West Bromwich Albion Preview

‘First they came for the Geordies and I did not speak up, because I was not a Geordie.

Then they came for that terrifying kid who supported Leeds and was crying when they got relegated from the Premier League and I did not speak out, because I was not a Leeds fan.

Then they came for the Manchester United fans who wear the green and gold scarves and I did not speak out, because like most of them I’m not actually sure what the real point of the scarves is any more. They must have lost a couple of games.

Then they came for the Hull City supporters who did the tiger maul dance and I did not speak out, because I was not a Hull City supporter. Or a tiger.

Then they came for those Arsenal lads who held up the Eduardo shirt when he got injured, and I did not speak out because I was not an absolute bellend trying to get on the telly.

Then they came for the Liverpudlians who dressed as cardinals and to be honest I did actually speak out this time and I said ‘there’s well more than them you know, they are just the tip of iceberg’.

Then they came for West Brom fans who do the ‘Boing, boing’ thing and I did not speak out, because I was not a West Brom fan and to be quite honest I was still seething that they only took the cardinals last time they were here. I did point though, to where the West Brom fans were hiding, because all that bouncing around is really fucking irritating.’

So then, West Bromwich Albion, eh?

West Brom.

The ‘Baggies’.

They’ve got a new manager. His name’s Pepe Mel. Apparently he left his last job because it was a grind.

What? Get out of it.

He actually left because Real Betis sacked him but he apparently worked wonders there, getting promoted and into the Europa League with no money to spend. To be honest, this was all gleaned from listening to a couple of podcasts – if it’s factually incorrect take it up with Sid Lowe. Anyway, on the strength of those passing comments we are branding him the Spanish Iain Holloway.

Unlike Everton’s own Latin smoothy, Mel isn’t particularly Spanish-looking. In fact he looks a bit like Brian Dennehy in that creepy film about John Wayne Gacy. However, he doesn’t win the Premier League ‘check his passport’ award for this season – that clearly goes to Arsenal fullback Nacho Monreal who looks like he should be limping dead fast down Park Road with his Berghaus hood up in the height of summer, drinking a bottle of Lucozade Sport and only stopping occasionally to remonstrate with his Pirates of the Caribbean-looking Judy who is trailing in his wake screaming abuse at the top of her lungs.

Doesn’t he?

Going back to West Brom, apparently they will be without the services of Hull-bound Shane Long, the Irish striker who always looks pretty decent against Everton and indeed is often linked with a transfer to Goodison Park. He’s big, strong, doesn’t score many goals but absolutely works his stones off for the cause. Baggies fans need not worry though, they have a ready-made replacement in Victor Anichebe who, let’s face it, has all the same attributes as Long. Apart from the effort part, obviously.

And yes, that might seem a bit two-faced given that we always tried to look for the positives in Anichebe before his £6 million move to the Midlands, but that’s the nature of the beast. You can’t help yourself sometimes, especially when you don’t want to feel as if you are adding to the tsunami of shite that’s being heaped on a player from the stands. At his worst though he really never helped himself. For someone of such limited ability he needed to find some area in which to compensate and he never realised that early enough. The penny did seem to drop towards the end of his Everton career but it’s safe to say that a move was the best thing for all parties.

Apart from West Brom.

Long will be joining Nikica Jelavic at Hull – the crafty Croatian is their record signing and leaves with nothing but good wishes from the Evertonians. No one ever doubted his effort, regardless of how he completely disintegrated as a functioning Premier League forward, and so the supporters stuck with him and were palpably willing him on whenever he featured in the side. That he was so grateful for that and wished it to be known in his open letter was a nice touch. You want people to leave the club with their head held high and with fond memories.

Who, if anyone, is coming in to replace Jelavic though seems like anyone’s guess at the moment. Martinez seems unfazed – but then he always does – but releasing our second choice centre-forward would seem on the surface at least to weaken our hand when negotiating to bring someone in. The selling club is going to know that we are snookered if a deal doesn’t go through and as we have seen during countless transfer windows in the past, the Goodison hierarchy won’t think twice about walking away from the table if they think some Johnny Two-Phones foreign representative is taking the piss with the demands.

‘No mate, you don’t understand. Not all at once. Comprende? Installamentos. Er, how do you say it? Drip. On the dr… EL DRIPPY-DRIPPY! Is he deliberately acting soft this kid? That’s it, give him a Delta Taxis card and tell him to fuckin’ beat it. GO ‘EAD LAD, SLINGO YER ‘OOKO. NO DUCK TOUR FOR YOU NOW, GREEDY ARSE.’

