Sacked Sam Allardyce Lost Battle For Hearts And Minds At Everton - But He Has Guaranteed Himself A Job Elsewhere
In a season in which Everton consistently failed to impress, there is a certain irony in one of the few high points - a 4-0 victory over West Ham in late November - becoming a nagging bone of contention within the club's Finch Farm base. That, though, is exactly what has happened over the last six months.
Despite being appointed manager the next day with the club in 13th position, self-proclaimed relegation specialist Sam Allardyce claimed the victory as his own as he has sought to add gloss to his tenure on Merseyside. In attempting to further his own cause, however, Allardyce was also quite brazenly playing down Unsworth's influence during his own temporary spell. It is no surprise that there have long since been rumours of division amongst the Everton coaching staff.
Such friction has also been evident on the terraces during Allardyce's spell, with his dismissal on Wednesday serving to underline the extent to which he became a divisive presence in several different areas of the club. With the vast majority of supporters in favour of a change in manager and Everton stalwarts like Unsworth unnecessarily belittled by the 63-year-old, Farhad Moshiri and the rest of the Goodison hierarchy were eventually left with no choice but to relieve Allardyce of his duties.
In the end, this was about more than just results. Had Everton fans seen a blueprint established and developed over the course of his time on Merseyside, he may even have been forgiven for some of the failures. Just about everyone associated with the club accepts that the gaping holes in Everton's squad were there before Allardyce took the reins, after all. But instead of winning hearts and minds and adapting to the higher expectations at Goodison, the ex-England coach failed to evolve; becoming further and further entrenched in his own defence-centric dogma. The impression given by his substitutions and post-match press conferences, particularly away from home, was that the main aim was always to avoid defeat.
Merely playing for draws, though, has never been enough for a fanbase that years for more - and in some cases has witnessed success at the very top level. Diminishing ambition - even if it is difficult to meet that expectation - has never sat well on the blue half of Merseyside. Nor should it.
Yet while Allardyce most definitely lost the argument inside Everton, elsewhere the narrative he has peddled of salvation has taken hold. Since his departure, numerous media personalities have joined the large numbers of opposition fans quick to jump to the 63-year-old's defence and criticise Everton for their decision. Many, too, have erroneously attributed the West Ham victory to him - despite the vast weight of evidence to the contrary.
It means he has, for all intents and purposes, successfully disseminated his message elsewhere. And so, while pointing to the job he did at Everton and others, Allardyce will almost certainly be perfectly placed the next time a Premier League side is in need of someone to stem the tide. The riches of the Premier League are such that, like Farhad Moshiri at Everton, risk-averse owners will put faith in what they believe to be the sage option when it comes to fighting relegation. Allardyce, through his triumphant rhetoric, well-placed media contacts and ability to meet bottom lines again on Merseyside, has very much reaffirmed his own status at the go-to man in such circumstances if he so wishes.
Everton, for their part, will now move on and swiftly look to put this unwanted chapter behind them. Just as was the case before Allardyce's appointment, Marco Silva is the early frontrunner, although fellow Portuguese Paulo Fonseca, Sergio Conceicao and even Bill Kenwright favourite Eddie Howe cannot be ruled out. With a huge summer of change ahead, speed and efficiency will now be the order of the day when it comes to securing targets and preparing for next season.
But just as the Goodison Park club moves on, so too will Allardyce in his usual fashion. By successfully crafting how own narrative, his next step has already been secured.