I’m not a big Rupert Murdoch fan. In fact, I’ll go further, I can’t stand him, can’t stand his media empire and the bile that some of it spouts, and I can’t stand the fact that he told me I had to schlep up the M6 on a Friday night to watch a game of fairly tepid football. Not that the last bit was really his fault, but we need to blame someone other than Barkley. Nor was he to blame for the 4 hours it took me to get there, missing the first 2 minutes which I’m told was only marginally better than the ensuing 88 minutes. Anyway, the match….
I learnt some new words this week. P*sspig and Tw*atbadger, neither of which seem entirely complementary, and both of which probably contravene the St. Domingo’s voluntary decency and no-foul-language code. But in my defence, they were both used to describe Alan Pardew, and given my distaste for the crap-dancing-smug-panted-Newcastle(then)-are-a-bigger-and-better-club-than-Everton they seem entirely allowable in my blinkered and obstructed view. Football fans the world over are rarely complementary about the opposition (OK, Benteke’s goal was well taken, even if he was only up against a man 5 inches shorter), so I guess the odd brickbat is more likely than a bouquet. But last night, I learnt a few things about our own players. And our Manager. And the poor team selling half time, ahem, ‘refreshments’ (I use the term loosely). And the Stewards. And [insert anyone connected with Everton here]. What was it I learnt?
They’re all “d*ckheads”. To be precise, they’re all “*expletive* d*ckheads”. Sorry for the repeating of the language, but it’s to make my point.
To be clear, this is NOT my view, but it came out of the mouth of a fellow Everton ‘supporter’ (I use that term loosely as well) sitting two rows behind me. And frankly, it’s bad enough having a season ticket close to this ‘supporter’, let alone being bracketed as a ‘fellow supporter’. You can guess who the main player was that got most abuse. That’s right, the same player that created 7 chances in 76 minutes according to Squawka Football, the most he’s achieved this season. The same bloke that had a 96% pass completion rate in the first half. All of that’s irrelevant apparently, but Barkley wasn’t the only one getting dog’s own abuse. “Just kick it Stekelenburg you…..” (you get the idea). No-one was spared. But sadly, this person was by no means alone. A feeble attempt at a boo at the end of the game plus a few other choice bits of feedback for all and sundry around me, would seem to suggest that a few supporters are not as clear as I am about what’s going on at Everton.
In my view, we’re on a journey. Last night was a snapshot of that journey, pretty good in parts, pretty strong at the back (not something I’ve written in about 3 years), incredible in front of the Back 4, erratic out wide and central midfield, and not bad up top with the PL’s joint top scorer as I write this. Far from job done, a mere 7 games in to the new season, with a new man in charge, with a new immediate backroom team, a smattering of new players, and we’ve got 14 points from 7 games. Keep that average up all season and we won’t be too shabby! The truth is though, unsurprisingly, we have been a bit shabby, and we can’t expect an average of 2 points a game for the rest of the season when we start playing the likes of City et al. We’re shabby for all the reasons we know, insufficient quality (at least in depth) in midfield, and we need an extra quality strikers. And maybe a top whack ‘keeper. Maybe some others. But we haven’t got them, and we won’t get them probably all season, and certainly not before January, so let’s just think what is likely to get the best out of the squad we’ve got. What goes through someone’s mind when they decide to boo the team they roundly applauded off the pitch 45 minutes earlier? Why are you shouting abuse at your own players when you’ve got at least 2 former RS players, plus Cabaye the epitome of snide, in the oppo line up who are more deserving of your anger? Why? Why? Why? How does this help? How does it do anything other than turn the atmosphere in what we used to call Fortress Goodison in to a place sides look forward to coming too, safe in the knowledge that if they’re patient, the 12th man that might line up for the Blues, will be lining up for them after about 20 minutes.
It’s a free country, apparently, and “I’ve paid my money so I’ve got a right to criticise those overpaid…..”, just as it’s a free country and I’ve got a right to criticise the criticisers. It doesn’t make me a Happy Clapper, I was frustrated last night in spells last night too, and don’t even talk to me about my mood post Bournemouth, and I know we have limitations in the squad at the moment, but we also have some amazing strengths.
We have a Back 4 that secured a draw last night from a game we’d have lost last season. OK, we should have won, but we didn’t, but it’s still progress. Our defence has been better, whilst still needing to improve. Oviedo got damned before he got on the pitch last night, but he stuck to his task well, and made a number of great tackles whilst walking the Two Yellows tightrope. Williams and Jags is better than Stones and Jags. We’re seeing the marauding side of Seamus more, and that’s good to see. We have possibly the best DM combination in the PL – Gueye is one of the best I’ve seen in a Blue shirt, and Barry was back on good if not top form last night. Our ‘keeper still looks a bit vulnerable, and whilst he’s produced some top drawer saves this season, I’m not sure he’s the longer term solution. We’ll see.
Going forward, we know we have a diamond in Ross Barkley, but he’s weighed down under expectation, and hardly performing at his capable level at the moment. So let’s get on his back, that’ll help the lad. But maybe it’s time to give Davies a crack? Not like for like, but he has qualities Ross doesn’t have and vice versa. Bolassie out wide is good, not yet consistent, but that seems to be what you get with mercurial talent. If he can deliver 2 out of 3 that’ll do for starters, but it’s probably 1 in 3 at the moment. Mirallas paid bench time for his inconsistency, plus the need to give Oviedo a bit of extra support, and so we had Cleverley back, another ‘fan’s favourite’ it would seem. He played ok, but suffered at the hands of those who think we could have bought someone better. Yes, maybe Mata would have been great, but his back-tracking is hardly legendary is it? And I don’t think Busquets could cope with the scouse pronunciation of his name, so he wasn’t going to come either. Geri was, apparently, unwell, but he’s no model of consistency either. Perhaps the solution last night was Davies instead of Cleverley, back Ross, but bring Kev on as we did when he tired. I do like the idea of Mirallas and Deulofeu playing wide or centrally when they get their chances, mix it up a bit.
Anyway, I’m repeating myself, mainly due to the lunchtime pork pie, but enough of my dietary shortcomings, so let me bring this to a close. My point is clear. We’re doing ok, we were second, we raised hopes and expectations amongst some, who have voted with their hissing and booing and abuse when we go off the boil, we’ve got a good if not a great squad, but I have faith in Koeman to make the most of what he’s got. I’m supporting Everton, how about you?