Sunday 15 July 2018

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England ENG 1

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Belgium BEL 2

England ENG 0


France FRA 4

Croatia CRO 2


Stephen Hunt - Contenders for the drop will be clearer after window closes

Everton manager Sam Allardyce. Photo: PA
Everton manager Sam Allardyce. Photo: PA
Stephen Hunt

Stephen Hunt

If Martin O'Neill decides to walk away from the Republic of Ireland job - and he has earned the right to make that decision - then I fear we may have missed out on the ideal replacement. Our potential loss could be Everton's gain.

Sam Allardyce would be the perfect choice to take over as the Ireland boss when O'Neill decides to step down. I just hope it is not yet and perhaps, at the end of his Everton contract in 18 months, if Martin is ready to go, Big Sam will be ready for a fresh challenge in international football with Ireland.

Owners, chairmen, their boards, directors of football, supporters, may all want a glamorous manager in charge of their club, but there comes a time when someone like Sam Allardyce is the only realistic choice. Or Alan Pardew, for that matter.

That time is usually when the brown stuff starts to hit the fan and there is no doubt that, even before the sacking of Ronald Koeman, that had happened at Goodison Park. And as I said after their terrible Europa League defeat to Atalanta last week, they were more likely to go for a safe option like Big Sam, than someone like Watford's Marco Silva.

His methods are simple and effective. He can manage players, make them technically better and he can organise them, which is the key to it all. Those are the basics Everton require at the moment, and which will be drilled into them.

Allardyce was in the stands to see them thrash West Ham the other night, and inevitably people start looking at the impact a new manager has, but I think there was more to it with the Everton players. The players knew it was David Unsworth's last game and they wanted to show they actually have a heart and care about the club, and someone like Unsworth, who is Everton through and through. I think they wanted to go out with a bang for him.

It is significant that no Everton player has come out and defended Koeman since he was sacked and said he should have had longer, or even given an indication that it might have been a bad decision. Allardyce is taking over a dressing room which has problems. And he will relish taking them on.

One of his tasks will be to get the best out of Wayne Rooney, who scored a great hat-trick, including the picture-perfect third goal from the halfway line. I'm just glad referee Michael Oliver managed to get his gut out of the way, otherwise we might have been denied one of the great Premier League goals.

Rooney is definitely entering the Paul Scholes phase of his career now. The head would love to do all the chasing, harrying and arguing after every decision, but the legs and the heart can no longer handle it. He is no longer a Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday player, but someone who is going to be used sensibly and not start every game. Big Sam will know how to maximise what he brings to the team and the dressing room and ensure he still leads by example.

He is one of the most talented English players of all time and he is one of those players who needs to play every week and work hard in every session to stay fit and trim. But he cannot be expected to start every game. He showed he still has the hunger the other night and that must have delighted his new manager.

Everton, West Ham, West Brom and Crystal Palace have all changed their manager since the start of the season and I would back all four of those clubs to stay up above Huddersfield Town, who are going to struggle.

Roy Hodgson has got some momentum with Palace and you already sense they are hard to beat while he has not been afraid to let some of the younger, more adventurous types go out and express themselves to win games.

Moyes has had a tough start at West Ham and it is not going to get any easier in the next few weeks. But he sounds like a different manager to the man in charge at Sunderland last season and seems prepared to have learned from his difficulties up in the North East.

If I'm not mistaken, he was quick to blame the players at Sunderland but, after the horrible defeat at Everton the other night, he said he was happy with his team's work-rate and commitment but admitted it was mainly down to individual errors. If they can eradicate those, he is convinced they will stay up. But individual errors get managers the sack.

As for Pardew, I don't know the guy and I can't say I was too taken with him dancing by the touchline at Wembley when Palace scored in the FA Cup final against Manchester United. But perceptions are funny things. All the players I've spoken to who have played under Pardew really like him and his methods and he knows how to get the best out of his teams.

January can't come quickly enough for these boys and I am sure Allardyce, Moyes, Pardew and Hodgson will all be backed in the transfer market. For all they have done great work and had backing, I can't see newly-promoted managers like Chris Hughton or David Wagner being able to match those managers in next month's transfer window. And we all know Rafa Benitez has trouble getting money out of his owner.

Some of these teams will be prepared to spend big and back their managers to stay up. But it certainly helps to have a manager you trust before you hand him the cash.

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