Holgate Hails Allardyce Impact

by Paul McNamara

Mason Holgate says Everton are starting to cast their eyes up the Premier League table after turning around their form under Sam Allardyce.

The revitalised Toffees have collected seven points from three games since Allardyce was announced as boss last month – a return that has seen them climb six places to 10th.

Everton followed up comfortable victories over West Ham United and Huddersfield Town by drawing a ferociously-contested Merseyside derby on Sunday, with defender Holgate playing every minute of those matches.

And he says the Blues are in a positive frame of mind as they prepare for Wednesday night’s trip to Rafael Benitez’s Newcastle United.

“I think as a squad we know how strong we are… and it is about looking forward to see where we can go,” said Holgate.

“We had a poor run at the start of the season but I think that has turned around now and we are looking ahead, not behind us.

“The objective now is to win as many games as we can and see where we go from there.

“We have not lost since he (Allardyce) came in, we have been a lot more solid as a team and I think that all stems from the gaffer’s positive impact on us.

“We are clear in what we are doing. We have not spent loads of time on the training pitch due to the run of games we have had – but once we are out there, no-one is left in any doubt about what their job is.”

Newcastle made a terrific start to the season following their promotion from the Championship.

The north-east club won four and drew two of their opening nine matches and, after beating Crystal Palace in October, occupied a spot in the Premier League's top six.

Benitez’s side, however, have claimed only one point from the past 21 available, and dropped to 16th, two points above the bottom three.

Holgate is nevertheless paying no heed to the Magpies' current form – and cites his own team’s recent upturn as proof of how things can change in the blink of an eye.

“If it was another league maybe (it would be a good time to play Newcastle) but in the Premier League anything can happen,” said Holgate.

“People might have thought it was a good time to play us a few games ago but things can turn around. We will have to be really on it.

“It is going to be hostile, going away to any Premier League side is. There will be a big crowd and I think we will be ready for it, as we always are.”

Everton took a point from their weekend visit to Liverpool after Wayne Rooney thrashed home a 77th-minute penalty to equalise Mohamed Salah’s first-half goal.

The draw was just reward for a controlled and determined team performance, and Holgate admitted the Toffees went to Anfield determined to avoid having their growing momentum checked by Jurgen Klopp's team.

And while the former Barnsley player agreed with boss Allardyce’s assertion that Everton did not pass the ball well enough against Liverpool, he was pleased to reflect on a defensive job well done.

“Any point you take away from a derby is positive,” said Holgate. “I think we know as a team we could have done a little bit more on the ball and in possession but sometimes games pan out that way.

“I think we defended really well. We nullified their attacking threat and that was definitely a positive from our point of view.

“Every point is massive in the Premier League and it keeps our run going. Confidence is still high. If we had lost that game, confidence would not have been as high as it is now, so I think for our season, it is a massive point to take away.

“To get a point and still feel we could have done more on the ball is a positive for us.”

Allardyce has so far employed Holgate exclusively in the 21-year-old’s favoured centre-back position..

The defender had previously played the majority of his football for Everton as a full-back or wing-back – and insists he is ready to step into whichever role he is asked to perform.

Holgate’s priority is simple – to remain in the team.

"I think we have to stay solid and keep doing what we are doing, not conceding a lot of goals," said Holgate. "There is competition [for places] so it will be hard but all I can do is keep performing on the pitch and see where it takes me.    

"I have had a lot of ups and downs. I have not performed how I would have liked, sometimes, but I think I have done well.

"I am still learning, I am still going to make some mistakes but I feel like I am getting stronger and more switched on to things around me – and I can only get better.

“I am happy to play anywhere, to be honest. I see myself as a centre-back but if I am needed at right-back or left-back I am more than happy to play in those positions.”

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