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Can Sam Allardyce get off to a winning start?

It’s the start of a new era at Goodison Park, and one none of us really expected six months ago

Everton v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

So here we are. The Big Sam era has officially begun.

Thursday’s rather protracted announcement finally brings Everton’s chaotic - and sometimes shambolic - hunt for a new manager to an end. It’s still hard to believe that Sam Allardyce has the job. But, this whole season defies belief given the optimism we all had in July.

I’ve been waiting for the team to hit rock bottom (and therefore begin the slow recover process) for weeks, but they kept getting worse and worse.

The hope now is that Wednesday’s win over West Ham, coupled with Allardyce’s arrival, will signal a welcome upturn in fortunes (though Anfield awaits in a week’s time so lets not get too excited).

I can’t go on without mentioning David Unsworth. What a hero. He had handled himself superbly over the past few weeks.

He has been hung out to dry by the board, let down by his players and unfairly criticised by a criminal ex-footballer desperate to make a name for himself on radio.

Throughout it all Unsworth has maintained his dignity and pride. His final press conference on Tuesday was outstanding and a sign of a true leader.

I desperately wanted the team to pick up results under his stewardship and therefore continue to lead the team until at least the end of the season.

Sadly it wasn’t to be, but I’m confident he has become a better manager and better person because of this experience.

But we now move on with Big Sam in the dugout and a number of challenges to overcome if he is to get this poorly-balanced, mentally-shattered squad to show up and perform on a regular basis.

The January transfer window may go some way towards curing the squad’s ills. But there are eight games to be played between now and the new year, meaning Allardyce needs to start getting results with what he has got - and quick.

The opposition

What a few years it has been for Huddersfield Town.

When Chris Powell was sacked in November 2015 the Yorkshire club were 18th in the Championship.

18 months later, under German coach David Wagner, the Terriers were celebrating promotion to the Premier League for the first time and their first top flight season since 1972.

Wagner’s side have made a steady start to life back in the top flight, including a memorable 2-1 victory over Manchester United last month. They currently sit 15th in the table, level on points with Everton and only below the Toffees on goal difference.

High-flying Manchester City were pushed all the way by Town last week, only for Pep Guardiola’s side to snatch a late winner. Things then got worse in midweek, with Arsenal thrashing Huddersfield 5-0 at the Emirates.

That meant a third straight defeat for the club, who remain without an away win - or even away goal - since the opening day of the season.

As a result, Everton will go into the game as favourites, but given the unpredictable nature of this season, that means precious little.

Everton v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Team news

Michael Keane has resumed training this week after recovering from what looked like concussion symptoms last weekend. Leighton Baines, who was also substituted in that game at Southampton is still out though with a calf strain.

Oumar Niasse is also back after serving a two-match suspension for.. don’t get me started on this again.

Predicted starting XI

Pickford; Martina, Keane, Jagielka, Kenny; Schneiderlin, Gueye; Sigurdsson, Rooney, Lennon; Niasse.

Final word

Wednesday’s win has done much to ease the pressure and lift the gloom around Goodison Park, but Saturday’s game is just as important if Everton are to keep themselves away from trouble at the foot of the table.

Allardyce also knows that he needs to get off to a good start in order to win over a skeptical fanbase. Huddersfield’s dreadful away form is cause for optimism, but Everton’s ropey defending isn’t.

Therefore any sort of win will do as the team tries to close a rather sorry chapter in the club’s history and look forward with confidence.