Everton 4 Queens Park Rangers 0

jelavic_penalty_miss

Previously, on This Is Not Football…

Right, so after we got beat by Sunderland we had a hard game against Southampton, especially with a couple of big players suspended, but an absolute screamer from Seamus Coleman settled us down early on but then in the second half they equalised when Joel Robles looked like he was being attacked by a swarm of bees as Gaston Ramires’s shot flew through him and into the net. However, while Mark Clattenburg was upsetting and confusing flavour-of-the-month-ill-judged-move-to-Spurs-if-he’s-lucky Adam Lallana by constantly calling him ‘shit hair’, James McCarthy cleverly set up Romelu Lukaku for a winner that was taken more confidently than you would expect from someone who recently has looked dead set on a mission to prove why we wasn’t first always choice for West Brom, never mind Chelsea. Stoke City was next and it wasn’t a classic but there was a stirring climax as Leon Osman’s clever play provoked a wild challenge from Jermaine Pennant in injury time and Leighton Baines did what he does, sweeping home the penalty. Mark Hughes’s post match observation that amounted to ‘they twatted us at Goodison the other week so we’re not complaining’ summed up the high regard this Everton team are held in by the rest of the Premier League.

And then Antonin Alcaraz emerged from the showers and it was all a dream…

That pretty much brings us up to date with the story over the New Year so let’s fade in now to Goodison Park for the FA Cup third round between the Blues and QPR’s selection of well-paid water-treaders and baggage carriers.

‘Jesus, their bench looks strong….if this was 2010.’

Under Roberto Martinez we no longer suffer injuries, we uncover opportunities for other players to get first team experience, and while we all like to snicker affectionately at the eternal sunshine of the Spaniard’s mind, in the past six or weeks or so circumstance has in fact exposed Evertonians to the dervish delights of  Bryan Oviedo’s wing-back wizardry and now the quite exquisite central defensive pairing of Alacaraz and John Stones who were an absolute pleasure to watch as they cruised through this frighteningly one-sided affair.

On the rare occasion that Everton over-confidence allowed a break from the away team the danger was inevitably snuffed out by Alcaraz stepping forward like your fat uncle, holding a can of Fosters, intervening in a match at a family barbecue and chipping your service station fly-away off your toes and into the safety of the utility room. And then farting dead loud.

He looks ace, and with his hunched shoulders and smouldering South American looks he has earned the nickname (right here, now) of ‘the Straq at the back’. Or the ‘back Straq’ for short.

That’s right, and when he pairs up with our ginger midfield dynamo for a game of head tennis they call themselves ‘the back Straq and Mac’.

To be honest, none of that happened.

He is dead cool though. Considering he and Gareth Barry retired two years ago it is an unalloyed joy to watch them make much younger, fitter men look so out of their depth with such regularity.

As for Alcaraz’s rooky sidekick, Stones, well, despite all the goals and long stretches of immaculate Everton football the highlight of the match was his telescopic-legged tackle on Matt Phillips that left the one-time Everton target flat on his face while the whip-thin young defender strode forward like Paolo Maldini with a look on his face that said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s what the Stones is all about, bitches, you better get used to it’.

Bear in mind as well that these two are replacing Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka, arguably the best central defensive duo in Britain this season.

It’s just a bit mad at the moment, as we seem to be rhapsodising, eulogising and something else that ends in ‘ising’ about a different player every fortnight. First it was Lukaku, then Gerard Deulofeu, then Ross Barkley, James McCarthy, and now, even better than the two centre-halves, we have Coleman absolutely murdering teams week in, week out. From right-back.

As for the goals and what have you, the first came on 35 minutes. Speedo-sporting poolside muscle oiler Julio Cesar had a decent game but a change of pace from Oviedo and Barkley opened the visitors’ defence up, the England midfielder shifted the ball just inside the box and then beat the Brazilian keeper with a low curler into the bottom corner of the Park End net.

On 44 minutes, and more or less sealing the result, pressure from Barry allowed Nikica Jelavic to nick the ball from Karl Henry, steady himself and absolutely ram a shot home from 20 yards or so. Cesar barely even saw it.

The Croatian is linked with a move from Goodison, with Loftus Road a possible destination, and the goal certainly gave him a lift. On 68 minutes he scored again, this time from close range, converting a brilliant near-post cross from Oviedo.

