C.R.E.A.M

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Lumme guv’nor. They’ve only ruddy well gone and done it. Everton have stared at the dealer with twinkling Paul Newman  eyes, took a drag on their cigar, smiled wryly and pushed all their chips across the table. They even patted their pockets down, pulled out their lucky £5 token and threw that on top of the pile too with a final plastic clack.

£28 million for Romelu Lukaku. Sheesh. Who knew they had it in them?

To be honest, shelling out that sort of dough seems a bit vulgar compared to last season’s get-it-from-the-catalogue-wear-it-for-the-wedding-and-send-it-back-remembering-to-wipe-off-the deoderant-marks strategy – like something Liverpool would do – but Roberto Martinez seems to know his onions and we now have some asset on our hands for, potentially, the next five years.

Ok, much of the business so far this summer has been about consolidating last season’s squad – the one that finished fifth during Manchester United’s worst season for about two decades – but you have to start somewhere, and tying down Lukaku, who is pivotal to the whole system Martinez employs, looks like the cornerstone of the whole ‘project’. Or ‘journey’, whichever you prefer.

If it wasn’t Lukaku then it had to be some other big bleeder who can run all day as well as play a bit of football, and really decent strikers who can play that often thankless role, but still have the composure to slot when opportunities do present themselves, are few and far between. And fellas who have seen it and done it in the Premier League, yet are still only 21-years-old, are even rarer still. Doubtless Martinez had alternatives then, and maybe a few who would have cost less, but as an overall package, weighing up the risk versus the reward, the Everton manager must have argued to the board that this was something of a ’no-brainer’.

Despite the mammoth price tag and the enormous amount of faith Martinez and Everton have put in Lukaku, he still remains far from the finished article. Unplayable when he’s running into space with the ball on his left peg, he needs to learn that there is plenty still to do when, well, he’s not running into space with the ball on his left peg. He has to work on the 9-5 shit that comes with being a centre-forward: wrestling with defenders, sacrificing a kick up the arse in return for a free-kick and generally being a nuisance when things aren’t going his way. It’s not glamorous but it’s about 50% of what earned Luis Suarez that humungo-transfer to Barcelona.

All in all though, it was a remarkable evening for Everton and testament to the atmosphere created by the manager, and his ability to sell his vision of the future, that a couple of the most highly-rated and ambitious young players in world football are keen to spend the next stage of their careers in royal blue.

Still, £28 million. Blimey.

Is It Wicked Not To Care?

‘Ooh, Everton’s third best central midfielder from last season has signed a new deal. That’s nice.’

Surely that’s how yesterday’s news of a new contract for Ross Barkley would have been greeted in the old world?

Instead, the ante was well and truly upped by the club’s enigmatic calling of a press conference for a ‘major announcement’ and then the tension built throughout the day. It would have been hilarious if a bemused Mohamed Besic – can’t do the accents – was shoved out in front of, in the words of Michael Buffer, ‘The scores in attendance, and the thousands of sad gets around the world with one ear-piece sneakily plugged into the works computer’, but instead it was Barkley. with not even a walk-on cameo from Romelu Lukaku.

Listen, if Roberto Martinez sees Barkley as the future of the club then sound, it’s good that he’s on a longer deal. Let’s be frank though, all that really means though is that the young chap is on more dough and we can demand a decent fee if one of the clubs allegedly ‘circling’ him eventually decided that he is good enough to get in their first team. Because, again being frank, on last season’s evidence if he was contracted to one of the serious big boy clubs he would probably be out on loan anyway.

Probably to us.

Again, that’s not meant to rain on anyone’s parade but, you know, we wonder why these young fellas get carried away with themselves and at the same time they are feted for accepting £65 grand a week and not immediately fucking off from the club that has been developing them since the womb.

It just all seemed a bit weird.

Martinez is still after more players, with Lukaku still the number one priority. Chelsea are going to wring every last penny out of that deal though – because they can, and also to offset the inevitable criticism from their fans – and it will probably all boil down to who exactly really wants to shell out the real dough that the Belgian will cost. Real Madrid obviously could afford it, but is he genuinely good enough for the European Champions? On the flip side, are the clubs that really want him genuinely willing to go all in with every last scraping of their transfer ‘war chest’?

