As a teenager, I lived in Elstree and went to school in Barnet. By normal ‘support-your-local-team’ logic, I should have supported Borehamwood, currently in the Skrill (who? what? Is that what whales eat?) Conference South, or Barnet, or at a push Watford, a mere 6 miles from my front door. But no, by then, Everton blue was running through my veins. Unluckily for me at the time (we’re talking 69-76), very few if any of my schoolmates had applied the same local team logic either and they had chosen to support either Arsenal or Tottenham, mainly Spurs. Apart from a very glorious season at the start of that period, when we won virtually every game we played except in a dodgy November, I spent most of my school days being taunted as we mainly finished mid to lower table, and always seemed to lose to the Arsenal and Spurs. My Monday school life was hell. It was probably karma, as I’d milked Everton’s glorious season in 69/70 for all it was worth, and my unpopularity as a result was only matched by the ridicule that generally followed in the following 6 seasons.
So I always have that little bit of history whenever we play the North Londoners, and feel disproportionately nervous when we play either of them, although the days have long since passed when I was in fear of a Monday morning beating.
Sunday fixtures generally, and early afternoon kick offs in particular, especially ones on the telly, seem to lack a certain atmosphere. I’m never sure if it is hangovers in place, or that lunch hasn’t digested properly, or maybe even an ever dwindling few have only recently been supping the communion wine and aren’t yet ready to vent their spleen at the opposition or roar on the blues. Either way, yesterday had a somewhat funereal feel to it, only enhanced by the otherwise excellent and thoroughly appropriate Remembrance Service before football hostilities commenced. Well done us by the way for that, but of course the bigger glory goes to those who left their lives on their battlefields.
After 5 minutes had gone, and Spurs had already had 3 of their 16 attempts on our goal, I was convinced that we’d get in to the game soon enough. By half time, I was still waiting. We were dreadful, and the game in total only marginally better. As I was there with a 14 yr old Nottingham Forest season ticket holder, trying to get him to see the light, or to get infected with the blue of Everton, my plan was not getting off to the best of starts. We seemed incapable of finding a player in a blue shirt half the time. True, Tottenham pressed us as Hull had done, and we didn’t seem to have much of an alternative except a hoof up field. There is a plan A and a plan B, but any other letters of the alphabet? Tottenham were good with the ball too, and frankly I’m amazed we weren’t behind by half time, but perhaps it is a sign of our progress that when we don’t play well all over the park, we don’t ship many either, and credit has to be given to the defence for that, marshalled well by Jags and Sylvain, and reasonably well supported by Baines, but a rather off key Coleman. His slip and somewhat naive tackle on Vertonghen nearly cost us, but we weathered that storm. Frankly I don’t want to see the oppo left back in our area claiming penalties, he should have been kept nearer his own area by the penetrating runs of our right back and winger, but neither were really on marauding form yesterday.
Creep a little further forward, and Barry and Ginger Jim had off days. I’ve seen some forum posts suggesting McCarthy as MoM, but whilst his energy was superb, his distribution was truly awful, and Barry not a great deal better. Nevertheless, we were still 0-0 at HT and they can take credit for breaking up play, and for constantly forcing Townsend to run across the area and never get a shot away.
Osman was nothing like last week……hang on….[interlude]
This is coming across pretty negative, and no, I’m not being glass half full, we were poor first half, and sometimes you have to put your hands up and say it how it was. Right, where was I…?
No, Ossie was back to his frustrating self, winning the ball, and then gifting it back. Pienaar likewise, although marginally better.
And Lukaku fired like my old Ford Escort – marvellous in short spurts, but a tendency to take too long to get in to gear.
The second half did see improvements, and we can be pleased with that, not least the effect and intent of the substitutions which were genuinely intended to change and win the game, and very nearly did so after Deulofeu walked past statues to very nearly sneak one over Lloris. Barkley too was full of energy, and even Jelavic had a couple of half chances to make an impact, if no actual goal chances.
In the end, a 0-0, a rather tedious 0-0, is no bad result given we were outplayed for large parts of the game, and I certainly don’t buy that they won the first and we won the second. Well done Everton, we could have lost but for our defensive resilience, and a curious Spurs decision to pay £26m for an awful looking striker whilst Poacher Defoe sits on the bench. Soldado looked dreadful to me.
Unlike Soldado, we will get better, we will lose the odd game when we play well, but we will win more than we will lose, and if we can still keep putting results together whilst we are still learning then that’s fine. Don’t forget, we are 1 point off second after 10 games, and I didn’t expect that, and I suspect neither did Martinez, so what a fabulous start.
Now then. Kevin Friend. I don’t like getting at refs, it’s often an easy way to blame a defeat on someone who can’t respond than it is to admit the frailties of your own team. But 4 yellow cards? Really? I was astonished by Howard’s – surely a stern word for a first offence? I was mystified by Mirallas’ – same again, surely only needed a word. And I was incensed by McCarthy’s, who barely touched Vertonghen on the back unless he clipped his heels like Coleman did to Benteke last week (penalty then but no booking though). But I was incandescent about Lukaku’s. I’m sorry Lloris got a bonk on the head, very sorry, but there was clearly no intent, Lukaku’s momentum meant they were bound to clash, and Romelu even lifted his leg in a half-arsed attempt to vault him. I can’t even begin to understand the logic of the bookings. Ok, no goals conceded as a result, but just unnecessary interference from an official whose sole purpose should always be to run the game well without drama and being hardly noticed. Awful day at the office Kevin, so I’m sorry – Unfriend.
Final scores on the doors:
Best player on the pitch – Jan Vertonghen – even if he did look like Bambi when he got in to our area, and even if he probably should have conceded one on Seamus. Every time I see an excellent Belgian (footballer, clearly) it makes me glad I’ve got them to win the World Cup at 25/1!
Best Evertonian on the pitch – Lewis Holtby
Best Evertonian on the pitch in a blue shirt – Phil Jagielka
I woke up this morning safe in the knowledge that I didn’t have to face a large number of one-eyed Spurs fans (that’s a comment on their single view of their team, not their facial features), but quickly replaced by some ‘if onlys’. If only we’d played better, if only Kevin had given our penalty, if only I had a ticket for Crystal Palace…