It’s all too weird, seeing Sam Allardyce’s big head sitting on top of a load of Everton training gear.
You forget about it, and then you catch Sky Sports News out the corner of your eye, with the sound down in Wetherspoons or in the window of Currys, and you are taken aback afresh. A bit like when you see Donald Trump shaking hands with a proper world leader – it just takes a beat for your brain to recompute and quickly recap recent events, like the beginning of Soap.
But Farhad Moshiri made a decision – eventually – and the one thing that he definitely did get right is that he made a permanent appointment. The situation needed that, regardless of who he picked. The players need to know that the manager controls their future; that they have to impress him in training and in games, because that’s the whole basis of his authority. By definition, the caretaker lacks that leverage, and you can’t sustain that situation.
Allardyce was clearly appointed amid an atmosphere of hysteria – the sky was falling in and he had his big, trusty brolly – but after a couple of league wins the Toffees have moved right up the table. So after wringing out our underwear, do we start to look at how Allardyce, along with Sammy Lee and Craig Shakespeare, can achieve more than simply keeping Everton in the Premier League? After all, Moshiri is paying them ‘win the league’ wages, and while no one expects us to even qualify for Europe this season, thanks to the dreadful start under the other fella, expectations will be reset next season and survival will not suffice.
The question then, really, is Allardyce all he’s cracked up to be? His fans in the media – not least his biggest admirer, himself – frequently talk about how he’s at the forefront of progressive thinking when it comes to sports science, data analysis and nutrition and all that other sexy Loughborough voodoo that seems to allow loads of fellas with dubious qualifications to stroll around in club gear and carve decent livings out of football.
The large lad will certainly never get a better chance to prove that he’s the real deal. There’s money at Everton now, and a big squad, and first class facilities. If he is genuinely a ‘ top, top manager’, the equal of all those foreign dandies who appear to get on his last nerve, then this has to be his time.
It’s genuinely going to be fascinating.
Maybe he is what Everton needed – it’s certainly different from what’s come before. Like we’ve said several times, so much of management is just pure luck – the right people at the right club at the right time – and Allardyce, Moshiri and Everton have been forced together in odd circumstances. But who knows, maybe panic and fate will do as good a job as carefully considered succession planning. After all, Leicester City’s journey to the Premier League title only started because of a careless camera-phone caught Nigel Pearson’s lad barking out instructions with his knees around his ears.
And talking of fellas who are allegedly no strangers to room service, we said when Wayne Rooney returned to Everton that whatever your thoughts on him, you might as well just enjoy the ride – why begrudge yourself? And presumably no one was sitting there fuming when he scored that ludicrous goal against West Ham last week. By the same token, while Allardyce was never many people’s idea of an Everton manager, he’s here now and we have to get behind him and his team and give them the opportunity to impress.
Even Sammy Lee.
That bit, right up to here, was written before the derby.
And then this bit came after what should have just been seen as a spawny draw, but because of the reaction – especially from Rampton mouth, Jurgen Klopp – has transformed into something bordering on quite glorious.
Let’s not make any bones about it, Everton were fucking rubbish. They offered nothing going forward whatsoever and were bested by Liverpool in every department other than the one that ultimately matters. However, what was slightly different from other occasions when we’ve been over there and been terrible, is that this time we were kind of shit on our own terms.
Let’s face it, we nearly always go there to frustrate them, but normally make a cack job of it. This time, we went with the intention of making sure we never got blown out the water in the early stages, as happens to so many teams facing Liverpool’s mightily impressive attack, and leaving ourselves with at least a fighting chance in the late stages.
It’s not much of a plan, but it’s something, and for a team being talked about in terms of relegation the other week, and missing pretty much a full defence, what did anyone expect? The players showed almost no attacking quality, but they ran and they battled and they kept the game so close that when Dejan Lovren fucked up and Rooney smashed home his penalty it was for the equaliser and not merely a consolation goal.
Again, not really a lot to write home about. But that was until Klopp absolutely imploded on live TV.
You get the impression that the broadcasters and the print journalists have a lot of time for Klopp, because he’s anything but bland and you can imagine he’s fairly personable with them when everything’s going his way. So when he was going proper ‘fat Partridge’ in his press conference you could almost feel them cringing for him.
His head wobbled so much that his teeth looked straight.
What was most bemusing was how he kept listing how they were better than us, and how there were a couple of shit challenges, and they were the only team that wanted to win, and how we never got out of our half. And it was all true.
But Jurgen, stop, stop, stop. No, honestly mate, please, Jurgen. Jurgen mate, it was still a fucking penalty.
It would almost have been better if it wasn’t. If it had been a proper outrageous travesty he might have gone full Michael Ironside in Scanners.
And therein, dear reader, is the inherent beauty of this often ugly game. One minute you are down, head in hands as your club hawks its arse around Europe, eventually settling on making ‘Big Sam’, the cart-horse whisperer, its manager. The next, you watch your patched together team of kids and misfits hold the seemingly unstoppable, mighty red sex warriors to a scrappy draw and then get treated to unlimited laughs as their manager goes Network.
Treat those twin impostors the same and yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.
And – which is more – you won’t be a crying Kopite, my son.