Everton probably would – but are they able to make the raw numbers work? There must come a point, when Robert Elstone is sat up in a dimly lit room, his tie all crooked and loads of crumpled up bits of paper with calculations on them littering the lino, that they just have to face facts and tap out. While Wolfsburg can’t have a sniff, can they, surely?

In short, we still haven’t got a clue. More as it comes in.

Preseason Analysis

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Preseason Analysis

Oh aye, yeah.

The World Cup’s over and so we get a bit of genuine peace for a couple of weeks before the Premier League barm-pottery starts all over again.

If you are still reading this old claptrap you are almost certainly someone who just feels a bit long in the tooth for getting excited about transfers, whether they are happening or not, and certainly about fucking football kits.

Anyway, regardless, bad-tatt-sporting-gets-his-clobber-from-the-Officer’s-Club Bosnian midfielder Mohamed Besic looks like he’s signing as he’s travelled to Thailand with the squad. He’d look a right tit now if the deal was called off just because his agent is demanding a set of presentation steak knives and a Yorkshire terrier named Bobby.

Roberto Martinez also appears to be ready to indulge his jinky winger fixation with a £1.5 million bid for Anderlecht’s David Henen. He spent last season on loan to Monaco B so it’s probably fair to say he’s more of a replacement for Magaye Gueye than Gerard Deulofeu at this point.

To be honest, alarm bells ring slightly when you hear that Henen is asking for a particular shirt number: 39 in this case. Firstly, you get what you’re given, soft lad. When you’ve achieved something you can start worrying about shite like that. Secondly, you really need to look for a better role model than pharaoh-faced anti-Semite Niclas Anelka.

Other than that though, welcome to Everton, David!

What else?

Have you read The Numbers Game? The book that’s getting pushed on the Waterstones 2 for 1 and professes to be football’s answer to Moneyball? Well it isn’t, for a start, and that’s because neither of the writers are as skilled as Michael Lewis, but then very few are. And where the story of Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics was a very human one – their use of statistical analysis to overcome the odds was very much a classic David and Goliath tale – The Numbers Game is at heart a maths text book applying examples to football. That’s no to say it’s not interesting – a Poisson distribution* is a fascinating thing – but there’s a real attempt to hype up the gravity of the subject matter that begins to grate very early on. To be fair though, that’s judging the whole book on the first three or four chapters. And they do say early on that Roberto Martinez emerges as one of the heroes of the book, so you might be interested just on the strength of that. Or not.

* Not to be confused with the tale in French bibles about Jesus feeding crowds of people.

World Cup Diary Day 2

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There’s no law that says you have to update it every day. Stop thinking so analogue. This is agile blogging for the next century.

Anyway, the sooner this World Cup is over the better, just so we can get down to the serious business of speculating wildly about who Everton may or may not be buying. ‘May not’ usually tends to be your safest bet, but who knows, in this post-Fellaini-money-get-any-bleeder-in-on-loan new existence, anything is possible.

Before we start looking at completely fresh faces, we mustn’t forget the players like Arouna Kone, Darron Gibson, Bryan Oviedo, maybe that big lanky striker – one in one, don’t knock it – and a fully pre-seasoned Aiden McGeady. These cats will all undoubtedly be hailed as like new signings at some point. And that’s before we even consider the capture of Gareth Barry.

The big-faced bosser of midfield took his time but eventually the prospect of a three-year deal at Goodison proved too good to turn down. At 33, is anyone surprised? He was great last season – probably as responsible as any one player, including Romelu Lukaku, in making Roberto Martinez’s first season in charge such a memorable one. Losing him would have been a blow then. Still, you can’t help think he is going to look like Gerard Depardieu by the time he bows out on his Everton career.

Tony Hibbert’s signed a new two-year deal as well.

Short of winning a free cocktail at Carnage Magaluf, Lukaku couldn’t have appeared more promiscuous this summer whenever he took a break from honking out the World Cup in order to make all sorts of statements about his possible future. He said that Everton is a possibility and that he wants to win titles.

