So, apart from a month of World Cup football, not counting the hype and the build-up beforehand, and the seemingly inevitable forensic investigation in to what went wrong afterwards, that’s the season over. And by the end of the said World Cup, we’ll be back in to pre-season friendlies, and not too long until the first game of the new season in August. Not too long to wait. Not long enough for those long-suffering partners of we mad Evertonians if they hate football.
But before we look ahead, as a student of history, I know we have to look back first before looking forward. So here is my review of the highs and not-so-many-lows of the 2013/14 season.
Best Game of the Season? Arsenal at home for me for the complete 90 minutes of football, although the first 45 against Newcastle at home was inspirational and had me on my feet several times, and not just to empty my bladder of the fizziest ‘partner’s’ beer I’ve ever endured. Sorry, enjoyed. Against Arsenal, Roberto first out-thought them with playing Lukaku on top of the feeble Monreal, and the Gunners didn’t know what to do. Naismith then proceeded to play out of his skin, as they all did.
Worst Game of the Season? Palace away is etched on my brain for our sheer incompetence in being able to pass to someone with the same coloured socks on. It sometimes makes me wonder how a team can play like that one week, and then rip a team apart the next. Perhaps the whole team were caught at the ‘wrong time of the month’. Yes, girls, we men suffer too. Badly. Awfully. Probably more than you *puts on crash helmet, hides behind sofa*.
I think being torn a new one at Liverpool would have been my worst game had it not been for the context that Liverpool went on to tear quite a few teams a new one thereafter, until they had a new orifice inserted themselves by first Chelsea, and then Palace.
Funniest moment of the season? See Palace above.
Best Opposition Supporters? Palace take some beating, in more ways than one (and who’d have said that after the first few months of the season?). They never shut up. It seems as if they’d decided they were going to enjoy every single moment of their brief trip to the Premier League, and shouted for 90 minutes every game, but then didn’t stop when they started winning games. Their fans helped them win what must seem like the biggest prize in their history, their survival and mid table position, and shows what fantastic things can be achieved by devoted loyalty (he hinted).
Worst Opposition Supporters? Quite a long list actually, but sadly it has to go the supporters who were never there – Fulham. All credit to the minibus full (and at least it was a full minibus) that came up the M1/M6/M62, because at least they found out that there is football played north of Birmingham. Enjoy your trips to Blackburn, Bolton, Middlesborough, and Blackpool next year lads and lassies. In terms of moaning gits, I’d probably plump for Arsenal: partly because of their arrogance assuming they had a divine right to the Champion’s League, and partly because one of their fans parked his Porsche next to my car in the Car Park and scratched it when he opened his door on to mine to get his obese frame extracted from his penis-extension vehicle. And he refused to apologise. Not that I’m bitter or hold grudges or anything. Anyway, 3-0 fatty. Ha.
Tumbleweed Moment? Saying “Hello, you must be [name withheld for embarrassment reasons]” after the Citeh game. “No, I’m not”, she said. “Sorry, you look like someone I know on twitter”, I said, trying to recover, and only succeeding in making me look even more like a stalker.
Proudest Moment? Long list again actually. I think Alan Myers did a lot to open up communication between Club and fans (because actually they should be one and the same), and the Fan Zone, and the themed days, all made me really proud to be an Evertonian. The awards night made me proud too, and I do like it when Bill talks from the heart the way he did. No-one can deny that he ‘gets’ Everton, and no-one can deny his ability to talk about it. And talk about it a lot more. And more. But the proudest moment of all was the annual trip to Alder Hey combined with the work done by Everton In The Community. I wish the players would do more of this, but when it happens, and the Club gets right behind an initiative like this, as they will continue to do, it really makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, and that’s a dead proud moment.
Worst Journey to a Game? Three and a half hours to get to a game that is called off before I’ve had a chance to swallow my Gaviscon after the compulsory Scouse Pie in the Upper Gwladys concourse; followed by three hours back home to Nottingham (I can’t help it, don’t shout at me); followed by three more hours to get to the rearranged fixture; followed by two more hours to get home. All to see us lose 2-3 and see 4th place evaporate before my eyes.
Best Journey to a Game? None. I hate the M6. Best Journey Back from a Game? Any when we’ve won.
Howard – when only two teams have conceded fewer, your stopper must take a lot of credit. When you see end of season performance ratings for most shots stopped, it’s usually by a keeper in a team that got relegated, or close to it. Most shots stopped doesn’t mean better keeper, just that he had more practice than most. So although the credit must also go to the guys in front of him, I’m giving Tim a solid 8.
