Right. Everyone calmed down a bit? No? Well, lets see if No.1 of 38 Obstructed Views this season can help or hinder.
It’s a strange feeling isn’t it, you remain sceptical for weeks about our potential performance, either due to a lack of signings, misgivings over the Manager, or concerns about how the Board is managing the Club (or combinations of all three), but once you get to Goodison, you hear Z Cars, and the players come out to a wave of optimism.
Which then lasts approximately 14 minutes.
Goodison used to be a place capable of becoming an intimidating stadium, with a cauldron-like atmosphere that would unsettle visiting sides; it is now an intimidating stadium,with a cauldron-like atmosphere that unsettles our own team. Bonkers really. Now I’m a free-thinking liberal, so I like all that namby-pamby stuff like freedom of speech and democracy, so if you’re one of those that thinks it is the the right of every fan to express their feelings in whatever way they like, then go ahead, it is indeed your right. But then don’t be surprised if you stand accused of causing a downward spiral in terms of performance of the team you support, which – as with yesterday – draws boos aimed at players, management and Board alike, thus potentially making the situation worse.
I don’t really care if you’re a Board In, Board Out, Board Shake It All About kind of fan, or a Martinez In, Martinez Out, Martinez Shake It All About kind of fan, or a Barry/Kone/Other Please Specify, In/Out etc kind of fan, surely just as we expect professional players to put aside all such things as transfer talk, contract signings, injuries etc behind them the moment they walk over that white line, then surely we as the paying fan should put what concerns we have to be put behind us the moment we walk in through those turnstiles? Shouldn’t we? Ok, I know I’m being an idealist and in no way a realist, and of course we will vent our spleen (e.g. Wigan at home in the Cup) when it’s fully justified, but right now, is this the best way to get behind our team? If we expect our team and management to live by NSNO, surely we should try to live by it as well, and use other means as far from the playing fields as possible to make our feelings known. Lobby away from the ground, not in it, otherwise we become like Leeds, Liverpool and West Ham. I doubt if you ever hear much booing at Palace, Stoke or Southampton, where the fans play their part as the 12th man. Perhaps we can learn from England Cricket supporters who did as much as anyone to help win a Test Match at Edgbaston, whilst no doubt still having serious doubts over whether we had the right team or whether KP should or shouldn’t be selected. You support the 11 put out in front of you to, hopefully, entertain you and even more hopefully, win.
What of the game?
I suspect Watford will surprise a few people this season. “I have always dreamt of playing for Watford” is a phrase nobody ever said whilst plying their trade in overseas leagues. Bear in mind, I know Watford, I was born and bred some 6 miles away from their ground, and it’s not a place of beauty. What they have assembled, however, is a team of reasonably talented individuals, all of whom will have dreamt of playing in the Premier League, and I suspect they will be ‘up’ for winning against the likes of us, and of course the other big teams (yes, we are), and will like as much play out of their skin in doing so. And win a few. But their heads are more likely to drop when 2-0 down and so may also end up on the wrong side of a few 5-0 reversals as well. I know that sounds horribly stereotypical, and probably not politically correct, but I just sense it. But we should still have enough to beat them, but we didn’t, so credit to them first, criticism of us second.
What is clear is that the Everton playing staff needs an injection of fresh quality. It doesn’t help if you only buy 3 new players (one of whom is destined for a loan anyway) and for your first game, 2 of them are injured. It doesn’t help either if something like 25% of your first team playing squad is on the treatment table either. But even if all these were fit, it’s obvious to everyone, including the Manager, that we need new blood. I’m not sure if it will be Dick Van Dyke, Steve ‘Bionic Man’ Austin (younger readers google him; and Christ, we need a few bionic men at the moment, starting with Gibson), or Shakira (his hips don’t lie), but no-one is under any illusion that we need strength in depth in many areas, and someone with a bit more creativity to unlock stubborn defences like we faced yesterday. In the absence of such starlets, I’d have given McAleny his chance yesterday. He has some of the quickest feet I’ve seen, and as another blog has pointed out, he’s not in the Promising Youngster bracket any more – he needs to prove himself at this level, and to do that, he needs game time. I’d have replaced Mirallas with him and brought on Oviedo, a proven left back, to replace Galloway, but hey, what do I know.
Stones proved what class he is, and also what class he’ll become when he irons out a few obvious flaws. His MotM award at Goodison was probably more to show him how much we love him and help to deflect what we know will be yet more transfer speculation for the next 3 weeks. He wasn’t my Man of the Match. Instead, I give my award to none other than Arouna Kone. (Yes, really, stop frothing at the mouth.). I doubt many people had him in their Fantasy League XI, except the idiots who mis-spelt the prolific Spurs striker and thought they were getting a bargain. And I suspect a few groaned at the sight of him coming in to the fray yesterday, but he did, to the sound of boos from some, but he held up the ball better than our £28m man, he laid the ball in to the path of a diamond called Ross Barkley, and he moved in to space well and struck a clean winner across Gomes’ nose to score a fine goal. With the hesitant knowledge that I praised Alcaraz similarly after we whooped Newcastle, er, the weekend before Kiev, I give you Arouna Kone ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls (don’t worry, I’ve been CRB/DBS checked). Wouldn’t it be hilarious if he banged in 20 goals this season? (Excuse me whilst I wave away a flock of pink pigs roosting on my roof).
Too many players had poor games yesterday, but I would just like to remind us all, that it is the first game of the season. Extrapolating from yesterday in to a pit of despair is not sensible. I don’t think Chelsea were happy about how they played yesterday and drew; Arsenal likewise have just had a ‘mare and lost; but no-one doubts they’ll be top 4, if not top 1 and 2 this season. Let’s get behind the team we’ve got, we ain’t getting Messi in by next Saturday when I will be marking my 57th birthday and 49th year as an Evertonian doing what I believe the young people call ‘giving it large’ in Ibiza, whilst a few hardy souls make a trek to a challenging stadium near the seaside to face a Southampton side who on today’s showing look a bit more match fit and sharper than we did yesterday. So let’s hope we see at least Geri fit for the bench, let’s hope Barkley continues in sparkling goal-scoring-leave-my-hair-alone form, let’s hope Rom is fully fit by next week, and if he features, let’s hope Kone scores a hat-trick (er, in to the Southampton net); and let’s get behind this Everton team. Not the one we wished we had.
As we all know it’s not just our left arm we put in, our left leg, our right arm, our right leg, our whole damn body, it’s our heart, and more particularly, our soul too. And then let’s reconvene at Goodison and give those City boys a damn good thrashing, and not a boo to be heard.