Everton’s shambolic attempts to find a manager added insult to injury on Friday when it emerged nobody bothered to tell David Unsworth that the appointment of a fresh managerial team is apparently imminent.
Farhad Moshiri, the majority shareholder, let it be known mid-morning by briefing TalkSport’s Jim White that the club was “close” to an appointment and a shortlist of three candidates had been drawn up. Leaving aside the consideration that those two positions are contradictory – if three candidates are under scrutiny a decision cannot be all that close – what will dismay Everton staff and supporters is Unsworth was on the training pitch at the time, with no inkling of the announcement until he came indoors for a scheduled press conference.
Unsworth has supervised four defeats in six games as caretaker since the sacking of Ronald Koeman and is probably no longer naive enough to believe his will be one of the names on the shortlist, but a staunch club servant who is trying to do his best in difficult circumstances might feel entitled to a little more respect from the Everton hierarchy.
“Look, what will be will be,” he said resignedly when asked whether he was surprised at the news. “I’m a proud man, I’ve stood proud for the past five weeks and I will continue to do that until someone tells me otherwise. I was only made aware of this development as I came off the training pitch and if it is the case that we are close to getting a manger I am delighted. I just want what’s best for the club. They asked me to stand in and I was pleased to do it. There were never any guarantees.”
Unsworth will be in charge when Everton visit Southampton on Sunday, perhaps for the last time if an appointment really is imminent. Having been rebuffed by Watford over Marco Silva it seems more likely Everton will have to settle for an available target, which is why names such as Ralf Rangnick, Louis van Gaal and Sam Allardyce keep being mentioned.
Unsworth might have made a case for himself as a stop-gap for the remainder of the season had results gone a little better, though Thursday’s 5-1 humbling at the hands of Atalanta in front of a 17,431 crowd appeared to concentrate minds, even though Everton had fielded a weakened team.
“I would argue it wasn’t a weakened team,” Unsworth said in his defence. “It was a chance to play players who had been screaming about not getting opportunities. I asked them to give me a problem, to make it hard to leave them out of the next match, and not many did. All the players know exactly how I feel about that and now I am looking for a reaction at Southampton.”
Unsworth used the word fragile of some of his players after the Europa League game, which he admits is not how things used to be at Everton. “The game has changed since I played; there was a different mentality in the changing room then. I don’t think as a manager you can shout and bawl all the time when a team is low on confidence – you have to be more selective in your approach.”
Everton will not be appealing against Oumar Niasse’s two-match ban for exaggerating the extent of Scott Dann’s contact in winning a penalty at Crystal Palace last Saturday, though Unsworth feels the Football Association’s detailed explanation poses more questions than it answers. “We accept the verdict but we don’t have to agree with it,” he said. “There was contact, and there’s a real problem here because even after the game the referee said he thought it was a penalty. I’ve seen the replay about 50 times too and I still think its a foul. I know Oumar and he would always take the opportunity to have a shot on goal.”
An FA independent regulatory commission concluded Niasse “exaggerated the effect of a normal contact to deceive the referee”. It said such contact, which was “minimal in nature”, would not have “thrown Mr Niasse off balance and knock him down in the way that Mr Niasse portrayed it to have done”.