Spurs and Palace and That

Tony Pulis, who has been linked with Middlesbrough, was sacked by Stoke City in May

After the frustration of the Tottenham game you couldn’t really ask for more than a match at home straight away against one of the Premier League’s strugglers.

Familiar failings undid the Toffees at White Hart Lane – they enjoyed loads of possession but after the first half an hour or so, when they had a handful of chances, they really struggled to turn that sense of ‘control’ into something more threatening. We do 80% of the work brilliantly, arguably as good as anyone, but without any genuine centre-forward, never mind the hugely expensive ones leading the line of our nearest competitors, it often feels like we’re dependent on either a bit of luck or an incredible team effort to get the ball in the back of the net.

Leon Osman, teed up by the hardworking and intelligent Steven Naismith, drew a great save from Hugo Lloris in the early stages, but after that, as the Blues worked the ball to the wings with ease, you never felt any great conviction that the eventual ball into the box was going to really hurt the Spurs defence.

When you are struggling to score, lapses of concentration at the other end will often prove doubly punishing, and the winning goal, scored on 64 minutes, only served to underline that. Kyle Walker took a quick free-kick on the halfway line, chipping the ball to Emmanuel Adebayor as the Everton defence all turned their back on the play. Before they could fully recover the spindly striker had already beaten Tim Howard low at his near post.

Not great.

Roberto Martinez tried to force an equaliser by subjecting Spurs to ‘death by jinky winger’, throwing Gerard Deulofeu and Aiden McGeady on alongside Kevin Mirallas, but despite one great slaloming run by the Belgian that was always going to end up with a mad shot into the crowd, the home side always looked capable of defending their 18-yard box in the face of Everton’s constant probing and wing-switching.

It wasn’t a terrible performance, but perhaps it was an indicator of the limitations of the squad that we couldn’t even get a point against an ordinary-looking Spurs side that, despite the upturn in fortunes under Tim Sherwood, hasn’t fully recovered from the sale of Gareth Bale and the dubious spending of André Villas Boas.

Meanwhile Liverpool were smashing the granny out of Arsenal and moving five points clear of us. There is still ‘a lot of football to play’ as they say, but at the moment it’s hard to envisage us winning two more games than them during the remainder of the season. They seem to be through on goal with two or three passes every time they attack at the moment where we must surely have more touches in the opponents’ area without troubling the keeper than any other side in the division.

There’s talk of the massive Lacina Traore of the Jacomo fire sale cardigan making his first appearance against Palace as Martinez at least has more players of indeterminate fitness to choose from. Perhaps he can provide a bit of focus and some end product to compliment all the neat and tidy approach play.

One of Everton’s most hair-pulling performances of the season came in the corresponding fixture at Selhurst Park, when their passing game was undone by a packed defence and a number of breakaways that fortunately had Jerome Thomas and Yannick Bolasie on the end of them and not Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez. That was the old relegation-doomed Palace as well, before they parted ways with Ian Holloway and appointed surprise package Tony Pulis as manager.

You have to hand it to him, he had become something of a joke figure at Stoke City – his name sort of shorthand for a particular brand of unsophisticated football – and it’s probably fair to assume that a lot of Crystal Palace supporters were dubious about him getting the job, especially with exotic figures like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer out there being touted at the time. In a short space of time though Pulis has made Palace a much tougher proposition to face. Not only that, he brought in a couple of decent attacking players during the transfer window, Tom Ince and Joe Ledley, adding more goal threat and improving their chances of survival no end.

Fair play like.

For Everton it’s really a question of carrying on as we have been, hoping that Traore does adapt quickly, Romelu Lukaku recovers from his injury and reproduces his early-season form, and that as the likes of Deulofeu and Ross Barkley get fitter we can pick up a bit more momentum, picking up points and hopefully progress in the increasingly important-looking FA Cup.

Because even though it was just a narrow defeat at Tottenham, when the stakes are so high the margins for error become increasingly fine. You can’t help wonder now if we require a consistent run of wins for the remainder of the season that is just a little bit beyond this present squad.

Spurs Preview

frank_philly

Gameweek 25 in the Premier League and it’s all to play for, boys and girls.

And yeah, that is gameweek, all one word, even if the spellchecker in Word really doesn’t like it. We’ve got a new look website, a new logo and we are using fancy American-style sports words.

Or sportswords, even.

Thanks very much to Jonny Gray for the logo. He accepted no payment, because as usual we never offered him any. Hopefully he understands though that it represents a unique opportunity for his work to be seen by literally dozens of people around the world.

But seriously now, we are very grateful and think it looks dead smart.

Thankyou also to computer whizz Laura Johnson who offered to help us sort the website out. We didn’t need her assistance at this point – so if it’s shite, don’t blame her – but we are always overwhelmed by the generosity of people out there, united by a love of the Toffees and gratuitous swearing.

