16 August (game)

I don’t think we will ever forget this day.

The emotion was almost overwhelming at times. Not the actual match, although that was chaotic and glorious in itself, but seeing faces that you haven’t set eyes on for 17 months – especially those people you are only on nodding terms with – and realising that they’ve made it this far. 

Then the sirens of course, and those haunting Z Cars violins at half-time, it was as exhausting as it was exhilarating. I’m going to go again here just thinking about it.

We will clearly start moaning about football again at some point, and how ‘the game’s gone’, but this whole weekend it was just incredible having the overblown, preposterous circus back in town. Brentford beating Arsenal on the opener, Capuccino Casuals getting a thick ear outside the Cafe Nero on Deansgate, the Sweet Caroline montage on Match of the Day, Luke Ayling and Bruno Fernandes’ ‘rat off’ at Old Trafford, Nuno Espirito Santo’s Queer Eye makeover, Oliver Skipp looking like he should be getting filled in by Dennis Waterman in a scrap yard. All of it; the fucking lot. 

As for the Toffees, everyone knows what the flaws of this squad are – and they were exposed at times, even by an ordinary-looking Southampton – but, crucially, the new manager seems to be trying to play to their strengths and that was what ultimately won the game after a poor first half. 

 A debutant goalscorer called Armstrong slotting at Goodison on the opening day was a bad omen, and the Saints’ Adam could not have dreamed of a simpler opportunity to ‘open his account’ for his new club. One of the aforementioned weaknesses of this Everton is that no one has any confidence in any of the central defenders apart from Ben Godfrey, missing here as one of the COVID five. Mason Holgate partnered Michael Keane, and the latter transformed a pretty vanilla situation into disaster, turning into Che Adams who nicked the ball to Armstrong. The former Blackburn striker was never going to miss, with time to pick his spot in the top corner of the Gwladys Street goal.

Oh Michael, was it the sore foot again?

Anyway, nothing says ‘back at Goodison’ more than missing a goal while having a burst. And lo and behold, straight after the restart, Andros Townsend headed a half-cleared corner back into the six-yard box where Richarlison was unmarked to volley into the roof of the net.

And that was it from then.

With the rain pouring and the lights coming on, the game took on one of those glorious last helicopter out of Saigon atmospheres that make Goodison the only place on earth you want to be at that moment. 

Reeking of Carling and cordite, the Blues simply ran straight over the top of Southampton. And no one more so than the wonderful Abdoulaye Doucoure. He works his heart out for the Blues, and has done from day one. It often looked a thankless task under Carlo Ancelotti, compensating for a lack of legs from his teammates and a defence that conceded so much territory. Pushed further forward he continued to constantly harass the opposition here, as persistent as a Church Street clipboard merchant, and on 76 minutes his ‘all action display’ got the reward it so richly deserved. 

It’s not often the introduction of Alex Iwobi turns a game, but the much-maligned midfielder played a part in Everton’s second and third goals. It was his cushioned header that Doucoure collected with his back to goal, before a starburst of whirling limbs saw him spin past his marker and smash a shot into the top corner. 

Goodison just went full Master and Commander.

Cutlasses drawn and pitch invaders on the starboard bow, the Blues continued to pour forward in Match of the 70s style. Iwobi found Richarlison on 81 minutes, he swung a cross to the near post and Dominic Calvert-Lewin dived in like Bob Latchford to glance a header through Alex McCarthy and over the line.

Stick your false nine up your fake hole.

Goodison won’t be around forever, and the pandemic has given us all a stark reminder that neither will we. So days like these, cherish them.

And cherish each other. We’re all we have. 

There is nothing else.