The lack of importance of this match was highlighted by the fact that Steven Naismith started up front alongside Victor Anichebe.
It was ages ago now so there’s little point dwelling on the details. Tim Howard failed to hold onto a straightforward low shot from Demba Ba on seven minutes and Juan Mata – whose name always makes you think of a Levellers chorus – tucked home the rebound.
However, Everton, who played good football throughout, much as they did against these opponents at Goodison, had Rafael Benitez doing his pink-cheeked glasses polishing thing just seven minutes later. The Toffees’ strikers combined on the edge of the home side’s box and Naismith, who really does have a disturbingly sickly ‘bubble boy’ look about him, clipped a neat finish over the sprawling Petr Cech to level the scores.
A deflected Darron Gibson drive then almost embarrassed Cech, striking the post, his daft hat and then the post again but crucially staying out of the back of the net. Two supposedly misfiring strikers, Fernando Torres and Everton sub Nikica Jelavic featured in the closing stages. The Croatian, almost inevitably, failed to convert a couple of decent chances while Chelsea’s hormonal hotshot webbed Victor Moses’s knockdown inside Howard’s near post for the winner on 74 minutes.
At the end the Chelsea crowd help up banners for Benitez that more or less said ‘YOU’RE STILL A CUNT’ while Moyes waved farewell to the Evertonians as manager for the final time. Thwarted again at Stamford Bridge and a handful of other specifically singled-out grounds, next season it will be interesting to see how he fares when he’s no longer accused of, as the old saying goes, ‘Bringing Tony Hibbert to a gunfight’.
Since the final match we seem to wake up every morning to read about the latest ‘big mover’ in the betting for the Everton job and it is getting pretty tiresome already. In essence, these stories boil down to ‘the amount of money you would have received in the event of an unlikely thing just decreased’. There can’t be many sectors where the lower the return is the more popular the investment becomes.
Roberto Martinez was the nailed-on choice for a good while and it seems that the only real thing you can be sure of with him is that he will be even more divisive in terms of the supporters’ opinions than Moyes. He seems a lovely fella and he obviously has loads of experience of managing in the Premier League on a budget, but a big leap of faith is required in terms of assuming that all of Wigan’s deficiencies, most notably that they never win that many games, are down to the lack of finances at his disposal. Everyone does seem to rate him in the game though – you just have to judge for yourself how significant that fact is.
Another option that keeps getting mooted is Phil Neville taking over. He certainly wants the job, and he is extremely respected within the club, but fucking hell what a bad appointment that would be. Seriously, it’s the footballing equivalent of Kenwright moping round the flat, wearing one of Moyes’s oversized workshirts as a nighty and occasionally flopping disconsolately on the bed and inhaling his scent from the pillow.
It’s very rare that simply working under a number of top managers qualifies you to walk straight into one of the country’s top jobs. It just reeks of Stuart Pearce, and the Everton boss can’t be seen to be peddling organic fucking supplements to visiting managers.
‘Honestly Jose, all fucking night mate, absolutely rock solid.’
Perhaps more importantly though, Neville isn’t showbiz enough for the situation Everton are in at the moment. The Blues have had the same manager for 11 years and the stability he brought – and that we all longed for during the long years of chaos – has bled into boredom for many supporters. As a result, Neville doesn’t really stand a chance. If he started off performing worse than Moyes did this season – and there’s every chance that the next boss will – then he will simply be seen as a watered down version. More of the same, just not as good, and woe betide the first remotely defensive-looking substitution he makes.
A more exotic manager could perform exactly the same as Neville and would get far more latitude because there would be the feeling that his new ideas were ‘taking time to bed in’. It’s essentially the Brendan Rodgers strategy, of providing a narrative and a way of looking at a set of results and performances that gives the impression that they are leading to some imperceptible but definitely really ace point in the distance when in fact the real picture is ‘this is how good we actually are’.
To be honest though maybe that sort of bullshit isn’t really that bad. Maybe that false hope is what we all want – perhaps Moyes’s biggest ‘downfall’ was that he seemed quite frank about the Blues’ position; he was getting the very best out of his players and there was going to be no great leap forward unless things changed massively off-the-field. And that in turn meant ‘some mad fucker to just give us an immoral amount of dough to throw at hateful players’. Therefore relatively unlikely
With all that in mind then, Porto’s Vitor Pereira looks by far the best of the front-runners. We don’t know anything about him really, but that’s the best thing about him – he might be ace, and that’s enough.
Another factor that could favour someone who has been working abroad is that the new Premier League television deal gives English clubs a marked competitive advantage when buying from overseas. With everyone getting more dough over here buying off each other doesn’t really change, but that extra cash should allow shrewd operators to bring over really good players from the Continent. Obviously all Premier League clubs already having a working knowledge of foreign markets when it comes to the biggest and best players in other countries, but Michael Laudrup, for instance, showed with his signing of Michu that day-to-day experience of working in a country can allow you to unearth some absolute bargains.
Don’t ask for any more examples like, just accept the theory as seeming quite plausible at first glance. You would if it was in the Telegraph.
In short then – to summarise, if you will – no one’s got a fucking clue who is coming or which of the proposed candidates would actually be any good.
Apart from Neville. He’d be a disaster.