Adventures In The Skin Trade

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Going to bed an hour before the transfer deadline means that you never know quite what you are going to wake up to – a bit like Christmas Eve.

Well, that is if there’s a chance that Santa Claus might drunkenly stamp your Big Trak into plastic shards and leave a big shit on the Axminster.

‘How could you not stay tuned for Jim White’s vinegar strokes though?’ you ask, knowing that the Blues were embroiled in a veritable tug-of-war with West Bromwich Albion for the services of staggered-run Super Cup spot-kick scuffer Romelu Lukaku? Well, despite being more philosophical than most about Everton’s position in football’s new world order, the thought of them desperately battling (i.e upping the wages on offer) to sign some fucking Chelsea reserve is not a welcome one.

It’s like you accept that your ma has to do whatever she can to feed her crack problem, but it doesn’t mean you want to watch her down on her knees at the docks. And you certainly don’t want running commentary from Vinny O’Connor.

It is, it’s exactly like that.

And while we’re on the subject of unsavoury sexual shenanigans, you have to say that years of being the cutest little thing on the Premier League prison yard has taught Everton a trick or two about survival while David Moyes appears to be struggling in his new role as top dog. The Manchester United manager eventually got what he wanted from the Blues, namely the signature of Marouane Fellaini, but the eventual price of £27.5 million – four more than he could have had him for the other week – represents a badly bitten cock.

Roberto Martinez took the money, or at least a portion of it, and replaced the versatile Fellaini with three specialists. Lukaku is a big centre-forward who scored 17 goals last season while on loan at West Brom – he certainly appears to be an upgrade on the strikers already at the club. The Baggies wanted him back by all accounts, but instead were left to sign our own Victor Anichebe instead. It’s reported that deal could eventually be worth £6 million, which few people would argue looks decent business for the Toffees. Anichebe made great strides last season in terms of his form, but did anyone ever see him genuinely becoming the first-choice Everton centre-forward? Good luck to him though – there will be a lot of expectation on him at the Hawthorns, especially as they not only missed out on getting Lukaku back but also allowed Shane Long to go to Hull City.

In terms of the roles Fellaini was asked to do in midfield, Martinez made another loan signing in the shape of Gareth Barry, a dedicated deep-lying or defensive player. It’s not the most glamorous appointment ever, granted, but in terms of ability he has always been underrated, and a title-winning England international can hopefully bring a degree of experience and character to the side. Don’t roll your eyes too soon, he might prove to be a very shrewd signing.

Finally, all-action – whatever that means – Wigan midfielder James McCarthy completed his protracted move to Goodison for the princely sum of £13 million. It’s a few bob, that’s for sure, but McCarthy has always impressed since a televised game against Liverpool that the Latics won 1-0. He left the field at the end purple in the face after harassing Steven Gerrard worse than an infamous local villain. At the time, Evertonians were trying to convince themselves that their own young midfielder Jack Rodwell’s ability to get through every game with his shorts spotless was a signifier of ‘class’, but unlike the golden boy McCarthy is no stranger to graft having made his debut amongst the shopping trollies and melted wheely bins of the Scottish First Division a day before his 16th birthday.

Martinez certainly appears to rate him as well.

With Leighton Baines remaining at Goodison then, and three almost certain first-team starters replacing one, you have to say that Everton have come out of this transfer window far better than they might have.

And as an added bonus, Moyes and Manchester United have emerged looking like absolute plums.

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Everton 0 West Bromwich Albion 0

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‘Ah, see that arl fella off the Barclays advert’s died’ was the first of several misunderstandings on a muddled afternoon at Goodison.

Fair play to the Match of the Day editors, they managed to make it look like something of a humdinger when in fact Roberto Martinez’s first Premier League home game was, let’s be honest, really boring.

Solid, unadventurous sides, and that’s exactly what Steve Clarke’s Baggies are, can cause problems for anyone, and Everton have struggled in the past to break down teams who treat a visit to Goodison the same way they would Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge.

What we saw on Saturday then was hardly anything totally new, and as we’ve already stated previously you have to resist the temptation to fall into the trap of attributing every event to a proscribed narrative. However, it’s still hard to shake the feeling that the patient approach by Everton that served them fairly well at Carrow Road hampered them to a large degree here. It was the sort of performance that would have been deemed textbook if it were the away leg of a European tie, but at Goodison Park against the sort of side we expect to beat it often looked pretty anaemic.

When Everton got the ball in the box or forced a corner the crowd showed that they were itching to get behind the team and build pressure on West Brom but those moments were simply too infrequent. During the closing stages especially, when you traditionally expect an element of ‘the Alamo’ at Goodison, the match just slithered to its unsatisfactory conclusion. The Goodison atmosphere is a massive weapon in any Everton manager’s arsenal and it just felt like our own approach negated it.

Marouane Fellaini had Everton’s best chance, stabbing a shot against the post, and the largely subdued Seamus Coleman saw a cross glance off the crossbar, but overall the visitors found it reasonably straightforward to maintain their shape and put all the onus on Everton to try and figure the game out.

There’s really not much else to add. Everton weren’t exactly terrible, but the fact is they will face plenty of fit, strong teams like West Brom at Goodison this season and so they will need to consider methods that will force those opponents out of their comfort zone and into making mistakes.

