Hang on, is this right? We’ve only won once away to Aston Villa since 1987?
A quick scan through the indispensable Everton Results website seems to indicate that’s the case.
If we wanted to get an idea of just how good the present Blues are then, following that giddy result on Monday night, this fixture looks ideal. After all, it’s these awkward, thankless away games that sort the best from the rest. Manchester United, for instance, got a bit of a going over at Goodison Park the other night, but you know that they will recover and hoover up points during the rest of the season because they have the quality and depth to win the majority of games when they are playing at less than their peak.
Everton, on the other hand, need to play with an intensity that is hard to sustain over a season with such a small squad. And that’s the reason why talk of breaking into the top four after one match – where we didn’t exactly rip United a new one but certainly chafed their existing one – is extremely premature.
That said, David Moyes achieved the win over United with essentially last season’s team. Steven Naismith was only introduced briefly during what is known in coaching circles as the FUCKINGHELLJUSTFUCKINGTWATIT! phase of play whereby one side adopts a predominantly defensive formation and seeks to preserve a narrow lead.
Then of course there is Kevin Mirallas, the Belgian international who is by all accounts ‘rapid as fuck’. The neat but often laborious nature of Everton counter-attacks is a well-documented weakness that Mirallas has clearly been brought in to remedy. And just think, a year ago we were bemoaning the fact that Moyes had missed out on £10 million target Charles N’Zogbia who we all imagined coming in and lending that much needed pace to the Blues attack. He obviously ended up at Villa instead, where he has been a massive disappointment.
He’s not the only one though, as new manager Paul Lambert must wonder what the Calvin Harris has been going on the last few years, judging by the state of the squad. For instance, he currently has Stephen Warnock training with the youth team in a bid to force him and his £40k a week wages off the books. They have almost certainly given up any hope of seeing even a fraction of the eight million quid they paid for him. Yes, you read that correctly, they paid eight million for Stephen Warnock.
There are certainly some challenges at Villa then, and it will be interesting to see how Lambert copes at what is still one of the biggest clubs in Britain.
His chairman, Randy Lerner has got far more money than Bill Kenwright – i.e. some money – but he has shown some shocking judgement in his time in charge at Villa Park. Lambert, for his part, impressed everyone with what he did at Colchester United and then Norwich City, who he of course got promoted to the Premier League before, crucially, keeping them there quite comfortably. Do you reckon he secretly curses himself for not hanging fire before taking this role given the calibre of coaches who were interviewed for and then installed in the more prestigious managerial posts at Liverpool and Tottenham?
Get over it Villa fans, you know it’s the truth.
Many of the Evertonians who have little time for time David Moyes put forward Lambert as the obvious choice whenever they were asked the question, “Who would do better?” And now that their man is in situ at a club of similar stature we will find out whether he is indeed a better version of Moyes or just the next Aidy Boothroyd/Paul Jewell/Mike Newell/Owen Coyle.
One thing that Lambert does do better than Moyes – and this is quite remarkable – is give po-faced interviews. At times he makes the Everton boss look like Ian Holloway as he shoots a timorous reporter the icy stare of a man who is mentally reserving someone the prestigious middle berth in his human centipede.
He has a look of that miserable fella who lives just enough houses down from yours for you to know his face but are never quite sure whether to let on or not when you walk past and see him washing his Audi.
February 2005 was the Blues’ one win at Villa since the 1980s, and what a win it was. Two goals by Leon Osman and one by Tim Cahill secured a 3-1 win, but it was the style of play that everyone remembers. Pure school of science stuff.
The last victory there before that was, as already stated, in 1987. Kevin Sheedy scored the game’s only goal, and sadly the Irish midfield genius is back in the news this week because he has been diagnosed with bowel cancer. That’s just an awful thing for anyone to discover. All you can do is wish him, and anyone else out there suffering with their health, the very best and a speedy recovery.