I took my levels of Obstruction to new heights (literally) this weekend, as I couldn’t watch the game live or on any kind of feed, as I was in a hotel in the Austrian Alps with a dodgy and intermittent wifi. Apologies for the delay then! As it happens, I was also lying on my bed feeling sorry for myself (even sorrier at 5pm – or ten past six as Mike Jones calls it) having torn my calf muscle on Day 1 of a 4 day skiing break. If I had been symbolically representing Everton, no doubt some readers would say the current craze – “Everton That” to my injury, maybe even adding a sneaky hash tag too. Can we stop this Evertonthatting craze? It’s infantile at best, and effing, jeffing annoying as well.
‘Everton That’, with or without the hash tag, appears to sum up Evertonians feeling sorry for themselves, feeling that the world is against them, or just that Everton seem to have the sole preserve to snatch some kind of defeat from the jaws of victory. I can’t imagine in 2005 that AC Milan lost a 3-0 half time lead to you-know-who, and lost a pen shoot out, and said to each other in the changing room afterwards – “we’ve just done an Everton lads” (or “Abbiamo appena fatto un Everton ragazzi” if Google Translate is to be believed). I don’t even imagine Tony Pulis saying to his West Brom players earlier this season “tut, they’ve just done to us what everyone else does to them”. We inflict similar gut-wrenching drama on others (e.g. Manchester United at least 3 times in recent memory: 4-4, 3-3, 0-1), and it even happens to other teams without us being involved whatsoever (e.g. United – again – throwing away a 2-0 and then a 3-2 lead to succumb to a last minute Newcastle equaliser). Could we just stop now? Why focus on the negative anyway? I’ve called such negativity the “mood hoovers” before, and it is really draining. Lying on my bed with only twitter for company for any kind of progress on the game, what came through time and again was the moaning. It’s not fun. It sucks the life out of you, and it can’t really help can it?
Rather than blame your side’s game management (or lack of), your players, your manager, your defensive coach (I assume we’ve got one…..sorry, naughty, bit of negative sarcasm there), why don’t you just train your guns on the officials? After all, what I should be writing about here is an amazing win in SW London for the first time since Noah was a lad, and not just a win, but an amazing second half that saw us score twice (one brilliantly), concede to a long ball cock up by our otherwise dependable Captain, and another to a deflection, but then still come back to win the game with Ramiro Funes Mori’s last minute back post kung fu kick. That as Roberto would say, and indeed said, shows immense “character” (but you’ll have to do the accent yourself, doesn’t quite work written down). But no, ‘last minute’ in Mike Jones’ book (or watch), doesn’t really mean last minute does it? We celebrate madly, and then AFTER that, find we have 7 more minutes to play, to see the game out. When 7 minutes is actually up, Chelsea are not attacking, so there’s no excuse to keep the game going, so the whistle should be blown. But it isn’t, and we all know we should play to the whistle, which our players actually did. The whistle they should have heard, was the whistle to say that John Terry, closer to a seat in Row C behind the goal than he was to being on the shoulder of the last man, was offside. The responsibility for this is at the door of the ref as well. In the first instance, we have Assistant Referee (Linesman to me and you) Peter Kirkup (Cock Up?) who quite clearly didn’t see it. Or he did, but he didn’t think it was offside. The only way you can think someone is not offside when there is a gap the width of the Mersey between Terry and the last man, is if you think it was nodded backwards by an Everton player – an unintended back header/pass if you will. The man who could have told him otherwise was Mike Jones, although one can only imagine that Mike was distracted by the cuckoo falling out of his timepiece (no euphemism intended).
So then I have two questions:
- Why didn’t the nice, too nice, Everton players surround Jones and persuade him to consult with Cock Up? I have a feeling Chelsea players would have done. I don’t like players of any side doing that, but the magnitude of the moment (your accents again please) and the importance of the decision at the time it happened, was surely an excuse for Everton to be fined for not controlling their players?
- Which just brings me to Q2, why didn’t Jones consult him anyway, without any player-pressure?
It’s happened now, we’re all hacked off, Roberto has made his point (and even Goody Two [Brown] Shoes may get his fine accordingly), and no one is going to change the result. Maybe there’s some learning for the officials which might benefit us some way down the line. And maybe the injustice will act as a spur to our players?
The reality is that in the space of 3 days, we’ve drawn against City, and drawn against Chelsea. Both sides have recently thumped our nemesis Crystal Palace, with 7 goals between them. That’s a measure of the attacking prowess that we were up against, and not only did we hold our own, we should definitely have won on Saturday, and had chances aplenty to score last Wednesday too. That’s not because we’re plucky little Everton punching above our weight, as everyone used to tag us in the Moyes era, it’s not even because we’re adventurous Everton that are now punching below our weight, if even that analogy works. Who cares. No, we have turned in two excellent performances because we’re playing some really good stuff at the moment. What has impressed me most has been the controlled but pacy movement of the ball up the pitch. This was evident against City and Chelsea when we were being pressed high up the pitch, and instead of passing it sideways (so ‘last year’) or back to the ‘keeper (don’t say it), we play little triangles around the pressing man, and hey presto, we’ve got space and an opponent out of the game. Our ability to do this has been the impact of three players: Barry (standard), Barkley (consistently at last), and most excitingly of all, Bešić. And not most excitingly simply because I’ve learnt how to type the accents above the letters in his name.
Bešić has been superb since he came back from injury, but also as he has now clearly understood not just the role he is expected to play, but the demands and pressures of the Premier League. He has (so far) cut out the overplaying that has got him, and the team, in to serious difficulties, but has saved his tricks for the right place on the pitch, or the right moment in the game, or both. His passing has improved, his tackling hasn’t (it couldn’t get any better, could it Yaya?), and his energy around the pitch has out-McCarthy-ed McCarthy. His energy is also infectious, and seems to inspire those around him, and I’d include another young gun in that – Funes Mori. But we’ll save Our Favourite Argentinian for another day. No, it’s about Our Favourite Bosnian instead. Thankfully, his Muslim faith hasn’t got in the way of learning English or our Aston Villa/West Ham/Burnley/Scunthorpe-loving Prime Minister would have him deported if news reports this week are any guide, but it’s probably no coincidence that as his English has improved (it was always good) so his communication and integration in to the team has as well – you’d have to say the same for Geri. We love Mo though don’t we? The tattoo-covered, tough-tackling, constant-running young gun is an ideal Evertonian, and just wait until he starts adding a few goals to his game. Goodison Roof Repairs will never have so much business. Whether he’s done enough to keep his place when McCarthy is fit, well, who knows. That might not be a case of if he is playing better, but will RM show McCarthy the loyalty post injury that he’s shown to many others. If that happens, we’re swapping one gem for another, and maybe we need to keep such players fresh by not playing them every game, but you can imagine the negative tweeters sharpening their keyboards even as we speak. Hopefully, sense will prevail, and the Best Little Bosnian We Know will continue his fine development, alongside the amazing young talents we have in Rom, Ross, Geri, Stones and many more coming through.
I for one celebrate the emergence of impetuous youth, and the issues it inevitably brings, because they’re all learning together. Everton bringing young talent through? I’d happily say “Everton That” to that.