Southampton and Disco Dancing and That

leslie phillips

First thing’s first, if you like a bit of young person’s music and staying up until all hours then you could do a lot worse than go to a night organised by some Blues this weekend.

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You can get tickets from here.

If Everton win at lunchtime at Southampton make sure you go up and ask the DJ for Z Cars, they love that.

As discussed earlier in the week, winning down on the South Coast is pretty much a must if the Mighty Blues are to keep up any semblance of pressure on Arsenal, who must surely beast Newcastle United out of sight at the Emirates. Does Alan Pardew even turn up for their games now?

It’s a tough assignment for the Toffees this one though, as Southampton under Mario Pocchetino have proved to be a really decent side. Unfortunately for them though they are in that somewhat unsatisfactory stage where they aren’t quite strong enough to win anything, but they have been impressive enough for richer clubs to start looking enviously at their players and possibly even the manager.

The one everyone talks about is Luke Shaw, apparently heading to all sorts of destinations for massive money. He is undoubtedly mature beyond his years like, but just because he grew a muzzy at 14 and looks like a Howard Wilkinson wet dream at 18 does that necessarily mean his advancement will continue at the same rate?

One word: Micah Richards.

Adam Lallana is another good player, and almost certain to go to the World Cup with England. In the words of Roger Daltrey, he sure plays a mean through-ball, but probably lacks the pace to ever be an absolute superstar. He would be wonderful for Everton, as a long-term successor to Leon Osman, but in all truth a slightly unsatisfactory career at White Hart Lane in the ‘Lewis Holtby role’ is probably more likely.

Pocchetino deservedly gets a lot of praise and you wouldn’t be at all surprised if his ‘people’ were advising him to make the most of being ‘hot’ at the moment. Again, you wouldn’t rule out Tottenham after they are knocked back by whoever goes to Manchester United and maybe Arsenal.

One of modern football’s best throwaway ‘facts’ is that the Argentine speaks perfect English but chooses to pretend not to, to avoid unwelcome questions. Except he would still have to answer them, just through an interpreter. Which is more awkward and takes longer.

Still, whenever he is confronted by the Sky cameras, in front of a grey board plastered in irrelevant advertising, you do half expect him to turn and break the fourth wall, whispering sotto voce in a cut glass Leslie Phillips accent: ‘This is a load of old pony isn’t it, viewers?’ Before turning back and mumbling some more anodyne Spanish.

There will obviously be a minute’s silence for Jay Rodriguez’s England career before the game, and Ricky Lambert, once described as the most unlikely looking Scouser ever, will have to lead the line alone. He actually looks more like that fella who will dig the footings for your extension for a score, or who you see walking really purposefully along the central reservation of the motorway in just a pair of tracky bottoms, miles away from anywhere on a freakishly hot summer day.

What else? Gerard Deulofeu might stay for another season. Is that a good thing? Probably. He is really exciting at times, and massively punchable at others. You’d certainly rather see him as part of the attacking three before Danny Welbeck, who we have been linked with. Can you see there being suitors queuing around the block for a player like him who has struggled to stand out in that United team?

Speaking of which, a headline in the Daily Star proclaimed ‘Moyes: United stitched me up’. Stitched him up to the tune of about £10 million!

And that’s it. Watch Everton, rave safe.

See you on the other side.

Everton and Footy and That

steve round ring binder

‘Come in Dave, take a seat. Just, hang on, make sure that door’s shut properly behind you. That’s great. Anyway, thanks for getting in handy at such short notice. So do you have any idea why I’ve asked you here?’

‘Ed, I could see your fucking scythe through the window. Is that meant to be funny?’

Boom!

Following the sorry-arse performance that confirmed mathematically, as opposed to simply ‘because even a blind fool can see it’, that Manchester United won’t be playing Champions League next season, former Blues’ boss David Moyes has finally been dragged out behind the Carrington woodshed and put out of his misery. Like an old dog that keeps pissing everywhere.

And paid £28 million for Marouane Fellaini.

