Allardyce and Everton have reached the point of no return

Words By Richard Jolly Illustration by Philippe Fenner
March 8, 2018
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When Sam Allardyce reached the point of no return, Everton were still on course for a point. That, in itself, was revealing. So, too, was the cause celebre. Cenk Tosun had not scored a goal before Saturday. His omission had been mystifying, but there was insufficient evidence from his time at Goodison Park to suggest he should be in the side. Then he scored at Burnley. Then Allardyce substituted him – perhaps logically, given the Turkey international had not completed 90 minutes for nearly three months – and then the supporters turned on Allardyce.

To paraphrase, the Everton fans suggested Allardyce should go. By the time Burnley were winning 2-1 and a chant of “sacked in the morning” began, it was hard to tell whether it was instigated by the home faithful or the travelling Merseysiders. It seemed a rare song to unite rival fans. It also began to herald the beginning of the end.

Allardyce said only the players could persuade the crowd to back him again. Even that is optimistic. As Roberto Martinez and Ronald Koeman can testify, once the Everton public decide they want a manager removed, their views only change in that they can intensify. They can become more vitriolic. Except that it took supporters two-and-a-half years to call for Martinez’s head and more than one to conclude Koeman was the wrong man. That, three months into his tenure, judgments are being made quicker in Allardyce’s case is not because attention spans seem shorter.

It highlights the increasing wretchedness of his reign and the needlessness of his appointment. Everton panicked in plumping for Allardyce, fearing a relegation battle that they extricated themselves from in his first game in charge. Everton finished that day 10th. They are now 11th. They are not progressing. They are not entertaining.

Allardyce has rightly earned a reputation as a pragmatist but there is little pragmatic about playing poor football and losing. He had an immediate impact by avoiding defeat in his first seven games; that has been cancelled out by seven defeats in the subsequent 10.

Formulas have been found and discarded, decisions made and revised, a manager supposed to bring a clarity of thought appearing confused. A defensive strategist has seen his side concede 21 times in 10 games. That Chris Wood’s weekend winner for Burnley came from a corner felt damning: Everton have not even mastered the basics of set-pieces in the way a typical Allardyce side, limited but efficient, would have done.

Unnecessary contradictions and complications have abounded. Allardyce has said it would be “absolutely critical” his first signing would be a success and then demoted Tosun without giving him the chance to prove one. He concluded Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson could not play together and then started selecting both in the same side again. Sigurdsson was excellent in a central role and with Rooney benched at Burnley: it was a glimpse of what might have been and what probably won’t be when, with grim inevitability, Rooney no doubt returns to the side soon and Sigurdsson is shunted back out to the left.

If a 63-year-old always seemed a short-term choice, Allardyce’s argument that he wanted to be at Everton when the new stadium is open seems negated by the reality he has not even, amid the drift to safety, done much to prepare them for next season. Instead of futuristic planning, there has been depressing mediocrity. The promising Dominic Calvert-Lewin was shifted from the striker’s role to make way for Oumar Niasse, who should not be at Goodison Park next season. While Mason Holgate had showed promise at centre-back, Eliaquim Mangala was brought in on loan. Everton conceded five goals in the Frenchman’s first game. He got injured in his second and will not play for them again. He became another byword for expensive underachievement and pointless recruitment in a season full of bad decisions.

And opting for Allardyce, a man whose brand of football and personality were always unlikely to endear him to Evertonians, seems another. The soundtrack should suggest as much, if Farhad Moshiri is aware enough to hear it. And if he isn’t, it will probably get louder.

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Everton Sam Allardyce
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