Well, which one is it?

Martinez obviously thinks there’s a chance of getting the bludgeoning Belgian for some sort of club record fee. It’s weird though, the fans seem ambivalent about the whole thing despite Lukaku’s impressive goalscoring form last season. He produced the goods, and he’s still extremely young, but there’s just something about him and his all-round game that’s lacking.

It might be those doubts that have left the supporters philosophical, or it might just be the acceptance that we will ultimately be outbid for him, no matter what we offer.

The internet thinks that we may have signed Bosnian international midfielder Mohamed Besic. Ironic given that his uncle Alan used to despise Scousers when hosting his seminal late-night phone-in on Red Rose Radio.

‘Alan, do goldfish masturbate?’

Young Mo has the most underwhelming Youtube tributes since Andy van der Meyde’s happy-hardcore-soundtracked corner-winning showreel. It basically amounts to him being ‘neat and tidy’ in some international game and then a long range blammer in some obscuro-league, the footage of which is so grainy it looks like one of them terrorist training videos with fellas in balaclavas and Kalashnikovs doing synchronised kung fu kicks in the desert.

Talking of the internets, if you believe the wacky emails you get every time that something unfortunate befalls a team or manager during the contest in Brazil, former Blues boss David Moyes has spent the whole summer glued to his phone.

‘How many times do I have to explain it to you? They are not ‘free’ minutes if you don’t fucking use them all!’

The link to Galatasaray was a particularly interesting one. Imagine the furore he would cause if he marched to the centre circle and planted a flag in the turf following a well-earned point at Burzaspor.

Poor old Davey Davey. Even we can’t help skitting him and we remain fonder of him than most.

 

Copa Mundane

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‘It’s shop-lifting by Moore, Gary shit on the floor, Bobby asking for more…cash for tickets. It’s coming home, it’s come home…’

It’s no Ian McCulloch and the Spice Girls’ ‘How Does It Feel To Be On Top Of The World’ is it? Oh yeah, that was a thing. That happened.

The World Cup starts on Thursday and we have the rather novel situation of England going into the competition with almost nothing expected of them whatsoever. Let’s face it, the squad’s full of Everton and Southampton players so the public at large are hardly going to get that excited.

The poor press are even having to try really hard to engineer some excitement and friction, hence their obsession with Ross Barkley. They know Roy Hodgson will want to be judicious in his use of Everton midfielder’s singular talents, so they are trying to create a clamour for his inclusion from the start of the first game. And if England struggle against Italy they will blame the manager’s conservatism for shackling the most exciting young talent since them apes at the start of 2001 kicked a skull against the side of a mysterious obelisk.

That one gets its noggin caved in at the start because of a disputed goal kick you know.

What the learned men of the fourth estate seem to forget while sweating over their laptops in the bar of the Manaus Formula One Hotel is that it was Hodgson who picked Barkley in the first place. He didn’t have to – Barkley’s form for Everton wasn’t that great last season that leaving him out would have caused any sort of controversy. After all, when he’s good he’s very, very good. But when he’s bad he’s Huckerby.

That said, used correctly, especially during the ragged extra-time madness of the knockout stages, he could potentially have a massive impact. And Hodgson knows that; he’s not soft.

And neither is Roberto Martinez, we say, seguing slicker than Martin Samuel’s belly button on the Ipanema Beach. The Everton boss is linked with all sorts of players at the moment, and nearly all on loan, which is ace, just because it makes everyone’s piss boil. We should loan all our players, just for a laugh. Even the ones we ‘own’ we could maybe sell and borrow back just by striking up some sort of agreement with one of those shifty people-trafficker-type Belgian clubs who are so fond of a ‘special arrangement’ with Premier League sides.

Continuing with the policy of exploiting the loan market was agreed at a recent brainstorming session at Goodison where the aim was to come up with money-saving ideas, no matter how ‘out there’ they are, just say them, this is a friendly space. Other avenues given serious consideration were ‘not paying loads for that Lukaku’, a zero hour contract for Tony Hibbert and ‘making that Tony Bellew pay a membership for using the Finch Farm facilities – it’s not the David Lloyd you know lad. And that fucking training kit doesn’t pay for itself either.’

