Obstructed View – Reflections on the Bournemouth (H) Game

This was a game only likely to be remembered as “Pennington’s Premier League Debut”. Oh, and a plane flying overhead, some banners, a bit of booing, and maybe a load of balls.

Penn

I went to watch a protest once, sort of – it was during the miners’ strike here in Nottinghamshire, a mate from Uni was subsequently a copper in Birmingham and had been drafted in for the day, and I went to see him, unwittingly getting caught in a fair bit of what could only be called ‘argy-bargy’, nothing much really, except a fair bit of verbal abuse aimed at someone not even there.

I actually went to a protest as well – it was all about the Poll Tax, and again, a few skirmishes, nothing too lively, except the language being aimed at the same absent ‘villain’, the one, the only, Margaret Thatcher. I wasn’t a fan, still not, but that’s a debate away from a football forum.

As for our own protest, the apparent villain(s) were very much present, front and centre, either in the technical area, or the other one, his apparent ally, in the front of the Main Stand in the Director’s Box. But it was all rather muted. Did the protestors misjudge the timing? A tribute to the 96, a heart rending singing of ‘He A’int Heavy’, and the presence of some of the Hillsborough families, not just present, but sat next to Bill. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been right to lob a tennis ball at Bill and take out Margaret by mistake. In the end, the protest was at least most visible after the game, relatively small in number compared to the expectations if the week’s preceding twitter had been anything to go by, but certainly quite clear about what they felt was required to take the Club forward. I suspect the Director’s Box Chums, old and new, are all too well aware we’ve lost tamely in two Cup Semi Finals and we currently lie a mind-numbingly awful 11th in the League with only a faint hope of improving to a Top 10 finish. Underachievers? Us? Surely not. But yes. Time to be vocal and demand Martinez’ departure, although personally I’m not a fan of a load of balls, planes, banners or single-person pitch invasions (I bet his mates all said they’d join him….), and no, before I get the usual abuse, that doesn’t make me any more accepting of mediocrity than someone who ties himself or a banner to a Cessna (other light aircraft are available).

I happen to have faith in key decision-makers that they can see for themselves that the man in charge is palpably not doing the job he promised to do, and in so doing has landed Everton with some extraordinary statistical achievements, if that’s the word:

  • 20th out of 20 in the PL for conceding headers (a frailty exposed as far back as August against the mighty Barnsley away in the League Cup – and not addressed)
  • 20th out of 20 for goals conceded in the last 15 minutes of games (not just once or twice, but still no game plan)
  • 20th out of 20 for goals conceded in the last 30 seconds of games (see above)
  • 20th out of 20 for clean sheets at home
  • 18th out of 20 for goals conceded at home (Fortress Goodison?)
  • And yet 4th out of 20 for goals scored at home (where’s that game plan again?)

There’s probably a few others which I’ve missed, but that’ll do for starters. I don’t think protests like Saturday and before actually work. Firstly because it makes the targets of the abuse go all defensive (unlike our back four….sorry, too easy) and entrenched in their positions as they don’t want to appear ‘weak’ by giving in to the protesters, and makes them less reluctant to change. Secondly, even if it does prompt a change in leadership, I’m not sure it sends out an appealing message to a prospective new manager, and certainly not to prospective new players, who may have witnessed the “you’re just lazy Rom”, “stop playing the ball Stones”, or the “you’re just sh** Barkley” that some of the knuckle-draggers come out with. A Club where fans abuse their own (not uncommon I grant you) and where fans hurl insults at the Manager and/or the Board? No thanks, I’ll swerve that one and go somewhere else.

The reality, I know, is that the behaviour I’m not fond of is not unique to Everton at the moment (Arsenal, Citeh, Stoke, the list is a long one), not unique to the Premiership (try Forest, Blackpool etc), and not unique to English football by any stretch of the imagination. Just ask the Neville brothers. But I prefer a softer approach, fan forums (is it fora, or is that a low-fat spread?), or lobbying key ‘insiders’ who hear and understand the voice of the fan, just in case anyone had failed to notice the malaise on the pitch or the dressing room, provided of course that the ‘insider’ is allowed to voice his/her views (step forward Alan Myers). Tweets that end up on the main screen are hilarious though….

Anyway, protest schmotest. We’ll see what transpires in the next week or so, but I don’t expect Roberto to be tying up his laces on those lovely brown brogues in the technical area for that much longer.

Talking of tying up your laces whilst you should be concentrating on other more topical matters, it was nice to see Joseph Yobo put in an appearance at GP on Saturday.

Good to see Oumar Niasse as well, a real person it turns out, and with occasional good touches, but rather more puffing than huffing than I would have liked, and perhaps our last few games will see him get some yards under his belt. Good to see Dowell get his Prem debut as well, even if it was only for 5 minutes (not counting the 35 he spent warming up), and I really, really hope to see him get his chance for a full 90 soon. Lovely to see Hibbo too, who is at an age where he should hardly be able to bend down to tie his shoelaces, let alone do them whilst not defending, but he reminded us that even at 103, he’s one of the best tacklers we’ve got in the squad. It was good to see Gibbo fit for two games in a row, and his range of passing which far exceeds Barry’s over 10m, shows what we (and United) have missed with his appalling injury record.

But it was Matthew Pennington who excelled on his Premier League debut, and I couldn’t be more delighted for the lad. He sounds like a bright kid too, able to hold a conversation with Dazz after the game, and able to say something other than “we wanted 3 points” and “we got them/drew/missed out”. Bright lad off the pitch, and bright lad on it too. He’ll learn from the substantial nudge he got from King that led to their equaliser, and he’ll have learnt loads by playing alongside the big boys, especially Baines and John Stones who chatted to him throughout, helped his positioning, and saw him grow in confidence as the game progressed. Let’s see how he copes with Vardy next Saturday, a lad with a lot of what Pennington doesn’t seem to have in abundance – pace. We’ll see.

So, three more games to go, perfect time to string three wins together please, and at least in some way make a statement about the future for next season. It probably won’t happen, but you never know – it might. Reasons to be cheerful, part 1 (2, 3).

Ross Crombie

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