Tired Sam Allardyce not right for Everton, but Sean Dyche has hunger
Unless it transpires that the dramatic 3-2 comeback against Watford last weekend was enough to secure the Everton job for interim boss David Unsworth, after three straight defeats and the sacking of Ronald Koeman, it seems that the race for the permanent position is between two men.
One is Sam Allardyce: universally recognised as the authority in relegation dogfights and helpfully available after quitting Crystal Palace in May having kept them up in his five-month spell in charge.
The other is Sean Dyche, a man who has twice dragged Burnley into the Premier League, keeping them there at the second attempt, and who has them sitting in seventh place this season with five wins from 11 league games. But this really shouldn't be a difficult decision... it has to be Dyche.
Allardyce is 63, but it is not his age that causes concerns -- after all, his friend Sir Alex Ferguson only called it a day at Manchester United at 71 and Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes seems to be doing well enough at the age of 72. The question is whether or not Allardyce still has the hunger required for this role. Because recent events suggest otherwise.
It's only six months since Allardyce retired from football after keeping Palace afloat. "While I've got the energy, I want to travel and also spend more time with my family and grandchildren without the huge pressure that comes with being a football manager," he said at the time. "I owe that to my wife and family. This is the right time for me, I know that in my heart. I have no ambitions to take another job."
It was hard to argue with those sentiments. Football management is intensely stressful, as Allarydce well knows having agreed to wire himself up to a heart monitor during a match 15 years ago when in charge of Bolton. He has enjoyed a coaching career that spanned more than quarter of a century, rising up on merit from Limerick in Ireland to the England job he'd always coveted. He was entitled to sit back and enjoy the fruits of his life's labours.
But it's that England job that raises the next question. Having waited his entire career for that role, agitating for it publicly and privately for years, he lost it after a single game with one careless conversation that was recorded as part of an undercover sting. How could anything compensate for that? What job would ever match it? Certainly not Palace, a position he left despite enjoying the full support of the owners. Won't he have the same feelings of weariness and wanderlust arise after six months at Goodison Park?
Allardyce also caused consternation this week when he spoke about the benefits of potentially taking the vacant United States job.
"International football is totally different from Premier League football," Allardyce told TalkSPORT. "It's 10 games a year and there's a huge amount of downtime for yourself to go and watch the players."
The citation of "downtime" as an advantage is never a good look in an interviewee, but there's also the small point that the U.S. play rather more than 10 games a year. In fact, they've played 18 times already in 2017; 19 in 2016; 20 in 2015; and 15 in the World Cup year of 2014. If you've actively encouraged interest in the job, you might be expected to have researched it a little.
Allardyce is a fine manager with an unrivalled record for lifting underperforming teams out of the relegation zone and consolidating them in a safe position. If he took the job at Goodison Park, you'd expect him to do exactly that. But is that the level Everton should be aiming for?
Everton have money now -- as evidenced by a summer spending spree of over £150m. They already had excellent facilities and a great youth system so, as a club, this is the best position they've been in since the 1980s. It will take time and a comprehensive rebuilding programme, at least with the first-team squad, but a good manager could lift them into the Champions League places, not just out of danger at the bottom of the league.
That manager might have been Allardyce 20 years ago, but it doesn't seem like him now. The closest version of him with two decades fewer on the clock is Dyche.
Like Allardyce, he is known for building teams on a strong defence with little care for the aesthetics. And like Allardyce, he has proved himself capable of gradually adding more technically adept players as his team evolves. Everton should know that well given the quality of Burnley goal that beat them at Goodison Park earlier this season.
Dyche does have his flaws. He can be prickly with the press and supporters alike, lashing out at perceived agendas when it would be more prudent to rise above it. At Burnley, he is the undisputed power in the region, commanding the respect of everyone inside and outside the football club. He would have to earn that all over again on Merseyside where the scrutiny is far greater.
But, at 46, he has the perfect balance of hunger and experience. He is a big enough character to cope with the stress of the role. He has done far more at Burnley than can have been reasonably expected and his credit may never be this good again.
One thing you can be certain of is that Dyche has the motivation and the energy for this role. The same cannot be said of Allardyce.
Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.