Jelavic should have kept the match ball but after Oviedo was fouled and the Gwladys Street lit up with camera phones looking to mark what might be the popular striker’s last appearance in royal blue, the absolute plum chipped the penalty onto the crossbar.

It was about the only highlight of the afternoon for the bedraggled QPR support but before they could sit down from their ‘calm down’ gestures, and while the apparently insulted Cesar was still unbunching his drawers, Barkley powered through the centre, fed the ball into the path of Coleman on the edge of the area and he effortlessly unleashed what one observer labelled a ‘power side-foot’ across the keeper and high into the far corner.

Jelavic then had an effort cleared off the line, so never got to redeem himself for the wank penalty. Which was hilarious, quite frankly.

The FA Cup then, as it should be, a joyous break from the po-faced ‘pressure’ of the Premier League.

We like it.

We like it a lot.

Spurs and QPR and Arsenal and that

Booooooooo!

Let’s face it, this blog has already got its flip-flops on, or one foot on the plane, or whatever ‘not that arsed now there’s nothing to play for’ footballing metaphor you like.

A decent point at White Hart Lane, all things considered, and then a routine victory over the club we aspire to be has set us up for what’s potentially a humdinger at the Emirates on Tuesday night.

Woah, woah, woah there. The club we aspire to be? What’s this fucker on about here, Maureen?

Well, firstly – and imagine us doing the now infamous Brendan Rodgers finger and thumb counting here – Queens Park Rangers have got a wealthy owner who isn’t afraid of lavishing his wealth on the club. Are you saying you wouldn’t want someone like Tony Fernandes to buy Everton?

Secondly, they have a manager who has won silverware and has a reputation for playing an exciting brand of attacking football.

These bleeders are living embodiment of the Premier League dream then. Instead of being delighted at their imminent demise, football fans around the country should be weeping at the plight of the Super Hoops. If the golden ticket combination of a benevolent billionaire, Harry Redknapp and £130k per week Christopher Samba can’t even guarantee survival in the top flight, never mind taking you to the ‘next level’ with the elite clubs, what chance has anyone got? Seriously, even the Manchester City fans looked unhappy the other week, and they are the defending champions with owners that are richer than God. Well, defending in the loosest sense of the word, like. Anyway, the way football is going you might as well stop worrying about stuff you have exactly fuck all control over, and may or may not actually happen, and do something crazy like just go the match and enjoy the game itself.

It’s hard though, isn’t it? When Kevin Mirallas slalomed through the Tottenham defence last week and scored an absolute wonder goal, your first instinct is to leap into the air, overjoyed that you’ve witnessed such a feat of athletic prowess. And then you think, do you know what, we don’t even own Finch Farm, and the whole moment’s ruined isn’t it?

Similarly when Tim Howard kept the scores level in the first half of the QPR match with a brilliant one-handed save from Loic Remy, a plaintive voice cried out from the Lower Bullens: ‘That’s all very well, but do you really think we are getting the best deal from Kitbag?’

Incidentally, in Remy and Stephane Mbia, Rangers have two players who for years we thought were imaginary, existing only in the fevered minds of football writers inventing Everton transfer stories.

Anyway, despite Everton’s present ‘plight’, David Moyes’s humble plodders were more than a match for Harry’s thrilling entertainers. Fancy that.

Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar returned at the expense of Johnny Heitinga and the rather disappointing Ross Barkley while Victor Anichebe kept his place up front. The Nigerian striker won all the plaudits for his workrate at Spurs, despite playing ‘first touch roulette’ every time the ball was knocked up to him – even the pass for Mirallas’s goal was meant for Nikica Jelavic. Against QPR though his control was impeccable and he continued running and getting stuck in – although nobody would need much motivation to get into Clit Hill. He earned that nickname because he’s a bit of a cunt. And yes, that is a joke stolen from the Clit Eastwood strip in awful sub-Viz early 90s comic, Zit. They also had one about ET being the bastard son of Jack Charlton and Anne Diamond. The denouement was he became a star footballer in his own right before being literally kicked in half by Vinne Jones shouting something hilarious like ‘Take that you alien twat’.

It wasn’t all totally puerile though. They did examine the human condition in the thought-provoking ‘Screaming Knievel’, the tale of a naked stuntman who specialised in daringly leaping rows of greased cucumbers.