Robles – Tim’s “solid 8” is accentuated by Joel. This lad appears to be able to stop shots, but can’t kick, and can’t catch. 1 out of 3 for a keeper? No thanks. His nervy performance in the Cup at Arsenal must have unsettled those in front of him, and contributed to our demise. I’d put this down as Roberto’s tactical error I’m afraid, of which there were hardly any. Joel is young and will learn, but at the moment, I’d rather have Jan Mucha back. Or McCarthy from Reading. A 3 for Billy Joel
Baines – enough said. 8 again, but a bit quieter than last year. Admire him for his loyalty, but mainly for his dapper style at the Awards and every time you see him ‘off duty’.
Coleman – really kicked on this season, and they’ll be re-laying the turf on the flanks because of his consistent up and down running. His importance was shown when Young John Stones (to give him his full name) was played at RB in the derby, only to find he could occupy the same space as Seamus, but not track back at the same speed, or go forward likewise, or with the same trickery. A fantastic 9 for Seamus.
Oviedo – man or myth? He will pass in to the considerable history of this Club for ‘that’ goal, and for the celebration at the end, precariously up on the shoulders of the mighty Distin. A good season before the broken leg, without being exceptional, but enough signs to show we’ve got great cover on the left for either Baines or the wide midfield. A 6 if I’m harsh, but with lots more to come, a fantastic attitude and loved by the fans.
Stones – don’t get me wrong, Stones is a real talent – especially on the ball, which is why he’s being talked about as a future England star, quite rightly. But Stones has shown some defensive lapses, as well as defensive maturity. But the lad is 19 for heaven’s sake. He’ll learn, and let’s remember, he’s made 26 appearances, and we’ve conceded less goals than all bar two other clubs. Enough said, again. 7 for Stonesy
Distin – once again, you realise what you’ve got when it’s gone. He is a rock, and a bloody big one at that. Is he really 76? He can run like a 36 year old, and when you saw the rather stodgy performance of Alcaraz in his place, you realise the full value of Sylvain Distin. An 8 for you too Big Man.
Jagielka – on his day, I don’t think we have a better centre half in England (actually, extend that to the British Isles) and one of the best in Europe. His blocks are superb, his leadership strong, his running is legendary. As are his long raking passes – but not in a good way. 9 for you Jags
Alcaraz – good on the ball, but makes my Gran look quick, and she’s been dead 40 years. 4.
McCarthy – how this boy didn’t win an award for the season I’ll never know. I’ll admit my eyebrow was raised (maybe even both were) when we paid Wigan all that money, but right now, £13m looks a snip. Ginger Jim has covered every blade of grass at every PL ground in the country, and by definition has covered every blade at Goodison on more than one occasion. He is the main reason we’ll re-lay the pitch I suspect. But he doesn’t just run around like a headless chicken, he looks for the ball, he takes it off his mate Gareth, or the boys at the back, and if we ever do lose it, he scurries around at great pace, wherever on the pitch and either wins it back in the tackle, or forces errors in the opposition. For me, Player of the Season, and a 10.
Barry – I hope he comes to us permanently this summer, although I have a sneaking feeling Arsenal might go for him as he’s just the player they need. Barry is a quiet man, humble even, and this is portrayed on the pitch. He’s calm, unflappable, and just gets the job done without any fuss. Just occasionally he has a ‘mare like the rest of us (although my left foot has never been what it once was – after I started using it, it went downhill from there), but he has been one of the most consistent players in the squad. A really grateful 9 Gareth, and please stay!
Osman – well, a player who has grown up at Everton, but who is now nearing the end of his days as a starting player, or at least as a full 90 minutes player. Having said that, he has featured in every single game, albeit rather brief against Arsenal. It surprises me how often he is brushed off the ball, given that it has happened ever since he went on loan to Derby, and you’d have thought a bit of gym work might have beefed him up a bit. He can still make a difference though, and Roberto is likely to use him tactically from now on, but probably his last season ahead at this level ahead. 6.
Barkley – easy to dwell on the last time you saw him, and he was pretty inspirational against City. But he has also had the hook a few times as he’s been off it in some games. Let’s remember, like others above, he’s a kid, and he’s likely to believe his own hype occasionally.Roberto has built his confidence in a way his predecessor couldn’t (or wouldn’t), and I think Ross’ best season is going to be the next one. You can see how he’s learnt this year, from start to finish in the season, and that learning should continue in Brazil, even if he never crosses the white lines of anything other than the practice pitches. A 7 for me, occasionally 10, but sometimes a 4. And on one occasion, an 11.
