Hey, why the long face? It’s all still to play for.
Assuming the Europa League represents ‘all’ of course.
The FA Cup was the big one, clearly, and in the recent Everton tradition we blew the big game when the glory, or at least a trip to Wembley and a clear run at the silverware, were beckoning. You could almost smell the Brasso on the breeze.
Despite almost all the same personnel featuring Everton weren’t the same team that dominated the first half at the Emirates in early December. And to give them their due the home side seemed more prepared this time and more willing to press and graft and disrupt the Everton passing rhythm that so mesmerised them for long portions of that league encounter.
The Blues had their moments, not least when Ross Barkley’s run and cross ended with Romelu Lukaku juggling home the equaliser, but after Barkley smashed wide a great chance to take the lead and then Gareth Barry made a lazy challenge on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain it was all Arsenal. We were simply left to reflect and take stock on a season that promised so much but now has us competing for the consolation prizes.
The players know that the idea of finishing fourth is fanciful now, but hopefully everyone at the club is genuinely keen on qualifying for the Europa League if that’s the best we can achieve. Roberto Martinez has given the club a lift with his attitude and his outlook this season but the novelty will start to wear off, as it does for every manager who isn’t winning stuff – playing in Europe again will go a long way to extending his ‘honeymoon period’, especially as the way we play now could see us do better than we have in the past.
As supporters we embrace newness and hope – routine and predictability are the enemies of every management regime – and the prospect of getting some exotic foreign sides to Goodison on a Thursday night, or even better, travelling to some of football’s lesser known venues, will build anticipation ahead of next season. Otherwise what do you have? The prospect of worrying whether we can strike it as lucky as we have on the loan front again and knowing deep down that no matter how brilliantly we play ‘on our day’, our lack of finances will almost certainly be our undoing over the length of the season and in the crunch matches?
Ultimately that’s what it might come down to anyway, but we have to at least try to finish as high as possible, and fifth is definitely doable. That would almost certainly mean we would finish higher than Manchester United as well, and given what’s gone on this season – and let’s face it, because they are Manchester United – that is something that the supporters would still take a great deal of heart from. Whatever your opinion of David Moyes, him failing miserably at Old Trafford might go some small way to convincing others that leaving Everton should never be regarded as a great career move.
That is only if you ignore his undoubtedly enormous pay rise though, obviously.
It will certainly be a travesty if the players switch off now and let Martinez down by coasting for the run in. They should certainly beat Cardiff City, third from bottom having played a game more than a lot of the sides around them.
The Bluebirds are almost the epitome of the modern Premier League football club. If someone was going to write some terrible novel or ITV drama about an imaginary club playing in a non-descript ‘bookies window’ kit with a ‘cast of colourful characters’ it would borrow most of its archetypes from the Welsh club.
Vincent Tan is an absolute crank but an extremely interesting character. And the game needs more characters, remember? The changing of the kit colour was an absolute disgrace and it is astonishing that more people didn’t start boycotting the games at that point, never mind actually wearing the replica red shirts.
The stuff with Malky Mackay seems a different matter altogether though. That thumb-faced poor man’s Walter Smith is always described by pundits and ex-players as a ‘proper football person’, which they mean as a compliment but is in fact code for ‘arl arse who will make a fucking fortune by taking advantage of an owner who doesn’t understand how the game works’. Football is absolutely riddled with these ‘suit jacket over the arm reading a text while walking to the Merc’ chancers. The clubs earn billions yet they are all in debt or going bust while the fans struggle to pay extortionate ticket prices – all the while though these Sexy Beasts like Mackay continue to sun themselves in Dubai and would never dream of ordering a ‘carafe of the house red, lad’ and their mates like Alan Hansen and Robbie Savage will cry on their behalf on telly whenever an owner carries them to the garden gate and sticks his toe up their arse.
Was he ever realistically considered for the Everton job? What a horrible thought.
Still, even that fat mess appears to have been better at management than grinning little chin-dribbler Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
‘Guys, guys. Come on, listen, listen. When I was at United, Sir Alex would always say…’
‘Can it you gimp, no one gives a shit. Ahahaha look, Bellamy’s got his knob out!’
Going back to Tan, you have to admire his front in some regards. His ‘if you want to change the club colours back to blue then buy it off me and do what you like’ comment was nothing if not honest and transparent.
And that’s it for now. There was going to be a bit about how Barkley appears to be running like his boots are too tight at the moment, and how one of Martinez’s biggest challenges is how he gets the best out of a player who has become ‘a bit Fellaini’ in that he is capable of making a big impact but seems to drift out of games and often disrupts a tightly organised system with his erratic touches and lack of discipline. Well, that was that bit really.