Calvert-Lewin: Allardyce has revitalised Everton
Everton's Calvert-Lewin tells TNP in an exclusive interview that Allardyce has revitalised the team
There was a time when meetings between Liverpool and Everton were the envy of football.
Both on the domestic and continental fronts, the Merseyside teams once reigned supreme, regularly challenging each other for the upper hand across three decades.
They were the best and worst of times for a region struggling to make itself heard in an austere landscape.
As Manchester's two clubs prepare for their English Premier League summit duel on Monday morning (Singapore time), however, their north-western counterparts will be picking through the remnants of a duel which has been heavily downgraded since its heyday.
Overshadowed by both their near neighbours and north London counterparts, the Merseyside Derby still retains a febrile atmosphere as the most indisciplined fixture with 21 red cards in the EPL's 25-year existence.
The recent defection of Sammy Lee, an ex-Liverpool player and coach, as Everton's new assistant manager has only stoked both debate and animosity surrounding the clash.
Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who was born in Sheffield but now resides in Liverpool, believes Lee and his family can feel the tension too.
He told The New Paper in an exclusive interview ahead of the game: "I live in Liverpool, so I feel it as well. The atmosphere and what it is like to be around the people and the fans.
"But they're from here and their families are from here, so I'm sure they'll feel it a little bit more and they might want to rattle a player or two.
"I think the local players might feel it a little bit more than perhaps players that aren't from around here."
Optimism remains Everton's ethos despite a planned renaissance which has plummeted far below expectations.
An outlay of around £150 million (S$271.4m), unprecedented spending in Goodison Park's history, has seen only goalkeeper Jordan Pickford emerge with any credibility.
A premature exit in the Europa League's group stage and a brief encounter with the EPL's relegation zone culminated in Ronald Koeman's downfall barely two months into the season.
Reluctantly, Farhad Moshiri, the club's main investor, turned to Sam Allardyce to stave off the threat to their top-flight status.
Since the former England manager was appointed late last month, the Toffees have won both their matches - 2-0 against Huddersfield Town and 3-0 against Apollon Limassol. They are now 10th in the table, eight points clear of the drop zone.
"I think the game's coming at a great time for us," said Calvert-Lewin.
"It's been a mentally tough period for us as a team and a club, so to have back-to-back league wins and clean sheets, taking that into Sunday is the best we've been in terms of a frame of mind this season.
"We're in the top half of the table now and we're all looking forward to the game."
Belief is growing within the ranks at Goodison, with Allardyce providing structure and purpose to his new side's play while also pledging to draft in a sports psychologist in efforts to repair a fragile mindset that preceded his appointment.
"I think the new gaffer will start to implement and put his stamp on the club the longer he's here," added Calvert-Lewin, who scored the winner for England in the Under-20 World Cup final in June.
"But we can see that coming already in the way that we're trying to play now, what we're doing on the training pitch.
"I won't go into too much detail, but it is starting to take shape."
Confidence has often been in short supply whenever Everton ventured across Stanley Park to their one-time stomping ground, with no victories there since Sept 27, 1999, when Kevin Campbell scored the winner, and Steven Gerrard, Sander Westerveld and Francis Jeffers were sent off.
But Allardyce's recent track record offers hopes of bucking that trend. He stunned Anfield on his last visit in April, when his Crystal Palace side won 2-1.
Diligence was key to Allardyce's solitary win in the red half of Merseyside and he is intent on upsetting the odds again.
Liverpool defender Joe Gomez believes Allardyce's Toffees won't come in with a defensive mindset, unlike his former sides.
He said: "We've seen Sam's teams come to Anfield and sit back.
"But in the derby, you don't come to defend.
"They will be fired up and they'll try and attack us.
"I'm sure it'll be a tough game and hopefully, we can carry on our run."
Momentum remains with Juergen Klopp's side on the back of Wednesday's 7-0 Champions League win over Spartak Moscow, spearheaded by Liverpool's "Fab Four" of Mohamed Salah, Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
They may have looked unstoppable but they are not unbeatable. Defensive deficiencies, coupled with Allardyce's penchant for exploiting weaknesses, mean the Reds, who are unbeaten in the past 14 derbies, won't have an easy time.
*Dominic Calvert-Lewin was speaking at Liverpool's Alder Hey Children's Hospital during a visit to the teenage oncology ward, where he was meeting young patients as part of Everton's annual Christmas campaign. Alder Hey is one of the leading children's hospitals in north-western England, caring for over 270,000 children, young people and their family members every year.