Every set of football fans lives in a bubble. Caught in the collective buzz of success or the grim mire of failure, they don’t tend to notice the outside perception of club affairs. The Everton bubble was burst spectacularly with the recent distribution of fan polls. It wasn’t pretty.
Wading hip-deep into the debate was Neil Custis, who chirped: “Disgraceful treatment of Sam Allardyce by Everton. Whether you like him or not he’s improved the team and kept you up. Shocking.
“You Everton put out a survey to fans about the manager, when you know many are against him. Undermining him while he does a good job.”
While Custis has the journalistic clout of Tim Messenger from Hot Fuzz, or whoever wrote the infamous headline ‘The Name’s Bond, James Rodriguez’, it turns out his views are shared in places. There seems to be a perception among a number of fans whose exposure to Everton comes exclusively from Match of the Day that Allardyce has, in fact, done well.
The Allardyce Myth is crafted as follows. First, the bizarre claim is made that Everton would’ve been relegated, had we not turned to this 20-stone firefighter. The fact that a dearth of quality exists at the bottom of the Premier League hasn’t occurred to them, apparently. Thanks to wins over West Ham and Huddersfield, Everton jumped from 18th to 10th in the space of four days. The Toffees have become stuck there, because no teams below have put together a decent run of form. Beside Newcastle, that is, and they have a very good chance of leapfrogging the beleaguered Blues.
Then there’s the claim that Allardyce has made Everton better, one which a small cabal of Evertonians have suggested as a reason to retain his services. If we’re comparing his spell to the last few months of Ronald Koeman’s sorry stint, then yes, it’s an improvement. Forgetting to turn up to games might have been an improvement. But with expected gains as the metric, not past failures, has Allardyce provided any reason to be cheerful?
Nope. Seven wins, with the biggest scalp being 8th placed Leicester. The average position of a side beaten by Allardyce’s Everton is 14th. Three points from a possible 24 against the top seven. In his 20 league games, Everton have had more than half of the possession five times. The issues are aesthetic as well as statistical. Negative football has quashed any sense of excitement at Goodison. Everton sit back and allow their opponents to dictate the tempo. Rather than having a sense of adventure, the players look scared to pass the ball. At this rate, they’ll start walking out to Mad World by Gary Jules instead of Z-Cars. Going nowhere, going nowhere.
Yet there are genuinely people out there who believe all is well at Everton. The only stance of theirs that is worth defending is that Allardyce should not be the sole scapegoat. The boardroom is divided, Steve Walsh’s decision-making has been baffling, and the experienced professionals at the club have consistently gone missing. If they continue to insist that Allardyce should lead Everton into a better future, then I for one will continue to insist the opposite.
And I’ll do so with some handy examples. Everton 0-2 Manchester United is not a performance that can ever be abided. Zero shots on target and constant surrendering of possession meant United merely had to bide their time until striking the killer blow. Allardyce’s reaction? “If you gift the ball back to the team like United then they punish you. Here’s some analysis for the lads on Match of the Day if you want: For the first goal they back off, back off and back off.” Blame was his first recourse. Cenk Tosun received a sideswipe after a limp 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Spurs. Duncan Ferguson argued otherwise. Tosun proved otherwise, once he was given the support he needed.
Big Sam’s successes? Draws. Stalemates at home to Chelsea and Liverpool, and away to our city rivals. While the 1-1 at Anfield was hilarious, it was one penalty call away from the weakest derby showing in years. That includes two 4-0 hidings. The home draw against a weakened Liverpool side was so clearly winnable that the Kopite banter kings had already saved “HAHAHAHA IT’S ONLY OUR B TEAM, BITTERS” in their drafts. Allardyce came away satisfied when Chelsea failed to score at Goodison, against an Everton side that showed no interest in landing a punch.
Everton wanted to be a heavyweight. Instead they are Homer Simpson, taking endless punches and offering little in return. (Hyperlink: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0701243/)
Allardyce came to Everton with a decent record of helping struggling clubs improve. Everton moved up the table. Thus, a false equivalency was born. The fan poll will not show, as Custis believes, a vendetta. It will be a reflection of what we have seen, or endured. It is also one question in a wider survey. The other misconception that Allardyce is the sole target of dissent is also incorrect. The survey at large should not be defined by one answer.
Feelings are not facts. Even so, neither indicate that Sam Allardyce has led Everton in a positive direction. The Everton bubble has not been abuzz with excitement for a while, and it is clear that change is needed for that to be possible. We’ve been saying that ever since Roberto Martinez’s Icarus project burned up. And what attracts us to football is the feeling. The joy of victory means more than the statistics. The majority of fans feel that Allardyce must go. No matter what outside observers think, there is no longer any doubt.