Was it Black Grape who had an album called ‘You Only Write When We’re Shite, Yeah!’?
Anyway, such is life, it’s been a while again. How have you been? The kids ok? Sorted that other thing with what’s-his-face? Sound. Told you it would all be fine. He’s all talk that one.
Anyway, soccer chat.
’A real roller coaster ride’ is an over-used analogy for football, or indeed anything where outcomes can fluctuate in a short pace of time. Ups and downs, if you will.
However, we never fear the cliche here, and Everton under Roberto Martinez have certainly become a big fairground ride. In particular that one on Final Destination where everyone thinks they have narrowly avoided certain disaster only for slowly but surely the Grim Reaper to catch up with them in a series of grotesque mishaps. Little Hollywood factoid, the series was originally going to be called ‘Unlucky, Cunt!’ but there were some objections, probably by the same vegan do-gooders who are hounding Jeremy Clarkson out of the BBC.
Talking of the presenter with teeth like the Tripoli skyline, one of the most incredible passages in any memoir is the one in Piers Morgan’s sensational diaries when Clarkson chins him, only for Morgan to reply – and he thinks he comes across as dead hard when he writes this – ‘Is that all you’ve got?’
There are record numbers of people using food banks, homelessness is rife and the establishment are blatantly covering over years of bad, bad noncing (no, not as opposed to good kind) and yet what riles people enough to sign petitions and go on big fuck off marches? That shit-jeaned misanthrope getting the bullet off that tediously scripted midlife crisis.
Except it isn’t.
Anyway, Everton. This was written before QPR, in the wake of the Blues chickening it in Kiev. Chances are the Loftus Road game will occur in about three or four paragraphs – let’s hope this whole piece takes on a positive slant by that time. Obviously you know whether it does or not, so this whole thing is getting quite ‘meta’ at this point. But let’s plough on regardless.
All that remains of the season now is to stay up. Europe, our one salvation, ended up the scene of one of our biggest humiliations of a shit season, as Martinez’s latest ad hoc line-up performed the most shocking surrender in Russia since the German Sixth Army. Not only are we not shy of cliches, but we also do a roaring trade in laborious analogies like that last one.
The home game against Newcastle United had everyone quite perky too. All the signs were fairly positive on the Sunday. With Leon Osman pulling the strings and Tim Krul acting proper Tim Howard weird for James McCarthy’s opening goal, the Geordies were as comfortably handled as any opponent we’ve faced in the league all season, which has to be worrying for them.
On a terrible pitch in Kiev though, the Blues just couldn’t do the basics, especially in defence, and got thwacked by a very ordinary side. It was interesting that for the Russian’s imitation surface they didn’t choose to emulate Wembley or the Nou Camp – choosing instead to model it on Ninian Park in the 1970s – but that doesn’t begin to excuse the Toffees for this palaver.
We seem pretty unlikely to go down now, mainly thanks to the Newcastle win – although QPR could potentially make us reassess that statement – and the fact that Romelu Lukaku appears to be bang on form. He’s come in for some justified criticism this season – while still scoring loads of goals, admittedly – but his all round game appears to have moved on a bit lately. Whether that’s down to him or maybe just because the ball’s getting played up to him a bit quicker, allowing him to utilise his strengths instead of dying of boredom as the ball’s shuttled around in defence, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is he will almost certainly score enough goals in the remaining games to ensure we are in the Premier League next season.
Osman returning to fitness could also be a major factor. For all his much-remarked-upon weaknesses, the Blues stalwart continues to prove that you lift as many weights and do as many sit-ups as you like, so you look quite the part when swapping shirts, but when it comes to winning games there really is no substitute for being boss at footy.
When Osman plays, Everton play. It’s never been any different. It is however concerning that for footballing intelligence in the final third we still clearly rely so heavily on a player nearing the end of his career.
Note to self, if he’s stunk the gaff out against QPR just come back and edit that bit out so we look dead ‘clued up’.
Right, let’s stick a pin in this here, as no one really says, and come back after the Super Hoops game.
You’re back in the room.
It was a bit of a rough ride at QPR but wouldn’t you know it, them tricky Toffees only went and won. The perfect start saw an early opener when Osman – yeah, that Osman – added to great work by Arouna Kone and Aaron Lennon by pushing a lovely ball into the path of Seamus Coleman. The Irishman was one who came under scrutiny in the Ukraine – or Russia, wherever, it will probably change soon anyway, pedants – but he showed that he has few Premier League peers in terms of defenders who get forward, as he side-footed an angled shot past Robert Green and into the top corner of the net.
The home side were clearly aware of the Blues’ troubles dealing with the old-fashioned ball in the mixer, and although slapstick centre-half Antolin Alcaraz was dropped, the Yorkshire Yobo, John Stones, had his work cut out all afternoon dealing with the bundling runs of Bobby Zamora. Midway through the second half the home side levelled, a scramble at a corner ended with Eduardo Vargas of the shit-tattoos-even-for-a-footaller lashing the ball past Howard from point blank.
Hearteningly though, Everton responded in the right way, and on 77 minutes scored the winner. Nedum Onuoha did well to prevent Kone converting a great low cross from Coleman, but his block fell kindly for Aaron Lennon who finished unerringly/coolly/with aplomb. He scored, anyway.
It wasn’t the slickest of Everton performances, but no one is arsed in the slightest about that. We know they can do slick, but there have been questions about their commitment and belief. After that long trip back home – admittedly on a comfy jet, not a cattle train – the fact that they came back after losing the lead would make you think that perhaps all is not lost in terms of the players putting the graft in for their under-fire manager.
Obviously we wouldn’t have been so kind if Adel Taarabt’s shot in injury time had gone in instead of striking the bar, but, you know, history is written by the winners and all that.
If you are waiting for some overarching conclusion to all this then sorry, there isn’t one other than: at least we seem even more certain to stay up now than we did 1223 words ago. Which is something.