We were linked with that young Belgian striker from Anderlecht, and Kenwyne Jones of course, but now it is being reported that Martinez’s quest for another massive black lad to play up front has seen him turn his attention to some character called Lacina Traore. Or, to be more precise, West Ham are apparently on the verge of signing the 6’8” tall Ivory Coast forward on loan from Monaco but Everton are looking to ‘do a Lukaku’ again and step in at the last minute.

To hijack an old Iain Holloway analogy: ‘Hang on, I’ve been buying her ale all night!’

Lord only knows if this Traore is any good like. He’s been scoring goals in the Romanian and Russian leagues which, as we know, means absolutely nothing.

Going back to the Baggies for a moment, another striker who could be missing from this game is Niclas Anelka. The Jewish owner of Zoopla, West Brom’s shirt sponsor, has demanded that the French striker be dropped in the wake of his goal celebration the other week: the anti-Semitic ‘Quenelle’.

Presumably the full name of the weird gesture is: ‘Quenelle! What are you thinking there you daft, offside, aardvark-faced nugget?’

Finally, did anyone hear Grant Holt being interviewed after his transfer to Aston Villa? He was asked what he brings and, rather sheepishly he said: ‘I’m different from the other strikers they have here already. I’m not as fast as Gabby Agbonlahor and I’m probably not as sharp as Christian Benteke.’

Reach for the stars, son. Reach for the stars.

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Transfer Frenzy

Hey there, it looks as if a lot of the transfer window courtship is starting to get real and it will soon be time for clubs to actually book a taxi and take players back to their pad to look at their etchings.

Everton have been linked with various exotic names, including Standard Liege’s Belgian under-21 striker Michy Batshuayi, and now most startlingly Stoke City’s Kenwyne Jones.

That’s right, you have to sort of sit and let that one percolate for a little while, don’t you.

Kenwyne Jones.

It could all be a load of old bollocks, clearly, although phrases such as ‘available for as little as one million pounds’ tend to set your Spidey-speculation-senses all aquiver.

What’s most notable about this story though is just how much it highlights the goodwill that Roberto Martinez has built up in half a season in charge at Goodison Park. Because, let’s be brutally honest, almost every fibre in your being is screaming out ‘HE IS FUCKING SHITE!’ but yet there is some tiny part of you that has been hypnotised, Paul McKenna-style, by the soothing tone and gently undulating Bert of Sesame Street eyebrows of Martinez and is sort of thinking ‘this could actually be an inspired bit of business’.

It doesn’t matter that you would be howling with delight if Jones was linked with Liverpool, you are thinking ‘well we do need cover for Lukaku, and on his day Jones can be a handful for anyone. So what if his day does fall on a Leap Year…’

It’s ace isn’t it? Despite the fact that Jones is pretty much a proven, consistent Premier League non-performer, you can’t help think that if Roberto rates him then maybe he can finally fulfil his potential at Everton. After all, how many people thought that Gareth Barry was going to be completely, absolutely brilliant, hmmm?

And what if the papers are reporting that Jones is acting quite the gobshite in agitating for a move – surely that just shows how desperate he is to play for the Blues. That’s the kind of commitment that we want. Sign him up!

Incidentally, we couldn’t help noticing while doing some research on Jones (looking at his Wikipedia page) that in Trinidad he played for a couple of clubs, Joe Public and W Connection, who sound as if  they produced seminal Chicago house white labels.

Perhaps they did.

Anyway, have you built yourself up so much now that if this whole Jones interest just ends up being a ploy to strengthen our hand in negotiations with whichever long-legged lump we really want to play up front that you will actually be a bit disappointed?

Stevenage and Cardiff and That

deulofeu

As someone once famously said: the more something changes, the more it stays the same. It was probably Huey Lewis.

So, let’s get one thing straight, playing badly against lower league opposition has been a recurring theme for Everton for longer than any of us really care to remember. For the last decade or so though, the Blues have been a ‘pressure team’ who unashamedly thrived on forcing the opposition into making mistakes and there was a feeling that under David Moyes the players bought into that approach when playing against Premier League sides but found it hard to give the same respect to Brentford or Shrewsbury. Very often then, with a ‘rotated’ team, they would give performances in cup ties that fell into a strange no-man’s land where they never outpassed nor outfought their opponents, with grim results.

The difference on Wednesday night, against a Stevenage side presently struggling in League One, is that the new Everton comfortably replicated their league approach from the weekend but still found themselves minutes away from a penalty shoot-out when substitute Marouane Fellaini scored and removed a modicum of pressure from his manager. Because the idea of Roberto Martinez chewing and sweating Quadrant Park-style while finding the positives from a cup exit so early in his Everton career really doesn’t bear thinking about.

