What a horrible, but emotionally charged day that was.
I make no apology for featuring Howard in the headline and lead photo, not to deflect from what was an abysmal performance by Everton yesterday, but to add my thoughts to the many that have been shared about Howard, whose sad death preceded a dreadful defeat. He would have been livid.
It is particularly sad when your boyhood heroes die. Any heroes for that matter, be it friends, or more particularly family, but it hurts when someone you’ve never met in your life, but still idolised, is taken from us, all too young. I started supporting Everton in 1967, and so Ball-Kendall-Harvey (they almost seemed like one person), plus Royle, Whittle, West, Wilson, Wright, Kenyon and many more, were my poster boys. Kendall then goes on to manage one of, if not the, greatest Everton teams ever in the 1980s, and gave me the all too short-lived swagger that being a supporter of the best team in Britain gave you. Howard, like Bally before him, felt like part of my DNA, let alone Everton Football Club. It’s my Mum’s funeral on Tuesday, and like Kendall, she and he have left me with so many happy memories that will sustain my life for ever. Mind you, he was much better at football than my Mum.
Talking of which, I suppose we’d better get back to talking about it. Must we? Yes, be brave….
It wasn’t very good really, was it? You know, controversial it may be for saying it, but the super-charged emotion that the entirely appropriate tributes to Howard Kendall and Dave Philips engendered, soon dissipated when things started to go horribly wrong on the pitch. If Rom had managed to get more of a toe in on the mix up with De Gea and Jones (or was it Smalling?), then a goal for Everton and that emotion would have turned quickly in to fervent, passionate support. And then, who knows? But he didn’t. Instead, a terrible defensive mix up of our own, plus a little unseen nudge on Naismith by Rooney, and before we know it, we’re losing, and heads dropped. Then we set them up with another. And then after a brief spell of pressure at the start of the second half, we gift them another with Jagielka’s misplaced pass. I am so delighted that we paid tribute to two fine men in the way we did, but I have to say that from a football perspective, it may have contributed to a really flat atmosphere once we went behind. That’s what emotion can do.
But let’s be clear, we went behind because we were awful. We lost because we were terrible. We lost because Smalling and Schneiderlin were the best players on the park by a mile. We also lost because Rom’s shot was saved by De Gea’s foot when that might have sparked a mini comeback. We lost because Naismith, brilliant against Chelsea, was just too horrible to watch yesterday. We lost because apart from Romelu, we were spineless. We lost because too many people played so badly, that any website that is scoring the players might not function properly if you’re not allowed to put minus numbers on them. And we probably lost because Roberto got it tactically wrong too.
There are too many negatives to dwell on, and I’m not going to fan the flames that are already reaching high in the Merseyside sky on the same topics. Suffice to say, as one who prefers to accentuate the positives, Man Utd were truly dreadful against Arsenal, and then were peerless against us in their next fixture. All we have to do now is follow their example. Er, against Arsenal.