Featured

My introduction to blogging…

This is the post excerpt.

A life-long Evertonian, keen fisherman and nature lover, I’ve spent my working career in the automotive industry with over 30 years associated with Mercedes-Benz in the UK before working abroad in Sudan and Ghana.

My passion is sport and for over twenty years, as a hobby that turned into a job, I was heavily involved in professional ice hockey – a sport that afforded me the chance to write, broadcast on the BBC, travel and meet many sporting heroes and legends.

Football and Everton have always been number one and these days, I contribute match reports and occasional feature articles to the biggest independent Everton fan website at http://www.grandoldteam.com

I am also a keen environmentalist, Greenpeace supporter and Green Party member – in my opinion, it’s high time everyone – governments, businesses and the general public – thought more about the damage we’ve done and continue to do to the planet and its wildlife.

This, my first attempt at a blog, will therefore contain my thoughts on a variety of subjects (probably most about Everton) that I hope will be both readable and entertaining.

They’ll be purely my views on things that interest and concern me, thanks for reading.

Andy

Everton, Missing a Global Trick ?

Everton shop

Association football, in particular the English Premier League is alive, well and thriving on a global scale. Its clubs attract worldwide television audiences, owners, corporate sponsors, supporters and of course players.

With this kind of reach, it’s no surprise that the financial possibilities appear to be almost limitless for the Premier League and especially those clubs with the biggest and widest appeal around the globe, and who, most importantly, are geared up to making the most of the opportunity by jumping on the merchandise bandwagon.

Thursday morning saw a social media posting of an EPL event in Austin Texas with now retired USA and former Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard the featured guest of honour. Take a look at this link and see the passion and fervour of football fans stateside…

and just look at the numbers… over 8,000 in attendance and over 4 million unique views on NBC television – over four million !!

By any stretch of the imagination, those numbers are impressive, and by association so therefore must be the marketing and merchandising opportunity for Everton to maximise the potential of.

However, upon second viewing, it becomes glaringly obvious that whilst there are fans there in Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United shirts, and apparently genuine scarves of both Liverpool and Sheffield United, the only Everton presence – other than the shirt worn by Tim Howard – are a number of Austin Evertonians scarves, obviously produced locally, most likely by the fans themselves.

It strikes me that despite Everton having confirmed Tim Howard as our ambassador to promote football and the name of Everton in the United States, there appears to be something lacking in terms of supporting his efforts with Everton merchandise being provided and made available for sale at the events he’s attending.

And it makes me wonder further if the situation is exactly the same for Steven Pienaar in South and elsewhere in Africa, and for Tim Cahill in Australia/SE Asia ? Our former stars are out there attending events, promoting and speaking well of their time with Everton, but seemingly without any merchandise to sell to and sign for the doting football fans in attendance.

There’s a quote I’ve heard a few times on the excellent Everton Business Matters podcast that, “there are Evertonians out there who don’t yet know they’re Evertonians”.

These sage words made me think that if Howard, Pienaar and Cahill were able to augment their public appearances with Everton shirts, caps, scarves etc then we might actually begin to convert those fans looking for a club to pin their allegiance to into being Evertonians.

So do the club parcel up a batch of merchandise and courier them to the clubs ambassadors or is there a simpler, more cost effective and dynamic way to get Everton merchandise to both existing customers and new, potential fans around the world subconsciously yearning to be Blues ?

Evertons’ merchandising partners are Fanatics, maybe they could help ? You bet your boots they could !!

Merchandising and on a global scale is their forte, and in a recent blog by Paul the Esk – https://theesk.org/2019/10/29/everton-fanatics/ – he outlines clearly the principles Fanatics employ and the almost unparalleled opportunity that they maximise with not only major football clubs, but right across the full range of US sports.