Back to the match though, tax averse tactician Redknapp was, for once, not too far from the truth when he said that there wasn’t much between the sides in the first half. However, his lot – or Mark Hughes’s as he is quick to point out now they are doomed – more or less threw their hand in the moment Darron Gibson’s low shot struck Hill’s leg, wrong-footed fifties smoothy Julio Cesar and looped into the Park End goal.

Awooga.

Instead of conceding a sickener after the break, as is often the Everton way, the Blues should have extended their lead when Mirallas’s quick feet left a defender for dead and then Anichebe showed great composure to make himself space before planting his shot against the inside of the post, only to see it somehow rebound out to safety.

He wouldn’t be denied for long though. On 55 minutes, from a Leighton Baines corner, Sylvain Distin won a header that would be described in any quarters as ‘towering’. Anichebe, stood in what is officially known as the ‘shoved between the shoulder blades while trying to catch the referee’s attention’ position, turned the ball over the line to get the goal his recent performances deserved.

Fair play young man.

Going to watch Everton at the moment, when there doesn’t really feel like there’s that much to play for – we won’t finish fourth – is absolutely ace. Everyone just seems quite relaxed, from the crowd to the players – we’ve even had some sexy formation experiments – and some of the football has been great. The ‘wing play’ in particular, from Baines, Pienaar, Mirallas and Seamus Coleman is proper School of Science stuff. A veritable delight to behold.

History tells us that a win at Arsenal is unlikely – they just have a little bit too much pace throughout the side; enough to give them the edge against most teams, and that’s why they must be favourites to win on Tuesday and to finish in fourth place.

What’s more, Moyes’s poor record at Old Trafford, the Emirates, Anfield and Stamford Bridge is the stuff of legend now – although it conveniently ignores City and Spurs – but it would be interesting to see which managers in the past ten years have got good records away at those grounds. And speaking of our esteemed leader, watching his Everton side, marshalled by the superb budget-buy Gibson, being far too professional for Redknapp’s wealthy wildcards, it hit home just how much we take for granted with his teams.

At times people moan about the perceived emphasis on workrate and effort, but just remember how galling it is when those qualities are absent. It’s not that long ago that we used to get bummed by Charlton or Ipswich and we’d cast envious eyes over their fit, well-organised sides and, staring glumly at Steve Watson’s big beetroot kite, say: ‘All we want’s a bit of effort; it’s not much to ask’. Fuck it, there was a time when people used to wonder whether ‘a season in the Championship might actually do us good, get reorganised, wipe the slate and all that’. Not any more though.

So, while the majority of football fans at every level are tearing their hair out about some shite or other, kick back, hang loose and bask in the knowledge that this is a good Everton team and watching them do their stuff is, on the whole, quite a lot of fun. It won’t last forever, nothing ever does, so you’d be mentile if you didn’t let yourself enjoy this. Again, cast your mind back to a time when we used to rust our armour every summer because ‘Cahill to Man United is a done deal’. Worry about the bad shit when it happens and not a moment before.

Finally, talking of enjoying stuff, just how great is the Premier League generally at this time of the season? Everyone gets sniffy about the ‘best league in the world’ title that Sky have bestowed upon their prize jewel, but in terms of entertainment it is absolutely magnificent when you witness bedlam like that Newcastle versus Sunderland match.

In particular, the impartial Niall Quinn’s commentary just about summed up football as a whole when he barely restrained himself from screaming: ‘3-0 AWAY IN THE DERBY, I DON’T HEAR ANYONE BLATHERING ON ABOUT THE JARROW MARCHERS OR THE INVASION OF FECKING ETHIOPA NOW! SUCK MY DISCO PANTS YOU MOTHERS!’

Queens Park Rangers And That

It’s only Wednesday but what the hey, we can be wild, we can be free, we can post something akin to a match preview a couple of days earlier than what has become custom and practise.

A quick recap on what has been going on in the world of Evertonianism reveals, well, very little, with all the news outlets reduced to regurgitating dismal snippets of quotes from the players left rattling around Finch Farm during this interminable international week. The training ground is probably like The Breakfast Club while most of the squad are away – Sylvain Distin, Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman spend a large portion of every day sliding up and down the corridors in their ‘stocking feet’.

Distin probably said it reminded him more of the scene in the Louvre from Bande A Part, and if he did then Tony Hibbert might have pulled his ‘don’t start on the culture shit’ face until he shut up.

You just never know.