Apart from sundry former-under21-international Spanish playmakers who all seem to play for some nondescript team who wear what looks like a Sheffield Wednesday kit, the Blues have also been linked with Samuel Eto’o – which would be cool just because, well, he’s Samuel Eto’o – and in keeping with Martinez’s love of inconsistent jinky wingers, Sunderland’s Sheldon Cooper lookalike Adam Johnson. Which is probably more likely.

And that’s it for now. This was just to dust off the cobwebs and see if the computer still works in anticipation of writing the odd bit during the World Cup itself. The idea of some sort of regular ‘diary’ might have been a bit ambitious, but we shall see.

Oh, hang on, now. Almost forgot. Ross Barkley almost missed the bus!

Crazy scenes. He had to run down the street a bit and Steven Gerrard thought it was dead funny.

Them lads. Honestly, sometimes.

Everton 2 Manchester City 3

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Picture the scene. It’s the final home game of the season at 5.30pm on a Bank Holiday weekend, European football is guaranteed and so there is nothing really to play for when Everton face one of division’s top sides.

How would you imagine the atmosphere? Carefree and celebratory, surely? Especially at the end of a pretty remarkable season when, with a change of manager, the Blues also altered their style of play, amassed their highest points total for years and, for long periods, looked in with a serious shout of finishing in the top four.

For Manchester City, the Toffees represented one of those ‘teams with no pressure on them’ who we all know, when you are crying it in, can be argued to be even more dangerous than a ‘team fighting for their lives’.

And that’s pretty much how it played out. Everton played some great stuff against their expensively assembled opponents, took the lead with a wonder goal and pushed them all the way. In the end they were undone by some sloppy defending and some good goalkeeping by Joe Hart, but City’s arses were going until the final whistle.

The Blues will undoubtedly approach the final game against Hull City with the same attitude, but you won’t get all sorts of sorry cunts moaning about that, will you?

Short of bricking the City coaches for them and sobbing for the cameras at the final whistle, what did the other lot really want?

The highlight of the match was Ross Barkley’s opening goal. There seemed to be no hint of danger to Hart’s goal when Steven Naismith touched Leighton Baines’s pass into the young midfielder’s path, way outside the City area. As a result, the keeper never even saw the arcing first-time shot until it came screaming out of the sun like a Stukka divebomber.

Back-pedal.

Grasp at the air.

No chance.

Roy Hodgson was in attendance and Barkley responded with not just that majestic strike but also his best all-round performance for a good while. His chances of going to the World Cup certainly improved – he can probably look forward to coming on as part of a double substitution with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain when the national side are a goal down against Portugal in the late stages of first knockout game. And in all honesty the slightly disjointed, chaotic nature of international tournament football might suit him.

It’s the patient, controlled grind of Roberto Martinez’s system that Barkley seems to struggle with at the present stage of his career: constantly making correct, unspectacular decisions and sacrificing yourself for the team as opposed to the riskier, dramatic option that comes more naturally to someone with such instinctive, individualistic gifts.

Being patted on the arse by Gary Neville and told to ‘just go and run at them son’ could suit him down to the ground.

Everton’s lead never lasted long. Martinez accommodated Phil Jagielka’s return to the team by playing with three central defenders and, as ever, it looked a bit wonky. Sergio Aguero certainly appeared to have more space than you expect at the top level when receiving Yaya Toure’s simple pass and then beating Tim Howard at the near post.

Then, either side of half time, City found more amateurish gaps in the Everton backline, allowing Edin Dzeko to score a good header and then a simple tap-in.

Romelu Lukaku netted a fine diving header from a Baines cross to set up a nervy finish for the Mancunians, not least when a brilliant, mazy run from substitute Gerard Deulofeu ended with a good stop from Hart at his near-post to add to the crucial save he made at 2-1, denying Naismith after a Gazza-esque 50-yard surge from Barkley left the Scot clean through on goal.

The celebratory atmosphere at the finish had nothing to do with Liverpool; it was all about acknowledging the incredible job that Martinez performed during his first season in charge at Everton.