In a nutshell, Fanatics have the avenues for promoting, and logistical mechanisms for providing merchandise quickly and efficiently to market areas around the globe already in place and fully operational, it needs Everton to lock onto and wake up to the massive revenue potential but more importantly, the opportunity to develop a whole new and practically limitless fan base.

When our three ambassadors commit to public appearances on behalf of the EPL and/or Everton, in conjunction with Fanatics local radio/tv advertising, flash discounts on line for local zip codes, pop up shops – it can all and should be done.

Fanatics promote themselves on the back of being able to do this local level activity, arrange local campaigns, manufacture and deliver stock locally. They call it V Commerce (vertical commerce). They have the infrastructure and retail space to do this given they control all MLB, NHL, NBA and NFL merchandising.

If Fanatics can successfully provide merchandise globally for those four sports, individual star players and their millions of fans worldwide, then it should not be a major upheaval for them to do likewise on behalf of and for Everton.

With it patently not being done to any noticeable level, this suggests to me that Everton need to be instigating and driving a global merchandising initiative and with three former players in three major markets, this currently has to be a global trick we’re missing out on.

Come on Everton, talk to the ambassadors, talk to the worldwide supporters club branches and talk to Fanatics, and especially with Christmas just around the corner, let’s start making Evertonians from the millions of football fans out there who don’t yet know they’re Evertonians.

COYB !!!

NSNO !!!

When will Everton grow a pair ?

Mr.Testicles

Setting aside all the other issues currently facing Everton – the future of the manager, the up and mostly down form of the players, the less than inspiring commercial performance, and anything related to the Bramley Moore Dock stadium project – the point of this rant is to question when will someone, anyone from the club say what needs to be said ?

I’m referring very specifically to the VAR decision at Brighton on Saturday that contributed to yet another embarrassing loss away from home to a club, no disrespect intended, we should be capable of overcoming.

Let’s recall… a hopeful long, high ball into the Everton area saw Connolly and Michael Keane both clearly looking at the ball, Keane accidentally and unwittingly treading on the Brighton players foot, the ball went out of play and the referee signalled a goal kick.

Oh hang on, with Connolly writhing around holding his shin (?), Lee Mason the VAR referee decides the contact by Keane is worthy of review… and surprise, surprise he awards a penalty while the on-field referee Andy Madley deems it unnecessary to review the incident himself on the pitch side monitor.

Brighton score, Everton don’t react in any way positively enough to having been pegged back and we subsequently lose to the unfortunate OG from Lucas Digne.

Marco Silva bemoaned the penalty decision by referring to the earlier arms around and blatant shirt pull on Richarlison, and wondering fairly calmly why that wasn’t deemed fit for review.

The vast majority of tv pundits, analysts and former players, including Brightons’ own Glenn Murray felt the awarding of the penalty to be wrong.

So my question and indeed demand is, when will someone from the club, be it the manager, the Director of Football, the CEO or our erstwhile happy to appear before cameras after a win Chairman actually get off the fence and state publicly the clubs absolute and utter disgust and fury at that decision, and in so doing highlight the shockingly poor way VAR is being deployed ?

If someone actually launched a vitriolic attack on the decision and VAR, what’s the worst that could happen ?

A touchline ban for the manager and/or a fine for any other club official speaking their mind and fighting our corner ?

A fine would be a drop in the ocean for the club to settle, but the attack on the decision and poorly employed VAR might just send a message to the authorities that Everton are sick to death of being the butt of poor decisions.

Anybody else remember the fine and suspension for Oumar Niasse getting fouled at Crystal Palace ??

Perhaps the biggest positive a vitriolic attack might have would be to send a message to our own players and supporters that that club is finally prepared and willing to stand up and fight for our cause.

For far, far too long, Everton have been the ‘nice’ club, doing things ‘the Everton way,’ rarely protesting and speaking up for ourselves.

Well enough is enough of that approach as it’s achieved bugger all in terms of on field success… we haven’t lifted a trophy since 1995 and there’s little sign of another coming our way in the foreseeable future.

