REPORT : l anticipated challenges would arise after Liverpool, but I had no choice but to accept the Everton job.

Looking out of one of the huge windows at Gino D’Acampo’s 360 Sky Bar in Liverpool city centre, Sammy Lee can’t help but be impressed by the view.

“Just have a look across here now,” he urges. “Just have a look at that stadium there; it is going to be fantastic.”

Lee is talking about Everton’s new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock. The building of the club’s new home is well underway and is set to be completed in late 2024.

A slight turn of the head and the stadium Lee made his name in comes into view. It is also the venue for this Saturday’s Merseyside derby.

Sean Dyche’s side make the trip across Stanley Park to Anfield with three wins from their last four games, while Liverpool will be looking to return to winning ways after a 2-2 draw with Brighton & Hove Albion last time out.

Lee will watch the game like he always does, but in another world, the 64-year-old could have been helping Everton prepare for the battle that lies ahead. It was November 2017 when the former midfielder made a surprise move across Stanley Park.

The former England coach won three league titles and two European Cups during a 10-year career at Liverpool before later working as a coach under Rafa Benitez. So when Lee accepted an offer from Sam Allardyce to join his coaching staff after he replaced the sacked Ronald Koeman at Goodison Park, eyebrows were certainly raised.

“Me and Sam are very close; we have worked together at a number of clubs,” Lee recalls when asked how the move came about. “He got the opportunity to go there, and he wanted to take me with him, so I jumped at it. I knew the problems that were going to come. I knew the criticism that was going to come.”

Lee grew up fully immersed in the intense rivalry of Merseyside football. He played in the fixture on 13 occasions for the Reds.

But as he recalls to the ECHO, no-one in his family escaped the thoughts of those who clearly couldn’t come to terms with what he had done: “Someone said to my granddaughter, who was maybe only eight at the time, ‘Your pops is a traitor’.”

But Lee, speaking to the ECHO at an event to celebrate 100 years of The Pools, even now, six years on, has no regrets about accepting Allardyce’s offer.

”The way I look at it, I have a number of passions in my life: my family is the main one, football, and the city,” he says. “I have just been fortunate to pursue my passion at the club I love, which is Liverpool Football Club, both as a player and a coach.

“But when that passion is gone, you have to move on and go somewhere else. I was given a chance at Crystal Palace and also at Everton.

“I jumped at the chance to join Everton because one of my other passions is the city, and when we went to Everton, they were 16th in the table.

“But Sam, his backroom staff, and the players got together, mingled together, gelled together and we got to eighth. I was very, very proud of that because, in my humble opinion, you need the two teams in the city in the Premiership.”

But while Lee was always going to accept Allardyce’s offer, what if the former Newcastle United and England manager was having second thoughts about bringing his trusted ally to Goodison with him?

“No, no, he knows what I am like,” Lee replies when asked that very question.

“He knows that I am a professional. It has never been a job for me, and that might sound contradictory, but it has always been my passion.

“When your passion is taken away, when you lose your job, whether that be Liverpool, Crystal Palace, or England, you want to continue your passion.

“It was ideal, to be honest.

It was an ideal scenario because to continue my other passion, which is the city, and I make no apologies for repeating it, the city needs the two teams in the Premiership.”

Allardyce would go on to guide the Blues to eighth by the end of the term, but was never really accepted by Evertonians and was sacked shortly after the campaign had been brought to a close. Speaking in the years that followed his sacking, the former Bolton Wanderers boss claimed that outside influences had changed Farhad Moshiri’s mind about his position after he initially believed he was building a side to go to Everton’s new stadium.

“I was disappointed when we got sacked; I’ll be honest with you,” Lee says on his and Allardyce’s departure.

“We got them from 16th to eighth, which was quite an achievement at the time.

I don’t want to look back because it is not good to look back.

I just wish them all the best, but they can’t keep on struggling, that’s for sure.

“We heard the rumblings, but you hope they are not true. The way it happened was disappointing.

But that’s football and life. People might find this strange, but I really, really enjoyed my time there.”

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