Just take a step back and look what he has managed to do in such a short space of time. Imagine what it is like to come into a club like the one he inherited and make such an impact on players and staff who had been operating reasonably successfully under a completely different regime for so long.

When people talk about force of personality they are normally referring to slightly tyrannical figures, especially in sport, but Martinez’s sheer charisma, determination and sincerity have won over everyone at Everton, where you can imagine there are plenty of seen-it-all arl arses who would have been rather sceptical of the smiling Tony Robbins figure who just took Wigan Athletic down.

To affect that type of total mood change then, and to get everyone to buy into a style of football that leaves no place for the less talented to hide, and to do it without being just a massive, horrible twat, well, that takes some bollocks quite frankly.

Now come on, to the KC Stadium. We go again!

Southampton 2 Everton 0

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“And after this game finishes, make sure to stay tuned for some classic Jean-Claude van Damme in Hard Target, director John Woo’s first Hollywood feature.”

Thursday night, Channel 5. Spiritual home of Tottenham Hotspurs and Gremlins 2.

If they still have the Europa League games, like. They probably don’t. How would you know, who watches them if it’s not their club in it?

Whichever channel screens the European Big Special Trophy for Effort next season it looks like they are going to be bringing their cameras to Goodison Park, presumably until we face the first decent Portuguese team in the competition, as any remaining chance of qualifying for the big boys’ league evaporated at St. Mary’s within the first minute.

Quite frankly, the whole first half was like shopping for a new set of darts.

That’s right, a catalogue of ‘arrers.

Ross Barkley collected the ball from the kick off, saw there was no opportunity for a mad run or a ‘Hollywood pass’ and so carelessly under-hit a simple ball out wide. Southampton easily gathered possession and no Everton player touched the ball again until the Uri Geller-looking Antolin Alcaraz did a spectacular Keith Houchen to head Ricky Lambert’s chipped cross past Tim Howard.

And it never really got any better after that. Southampton played the ball out from the back with little opposition while red shirts caused panic among the Everton defensive line whenever they were in possession. There certainly looked like a marked difference in workrate and attitude, which is surprising considering that we were meant to be the side with everything at stake.

None of the Everton players were great by any means, but if you were trying to be kind you would have to say that maybe the pressure really got to a number of the Blues’ young attackers.

Romelu Lukaku, for instance, has been shite for ages and the idea that we would somehow be lucky to sign him permanently for top dollar seems almost laughable. Granted, he’s massive and dead fast, but his movement is shocking, his first touch is erratic and his mastery of the centre-forward basics leave a lot to be desired.

Questions need to be asked of Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu too. Primarily, what exactly have they achieved in the game that excuses them from helping their teammates out when Nathaniel Clyne and Steven Davis are stroking the ball around like members of the 1982 France team.

That said, at least the Spaniard did pose the occasional threat going forward, even if more often than not his attacks ended in a flurry of limbs, a bit of a shoulder off the ball and then a massive moody shrug. Barkley though, not for the first time, looked like a man wandering around dazed at the scene of a motorway accident. Granted, he’s only a young lad, but if things aren’t going your way you should at least grit your teeth and start throwing in tackles and chasing back to try and turn the tide in your side’s favour. Maybe just get hold of the fucking ball now and again as well, and don’t play blind, careless passes ‘around the corner’ when your team is struggling to keep possession. After all, a couple of decent goals in a season do not make you ‘potentially an all-time great’, they make you Ravel Morrison.

The pair of them have got loads of natural talent but they both have the look of players who are used to being so much better than everyone else at their age group that they struggle to cope when they are not dominating opponents.

You only have to compare them to another emerging talent, Adam Lallana, who was involved all over the pitch, working hard, making good decisions and using the ball simply and intelligently to see that they have got a lot of developing to do if they are going to have the superstar careers that have been mapped out for them.

The Southampton midfielder is deservedly a certainty to go to the World Cup, while the idea of Barkley being part of the squad for Brazil is outlandish on his present form – he never even reached the second half here, replaced by Leon Osman. Unfortunately the Toffees were 2-0 down by then, thanks to another own goal, this time courtesy of the head of Seamus Coleman after Alcaraz and John Stones both missed Clyne’s unchallenged cross from the right.

