Former England manager admits he needs to win over the fans, and he started doing so with a victory over Huddersfield Town.
Efficient if not exciting, Everton adopt the Allardyce way as new manager enjoys winning start
The reception was respectful rather than euphoric, but the result was eminently predictable.
There should be no pretence that the Everton public have taken Sam Allardyce to their hearts, but with dissent conspicuous by its absence, his reign began with the sort of victory that has made the 63-year-old suck a profitable living and which left the only man to manage seven Premier League clubs delighted.
A game otherwise devoid of drama contained two goals, the first particularly impressive. Allardyce does not bring always excitement but he compensates in reliability.
“It could have been better for entertainment, more passing and moving,” he said. It still produced three points.
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A non-event of a first half was an indication that Allardyce has long ensured that, if his side is not playing well, neither is the other. A better second, containing goals from Gylfi Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, elevated Everton into the upper half of the table.
Fears of relegation have receded rapidly. Indeed, with David Unsworth overseeing a 4-0 win over West Ham United, that process began before Allardyce’s appointment was ratified. It is the first time all season Everton have won back-to-back league games.
“Let’s hope it is onwards and upwards,” Allardyce said. “I knew how good [this club] was so I have to live up to that standard and try and get them back to where they were last season. I will try my very best to do that. I don’t know how long it will take.”
If a winning formula eluded the sacked Ronald Koeman and, initially, Unsworth, the caretaker alighted on one on Wednesday. Allardyce had the sense to retain it and was rewarded for sticking with the same side. His input came instead at half-time, ordering Sigurdsson and the other winger, Aaron Lennon, to remain further upfield.
It brought an immediate dividend. “That got Gylfi in the box,” Allardyce said. Sigurdsson’s first-half display was such that he seemed fortunate to re-emerge after the break. He soon illustrated why Koeman had made him Everton’s £45 million (Dh222.7m) record buy, tucking away his shot after Calvert-Lewin applied a deft flick to Wayne Rooney’s pass.
Calvert-Lewin supplied the second, lofting the ball over Jonas Lossl with the aid of a deflection off Mathias Jorgensen after being released by Rooney. He had been denied by the Danish goalkeeper minutes earlier when Lennon sent him clear with a similar flick.
The 20-year-old striker was praised for his selfless display of running. “I am so pleased for Dominic that he got a goal after his work on the front line,” Allardyce said.
Both goals were indications of Rooney’s influence in the deeper role he also occupied in Allardyce’s lone game in charge of England. But it was not a fiesta of free-flowing football. That was not entirely Allardyce’s fault. He tends to inherit troubled teams. He tends to focus on the defensive as a way to improve their fortunes.
“Defensively, did Huddersfield ever have a chance?” he asked rhetorically and, besides a shot Thomas Ince fired into the side-netting, they barely did. “That gave us a platform.”
Everton had only mustered one clean sheet in the league all season. They now have two in four days. Such is the Allardyce ethos. A damage-limitation expert does not always win popularity contests where style is a factor.
He has accepted he has to win the fans over. His appointment has divided supporters. Those at Goodison Park afforded him the benefit of the doubt in an ovation when he emerged before kick-off. “Fantastic,” said Allardyce. “Brilliant.”
Equally, Everton took no chances as he only emerged into sight as the game was about to kick off. Owner Farhad Moshiri had described him as the most underrated British manager, but his appointment is not the statement of ambition that Koeman’s was.
The cynical interpretation came from the visiting Huddersfield fans, chanting “he’s only here for the money.” That underestimates the element to which Allardyce feels he deserves such an opportunity and believes he has been wronged by losing the Newcastle United and England posts.
“I turned down many a job,” Allardyce said. “I felt this job to be right for me. It is a dream job for me.”
And, in the result if not the performance, it was a dream start.