One blue nation, under a fucking groove.

Talking of all things blue and internet and all that, the club invited a selection of active online supporters to go along on a magical mystery tour that culminated in them being the first to find out that…

Hang on, wait for it.

They’ve signed a new five-year kit deal with Umbro.

They must have been blown away.

In fairness, they got to meet Roberto Martinez which will have been ace, and the Blues’ boss expounded on how he is sure that the new kit will help the team perform. And all that.

So, here we go, we are going to be unashamed misery arses here.

The club’s marketing people obviously adore Martinez with his sunny disposition and seemingly unlimited availability. You can imagine he makes their job so much easier – ‘That last miserable cunt wouldn’t give us the steam off his shite’ – but they need to be careful they don’t abuse the privilege.

The position of Everton manager itself should carry a certain amount of gravitas, and Martinez himself is a really smart man. When he speaks it should be a case of turning the volume up on the telly and hushing the kids. He needs to be used sparingly then and not simply wheeled out to endorse anything and everything.

‘I really think that Chang lager is perfect for Everton. It has a warmth that reflects the atmosphere of the club and when the supporters consume a lot of it and scream ‘come on Everton these are sheet’ that lifts the players and helps them perform and fulfil their potential as a group.’

Less is more sometimes. They need to protect the Martinez brand lest his become the Burberry baseball cap of football soundbites, piled high in the Sports Direct bin of aimless punditry. That doesn’t even make sense – but if it did, Brendan Rodgers’ outbursts would be the Londsdale three-quarter length kecks, that’s for sure.

Going back to the new kit, Robert Elstone added some spiel about the history of Everton and Umbro, but in all honesty they miss the point with regards to what supporters really care about. Something along the lines of ‘The new kit won’t look ridiculous and we are guaranteed that there will be no supply issues’ would be more relevant than a load of press release piffle about performance, etc.  The players don’t care about it for a start – let’s face it, they would wear their granny’s skin stitched into a onesy if there was a few a bob in it for them – and it won’t make them play better.

Ultimately it’s just another blue nylon scratchy shirt that a lot of people see as their way of helping the club out morally and financially. And even then, if you believe some tinfoil-hatted internet sources, we negotiated a deal with Kitbag to supply our gear that is the footballing equivalent of Blue Monday so we lose money on every shirt sold.

Or something.

But enough of all that. A trip to the Lane on Sunday is intriguing to say the least. We’re not really used to being so close to that all important fourth place at this time of year and that sort of brings its own pressures. The need to pick up points in each and every game is relentless when the Champions League is your genuine ambition – and it still has to be at this point – so you don’t get to write any weekend off.

So we go to Tottenham, who are somehow only a point behind us despite both clubs experiencing very different ‘narratives’ this season, knowing there’s a lot at stake.

Barn-owl-featured Tim Sherwood’s thumbs-in-the-braces cockney ‘I don’t have time for any of this new-fangled nonsense this is a simple game and we’re Spurs we only play one way and I learned at the knee of Bill Nicholson ooh wasn’t Gazza brilliant!’ attitude comes across as massively disingenuous from someone who is chiefly remembered as a sideways-passing bore of a Blackburn player in the second worst side to ever win the league (Leeds, Carl Shutt, etc. before you ask). That said, Tottenham have undoubtedly perked up since the departure of that ludicrous Portuguese chancer, as they get the ball forward a bit quicker, using the occasionally brilliant Emmanuel Adebayor as a target-man instead of having that little Spanish fella legging around waiting for through-balls that never came from the eighteen man midfield.

Spurs held onto the ball well at Goodison but never really threatened consistently during a tiresome stalemate – they will definitely have more of a go on Sunday and, like all of Everton’s opponents now, will have noted with some interest what happened at Anfield the other week.

Hey, hey, it’s ok to talk about it. This is a friendly space. Relax.

The Blues themselves could have Seamus Coleman back, which will make a massive difference to the way we play. Asking John Stones, a wet-behind-the-ears centre-half, to play out of position at the sharp end of the Premier League was expecting a lot in itself. He was certainly never going to be able to emulate the best attacking fullback in the league.

Gerard Deulofeu is close to a return as well. Having him on the bench is great because despite his inconsistency and tendency to overplay, when he comes on during a tight game he gives the crowd a massive lift. In fact it’s hard to remember a substitute who had such an impact on the expectation levels of the supporters, probably because players with Deulofeu’s immense ability would normally be certain starters.

Finally, it appears that the Blues tried to get Jack Rodwell back on loan during the transfer window. Exactly why is anyone’s guess because he’s crap, don’t let anyone tell you any different. He’s essentially a multi-millionaire because he was massive for his age and it’s hard to imagine how him sheepishly jogging around the centre circle for us again would be any sort of improvement on what we have.