It’s time Everton grew a collective pair and started to think of number one, time to stop being the soft touch, time everyone in the club fought every inch of the way, every minute of every game, every contentious decision that goes against us, time we threw off this mantle of mediocrity that has infested the club and ails us to this day.

To fail to address this now and in the strongest possible terms irrespective of any fine that comes our way, would be to my mind, an absolute abdication of responsibility from those at the top of the club who supposedly have our, the fans and the clubs, best interests at heart.

For heavens sake Everton, thousands and thousands of passionately loyal Blues are sick to death of us being taken for and viewed as second rate.

What has happened to the belief in NSNO ?

You win by defending yourselves and attacking aggressively – we haven’t seen very much of that from our hierarchy in donkeys’ years… it’s time the worms turned and brought about Evertons’ return to a position of confidence, influence, pre-eminence and made us proud to be Blues again.

COYB !!!!!

Let’s get ‘Up for the Cup’

Cup Final

The great Jimmy Greaves repeatedly said about football, “it’s a funny old game” and he was right.

For Evertonians though, the early weeks of this new season have been more a period of frustration than amusement as the teams stuttering form in the Premier League is again testing supporters patience with players and the manager.

Positive signs of a fighting spirit in the victory over Wolves after the disappointment of losing at Villa Park were dispelled by the capitulation at Bournemouth and the surrendering of a six game, home winning streak to Sheffield United. These reversals saw many voice concerns over the ability of Marco Silva to take our club forward and back to where we all yearn to be, challenging for silverware, titles, trophies.

In between, we saw a rare come-from-behind win against Lincoln City in the Carabao Cup and last Tuesday, chastised by the manager not to go into hiding, Everton raced out of the blocks to overcome Sheffield Wednesday in the same competition, thanks to two early and well taken goals from the oft maligned Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Once again, Everton are taking us supporters on an emotional roller coaster, but the draw for the fifth round of the Carabao has just handed us a glorious opportunity to banish the blues and truly get the Blues on the road to recovery.

All you can reasonably ask for in any cup draw is a home tie, and after trips to Sincil Bank and Hillsborough that’s what we got with Watford the next opponent in a competition that – to our shame – we’ve never won. The icing on the cake was the rest of the draw that saw four of the so-called ‘big six’ paired against each other and a guarantee of at least five more top flight clubs exiting before the draw for the quarter finals.

Everton are four games from the Carabao Cup Final, let that sink in for a moment… just four games from Wembley and a cup final, and given the draw, it’s eminently winnable.

Victory over Watford would, no will, see us into the final eight. The quarter finals and just a two-legged semi-final from a trip to Wembley and a chance to secure our first silverware since Joe Royle and his Dogs of War side lifted the FA Cup, way, way back in 1995.

The Carabao EFL Cup to give it its full name is a competition we’ve never won. We’ve been runners-up twice and it’s high time that this monkey was off our back.

Throughout its many formats, League Cup, Carling Cup, Milk Cup, Worthington Cup and whatever other name it’s been bestowed with, even the Mickey Mouse Cup, the plain shameful fact is… we’ve never won it !!!

Everton… players, the manager, the board and us the supporters need to grasp the nettle and absolutely prioritise this competition.

Winning the Premier League is the ultimate domestic prize, but it’s a marathon we’re unlikely to win given our stuttering start. The Carabao Cup however is a sprint and we’re well in the race, it’s now time to kick on and charge for the winning line.

So this missive is a call to arms, a demand of all Blues that we set aside the negativity that all too easily pervades, park our feelings over players, the manager and the board in order to fully concentrate and focus on making the Carabao Cup our immediate and achievable target.

When the date of the Watford tie is confirmed, likely to be Tuesday 29th of October, let’s sell out Goodison and make the Grand Old Lady shake with cup fervour and fever.

