play the opposition off the park and play with a swagger, a style, the School of Science swagger and style.
Right now, there are but a handful of teams truly going out there with that ethos to their game… Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, (whispers it) Liverpool, and to a lesser but nobler, more honourable extent given their lack of financial clout, lowly Bournemouth. These teams play with a conviction, a belief, they express themselves.
Not since his time at Bolton has Sam Allardyce had or even been offered the chance to play ‘expressive’ football. His forte for defensive solidity, grinding out results and escaping relegation are what’s kept him top of the ‘never likely to be out of work for too long’ listing as there’s always someone desperate for those qualities and often not too much more.
I posted a comment on the Grand Old Team forum a few days ago to the effect that maybe, just maybe the immediate impact of Sam Allardyce upon Everton has taken everybody, including Sam, totally by surprise, such is the startling change in fortunes.
Seven unbeaten games and only two goals conceded is quite staggering given what had gone on before he appeared at Goodison for the West Ham game. And even the most anti-Sam Evertonians are surely grateful for the effect he’s had? Perhaps we should be sufficiently grateful to afford him the time to re-discover the qualities that saw him take Bolton into Europe all those years ago.
A great deal now depends upon his right hand men Sammy Lee and Craig Shakespeare, and perhaps even moreso Steve Walsh to provide the absolute best in encouragement, support and signings to enable Sam to work as staggeringly effectively with the midfield and forwards as he has the defence.
It’s also not stretching things too far to suggest this current Everton squad is the best he’s ever had to work with, and given the turn around in Everton’s financial position, the budget he may have available from Monday onwards would suggest any strengthening is hardly likely to be bargain basement shopping.
Watch and listen to Sam Allardyce in his press conferences and you see and hear a manager who talks well, talks sensibly, patently understands the challenge that he now faces and who rarely gets flustered.
I’ll be perfectly honest, I really want Sam Allardyce to take up this challenge and succeed. Of course there are doubts and doubters that he can and will, but this is the best opportunity he’s ever had since leaving Bolton and he’s not stupid, he knows this too.
We will need to be patient, it can’t happen overnight, certainly not in the manner of his defensive miracle. The platform his first few weeks has given us should be such that he can and more importantly must want to change the ethos from defensive satisfaction to that of offensive expression.
Being fans is a very personal thing – but that’s what my brother and I would like to see from Everton, and begging his pardon and experience and expertise this is what we wish Sam Allardyce to make his New Year resolution for 2018 – the discovery of the joy of offensive expression.