LONDON • Steve Walsh was always expected to be Everton's go-to man in January although, as it transpires, they were leaning on him a week earlier than expected.
The fixture list threw up yesterday's Boxing Day visit to Leicester, where the scout played his part in last season's jaw-dropping title success, identifying and then helping to nurture much of the talent that upset the natural order in his role as head of recruitment and assistant manager.
In the run-up to his return to the King Power Stadium, it was no surprise that Everton's new director of football found himself being pumped for inside information.
"I know all the players," Walsh said. "Ronald (Koeman) has been asking how they will be lining up and for some secrets.
"They have three suspended (Jamie Vardy, Robert Huth and Christian Fuchs) so, basically, I have to work out what they are going to do and second guess (Claudio) Ranieri's mind."
The likes of Vardy, N'Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez are regarded as successes of his reign, but he is as proud of some of the others without whom that improbable championship triumph would not have come to fruition.
"Everyone spoke about what fantastic team spirit we had, but no one really said we won because they were good players. But they were," Walsh said.
Despite Leicester struggling this campaign, Walsh does not expect the Foxes' season to go from boom to bust.
"It was always going to be a big task for the same players to do the same thing again," he added.
"How many teams repeat the title success these days? But there is no chance of them going down and the fact that they won the league and have now qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League - let's give them credit."
Yet Walsh's commitment now lies with Everton and bringing sustained success to a club eager to re-establish themselves among the elite.
THE TIMES, LONDON