Everton 2 Real Betis 1


To be fair to Roberto Martinez he managed to be really positive following an absolutely miserable performance in the final friendly before the start of the Premier League Hunger Games.

The new Everton boss, presiding over his first game as the home manager at Goodison, said: “Football is about finding the way to be competitive.

“Today we saw what this dressing room has – an incredible competitive edge. As you could see early on, we couldn’t find the simple pass.

“I wouldn’t say that physically we were tired, but we were mentally lethargic. It was difficult to be ourselves but the manner that we reacted and defended with intensity was great.

“Betis are a side that I admire. I think they did extremely well last season and are well-organised. They can test you massively and I wanted that.

“We allowed them to press us high up and we wanted to stop them.

“In many ways it was a perfect pre-season game to finish on. To be able to overcome all of the travelling and demands we had and win was great to see.”

Fair enough, if that’s how he saw it, but as a supporter it was disappointing to say the least. The fact that we beat Betis thanks to a well-taken Nikica Jelavic goal in the first half and a horrendous goalkeeping error in the second did not gloss over the problems with the football Everton played.

Not a single Martinez signing started the match but they all managed to somehow play like strangers. There is clearly some very specific method in mind, especially when the central defenders continually push out to the fullback positions and one of the midfielders drops to the edge of our penalty area, but against a much better organised Betis team all it did was invite pressure. The fullbacks’ starting positions are further up the pitch as well – instead of arriving a bit later and bursting onto the ball, Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines spent most of the game mired down in tight spaces facing their own goal.

As far back as the Blackburn game there was a concern that the emphasis on possession meant that players would attempt to take unnecessary risks and here again the only real sign that this new Everton are a devout ‘footballing side’ was a succession of panicky passing triangles by our own corner flag. Perhaps that’s not surprising when instead of moves being initiated by Baines’ wand of a left foot, more often than not Tim Howard was rolling the ball out to the 1970s calliper adorning Sylvain Distin’s left peg.

In terms of the overall system Everton looked a fucking mess, but thankfully a number of individuals looked on form, not least Kevin Mirallas who crafted the opening goal with a positive run down the right-hand side on 35 minutes. His low cross eluded the recovering defenders and found Jelavic who took an assured first touch before tucking the ball home. Granted, he was put clean through early in the second half before smashing the ball hopelessly wide, but the Croatian continues to look a lot more like his old self.

Thankfully, Howard also played well, denying a neat and tidy Betis team with a string of excellent saves.

At the other end though, Stephan Anderson was less impressive. The Betis keeper was distinctly underworked as Everton mostly noodled away in their own half, but when he was required to claim a straightforward, over-hit cross from Mirallas his greasy hands only succeeded in dropping the ball into his own net.

The visitors’ best player by some distance was the central midfielder, Nosa Igiebor. Even before Darron Gibson was withdrawn with a knee injury that could rule him out of the season opener at Carrow Road, the Nigerian was running the show. If Everton were willing to look further afield than East Lancashire for new players then he definitely looks the part.

Brian Rodriguez scrambled home a last-minute consolation for the visitors, to the delight of their synchronised hand-clapping knot of travelling supporters kettled in the Family Enclosure, but Everton secured the win on an afternoon when a lot of questions were asked and few real answers were supplied.

Granted, as ever we have to remember it was only a friendly, but it’s probably fair to say that most Evertonians expected that lack of competitive edge to allow the Blues to at least knock the ball about well. The most striking aspect of the whole performance though was just how bad the passing and the movement were – the few decent portions of play were down to players producing moments of skill off the cuff.

With doubts remaining over the futures of Baines and Marouane Fellaini, who was rested for this game, and the squad looking some way off being able to comfortably execute Martinez’s ‘vision’, it’s hard to know what to expect from this coming season.

It’s difficult to find any real positives from this match really, apart from the fact that the club have yet to replace the crests on the Main Stand with the new badge – presumably that will take place this week. Plastering the result of your most recent major embarrassment on the side of the ground is the equivalent of the BBC sticking with Jimmy Saville’s face on the their stationery, but Alan Myers insists that it is important the club’s branding is consistent. In other words ‘we’ve paid for these stupid fucking things so we are going to use them’.

Roll on the Canaries.

Betis Hotpot


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’.