There was a behind-closed-doors game against Huddersfield Town which the Blues won 2-0 thanks to goals from Shane Duffy and Apostolos Vellios. It makes the whole scenario sound really furtive and clandestine when they play behind closed doors, as if they are trialling some prototype throw-in or revolutionary coin toss away from the prying eyes of the public and Kopite spies. In truth it was almost certainly just a competitive training match.

Again though, you never know.

What else, what else, what else… Ah, yep, it looks as if Darron Gibson is well on his way back to full fitness after qualified translators interpreted his gibberish-to-the-untrained-eye tweet to mean that a scan on his thigh showed positive results. Actually, we say full fitness, but has the hairy Irishman ever actually been totally fit since he’s been at Everton? No one wants to be responsible for him going all Karen Carpenter, but he does always look a bit heavier than you expect from someone working under the David Moyes regime.

Maybe he’s just big boned, or ‘husky’ as Peter Kay once said.

The actual internationals are too boring to discuss at any length, with Leighton Baines predictably impressing against San Marino before Ashley Cole was recalled following a one match period of penance. A waterlogged pitch in Poland meant that game never took place as scheduled, and so the British public were treated to those four fucking Hieronymus Bosch gargoyles Adrian Chiles, Gareth Southgate, Lee Dixon and Roy Keane sitting in the studio like a crowd of knobhead Brits abroad gathered around a table full of ale deriding the competence of their hosts.

Keane especially, the absolute no-mark, used to struggle to get to the end of the day without drunkenly soiling his kecks, but all of a sudden he’s an authority on civil engineering. And while we are on the subject of this famed hard case – and apologies if this has been covered before – how did anyone ever manage to interpret his supposedly menacing Ray Winstone ‘See you out there’ threat to Patrick Viera in the tunnel at Highbury as anything but the posturing of a rumbled shithouse?

Why do ITV pay the twat to sit there looking contemptuous, offering no insight other than ‘none of these cunts are anywhere near as good as I was’? The only entertainment he provides is watching Chiles trying to buddy up to him like the worm who inexplicably hung round with the school bully and spent his time looking for targets who would provide him with some brief respite from the sustained sadism.

Anyway, QPR.

This one just has some bad Juju about it. And we’re not talking about a stammering anti-Semite.

They are rock bottom, without a win, whereas Everton have become, temporarily at least, the Premier League darlings. They have got a load of problems in defence and their manager, the charming Goodison favourite Mark Hughes, is under a whole heap of pressure, especially after spending a stack of cash on 12 players in the summer.

The head says that this should be a straightforward task for Everton then, at a ground where West Ham and Swansea have already triumphed this season. The heart though, or more accurately the stomach, just has a dicky feeling. Weird things can happen in Sunday teatime games and it’s hard to shake visions of Bobby Zamora, like Aroune Kone at Wigan, using his power and mobility to upset the less-than-convincing Everton defence.

Hopefully that’s all completely unfounded and Everton just go there and assert their authority and play the kind of football that everyone knows they are capable of.

Still though, it’s hard to shake that nagging feeling about this one.

It must be frustrating for QPR supporters, after spending so long in the Championship – otherwise known as ‘the wilderness’ – to see their club get promotion and a stack of cash courtesy of some unfeasibly tangled ownership and ‘investment’ dealings, only for big time Sparky to make a complete arse of the whole thing. Rest assured, if they don’t start to make hay now while the sun is shining – financially speaking – then they are goosed, because as sure as Jimmy Savile touched kids, and he did, at some point in the future that club is going to be sold for a quid.

Which will be a fucking blow for Brazilian World Cup winning captain Dunga, who is apparently owed three quarters of a million quid by them. Seriously, look it up. It’s the most ‘random’ football story since Matt Le Tissier’s spanking games with Marilyn off Home and Away.

It’s incredible how there is even a level of cuntiness connected now with a word as seemingly inoffensive as that R one back there in that last sentence.

And talking of C words, it’s apparently common knowledge that Pete Doherty, lead singer of pop group The Libertines, used to write a QPR fanzine called – possibly the most predictably fanziney name ever – All Quiet On The Western Road. That explains why Kate Moss was so keen to throw her leg over him. In 2009 she famously told Fashion Flap ‘I fackin’ lav geezers who write homemade footy mags. They get me ‘ornier than a Viking’s hat’.

The controversial model now goes out with the editor of Bradford’s City Gent.