Mirallas – another player who’s learnt a lot this season, and occasionally has been unplayable. More consistency beckons, and I think it’ll come. He’ll love playing away at the likes of Maribor on a Thursday night, and might just win a few games on his own. Has shown he can tackle as well as drive forward – his thrilling pace against United was a joy to watch. Needs to brush up on his English for all the post match interviews he’s going to have with Our Darren Griffiths next season. 7.
Deulofeu – the best little Spaniard we know. Well, in patches. A wonder goal against Arsenal at their place, and some amazing trickery seen – but can’t pick the final killer pass, or his team mates can’t pick when he’s going to fire it across the 6 yard box. The lad needs time, I don’t think that’ll be at us next season, but you never know, and if he does, he’ll be amazing next season for the experience of this one. Needs a proper haircut. 6.
McGeady – over weight when he arrived, and out of practice, he looked very uncertain to begin with, unsurprisingly, especially as he was thrown on to the pitch a bit earlier than expected, but needs must. As the season wore on (and on), he showed glimpses of wing play with astonishingly quick feet that will excite and thrill next year, so I for one can’t wait to see him after a good pre-season and then back in to the thick of it in August. 6.
Pienaar – remember him? It seems like he’s been unavailable for ages apart from a brief cameo against Hull. Injury has not helped his year, and at times it looked like he was rushed back too soon. But there is still no better left sided combination than him and Baines, and when he’s on song, he picks passes others can’t see. When he’s not, he picks passes the opposition can see all day. 6.
Naismith. Ok, I was wrong, Often. I was not alone in thinking Naisy was brilliant at demonstrating the Everton work ethic, but not so good at the School of Science (or “stop all this fancy stuff” as someone once called out from behind me in the Upper Gwladys), and as a result was of Championship standard, not Premier League. But then Roberto sensed where Naismith would play best – in other words, play him where he wanted to play. Naismith runs in to space, pulls defenders around, makes space for others, has an eye for the well timed run (WITHOUT GOING OFFSIDE KEVIN!), and has chipped in with 9 goals this season. And his work rate is still awesome. Great lad Naisy, a real fans favourite, and now one of mine. And once again, sorry, I was wrong. 8.
Lukaku – there are times when the man that is built like a brick outhouse, plays like one too, especially seeing the ball bounce off him far too frequently. Even Victor holds it up better. But Big Rom scores goals, and if a player who half looks knackered or disinterested (or both) one week, and on fire the next, can score you 15 goals, just think what he could do with age and maturity, and bit more time under Duncan’s tutelage. Whether he’ll get that chance we’ll see – I read between the lines that Chelsea won’t want him and that Roberto does, but will he spend anything like the £17m (in initial fees plus add ons) Chelsea paid for him? I doubt it, but I hope he comes back – far better to build around a talent that knows where the loos are at Finch Farm than start with someone who is new. 7 for me Rom, but don’t beat me up.
What of the others, bit part only players this season? Well, we know Magaye Gueye likes a selfie (that word used to have different connotations when I was a teenage boy), but that he can, when he can be arsed, be a good player. But his arse was AWOL for most of the year. Vellios missed his chance by not going out on loan, and not knuckling down. Big chance lost big boy. Grow up, wherever you play next year. Kone has shown he’s not quite up to hitting the proverbial cow’s arse with the equally proverbial banjo, but Roberto rates him, so that’s good enough for me. Let’s hope he comes back fit, and, ahem, lean, and able. Traore got himself a banner outside Goodison. Not bad for 60 minutes, a goal, and a buggered hammie in a warm up. Not sure we’ll see him again, but if he does return next year, we won’t miss his 6ft 8in frame. Good goal though. Darron Gibson – really sad we lost him, and thank God McCarthy and Barry stayed fit and didn’t lose too much game time because of suspension, because we are under resourced in this position. More next year no doubt.
What then of the future? I am excited at the prospects from the guys mentioned above, but also the possible breakthroughs of Browning; Garbutt (but only if needed!); maybe Duffy who was top rated Championship player in their team of the season, and loved by the Yeovil fans; McAleny if he can shake off his injury woes; and maybe even George Green who shows signs of getting back on the rails. Youngsters Ledson and Kenny will come through, but probably not in 14/15. Add to that, Roberto saying he wants 6 or 7 more players for the squad, and we are in for exciting times next year.
It is usually pre-season when unrealistic hopes and expectations rise only to fall. But this year, it’s immediately post-season, and this time, I don’t think it will fall. I think we’re on to something here, and I for one, can’t wait to get back on the M6 again next season. Have a great summer Evertonians.