“It’s a great night, not for me but for the club. Every player was committed. I asked them to be men tonight. If you can stand up there and fight in times of trouble, that says a lot.”
After what has been a tumultuous six weeks in the life of every Everton fan, a win against a struggling West Ham side in the unforgiving Premier League was as big as it gets at the moment.
Relief was the overriding emotion. Indeed, we as Evertonians have all appreciated just what a mess this season has been. With the very real threat of slipping into a relegation battle, a big win was exactly what we needed. If we felt the relief, I can only imagine what David Unsworth has been feeling after the last month.
Unsworth entered as Caretaker Manager and was left with a uninspired, unbalanced Everton team – not to mention a mentally weak, confidence stricken side. What he inherited was not his fault, yet he was asked to somehow drag these misfits out of the mess Ronald Koeman had left.
Not an easy challenge – I don’t care who you are, when you have no top-level management experience and have to start with games at Chelsea, the home of the Champions, Leicester, the home of the previous Premier League Champions and at Lyon, who were Europa League Semi-Finalists last year, miracles do not happen.
The Watford game felt like a must win, and at 0-2, the worst was feared. Yet we fought back and got the result. Luck played it’s part and thankfully a late penalty didn’t deny us the 3 points. Unsworth steadied things for what we thought would be his last game as Caretaker. The International break gave us two weeks and in that time, surely we would appoint the new permanent manager? It didn’t happen.
David Unsworth would never decline the opportunity to manage the first team again, but in reality, a decision was needed and he can’t be faulted for a lack of direction of those at Boardroom level. While almost cutting a lonely figure, particularly in press conferences, he didn’t shirk the responsibility nor refuse the challenge. In the meantime, after a battling point at Crystal Palace, what followed probably extinguished any chance Unsworth had of keeping the job – an abject defensive display against Atalanta before what can only be described as the worst Everton performance this century at Southampton.
The board in a clear state of panic hired Sam Allardyce. A man who they must feel can guarantee Premier League safety, thus ensuring Everton reap the financial rewards the top-level can bring. Whilst it is fair to say that Unsworth showed tactical naivety and inexperience, the hiring of Sam Allardyce was not down to Unworth’s ineptitude, but rather the lack of backbone in the first team squad. They let him down massively and forced the appointment of someone who was categorically not first choice.
In a piece where I want to praise David Unsworth, dwelling on players and their complete lack of guts is not the intention and won’t be talked of anymore; other than to say – if Kevin Mirallas ever wears an Everton shirt again, he should count his blessings. He doesn’t deserve the privilege after that Southampton game.
To West Ham. Colossal this. Not the occasion, because we’ll have much bigger and more important games in our future. In our current state however, with the hiring of Allardyce, Craig Shakespeare and Sammy Lee, not to mention the hysteria surrounding fans (isn’t Twitter great lads?), West Ham was going to be more nerve racking and tense than it ever deserved to be. Sammy Lee in an Everton tracky in the home dugout though. Sammy Lee.
How good was that pre-match press conference? Without sounding sycophantic, I was proud of David Unsworth. He maintained professionalism and composure, while having the bravery to call out those who let him down. He asked for fight and pride. He showed that whatever his role in the future, he was up for the scrap. In what has been a six week circus at Goodison, he maintained all that is good about our club.
West Ham was a brilliant victory and maybe with more time, Unsworth would of grown into the role and at least guided us to respectability. Time is not of the essence in a cut-throat league though and I’m glad his last hurrah in this spell ended with an emphatic win.
He made it clear he wanted the job full-time but he steps down firmly remaining an Everton hero. I felt watching his post-match interviews that he looked drained and exhausted and there was a sense of relief that the pressure is somebody else’s now. He has no doubt learnt a great deal, and I would love it if it worked out for him one day as a permanent Everton manager.
He goes back to the U23’s and let’s not forget what a magnificent job he did there. The best reward we can give and the best way to show we value his efforts, is to see if we can raise the attendances for reserve games – especially as it’s free for season ticket holders. There are some great kids at that level, who we should be proud to have and proud that we have a great man leading them.
A big thank you Rhino. He didn’t ask, need or deserve things to be what they were, but he stepped up, as only someone who loves the club would. His efforts won’t be forgotten amongst fans. In an uncertain future, at least we know there’s someone there, who’ll always stand up and have our back.
Up the Toffees.