Obstructed View – Reflections on the Stoke game

Well, that was rubbish!

What do we think we are doing, beating a side comprehensively like that, no hint ever of losing the game? Not even a 3-0 lead squeezed back to a 3-2 for a nervous last 15 minutes; not even dominating a game and missing a hatful of chances only to get mugged and lose 1-0. We don’t pay good money to win games with a full 90 minutes of exhilarating football……oh hang on, I mean we would love to, but it’s just such a long time since we did!


Indeed, these are changing times at Everton! Yes, don’t forget, this is a work in progress.

Even watching the game on playback (thank you Sky….other providers are available) there were times when I spontaneously applauded, or shouted “that’s amazing”, and even on one occasion I got up off the sofa. OK, in fairness, the latter was because I was going to the loo, but never has a highlights package summed up what a great game that was for Everton, and not just in the victory, but in the manner of the victory.

There was pace, there was trickery, there was some great finishing (yes, and some poor finishing too, but if we win 4-0 every game and miss a hatful of chances, I don’t think there will be many complaints), astonishing link up play, and a style that will have us all talking until the Man United game on Wednesday night when we hope it will all be repeated, especially the bit about the score.

What impressed me most was the cadre of young players at the heart of everything. When you see players aged 19 and 20 and in their early 20s putting their hands out demanding the ball, even in the trickiest of positions, and when one of those isn’t the precocious but benched talent of Ross Barkley, then you know there is some great stuff going on in L4.

Deulofeu gets the plaudits for his outrageous running (he even makes Ronaldo look like an old man running for a bus on Walton Lane) and his directness. He can beat a player at will, and I for one can’t wait to see him against better teams than Stoke were on Saturday. Lukaku needs his passport checking – is he really only 20, and yet is built like the proverbial brick out-house, has a great touch (most of the time), and to top it all is articulate and can speak 6 languages? McCarthy is still young too, at only just 23, and yet we are constantly wowed by his mature and authoritative displays on the ball and in winning the thing back when he needs to. Oviedo is also 23, but again you wouldn’t know that from his performance on Saturday, and indeed you wouldn’t know that from the way he has had to bide his time and wait until the unbelievably injury free Baines finally had to step/limp away from the fray – a real maturity rather than toys being thrown out of his pram as others of his age  might do. Don’t forget, Bryan played CL football for his last Club, and now he rarely even gets on the pitch.

Add in a brief appearance from Stones (at one stage the average age on the pitch was 27 but no player was within 4 years of the average!) and we can certainly say that youth is getting its chance, and it’s a chance they badly want and make sure they make their point when they’re playing.

It was two older players that had great games for me though. I have been a critic of Osman earlier in the season, as it looked as if his form had been hidden along with his birth certificate and the Grecian 2000. But on Saturday he was at his best on the ball, picking early passes direct and round the corner, always available and ticking things over. And Pienaar, my Man of the Match, was the glue that held it all together. There was a moment not long after the second goal, about 10 yards outside our own box, when he beat 3 Stoke players with his trickery and guile, and then played a great ball in field for yet another attack to build. I thought he was outstanding.

In fairness, no one had anything less than a ‘good’ game. I have never felt like this before two tough away fixtures, where I know that we can genuinely beat United and Arsenal, assuming the Palace performance doesn’t turn up, and make a significant step towards making a massive impact on the League this year. I have a feeling Arsenal could be 8-8 if both teams play with scant regard to defending, but I’m not sure the neutral would mind that too much!

Well done Everton, from the pits of despair at our limp performance vs Palace, to the heights of a top 4 place after Saturday’s games, and an optimistic feeling that has been a long time in the coming.

If this is still a work in progress, and we play like that, just imagine what the finished article will be like.

Ross Crombie


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