Sheffield United 0 Everton 1

What’s 12 inches long, pink and gives pleasure?

For all the soul-searching when the Cobra Kai, defend-deep-strike-swiftly mantra of the previous three games failed us against Manchester United, the stark fact was exposed that the key factor deciding success and failure for the Toffees seems to be whether Richarlison plays well or not.

Like the rest of his teammates he was struggling to see much of the ball against the mercurial Mancunians even before that sly shove in the back and the knack in the head left him so confused that he was actually on his feet feigning not being injured.

Without the Brazilian taking the ball in tight areas and running at defenders the other faults in the team seem to be exaggerated, particularly the muddled midfield where, without Allan of James Rodriguez, Tom Davies and Andre Gomes present what seems an insipid Hobson’s choice for Carlo Ancelotti. 

That performance was so disappointing, going out of of the League Cup in such a miserable fashion, that we went into the game in Sheffield almost feeling like we are one of the worst sides the Premier League’s seen, not them. And let’s not get twisted here, bruv, Chris Wilder’s team are horrific.

Just look at them. Modern squads are packed almost exclusively with six-foot racing snakes from an Ivan Drago training montage while the Bramall Lane team photo looks like Angela’s Ashes.

In dreadful weather, both sides conspired to ‘out-shite’ each other for long periods. Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s brilliant chest control and subsequent volley wide of the post was the only highlight of a dismal first half. 

Having centre-halves at fullback generally proved effective against teams who have a lot of the ball, but it was always going to look awkward when we were expected to take the game to the opposition. Seamus Coleman’s introduction instantly made a difference, as did Bernard’s replacement of Anthony Gordon, the youngster who always looks like he should be breathlessly delivering a vital message to the king ahead of a battle with dragons. 

Tom Davies’ steady performance was one of the few plus points of the first hour or so – he looked unlucky to be subbed as Ancelotti tried to push for a winner. The bohemian ball-player gave way for Gomes, who seems to cut such a frustrated figure lately. It’s like he’s never fully recovered from that injury and his body now refuses to do what his football brain expects. As a result he takes to the field looking like the last words the coach whispers in his ear are ‘Mate, I’m so sorry. She’s taken the kids to her ma’s in Skem.’

Again though, with the game stretched – and against dreadful opposition – Gomes also lifted the collective quality on the ball and the hopes of an Everton goal.

And on 81 minutes it arrived. 

All three subs were involved in the build up before Bernard’s exquisite touch – like Mats Wilander playing a drop-shot on the deck of Deadliest Catch – allowed Abdoulaye Doucoure to tee up Gylfi Sigurdsson to drill a proper angled finish past Aaron Ramsdale. 

Boof!

The referee played loads of added time and you were halfway across your living room with your head in your hands, cheese and crackers all over the Axminster, admit it, every time some candy-striped mule shanked one goalward for them. 

Going back to the question posed back at the start, what’s 12 inches, pink and all that: it’s Roy’s penis.

And his first book, of course.

Think Kirkdale Ishiguro, Umberto Pink Echo or Hunter Claus Thompson and you will have a feel for the short stories of Algorithm Party. These are fleeting glimpses into the inner lives of the people involved in those circumstances where ‘something’s deffo gone on there’. The lad with the hood up on his North Face coat/jacket on his way to footy with a spring in his step, the pissed girl whose gaze everyone’s avoiding in the alehouse, the ‘dickhead’ in the local paper wrapped up in a criminal conspiracy. 

Funny, troubling and touching, I’d describe Algorithm Party as a bravura debut if I knew what bravura meant.

Being totally hopeless I’m reviewing this after everyone else and when it appears to be out of print. Looks like you can pre-order in the case of them running off some more though. And you should.

https://www.roughtrade.com/gb/roy/algorithm-party