There’s something weird about the last friendly of the summer, when they break the seal on Goodison and allow us our first tentative whiff of the new season.
It’s always vaguely unsatisfactory, with the stands sparsely populated and the invited foreign Johnnies playing at half-pace. It also detracts from the anticipation of the first proper league game of the season; a bit like finding your Christmas presents halfway through December if you were one of them kids that did that sort of thing.
Real Betis are the third Spanish opponents the Toffees have faced this summer following that reportedly spirited 2-1 defeat at the hands of Real Madrid and then a 1-0 reverse against Valencia in the prestigious 5th/6th place play-off that ended the tournament in the United States. Again reportedly – because despite the advice from some concerned readers there was still no way we were staying up to watch that nonsense – Everton looked last in that match. Roberto Martinez made a load of changes and apparently it showed in a disjointed performance. It was meant to be fucking boiling as well.
Betis play in a rather distinctive green and white kit but other than that does anyone know much about them? A quick scan at their squad shows very few familiar names – about the most well-known to the likes of us who quite frankly couldn’t care less about Spanish football is former Real Madrid winger Juanfran. And you wouldn’t be able to pick him out of a line-up either, unless of course he had his kit on with his name on the back and all the other fellas were the usual leather jacket and knitted cap sorts. That would be a dead giveaway.
The ascendant club in Seville actually finished seventh in La Liga last season, which is fairly respectable until you realise that was a mere 44 points behind champions Barcelona. Congratulations Spain on pursuing a footballing agenda that makes the Premier League look like some sort of Corinthian meritocracy.
It will be interesting to see if either Marouane Fellaini or Leighton Baines feature in Sunday’s game, or whether, like so many want away stars of the English game they will develop what is known as the ‘Suarez sprain’ or the ‘Bale bruising’. There’s also the ‘Rooney rupture’ but that’s something altogether more unseemly.
Manchester United are reportedly ready to offer somewhere in the region of £30 million for the pair having already been knocked back with a £12 million offer for Baines earlier in the summer. Now, we all know that if the players really want to go – and why wouldn’t they, let’s face it – then ultimately they are likely to get what they want. However, for once Everton have the upper hand when it comes to negotiating the price. When push comes to shove, the Blues can simply refuse to sell as, thanks to the fact that all the clubs have received a stack of money from the new television deal, they are for the first time in a long while under no pressure from the bank. What’s more, after being right royally mugged off by Cesc Fabregas and his agents – who are mocking him like the fellas on the ramparts in The Holy Grail – David Moyes is already under massive pressure in his new job.
Welcome to the next level, Charlie Big Spuds.
United are used to getting their own way in the transfer market, and while their lack of any signings so far this summer could be down any number of Glazer-related reasons, the impression that the world is starting to get is that Moyes just isn’t the same sort of shrewd operator as his predecessor. He’s going to lose Wayne Rooney and looks miles away from signing a Bale or a Cristiano Ronaldo – imagine what sort of cunt he is going to look if he can’t even sign a couple of players from the usually compliant Everton then?
That’s what Robert Elstone and Bill Kenwright should play on. Whatever offer comes in they need to go to the papers and give it loads about how they expected him to act like the manager of one of the biggest clubs in the world now that he’s got the finances that he has been publicly bleating on about for years. Put him in the spot where he has to table a daft bid or risk looking like the small-time character that a lot of United fans can’t help but worry that he is.
You can just see Bob and Bill, ties loosened, playing cards in the Everton boardroom with their stockinged feet on the table, puffing on big cigars and sharing a bottle of Johnny Walker. The big old-fashioned phone that we all presume they still have in there goes and Elstone says, ‘Here we go, that’s the soft get now. No, no, let me get it this time’.
‘Hello, yeah, how much are you offering now lad? How much? Seriously? Ha, no dice Rusty Griswald. And don’t ring back again if you’re just going to waste our time. Bill, Bill, have you heard this tit? Ah, he’s gone’.