There’s a massive amount of goodwill for Roberto Martinez, aided somewhat by the ongoing fallout with the previous manager, but he needs to sustain that by playing exciting football and, most importantly, winning games.

Finally, you know you shouldn’t watch Sunday Supplement but sometimes well, hey, no one’s perfect. Anyway, who is the Mancunian tit on there from the Sunday People who reckons that £12 million for Leighton Baines is reasonable given that he is 28 years old but at the same time Chelsea are taking the piss offering anything less than £50 million for 27-year-old and far less clean-living Wayne Rooney?

For all the verbal jousting going on between Everton and Manchester United, everyone needs to remember that this whole thing, like almost every transfer ‘wrangle’, just boils down to the price and nothing else. When David Moyes countered Martinez’s jibes about the way United now do business by remarking that he knows better than the Spaniard ‘how Everton work’ it was something of a cheap riposte but unfortunately we all know that there is an element of truth in it. If the Toffees really want the cash for the two players concerned – although the suggestion is now that Fellaini is the most likely to go – then as the end of the transfer window approaches the pressure will mount on Martinez to start taking these ‘derisory’ bids more seriously. Moyes knows that because he’s been there.

The sooner it’s sorted now, one way or the other, the better. Because it’s fucking boring.

Betis Hotpot

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There’s something weird about the last friendly of the summer, when they break the seal on Goodison and allow us our first tentative whiff of the new season.

It’s always vaguely unsatisfactory, with the stands sparsely populated and the invited foreign Johnnies playing at half-pace. It also detracts from the anticipation of the first proper league game of the season; a bit like finding your Christmas presents halfway through December if you were one of them kids that did that sort of thing.

Real Betis are the third Spanish opponents the Toffees have faced this summer following that reportedly spirited 2-1 defeat at the hands of Real Madrid and then a 1-0 reverse against Valencia in the prestigious 5th/6th place play-off that ended the tournament in the United States. Again reportedly – because despite the advice from some concerned readers there was still no way we were staying up to watch that nonsense – Everton looked last in that match. Roberto Martinez made a load of changes and apparently it showed in a disjointed performance. It was meant to be fucking boiling as well.

Never mind.

Betis play in a rather distinctive green and white kit but other than that does anyone know much about them? A quick scan at their squad shows very few familiar names – about the most well-known to the likes of us who quite frankly couldn’t care less about Spanish football is former Real Madrid winger Juanfran. And you wouldn’t be able to pick him out of a line-up either, unless of course he had his kit on with his name on the back and all the other fellas were the usual leather jacket and knitted cap sorts. That would be a dead giveaway.

The ascendant club in Seville actually finished seventh in La Liga last season, which is fairly respectable until you realise that was a mere 44 points behind champions Barcelona. Congratulations Spain on pursuing a footballing agenda that makes the Premier League look like some sort of Corinthian meritocracy.

It will be interesting to see if either Marouane Fellaini or Leighton Baines feature in Sunday’s game, or whether, like so many want away stars of the English game they will develop what is known as the ‘Suarez sprain’ or the ‘Bale bruising’. There’s also the ‘Rooney rupture’ but that’s something altogether more unseemly.

Manchester United are reportedly ready to offer somewhere in the region of £30 million for the pair having already been knocked back with a £12 million offer for Baines earlier in the summer. Now, we all know that if the players really want to go – and why wouldn’t they, let’s face it – then ultimately they are likely to get what they want. However, for once Everton have the upper hand when it comes to negotiating the price. When push comes to shove, the Blues can simply refuse to sell as, thanks to the fact that all the clubs have received a stack of money from the new television deal, they are for the first time in a long while under no pressure from the bank. What’s more, after being right royally mugged off by Cesc Fabregas and his agents – who are mocking him like the fellas on the ramparts in The Holy Grail – David Moyes is already under massive pressure in his new job.

Welcome to the next level, Charlie Big Spuds.

United are used to getting their own way in the transfer market, and while their lack of any signings so far this summer could be down any number of Glazer-related reasons, the impression that the world is starting to get is that Moyes just isn’t the same sort of shrewd operator as his predecessor. He’s going to lose Wayne Rooney and looks miles away from signing a Bale or a Cristiano Ronaldo – imagine what sort of cunt he is going to look if he can’t even sign a couple of players from the usually compliant Everton then?

That’s what Robert Elstone and Bill Kenwright should play on. Whatever offer comes in they need to go to the papers and give it loads about how they expected him to act like the manager of one of the biggest clubs in the world now that he’s got the finances that he has been publicly bleating on about for years. Put him in the spot where he has to table a daft bid or risk looking like the small-time character that a lot of United fans can’t help but worry that he is.

You can just see Bob and Bill, ties loosened, playing cards in the Everton boardroom with their stockinged feet on the table, puffing on big cigars and sharing a bottle of Johnny Walker. The big old-fashioned phone that we all presume they still have in there goes and Elstone says, ‘Here we go, that’s the soft get now. No, no, let me get it this time’.

‘Hello, yeah, how much are you offering now lad? How much? Seriously? Ha, no dice Rusty Griswald. And don’t ring back again if you’re just going to waste our time. Bill, Bill, have you heard this tit? Ah, he’s gone’.