When you think of Sam Allardyce’s managerial career, one player sticks out like a sore thumb.
Kevin Nolan has played under the 66-year-old more times than anyone else, racking up 390 appearances across two different clubs and the ‘firefighter’ will need characters like him in this West Brom side if they are to beat the drop.
Luckily for Big Sam, he has an almost like-for-like already at the Hawthorns in the shape of Jake Livermore.
Whilst his old skipper, Nolan, was often deployed in the hole behind Andy Carroll, it wasn’t his attacking exploits that made him so effective, but rather his defensive contributions.
Combative, efficient and industrious. The ideal mix for any Big Sam midfielder. That’s pretty much Livermore down to a tee, is it not?
The Albion captain started his first game in five outings in Slaven Bilic’s swansong draw at Manchester City and proved to be a hassle for the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden.
In nine Premier League starts, the 31-year-old is averaging 2.2 tackles and 2.3 fouls per match, via WhoScored. A perfect combination of being hard to beat and disrupting the opposition.
Indeed, Big Sam should be salivating over the prospect of unleashing the former Spurs powerhouse against Villa this Sunday.
He arrived in the west Midlands for just £10m in 2017 and has been here ever since and this unwavering loyalty is another factor that will have the new Baggies boss rather excited.
SmarterScout claimed earlier this season that the midfield veteran had “been massive, an aggressive defender with decent tackling” but lacked that extra bite in his duels with poor ball-retention, and that’s something Allardyce will need to improve fast to restore some stability.
The Albion “leader” could well hold the keys to Big Sam successfully pulling off another phenomenal safety bid. If Livermore is on form in the engine room, then at the very least, West Brom will have a firm foundation to build off going into 2021.
AND in other news, Big Sam may already be heading for his FIRST mistake at the Hawthorns…