‘Don’t look down, lad. Don’t look down. I’ve got some good news for you and some bad news. The good news is that it’s not soft tissue damage…’
The tale of Everton’s trip to Stevenage should have been about how the Blues made a mockery of the banana-skin-seeking BT Sport cameras and put on one of those gulf-in-class-underlining performances that always seemed to be de rigeur for most of the Premier League apart from us. However, this professional and controlled display from Roberto Martinez’s Blues was overshadowed almost totally by a gruesome injury to Bryan Oviedo.
Playing in midfield and gamely tackling back, the versatile Costa Rican got his legs tangled up in the definitive ‘innocuous challenge’ – they’re often far worse than even the really ‘ocuous’ ones – and ended up on the deck. He tried to get up, his leg didn’t, and now he will miss the rest of the season and possibly the World Cup in Brazil.
Rotten luck and that ain’t no lie.
It’s a shame for anyone to suffer such a serious injury, but it seems particularly cruel on someone who has waited as long for their opportunity as cult hero Oviedo has. Now, footballing cult figures fit several archetypes, but they are mostly energetic yard-dogs, locally born hard cases, simple ale tanks or just good goalscorers who bite white people. The smiling, Sapphic-haired Central American though has won over the Everton supporters for the way, when called upon after so long, he stepped up and seamlessly filled the boots of one of the club’s brightest stars, Leighton Baines.
Taking his sadly historic goal at Old Trafford smoother than a Kenco coffee bean then only cemented his place in the hearts and minds of Blues who all seem gutted for someone who appears to be a genuinely good egg too. He might not be, like, he might be a right little ratbag for all we know, but he always comes across as a fairly unassuming and pleasant sort – there are definitely plenty of players in the Premier League more deserving of having their leg kicked the fuck off. But we’ll probably get to some of them in the second bit.
Oviedo won’t feature for the rest of the season now, which is a genuine loss to Everton, but everyone hopes that he at least manages to get fit in time for the World Cup and comes back next season ready to carry on where he left off for the Toffees.
In better fullback news, the man whose metronome consistency kept the Latin livewire out of the first team for so long, the aforementioned Leighton Baines, has finally agreed a new four-year deal that should keep him at Goodison until he is 33. That’s the proverbial ‘coup’ because, as we never really tire of saying, Baines is just about the textbook definition of an Everton player.
‘Supports Liverpool and never won anything.’ Yes, very good at the back, very droll. If you have to have it explained then you will never really understand. He just is, possibly in the way that Steven Gerrard is more of less the definitive Liverpool player.
And you can take that however you please.
Everton did have far too much for Stevenage, despite the changes to the squad, with Steven Naismith leading the line well in the absence of the rested Romelu Lukaku. The Scot scored two goals, with the first teed up by the impressive full-debutant Aiden McGeady. Granted, it was only a Division One fullback the Irishman was skinning but considering he hasn’t played much first team football in the last six months he looked lively enough and full of running.
Substitutes Johnny Heitinga and Magaye Gueye – did you have him last goal as well? – rounded off the scoring and their mere inclusions underlined the sorry state the squad is in at present. And that’s a shame, because with our best team you genuinely wouldn’t be surprised if we went to Anfield and buried them like a pet, especially after watching their game against Aston Villa the other weekend.
With so many players missing though, you can’t have the same level of belief. A load are said to be borderline in terms of fitness, but even if they can patch up the likes of Ross Barkley and Steven Pienaar, will they be sharp enough to shine in what is a pretty tough ground for any side, never mind us?
Having said all that, despite the dent to our ambitions caused by all the injuries we still probably go with more belief than ever simply because of what’s gone before this season. The confidence that the players have and the style of football we employ under Martinez are what saw us completely outplay the Reds for long periods at Goodison, for instance, as well as also beating Chelsea there before winning away at Manchester United and then terrifying the life out of Arsenal at the Emirates when almost everyone still believed that they might actually win the title this season.
In short, nobody really has a clue of what to expect from this game. Anything seems possible under Martinez – you wouldn’t be at all surprised if some youngster like John Stones was forced to play and had an absolute stormer, while Lukaku, who must be due a decent game, could have Liverpool’s centre-halves looking over their shoulders more warily than Linda Nolan on Top of the Pops. On the other hand, their front two are clearly a genuine danger for anyone, with mantrap molars in particular proving particularly troublesome for even the sturdiest Blues’ defences since he’s been there. Therefore it’s certainly no great stretch to imagine him running riot against any makeshift back-line.
It’s undoubtedly an intriguing game then, because are so many new variables after years of these games having a fairly settled pattern, but whether it is ‘the biggest derby in years’ as it is being billed seems questionable. With so many points still to play for, and plenty of matches remaining against the division’s other top teams, nothing will be settled on Tuesday night, whatever the outcome.
So then, with all that to reflect on, and in something of a break from tradition, we leave the final words to none other than smoky-eyed shite-spieler Mr Brendan Rodgers.
‘When I came in here Everton had finished above Liverpool and last season finished above us also.
‘Everton’s basis is a good defensive record, still stable from what they have been over a few years – we are a team who have upped the ante in terms of our offensiveness.’