Allardyce targets top-half finish for rejuvenated Everton

Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring Everton's third goal from the spot, his second penalty in the 3-1 Premier League win over Swansea. His first was saved by Lukasz Fabianski who pushed it onto the post, but Dominic Calvert-Lewin tapped in the rebound to
Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring Everton's third goal from the spot, his second penalty in the 3-1 Premier League win over Swansea. His first was saved by Lukasz Fabianski who pushed it onto the post, but Dominic Calvert-Lewin tapped in the rebound to make it 1-1.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Sam Allardyce's ability to get teams out of relegation trouble is the defining characteristic of his managerial career, but Fireman Sam's impact at Everton has been so swift he is already looking at a top-half finish in the English Premier League.

With Monday's 3-1 home win over Swansea pushing the Goodison Park side up to ninth on 25 points, 10 above the bottom three, the worries of a long scrap against the drop seem a distant memory.

"The target now? Top half, but let's not get carried away," said Allardyce after second-half goals from Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wayne Rooney (penalty) secured the win against the bottom Welsh side.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin cancelled out Leroy Fer's opener in first-half stoppage time after Rooney's penalty was saved.

Everton were in the relegation zone when they sacked Ronald Koeman on Oct 23. The club's Under-23 coach David Unsworth then had an extended spell as caretaker manager during which he managed just two wins in eight games.

Under Allardyce, they beat Huddersfield and Newcastle and drew at city rivals Liverpool.

He has never had a team relegated from the Premier League, despite working with the likes of Sunderland and Crystal Palace who were in deep trouble when he took over. He also maintained top-flight status for clubs such as Bolton and Blackburn and guided relegated West Ham up and kept them there.

Focusing on solid defending and good organisation has again brought results for the 63-year-old.

"From a tactical point of view, I've simplified the game and I'm man-managing the players," he said, referring to his assistants Craig Shakespeare, former Leicester manager, and veteran coach Sammy Lee. "I brought some experienced and talented staff with me. To turn around so quickly is great credit to everyone, not just me."

His next test comes at home against champions Chelsea, who are third in the table, on Saturday.

"We've to try and get a result against Chelsea and then we'll really know what we're made of," he added. "If we can get a result, we're on the right track to finishing as high as we can."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2017, with the headline 'Allardyce targets top-half finish for rejuvenated Everton'. Print Edition | Subscribe