Few managerial appointments have proven so divisive and toxic as Sam Allardyce’s arrival at Everton.
The former England boss was confirmed as Toffees manager a year ago today, one chapter in a difficult and often traumatic campaign that won’t live long in the memory.
A catalogue of errors during the summer and throughout the autumn dragged Everton down to a position where they saw Allardyce as the only option to ensure the club weren’t relegated.
It seems hard to believe now, but a 5-1 thrashing by Atalanta and a 4-1 hammering at Southampton in the space of four days suggested otherwise.
Everton were one of the worst teams in the Premier League. They had a horribly lob-sided squad overstocked in key positions, light in others and a chronic lack of pace all over the pitch.
The botched pursuit of Marco Silva had dragged on so long that Watford sent a cease and desist letter. The net was closing and Farhad Moshiri was running out of options. He panicked and the Premier League’s no.1 firefighter came to his rescue.
The club must have been aware of how divisive the appointment was as it was made with little fanfare. Allardyce himself tried to court approval with the supporters by expressing his delight at the opportunity and how former Evertonians such as Andy Gray and Paul Bracewell had reminded him just how special the club was.
Some fans simply weren’t buying it, others felt the club had no choice given their perilous position while a section were also ready to give Allardyce the benefit of the doubt.
Allardyce has openly expressed his frustration at his image as a long-ball manager who specialises in relegation battles. He now had the perfect opportunity to prove that reputation was false at Everton, without doubt the biggest club appointment of his career.
What worked against Allardyce from the off was that the club’s position at the foot of the table wasn’t quite as bad as feared.
The 4-0 win over West Ham immediately prior to Allardyce’s arrival (though he later attempted to claim credit for it) lifted Everton up to 13th.
Allardyce’s first game in charge was against Huddersfield, who were without an away win since the opening day and had lost their previous three matches. The 2-0 win lifted Everton up to 10th, eight points clear of the relegation zone.
All of a sudden, fears of the drop had eased and that sense of panic fell away.
That should have been the perfect platform for Allardyce to prove he was more than a survival specialist. But frustratingly he stuck to his safety-first style of play that bored most supporters into a stupor. Yes, Allardyce deserves credit for getting the club back on its feet, was this the only way of doing so?
Allardyce will argue he was simply doing what he could with the resources available, his track record suggests otherwise.
The result though was a torturous six months, with an ever-widening disconnect between the manager and the supporters. Everton weren’t going down, but they weren’t going to trouble the top seven either. I’m fairly certain Allardyce knew he was leaving too, even if he claimed to be planning for the next season. Everyone was stuck in an awkward state of limbo.
Thankfully, the errors made during that season have begun to be corrected. Out went Allardyce and Steve Walsh and in came Marco Silva and Marcel Brands. In have come six new signings while 14 players have left either permanently or on loan.
The relationship between the fanbase, the players and manager has been restored. There’s a sense that everyone is pulling in the right direction once again.
There’s still a long way to go, but already last season seems like a long time ago. So credit has to go to the board for moving to correct the mistakes that got us in such a mess in the first place.