A mixture of surprise and pride came over me when Evertonian’s made their feelings plain to Allardyce on Saturday, who responded with a usual aplomb by shrugging his shoulders. Much as Allardyce may want to portray supporters frustration as emanating solely from the internet (representing a somewhat old fashioned view that fans on the internet are a different group to fans who go to the match) it is becoming clear that that the situation is moving at some speed towards a situation that is untenable. It gives me enormous pride that Evertonians, even in difficult moments will not allow our ambition and history to be reduced down to championing a manager because he is in the top half of the table.
I am probably in a minority here, given the scale of anger towards Allardyce in thinking an away point at Swansea is by no means a terrible result. While it is not a good result, and the caveat that we have thrown away a lead again while at no point in the game really looking intent on having a serious go at winning the game are undoubtedly should undoubtedly count against Allardyce I still think a point to an improved Swansea team is not disastrous. In many ways this both reflects and underpins the problem of Everton have faced over recent years, namely a slow lowering of supporters expectations. While Allardyce will defend himself by stating the problems predate his role however what becomes apparent is that Allardyce has not just continued a poor run but he revels in it. He relishes being the manager of a club that cannot win away, as it re-enforces his own world view of Big Sam the Premier League Houdini who can battle out gritty away points.
I remember early into his regime, after an initial positive start Jamie Carragher wrote a poignant piece stating Allardyce would only succeed at Everton if he dropped the “Big Sam” act. He had to avoid telling people how wonderful he was, how the wins were all down to him and coming across as if Everton needed to be grateful he rocked up to save a club destined for relegation. There may be many things you can say about Evertonians which are negative, but on the whole we remain a cynical, critical bunch who value humility as a key attribute in people associated with the club. There is an almost puritanical working class honesty that surrounds the club and it’s fan base, and while here are undoubtedly draw backs to such an ethos, it allows people to suss out a blagger very quickly.
His initial start was very much out of character for Allardyce, as he paid respect to the club, it’s former players and the history. Given that he has subsequently went back on his words, and stated that the club was no bigger than West Ham or Newcastle (neither of them have won a single league title in the majority of supporters lifetime) this represented a sharp u-turn from the early respect he was shown. Players like Vlasic and Klaassen have been bombed out and Lookman pushed out while lads like Martina and Williams remained ever presents in the side has been hard to take for supporters. His comments on Lookman after the Arsenal debacle, namely he couldn’t improve us based on his age and how much money he cost remain some of the worst examples of cronyism that I have seen and reflect a manager who is far happier to build a squad that is comfortable in the top half than a young ambitious team that have aspirations to do better than this. In moments like that, the guard slipped and the true arrogance and pathos of Allardyce came creeping out.
I have no guarantees that he will go in the summer other than to say logic would dictate he has to be removed, but and some of the anarchic processes at the top of the club would not easily go hand in hand. His time last year I would have ruled out we would have sacked Koeman, never mind sacked him without having a replacement lined up and ended up turning to Sam Allardyce. What I can say though, is the chorus chants towards Allardyce will not go away if he is here next season. Given in August we will have something to play for again, I suspect the chants will become more vocal and Allardyce’s own entitlement will come out even more with him rising to the comments and further antagonising supporters. It’s not that he hates Evertonians per se, but he has crafted a narrative that he is the victim of a plot to stop him managing a Real Madrid. Anyone who doesn’t play their part in the Big Sam opera is very much a part of this plot, and that includes Evertonians who are not grateful for him taking us from 13th to 9th in the league. His arrogance means he will rise to the bait when it’s aired and if he remains the likelihood is a club with an enormous divide between it’s management and it’s support base. As I said, logic dictates that it cannot happen but then again Moshiri was the man who appointed him originally and he is an altogether more unpredictable man than Kenwright before him.
My biggest worry on Allardyce coming to the club was not that he would do terribly (obviously excluding relegation). It was that he would do well enough to keep his job, but not well enough to give any indication he could develop a side capable of breaking into the top 4/6. Had he shown more humility, there is of course every chance he would be in that territory now. Currently residing 9th, with a favourable run in meaning 8th remains both a real possibility and impartially speaking a solid return. If he is removed on that basis, expect a lot more of his friends in the media attacking Everton. Be warned, they will have limited respect for the truth, Richard Keys and Andy Grey (shamefully) have both commented he’s taken us from second to bottom to 9th. It is this sort of misinformation that dictates Everton were/are relegation fodder who should be delighted with 9th that makes it imperative he is removed and in truth I am not sure we can truly measure the damage to the brand that has been done from his 6 month tenure to the wider football world.
In a roundabout way what I am saying, is that there has been an awakening to the true nature of Allardyce amongst the fan base and I find it difficult to see that turning. If draws away to Swansea are now deemed worthy of him getting flak he is in a world of trouble, as he would happily sign off on a point for each away game. I was very critical of his appointment and tried to be as balanced as possible so it feels odd being in a situation where you seem slightly less critical than most. That he has managed to alienate most of the fans to below my own modest expectations while lifting the team to 9th underpins how little he truly grasps what managing Everton means.
Over and above the arrogance of the man, what he has suffered from is the reverse process of what he had at Crystal Palace and Sunderland, namely an inability to make things better as the season went on and therein go into the summer with any feelings of optimism. At Sunderland her inherited a side with 3 points from 9 games, he would take just 9 from his first 10 fixtures before ending the season with an impressive 27 points from 19 games (which would have been enough to finish 9th that season, or 11th when including all his fixtures).
At Crystal Palace he inherited a side who had 15 points from 17 games, again started slowly with just 4 points from his opening 8 games, before ending the season with 22 from 14 games. His record at Palace (much like Sunderland) would have seen him finish 11th/12th or if you exclude the slow start and generalise his last 14 games and generalise across the season he’d have finished just behind Everton in 8th with 60 points. At Everton he inherited the best positioned team, on 15 points from 14 games, initially took 12 points from 6 games before eventually returning a meagre 15 points from his next 14 games. His overall record of 27 points from 20 games is a less impressive record than what he achieved at both Crystal Palace and Sunderland once once you omit the initial poor start he had at both.
There is a very reasonable argument to say delivering form that was comfortably mid table from a Sunderland side who were dead and buried or taking a Palace side languishing in the relegation zone and after delivering comfortable top 8 form once he had implemented his principles were very decent achievements. While it’s unlikely he could have maintained 2 points per game as he did with Everton is understandable but he will do well to ponder exactly why the performances have regressed after such a promising start.
Having seen what he had achieved at Sunderland and Palace, with statistically (in Sunderland’s case particularly) far poorer sides than this Everton crop I was reluctantly optimistic following his initial foray. Knowing he had Coleman, Baines and Bolasie to come back to fitness as well as a proper centre Forward in Cenk Tosun and another pacey winger Walcott to be recruited it is a great surprise to me that Everton didn’t kick on and at least replicate Crystal Palace’s form at the back end of last season. It is 4 or 5 key first team players returning who have added balance, pace and a threat in front of goal. Had we have matched Crystal Palace’s last return in their last 14 games we would currently be sat on 49 points, 3 away from Burnley, 5 away from Arsenal with 4 winnable games to come and a real possibility of getting not just European football but breaking the top 6.
While there will be enormous acrimony from both sides of Allardyce is to go in the summer, rather than having those in the media falsify what he has achieved (by wrongly asserting he inherited a side in the bottom 3) he may be better placed asking what prevented him from matching (or improving upon) the run Crystal Palace had at the end of last season at Everton. If Everton were currently as close to 6th as the above scenario indicates, do we think the same level of debate (if any) would be being had about Allardyce for next season?