Moyes always had a tough job following Alex Ferguson, everyone knew that, but at times it was like he was willfully going out of his way to prove his detractors right. From the very start he seemed to get everything cock-eyed, culminating in an absolute hiding at Goodison Park which he tried to describe as a decent performance when in truth Everton could and should have scored more than the two that they did.

Every United supporter in the ground on Sunday must have looked at the Toffees, full of pace, aggression and invention, and thought ‘that’s meant to be us, that’. And that was with our centre-forward absolutely honking the place out and Mark Clattenburg proving that his officiating is still less accurate than his VAT returns.

On the subject of the United supporters, hopefully their constant singing of Heysel songs highlighted to the home fans just how ugly these particular forms of ‘attack’ on Liverpool are.

Did they expect everyone to join in with them?

After all, they might be murderers, but they’re our murderers.

They’re not really murderers.

Kevin Mirallas took the second goal brilliantly, and had an all-round great game, but he’s torn his groin and misses the last three matches of the season, which is yet another blow to the Blues as they battle with Arsenal for fourth place. Sylvain Distin’s also having a scan on his hamstring, so he could be missing too. Antolin Alcaraz deputised well in the second half against United, but as we all know, any prolonged spell of running about can lead to the Paraguayan getting a doctor’s note that describes him as ‘just not really very well in himself’. Hopefully Phil Jagielka will be back soon.

Going back to Distin, he was fit enough to apparently go and try and confront some Herbert in the Gwladys Street who had given him stick on Twitter.

What sort of bell-end move is that? If the lad had been in his seat, just how many ugly ways could that scenario have ended?

Yes, exactly.

The animated-prawn-faced Frenchman needs to give the social networks a swerve if they are provoking him into looking for real-world straighteners. That said, he’s probably just bored stiff in the house now she won’t let him out of her sight.

‘Where do you think you’re fuckin’ going, soft lad?’

‘Ah ey mon amour, I’m only shooting round to get a pint of… a paper.’

Missing these players is a kick in the dick when it comes to Champions League qualification, although conversely it was Robert Martinez’s surfeit of options that were our undoing in the game that will be pinpointed as the one where we blew it should we fail to overturn Arsenal’s one-point lead.

After a slightly grim game against unlikely kingmakers Sunderland, when Wes Brown turned Gerard Deulofeu’s cross into his own net to give Everton all three points, Martinez appeared to take Crystal Palace way too lightly.  He tinkered with the starting line-up – it almost looked as if he was trying to keep the squad happy by giving everyone a game – but the Eagles are no mugs under Tony Pulis and Everton were punished 3-2. The former Stoke City boss has got the London team organised and really hard to beat, at which point someone with no class whatsoever would suggest that he’s probably a front-runner for the United job then.

It was definitely a mistake by Martinez, playing a starting eleven that was seemed so ad hoc and stilted in its approach that only the absence of Magaye Gueye on the left stopped it being a proper ‘League Cup side’. That said, the crafty Catalan really doesn’t get many wrong and so has more than earned the right to the odd aberration. And, just to reiterate, Palace really were decent – there’s no absolute guarantee that our best team would have beaten them on the night.

The fact of the matter is we take an injury-thinned squad to Southampton while the Gunners are at home to Newcastle ‘seriously, how the fucking hell are they not fighting relegation by now’ United this weekend, so it’s probably fair to say that the ball is well and truly in their court.

All we can hope for is to ‘keep them honest’, make sure that the final home game against Manchester City has everything riding on it, and then hopefully we go into the last day with it all still to play for. Whatever happens, it’s been ace, and Everton continue to prove that the grass is rarely greener away from Goodison Park. Especially if your old dog keeps pissing all over it.

Newcastle and Fulham and That

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There’s that bit in The Matrix when Keanu Reeves’ character begins to realise his own power and potential, looks up at Laurence Fishburne, makes the Bruce Lee ‘come hither’ motion with his fingertips and says, ‘I know Kung Fu’.

