Sam Allardyce says Everton’s mid-season trip to Dubai isn’t just about fitness and recovery, as he seeks to unite a fractured squad ahead of the season run-in.
After going out of the FA Cup at the third round stage for the second year in succession, the Toffees have two free weekends while the competitions continues without them.
The squad stayed in the UK during fourth round weekend but Allardyce decided to take the players to Dubai while the fifth round takes place.
It is a welcome break (despite being the consequence of failure) given the team have already played 40 matches this season, just one less than they played in the entire 2016-17 campaign.
Allardyce admits there is one obvious benefit to travelling out of England for a few days:
“The most important thing is what you see in front of us, which is the weather. The temperature is at a very reasonable level, so the players feel comfortable and enjoy working in this environment.
“When we left England, it was minus-one, minus-two and, if we were out training any day at Finch Farm, it would be gloves, snoods, caps and tracksuits. The quality is not the same because it is freezing cold.
“So the enjoyment levels here are extremely high and the players do not want to stop – they will continue to train as long as you want them to in this environment.”
But Allardyce insists warm-weather isn’t just about making things a bit more comfortable.
We don’t know the intimate goings on in the Everton dressing room, but it’s clear morale is low and squad unity is fractured.
Allardyce hopes that by putting smiles back on faces he can enjoy some improved results when the team returns for the final three months of the campaign.
“It is all about the feel-good factor and psychologically that is everything to a player. Mental agility and decision-making processes are key to strong performances.
”We have got them as fit as possible but physical and mental charging of the batteries is the order of the day. I have been doing this for such a long time now and every club I have been at benefited when we arrived back in England.”
“The players will understand each other better and I think talking amongst each other is a value that is not emphasised as much as it should be,” said Allardyce. “Understanding each other as people, not just as footballers, to get that relationship.
“Everyone respects each other and we all try to move forward together.
“There have been a lot of changes this season, not just myself and the backroom staff, but players as well.”
“Having already completed 41 matches, we will hopefully feel the benefits when we do get home. There is no guarantee, of course, but they will be better equipped and better prepared.