There were a couple of moments of controversy after the break, starting with a dubious offside flag to deny Deulofeu when he was clean in on goal. Had he scored, with around 40 minutes to play, who knows?

Later, Osman was booked for diving when he touched the ball past Dejan Lovren and then went down as the defender’s outstretched boot caught him on the ankle. If the game wasn’t so phony nowadays then perhaps there would have been questions about whether it really justified a penalty. Just because there’s contact, in what is after all a contact sport, shouldn’t mean you are automatically entitled to a spot kick. However, that is exactly how football has been played for some time now and in those situations the referee almost always points to the spot.

Fucking hell, Liverpool would be mid-table if they didn’t.

However, it wasn’t to be, and Everton produced little else of note other than a Lukaku header straight at Artur Boruc, as the home side continued to look assured, composed and thoroughly capable of scoring a third goal that wouldn’t have really flattered them.

The Champions League was always a tall order, especially after losing at home to Crystal Palace, and the situation was further compounded by all the injuries, but we just wanted to go into the Manchester City game with some sense of tension, with everything on the line. Just the build-up and everything all week would have made for a great Goodison occasion – the sort that you go the match for.

Surrendering our chances so meekly like this though, at the end of what in the main has been a thrilling season, feels like a massive anti-climax.

Typical Everton, some might say.

Southampton and Disco Dancing and That

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First thing’s first, if you like a bit of young person’s music and staying up until all hours then you could do a lot worse than go to a night organised by some Blues this weekend.

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You can get tickets from here.

If Everton win at lunchtime at Southampton make sure you go up and ask the DJ for Z Cars, they love that.

As discussed earlier in the week, winning down on the South Coast is pretty much a must if the Mighty Blues are to keep up any semblance of pressure on Arsenal, who must surely beast Newcastle United out of sight at the Emirates. Does Alan Pardew even turn up for their games now?

It’s a tough assignment for the Toffees this one though, as Southampton under Mario Pocchetino have proved to be a really decent side. Unfortunately for them though they are in that somewhat unsatisfactory stage where they aren’t quite strong enough to win anything, but they have been impressive enough for richer clubs to start looking enviously at their players and possibly even the manager.

The one everyone talks about is Luke Shaw, apparently heading to all sorts of destinations for massive money. He is undoubtedly mature beyond his years like, but just because he grew a muzzy at 14 and looks like a Howard Wilkinson wet dream at 18 does that necessarily mean his advancement will continue at the same rate?

One word: Micah Richards.

Adam Lallana is another good player, and almost certain to go to the World Cup with England. In the words of Roger Daltrey, he sure plays a mean through-ball, but probably lacks the pace to ever be an absolute superstar. He would be wonderful for Everton, as a long-term successor to Leon Osman, but in all truth a slightly unsatisfactory career at White Hart Lane in the ‘Lewis Holtby role’ is probably more likely.

Pocchetino deservedly gets a lot of praise and you wouldn’t be at all surprised if his ‘people’ were advising him to make the most of being ‘hot’ at the moment. Again, you wouldn’t rule out Tottenham after they are knocked back by whoever goes to Manchester United and maybe Arsenal.

One of modern football’s best throwaway ‘facts’ is that the Argentine speaks perfect English but chooses to pretend not to, to avoid unwelcome questions. Except he would still have to answer them, just through an interpreter. Which is more awkward and takes longer.

Still, whenever he is confronted by the Sky cameras, in front of a grey board plastered in irrelevant advertising, you do half expect him to turn and break the fourth wall, whispering sotto voce in a cut glass Leslie Phillips accent: ‘This is a load of old pony isn’t it, viewers?’ Before turning back and mumbling some more anodyne Spanish.

There will obviously be a minute’s silence for Jay Rodriguez’s England career before the game, and Ricky Lambert, once described as the most unlikely looking Scouser ever, will have to lead the line alone. He actually looks more like that fella who will dig the footings for your extension for a score, or who you see walking really purposefully along the central reservation of the motorway in just a pair of tracky bottoms, miles away from anywhere on a freakishly hot summer day.