Everton know Kung Fu.

Well, they looked like they did on Tuesday night at Saint James’ Park when Roberto Martinez’s ballsy – yes, ballsy – team selection resulted in Newcastle United perhaps not quite getting torn a new one, but at least poked vigorously in the old one.

Have that.

Martinez dropped Kevin Mirallas and Aiden McGeady after the strangely meandering team performance at the weekend and brought in Gerard Deulofeu. The result was arguably the best blend of talent available to the Blues’ boss, certainly in terms of setting up to counter-attack away from home. The ever-dependable Gareth Barry and James McCarthy shielded the pacey and promising central defensive partnership of John Stones and Sylvian Distin while up front the rampaging trifecta (tri-fuck-yeah?) of Deulofeu, Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley continually streaked straight towards Tim Krul’s goal like predators through the pampas.

And linking it all together – his appreciation of space a substitute for his absence of pace – was little Neon Leon.

McCarthy initially made a double block during a goalmouth scramble that was scruffier than Gideon Yobo’s bachelor pad, and Vurnon Anita was guilty of a horrific miss in the second half, but you only have to read the wistful North East match reports to know this night was all about Everton.

Barkley started it off with his wonder goal, initiated when Deulofeu showed some courage to chest down a clearance despite a defender’s lunging limb. The ball dropped to Barkley in the Everton half and he started running.

And running.

And running.

It’s not often that Lukaku reminds you of Alan Partridge, but his shouts of ‘Ross, Ross, Ross’ fell on deaf ears as the midfielder cut across the penalty area, dribbled around his Belgian teammate and lashed the ball into the roof of the net with his left foot.

‘Ross!’

‘No, he’s not heard me.’

‘ROSS!’

An incredible individual goal that overshadowed the quality of the rest somewhat, but they were all pearlers in their own way.

The second, not long after the break, started with Osman unmarked in the centre-circle, clipping the ball out into the path of Deulofeu. As soon as the Spaniard took the aggressive first touch that sent him straight down the wing, fullback Paul Dummett was reduced to the position of observer.

With Deulofeu in full flight and half a hectare of space, Lukaku’s run to the near post wasn’t so much a gamble as a bigger sure thing than your Mum. The confluence of striker and sphere, timed to perfection, meant only one thing.

Goal.

In the dying moments, following a clever touch in midfield from Steven Naismith, Deulofeu drew two weary defenders before finding Lukaku who in turn teed up Osman. His swerving drive into the roof of the net was thoroughly deserved.

At the same time as all this was going on, Arsenal’s stirring fightback at the Emirates was undone by Matthieu Flamini’s own goal. And the Premier League landscape shifted ever-so-slightly.

After playing Manchester City this weekend the Gunners travel to Goodison Park, and that Flamini goal means that encounter has the potential to be an era-defining game for both clubs. Because if Everton were to make it into  the Champions’ League at Arsene Wenger’s expense, well, the repercussions would clearly be far-reaching.

To make that so, Everton’s result at Craven Cottage really needs to at least match Arsenal’s against City, and that seems eminently achievable given the recent form of all concerned.

And that would bring us to the Arsenal game itself and an opportunity that recently we never looked like getting, i.e. another chance to lose our tag as big-game chokers. Let’s be honest, there have been plenty of high points this season but there is still that lingering doubt, that hangover,  from the last regime when it comes to the ‘clutch plays’. The Anfield derby – and to a lesser extent the Goodison one – and the FA Cup tie against Arsenal saw the Everton public let down on the big occasions.

But there just might be one last chance to set that record straight. And if Martinez’s men go into the Arsenal match in touching distance of the one-time title tips, with a game in hand, have they got what it takes to just seize the fucking day this time?

Have they?

It’s mad isn’t it, to be even thinking like this given the way the season looked to be slipping away from us in the past month or so? But, you know, as the man says, just when you thought you were out, they pull you back in.

But they’ll do that, Everton.

The bastards.

Cardiff City and That

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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.

The twats.

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.

Ends.