When Martinez arrived at Goodison the perception was that he would encourage a more fluent, attacking style that would result in a higher goals tally, almost certainly at the expense of conceding more. And after years of a more pragmatic approach the general consensus was that represented an acceptable trade-off.

After three games though – and let’s remember, it is only three – the worries are not about the defence, although we haven’t played anyone really good yet, but the manner in which the Blues go forward. On the whole it’s slow and staggered, allowing the opposition to easily drop back and occupy the valuable territory on the pitch while we construct these long, lazy letter Ws along the halfway line before looping a crossfield ball onto the chest of a winger who still has two men to beat. Thus far it is very much like the style employed by Swansea City at Goodison last season – one that attracted a certain amount of derision at the time.

That’s what has people a little bit concerned, and over the course of this season it appears that we are set to be debating the merits of this new ‘philosophy’ after every game, especially at home where all the emphasis is on Everton to ‘force the issue’.

That’s something to look forward to, isn’t it?

For all the reservations, Everton certainly controlled the majority of the game, despite the number of regular first-teamers missing from the starting eleven, and if they had scored early on when Gerard Deulofeu was ragging the Stevenage left-back all over the place then the evening may have taken a far different shape. However, with Arouna Kone still looking distinctly peckish and doubts just beginning to creep in, the away side scored the classic League Cup giantkillers’ goal 10 minutes before half time.

A lost cause chased into the corner, the hopeful cutback, a massively miscued shot and the next minute someone – in this case Luke Freeman – finds himself unmarked in the box and lashing the ball into the roof of the net.

Gúlp!

Thankfully, a rare injection of pace into the Everton game saw Steven Naismith feed a through-ball to Deulofeu for the last kick of the half, and what a lovely boot it proved. The young Spaniard, who looks really similar in style to Kevin Mirallas, opened up his body – whatever that really means – and curled a delicious low effort around a knot of players and into the bottom corner of the Park End goal.

After the break Everton briefly looked like they had learned from their scare but after another little flurry of action they again got bogged down in their own passing drills. Mercifully Fellaini got lashed on in extra-time though and his sheer presence gave the Blues something tangible to work with up front. He had already been denied by one good low save when an unseemly succession of scuffs and mis-controls in the away team’s area eventually saw the ball carom drunkenly off Naismith’s shins for ‘the big Belgian’ to spare everyone the ignominy of penalties.

Other positives on the night were the performances of John Stones and Ross Barkley who were not quite as eye-catching as Deulofeu but still outshone many of their senior colleagues. Barkley’s ‘Mr Grimsdale!’ routine where he drops his shoulder about three times before shooting wildly can be a bit frustrating but is as much a product of the Blues’ inability to open up a packed defence as his own youthful over-enthusiasm.

Going back to Fellaini, the stories continue linking him with Manchester United, with some papers now suggesting that not only is his move something of a formality, but that Leighton Baines is trying to force his proposed transfer through as well. Martinez is clearly getting fed up with being constantly quizzed on the subject, describing the present transfer window as a circus. The fact remains though, if we are genuinely unwilling to sell then it’s not an issue.

We’ve stated previously that it’s at home where Martinez and his team will set the whole tone for the season, and let’s be honest it’s not been exactly a blazing opening so far. After dropping four points against Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion though it’s important that the Blues simply start picking up points and have to be looking at anything less than three at the Cardiff City Stadium as unacceptable.

The slightly wacky Welsh club – come on, just get on Vincent Tan’s chain-smoking-in-Sayers chic and that story about the fella driving up from Luton in his slippers walking around the away dressing room – played so well in their home game against Manchester City that they won the prestigious League Managers’ Association performance of the week award. Don’t scoff, according to the Cardiff website it’s decided by Howard Wilkinson, Joe Royle, Sir Alex Ferguson, Dave Basset and Barry Fry. You can only imagine that this group (the collective noun is in fact a bung of former managers) all get together at a Midlands hotel each week and chew the decision over for hours on end, like a boozier, more arl arse 12 Angry Men.

How else could it be decided?

Seriously though, we were all appalled at the thought of getting a manager like Malky Mackay when he was linked heavily with the Everton job, so we really shouldn’t have any fear about facing his newly promoted side containing the likes of Craig Bellamy, Frasier Campbell and Tommy fucking Smith. That weird Denis Stracqualarsi-looking fella in midfield can frig off as well – the one who seems to have got a transfer on the strength of a Youtube video where he concedes scores of fouls against Barcelona – If he’s allowed to look like some sort of hard case against us then it’s time to wrap up and go home.

Them’s just the facts.

Everton 0 West Bromwich Albion 0

Everton-v-West-Bromwich-Albion-Premier-League-2216690

‘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.