What else? Gerard Deulofeu might stay for another season. Is that a good thing? Probably. He is really exciting at times, and massively punchable at others. You’d certainly rather see him as part of the attacking three before Danny Welbeck, who we have been linked with. Can you see there being suitors queuing around the block for a player like him who has struggled to stand out in that United team?

Speaking of which, a headline in the Daily Star proclaimed ‘Moyes: United stitched me up’. Stitched him up to the tune of about £10 million!

And that’s it. Watch Everton, rave safe.

See you on the other side.

Swansea City Preview FA Cup Special

Cambridge City v Milton Keynes Dons - FA Cup First Round

Let’s win this sucker for Ric Wee.

With home advantage, at least two of the ‘big guns’ going out and Roberto Martinez standing on the sidelines with one brown brogue resting on his trophy, it’s safe to say that Evertonian expectations are building around this FA Cup fifth-round tie.

Let’s be honest, if we dip out here we are left competing for a European competition of some description via the league, and the advantage for the worthwhile one is firmly with Liverpool following recent results and performances. It just is.

When we were winning the game at Old Trafford and the passing at the Emirates this season’s possibilities looked endless, what with a bold new style and a team full of brash young players, so to have the potential outcomes for Martinez’s first campaign whittled down to ‘maybe the Europa League’ in February – a ‘Moyes season’, essentially – would feel like a proper boot in the goolies.

That’s just the fact of the matter. The season is starting to ‘solidify’ here, for wont of a better word, and individual results are going to have a lingering effect on its eventual shape. As a result, there is perhaps real pressure on Martinez and his players for the first time, especially in the wake of the derby performance and the Tottenham result.

Typically, Everton face a Swansea no longer under the laissez faire stewardship of Brian Michael Laudrup, a man whose unarsed nature makes Sven Goran Eriksson look like Don Revie, but instead enjoying one of those caretaker boss revivals that the Toffees seem to stumble into with peculiar regularity.

Garry ‘Harry’ Monk may look like he’s come straight from the same dim, green-glowing bubble-boy ward as Philippe Senderos and only had the feeding tube removed from his nose for the telly, but the man running Tim Sherwood close for this season’s ‘body-warmer bellend’ award certainly ‘galvanised’ his side when they faced Cardiff City 3-0 the other week. Whether coating them with a protective layer of zinc was strictly within the FA rules is open for debate, but it certainly worked as they triumphed 3-0.

The big news for Everton is that Lacina Traore has had even longer to recover thanks to the Crystal Palace game being closed to high-sided players and is expected to feature on Sunday, possibly even from the start. There is certainly an intense curiosity regarding just how the Premier League’s tallest player, who has been playing in the shocking Russian league but cost Monaco £16 million, will actually perform. He just has the potential to be absolutely anything, from sensationally unplayable to something like one of those big luminous fabric figures they have outside car showrooms with the arms that zip up and down in the wind.

Admit it, you can’t wait to be either blown away or laugh your cock off.

Anyway, there is pressure then, but that’s what football is about: important matches with plenty at stake. No risk, no reward and that all that.

Everton are fearsome at home and Martinez has more options to pick from than he has in recent weeks, especially in attacking areas, so the Blues have to be heavy favourites. However, we’ve been in this position plenty of times before and our well-honed instinct is to expect the worst. Under Martinez though it’s all been about ‘new Everton’ instead of ‘typical Everton’ and dispelling those ingrained feelings of dread when in touching distance of glory, with only really the Anfield derby as a blot on his ‘copy book’, whatever one of those is. This is yet another chance to show then that we don’t have to always disappoint when opportunity awaits.

So onto Goodison we stride, heads held high, expecting, nay demanding, a crushing Everton victory and safe passage into the next round.

And talking of making your way to the ground, one chap escorting his 10-year-old lad along Goodison Road on Wednesday night tried to protect him from the whippy winds and flying debris by getting him to walk inside his coat. It quickly became clear though that the greater peril came not from the skies but from the pavement, as from the folds of his Berghaus came the muffled cry: ‘Dad! Dad! I can’t see the dog shit!’

Stay classy Saint Domingos.

See you on the other side.