We keep toying with the idea of updating this thing daily, come what may, in the same way that comedian Richard Herring has with his blog.
But then we can’t be arsed. He mustn’t have anything better to do.
Actually he might, as he’s not updated it since Thursday, the lying, lazy get.
Anyway, despite a ‘raft’ of injuries – not a schooner, clipper or steamer, but a ‘raft’ – Everton have hit some decent form, resulting in quite a tense but enjoyable victory over the best West Ham side to come to Goodison for years. That wasn’t enough though, they then went and upset the odds by securing a fantastic win at Wolfsburg and therefore topping the Europa League group with a game to spare.
Romelu Lukaku was the star of the show in Germany with by far his best performance of the season. The home side are second in the Bundesliga and clearly decent in possession, so with Everton seeing much less of the ball than they are used to it needed the Belgian to hold the ball up and occupy them a bit in order to give the defence some respite. Granted, there’s still an element of first touch tombola when the ball is played up to him – it’s liable to either stick like glue or shoot off at some alarming ‘that piss in the middle of the night that drenches the bath mat’ angle – but he battled, won the odd header and generally ‘put a shift in’. On top of that he scored a very typical Lukaku goal, bundling past defenders on the break from the halfway line before coolly slotting in the bottom corner, before sealing the match by slipping in countryman Kevin Mirallas for an even sexier second.
You can’t over-estimate the value of having the Jack Russell-faced wide-man back in the team and he showed commendable fitness to take his goal so well so late in the game given his lack of ‘match minutes’ lately. Unfortunately though James McCarthy had to bow out of the game early on with a hamstring injury that will see him miss the visit to Spurs. Leon Osman did great alongside the somewhat improved Mohamed Besic, but it was pretty much the ideal game for him; McCarthy’s energy and strength will be sorely missed against a Tottenham team desperate for a win. Other than that though, there were a lot of positives to be taken from the game – and the police didn’t seem to feel the need to start wellying people for no reason, unlike them horrible twats in France.
As for Spurs, well, they’re just Spurs aren’t they. They’ve never really been any different: they love a flavour-of-the-month manager – we said Mauricio Pocchetino had ‘torrid ten-month spell at White Hart Lane’ written all over him when he was still at Southampton – and they spend just enough money to raise expectations, and certainly more than we ever do, but pretty much always fail to deliver. In many ways this present squad of theirs, an assemblage of quite remarkably over-priced mediocrity funded by the sale of Gareth Bale, pretty much formed the recruitment blueprint followed slavishly by Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool with the Luis Suarez money.
From the outside looking in it does appear that clubs like Spurs and Liverpool, with seemingly convoluted management structures based on ‘the continental model’ – whatever that is – do seem to be doomed to repeat their mistakes. Let’s face it, it’s not like clubs in Spain and Italy are renowned for their stability and patience, is it?
On the surface it might seem anachronistic to suggest that the real way to run a club is to have one single-minded individual, the manager, driving everything, but the fact is that in English football at least that is more or less the only ‘model’ that’s ever brought consistent success. Could you imagine Brian Cough, Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho talking about a ‘transfer committee’ like that beaten cuckold Rodgers? Football clubs are complicated, nuanced organisations with so many factors to manage so while there clearly needs to be increasing numbers of staff, that means that there has to be even more accountability and clear focus on who is, as they say, the gaffer. Say what you like about Bill Kenwright, and hey, who hasn’t, he has never pretended to know more about football than the men he’s employed as manager at Everton and the club have benefited from that. What were very much a club and a team in the image of David Moyes – again, say what you like about that – are now very much Roberto Martinez’s.
Going back to the former Blues’ manager there, he’s got four points in two games over there at Real Sociedad although admittedly against relatively modest opposition. Before they play one of the big two over there can we just be the first to coin the phrase ‘take a knife to a bull fight’?
If you can’t be bothered watching the Tottenham match because you still get a horrible feeling when we play there, despite our form improving dramatically in this fixture in the past ten years or so, you should watch a film on Netflix called The Last of the Gladiators. It’s about enforcers in the NHL and focuses on one of the most infamous, Chris Nilan, who used to twat people for the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins. The whole ‘goon’ phenomenon is strange and probably unique in top class sport. Most of these enforcers are basically hard cases who wouldn’t be top level professionals if it wasn’t for their ability to fight and therefore deter the other team from intimidating the skilful players. Seeing how that role affects these fellas, who know that their livelihood depends on their willingness and ability to have what generally look a lot like manic, sweaty playground scraps, is interesting. For supposed mindless lunatics they express a lot of self-doubt and insecurity and many of them, not least Nilan who ended up on the brown, do seem to struggle to cope in later life.