One of the great things about sitting down to watch an Everton home game, is that – hopefully – the players do things that cause you to stand up to see what’s going to happen. I love that mini clap of thunder as the Gwladys Street seats ping back, and we all arch our necks to get the best possible view of that incisive move, or, well, it happens, that final misplaced pass.
But yesterday I found myself standing up on several occasions in the first half, not because of an impending attacking move, but as a ‘standing ovation’ for the sheer quality of the football. Some of the movement, some of the passing, some of the chances, they were just scintillating, an absolute joy to watch. I have to drive over 100 miles to Goodison to watch a home game, and I have sat through some turgid old crud in the past, maybe good results without playing well, and occasionally we have played good football and really nailed the opposition. Perhaps ‘occasionally’ is a bit harsh, after all, we’ve been a top 6 club for ages now, but my memory of stirring victories tends to have a blood and thunder overlay to them. Perhaps the old style Dogs of War, not just with the lovely (and brutal) Joe Parkinson, but also results turned out by Moyes modern-day hard workers. But this season, and yesterday was one of those games, I have witnessed some of the best football I’ve ever seen played by Everton Football Club. Results achieved with fantastic goals (just look at our December Goal of the month candidates), exhilarating attacking play, dominant possession, strong defence, and a hunger and a passion to win the ball back if we ever lose it. If anyone ever asks me the best game I’ve ever seen, it has to be the Bayern Munich semi final, but I’m absolutely confident that we didn’t play that night like we have done this year against the likes of Newcastle, Arsenal, and now against Norwich City. It really makes the long trip up to The Old Lady worth it, and it certainly helps the return journey so much more enjoyable.
Having said all that, we only won 2-0 yesterday!
Dominating a game like we did needs us to go on and score 3, not to be content with 2. Norwich came back at us in the second half, and for one 10 minute passage, it seemed inevitable that they would score, and frankly they should have. And two chances in the first half, one the long ball over an out of position Stones when Howard snuffed out the danger, and then towards the end of the half when Howard went walkabout. It is very unlikely that there will be many games like the QPR cup game, when the opposition turn up physically but not mentally, and we breeze through to win without upset. All Premier League sides, home and away, can beat each other, and now we are playing so well and established ourselves as Champions’ League contenders, we have to expect sides to raise their game against us. So when we play so well as we did against Norwich, we have to make sure we are out of sight, just in case the inevitable happens, we take our foot off the gas, and sides sense a chance to make more of a game of it.
A few thoughts on players performances.
Barry was a sensible if predictable choice as Man of the Match, but frankly it could have been any number of players. Barry did what Barry does, and he did it really effectively, once again providing the foundation rock of our midfield, and the watching England manager will not fail to have been impressed, particularly with his goal. As McCarthy would say (because he says it all the time) “it was different class”. And I think he means that in a positive way.
Has anyone checked John Stones’ passport? Is he really only 19? Actually, there were a couple of mistakes yesterday that showed he still has lots to learn, but his composure to rectify mistakes, to get the ball back, and to start to mount an attack, was (and has been since he came in to the first team) outstanding and certainly well beyond his years. This lad has a massive future ahead of him. Everyone says Smalling is the best defensive prospect in the PL, and that he will go to Rio. Really? Stones is better by a country mile, and yes I am biased, but he is.
Pienaar was superb, and together with Osman they provided the link up play from Barry and McCarthy to get attacks really moving. We will miss them next week if either or both are injured, especially with Barkley missing, so step forward Bryan Oviedo. Or Magaye Gueye. Erm…….
But my Man of the Match was none of the above (although Magaye looked vaguely interested in the half time kickabout and was a close candidate). Kevin Mirallas scored a fantastic free kick, and his work rate was superb, he even lasted 90 minutes, and his wing play off both flanks was much more like the aggressive running we saw last season. Perhaps the presence of McGeady in the squad has provided a timely reminder to him. Whatever it is, with Ross out, we need players who will run at defences and cause havoc, and he is just that kind of player, and we all want to see more of it. So hats off to you Mr Mirallas, that game was your best this season, let’s keep it going.
Last ramblings of a suffering man (I write this with one of the worst/best hangovers I’ve had for many a year) and then I’ll let you all get back to checking your twitter feed to see if we’ve bought a striker…..
1. Aiden looked like he had won a competition to play for Everton – not your finest outfit young man, we have sartorial as well as footballing standards here mate (but welcome anyway!)
2. £36 for a ticket in the UG where Pillar J effectively blocks 20% of the pitch (and the sun in the first half blocked a further 20%) is taking the p***. And it wasn’t called Obstructed View.
3. The Junior Fans day was fantastic, and is just one sign of the brilliant work on fan engagement that is happening at our great club, so a big well done to Alan Myers and his team. The farce of the no-crest-consultation seems a long while ago (is it safe to say that it’s starting to grow on me….?)
That’s all for now, can’t wait for West Brom now!