But that’s all conjecture. The reality is the squad starting to look a bit healthier, Liverpool spunking most of the advantage they gained in the derby and throwing more toys on the floor than backstage with the Lost Prophets, and Everton still being very much ‘in the mix’.

All good stuff, and almost unthinkable less than a fortnight ago.

Bad nerd

Tottenham And That

Bad nerd

All previews essentially boil down to: ‘How about just fucking winning, eh, Everton?’

But there really, really isn’t much more to say other than that about this home game against third placed Tottenham Hotspur. A look at the Blues’ recent form shows, hang on, we’ve fucked up already here. The joke was going to be ‘more double-u’s than when Jonathan Ross announced the re-opening of the Redruth Rock’n’Roll Roller-Rink. But that would mean we’d won loads, and we haven’t, we’ve drawn, so that would mean something about a stack of D’s, and that only lends itself to something crass about brassieres, so we won’t bother.

Anyway, Everton have drawn a stack of matches against opposition from every stratum of the Premier League and yet have somehow remained a Gwladys Street coin toss away from the hallowed Champions League qualification spots.

After the second half shocker at Reading, the level of performance definitely improved against Arsenal and then Manchester City and with Darron Gibson back pulling the strings in midfield there is a feeling that we are about to return to the sort of potent form that moved us to the upper reaches of the table in the first place. And when Kevin Mirallas returns there should be no effing stopping us.

Incidentally, what happened to that ace rumour that was passed off as fact that Nikica ‘his second touch is a throw in’ Jelavic’s form has suffered because he doesn’t talk to Mirallas? What’s the Croatian’s excuse meant to be for never getting a sniff of goal while the pacey Belgian is out injured?

And while we’re on the subject of Jelavic, does anyone else find that advert with him imprisoned in a crate like the limbless Sherilyn Fenn just a bit creepy?

‘FRIGGIN’ HELL! The box stinks of shit. Has he been in there since November? Just put the lid back on while I try to think what to do with him.’

Tottenham , for their part, never really change, no matter who their flavour of the month manager is. They always have some dead tidy midfielders and a bit of pace out wide and it’s normally a fairly tight encounter when they come to Goodison. Cartoon wolf-boy Gareth Bale is out injured but they still have some dangerous players in the shape of Jermaine Defoe, Aaron Lennon and the two fellas they signed from Fulham, Moussa Dembélé and Clint Dempsey.

Despite them doing fairly well so far this season their manager still gets a pretty rough ride from the press; a hangover from his disastrous spell at Chelsea when he appears to have had some sort of nervous breakdown. By all accounts he’s essentially a bad posh nerd who ended up being bullied by the big personalities in the Stamford Bridge dressing room. As we all know, ‘big personality’ in football basically equates to arl’ arse shitbag who goes running to the press or to one of the directors behind your back when they don’t get their own way.

Villas Boas’s spectacular failure at Chelsea though certainly demonstrated that there is a little bit more to the whole management caper than just picking eleven players, boring them with talk about systems and then the acid test for all phone-in experts: ‘getting your substitutions right’.

Can anyone be arsed with any more speculation about what’s going to happen on Sunday? It should be a fairly tough game but with home advantage you would like to think that Everton have enough to get their first win in a while and hopefully go on a bit of a decent run that could make the remainder of the season pretty interesting to say the least.

If you get a chance before then, and you would like to get one of James Corbett’s books signed – either The Binman Chronicles or The Everton Encyclopaedia – he will be with his special guests at the following venues at the stated times doing just that:

Neville Southall, Waddleworths, St Helens, Saturday 11:00-12:00

Neville Southall, Waterstones Bold Street, Saturday 14:00-15:00

Bob Latchford, James Corbett, Everton Two, Saturday 16:00-17:30

Neville Southall, St Lukes Church, Goodison Road, Sunday, 13:00-14:30

Finally, on the subject of books, a quick review of Danny Baker’s autobiography, Going To Sea In A Seive. As you would expect, it’s funny, written in a dead lively style and has some great anecdotes about Sniffing Glue, the NME and, most of all, his late dad who he clearly idolises. If you ever hear him being interviewed he always makes a point of saying he is unapologetic about how ace his life is and that he thinks false modesty is a load of shite, which is fair enough. However, by the end of the book, after the umpteenth tale about how he had a great time with some celebrity or other and everything worked out just wonderful and everyone creased up at something dead funny that he said, you can’t help think of Mark Williams’s character from The Fast Show.

“…and on the way back from the cove, within a hundred yards from each other, we saw Stevie Nicks and Helena Bonham Carter.  So we gave them both a lift on the back of the tractor.  Which was nice.”

Hang on, more draws than Mike Baldwin’s factory! Which only really works if in your mind you automatically interchange ‘draws’ with ‘drawers’, and if his factory actually makes knickers. Does he even still own it? In fact, is Mike Baldwin still in Coronation Street?

Do you know what, this whole thing’s been a fucking disaster from start to finish.