I met 86 year old Bill on Saturday (not the one on the Barclays ad), on the concourse under the Upper Gwladys, and as he munched his home made sandwich and drunk a tepid cup of tea from a flask well overdue to be replaced, he reflected on how he once saw Tommy Lawton in the 1930s when he must have been knee-high to a grasshopper (Bill, not Lawton). He would have gone on to see Dave Hickson in the 1950s, Joe Royle in the 1960s, Bob Latchford in the 70s, Gray and Sharp in the 80s, Cottee and Ferguson in the 90s, and the likes of Campbell, Saha and now Lukaku in the 00s and 10s as formidable Everton forwards. And perhaps, had I seen him post match, Bill would have liked to add Steven Naismith.
Dear old Naismith, a creaking 29 year old probably by the time you read this, has had a bit of a Curate’s Egg history at Everton, sometimes pretty poor, but like yesterday, sometimes exceptional. There is little doubt that his ability to pick a pass is superb, it’s just that in execution, he more than often fails in his quest to pick out a fellow Blue; but in front of goal, his scoring record is pretty impressive. His finishing is excellent at times, and I know that he sometimes stumbles in his over excitement to be clean through (vis. Barnsley) but more often than not, he finishes well. There is also little doubt that most of his good work goes unseen, as it’s more often than not without the ball, as he’s constantly moving, dragging defenders out of position, creating space for others around him. Only yesterday, he created so much space for himself, he decided to use it, and use it he most certainly did. He also adds what we’ve often said we lack, that extra special quality of a bit of snide, be it booting Ivanovic up the derriere, standing on Costa’s hand, squaring up to Diego too, or generally going about his life on the pitch with a moan and a half at the Ref. Well done to Naisy yesterday, commiserations to Besic of course, but you can do no more than score the perfect hat trick when brought on as a sub after less than 10 minutes!
In case you missed his hat trick on Match of the Day, and let’s face it, who didn’t, here’s another glimpse…
Enough eulogising about our Scot, what else can I reflect on after one of the best games and victories seen at Goodison in many a while?
We will want to focus on Stones, and why wouldn’t you, he was tireless, exemplary in tackling and playing himself out of trouble, and in his distribution. But we’re used to that. We could talk about Jags, increasingly the unsung hero alongside Stones. But we’re used to that. We could talk about Barry, who once again had a superb game, his availability for the pass always there, his defending the 6 yard box exemplary, his tackling and closing down its usual standard. But we’re used to that (we could feed the Barry-doubters and say he misplaced two passes too, but we’re used to that as well). Or McCarthy, his running and tackling all over the pitch, generally higher up that pitch than normal yesterday. But we’re used to that too. Or the “phenomenal” Ross Barkley, who was probably only our third or fourth best player on the pitch yesterday, whose incredible strength and close control was utilised close to its full potential. But, thankfully, we’re getting used to that too this season. Shall we talk about Lukaku, bullying Terry and the mountain known as Zouma (he is the only player I’ve watched who when immediately behind my ‘favourite’ pillar J in the UG, actually is visible either side of that pillar), and who could easily have scored a couple himself against Chelsea? Well, we’re used to that, and would rather like being “used to” him scoring every game, but his work rate and hold up play was superb on Saturday.
I could go on.
But actually, I want to talk about Brendan Galloway.
I thought he was another stand-out performer against the erstwhile Champions. He has a slightly overawed look about him sometimes, but who can blame him? He’s used to marking the bloke-you’ve-never-heard-of-and-probably-won’t-ever-see-playing-in-the-Premier-League at Wigan U21s, and here he is man marking Diego Costa at corners, and then outmuscling both him and Radamel Falcao within two minutes of each other, and not forgetting his earlier pinpoint cross for Naismith to open the scoring. He constantly looks to Jags for guidance, and also from Stones (who, after all, is so much older….), to get his positioning right, but if you look at what he does when he’s playing on his instincts, tackling, closing down, heading, dishing it out in the penalty area (legally), he’s very impressive given his lack of experience. Bear in mind this lad was plucked out aged 17/18 from MK Dons where he’d played precisely 10 times in League 1, and now he’s notched up half a dozen games for Everton in the Premier League, but he certainly doesn’t look out of place. Who knows, when Oviedo is fully fit (whenever that will be), Galloway may struggle to keep his place, and clearly he’s behind Oviedo, Baines and not forgetting Garbutt as a future Left Back for Everton, but his favoured position is in the middle of the back four, so what we’re seeing here is a future utility defender for Everton Football Club, taking a similar path to glory that has been previously trodden by Stones (and, dare I say it, Jagielka, if you can remember the dark days when he was shoved in to DM).
Galloway does, occasionally, look overawed as I’ve said, even bewildered, but this lad looks the dog’s gonads (other gonads are available) as a future top notch defender at our great Club.
A word for Funes Mori too. OK, not a massive amount of time on the park, but one towering header, a glorious tackle, and a great run from deep ended by that King Of Snide – Costa – shows we have a player on our hands. He’s played for Argentina for God’s sake, and whilst some observers point out he’s prone to mistakes, well, glory be, a footballer who makes mistakes, who’s heard of such a thing. Let’s focus on his strengths – if he’s got the potential in 15 minutes to come on in a high energy, high intensity Premier League game against Chelsea, slot in alongside a bloke you only met a week last Tuesday, and demonstrate to a watchful crowd that you’ve got what it takes and more so, then, well, welcome to Everton Football Club Ramiro Funes Mori. I for one am excited by what I saw, and his is a name we’ll hear of more and more I hope, and only in a good way please!
More movement, more fluidity, less stodgy passages and an inability to pass. But enough of my bowel movements, this also summed up what was excellent about Everton’s play throughout the team yesterday, and frankly Chelsea were out-Chelsea’d. Their movement and one touch football took them to the Champion’s League this year as the 14/15 English Champions, but they couldn’t match our own brand of that football, and were second best for all but about 20 minutes either side of half time. As seems inevitable, commentators focused so much on what was and is wrong at Chelsea, and not enough on what was brilliant about Everton. That might be disappointing, but if over the next few weeks we hear more about what’s gone wrong at Swansea, Reading, WBA, Liverpool and Man Utd, then that would be music to my ears, in the assumption we’ve beaten them all!
Outside on Gwladys Street after that game the crackling atmosphere continued, songs were still being sung, and it was almost as if we’d won the Cup (any Cup will do please). It made the Plane Banner supporters (two plane banners, two wins, 6 goals for, 1 against) look a little silly (even if a couple of wins doesn’t completely undermine their broader point of view), but it also summed up to me a feeling of growing belief. We shouldn’t react like we’ve won a competition, we should react like that because we used to that performance and outcome.
Let’s not get over excited, well, perhaps we can for a bit, but then knuckle down and get three points at Swansea, and then aim to win every game thereafter. We showed we can against no less than Chelsea, by being the better side in every department. Why shouldn’t we be excited? I bet Bill was, and he may even splash out on a new flask.