Goodison needs to be at its aggressive, passionate best. Fill it with flags and banners, sirens, Z-Cars, pyrotechnics, ear-splitting noise, even scantily clad American football style cheerleaders… I honestly don’t care what it takes.

Goodison under the lights with the crowd loud and proud, and fully committed to supporting the team and progression will surely be ours.

Watford don’t just need to be beaten, they need to be dismissed, humbled, thrashed, thoroughly vanquished and in so doing, notice given that Everton are determined and ready to assume our rightful and long overdue place back among the winners.

The eventual move to Bramley Moore Dock will see a new dawn for our club, but before we leave our beloved Goodison, our Grand Old Lady, we need to honour her memory by parading silverware around her again.

This Carabao Cup campaign is a glorious opportunity to do exactly that, and in so doing take us back into Europe where we should always be aspiring to compete.

So let us all get ‘Up for the Cup’ – Come on you Blues !!!!!

Recruiting strategy is key…

Marcel Brands.jpg

For almost the entire season and especially since the Anfield derby the form of Everton has, at best, been patchy and at worst downright embarrassingly awful, and this has led to an increasing number of questions over the capabilities of the manager Marco Silva.

Now this article hasn’t been written with the outright intention of adding further fuel to the fires of discontent that burn in certain quarters and are reaching wildfire proportions in others in wanting to see Silva ousted, it’s an offering of how the appointment of key staff like a head coach or manager could/should be handled.

A little over two years ago, during the ill-fated Koeman/Walsh era, I published a couple of articles related to player recruiting, and somewhat ironically, Steve Walsh wrote in similar vein barely a couple of weeks later. With the benefit of hindsight and somewhat tongue in cheek on my behalf, perhaps he might have been well advised to read those articles and put the principles into practise, rather than Koeman and he adopting a scattergun, ‘look at the size of our owners chequebook’ approach to their player purchasing.

Now though, lets return to the present and a situation that may befall Marcel Brands if results and performances don’t improve between the resumption of play at Cardiff a week on Tuesday and the end of the season.

Opinion is split between whether we stick with Marco Silva and give him time to work with the players for the rest of this season and through the summer into next season or… if the worryingly similar trends of his time at Hull, Watford and to date with Everton cannot be rectified quickly, whether to end his tenure and start again?

Nobody wants Everton to be a club associated with constantly changing managers, knee-jerk reactions and having a distinct lack of patience, but modern day Premier League football is very much a results business. And if the results aren’t forthcoming, and for many Evertonians there needs to be a quality performance as well as three points, then changes are almost inevitably going to occur.

MB2

For the Director of Football then, there needs to be a strategy, a process by which suitable head coach/manager candidates are identified, researched and vetted before we actually get down to the serious business of offering a contract.

In both theory and practise it’s a relatively simple process. Football is a global game, and as such it’s probably asking too much of any individual to have his finger on the pulse of every market from where a new head coach or manager could be sought.

Marcel Brands will no doubt have built up, over a number of years, a considerable ‘black book’ database of contacts around the world, and it’s these contacts who you turn to on two fronts. Firstly to suggest that a position may be or is coming available for prospective candidates and secondly to hone in on people already known about.

When names are offered or clearly identified, then the most diligent and thorough research must be undertaken. No stone should be left ignored or unturned. Everything needs to be explored and thoroughly dissected. Every aspect of a candidates history in and out of the game should be considered. You talk to the candidates, and not just once or twice, but several times and at odd times of the day to see how they react and handle themselves.

References must be taken and very importantly, not just those offered by the candidate, because they’re nailed on to speak glowingly… nobody offers a reference who would badmouth them would they?

So you go about finding your own references and not just one or two, but as many as possible. Players who have played for them, coaches who have worked with them and coached against them, and importantly other Directors of Football or club General Managers who have worked with them previously.

It’s an exhaustive process and not one to be undertaken hastily or lightly. And it can be and perhaps should be a constant process. Nobody knows when a change may be needed and to suddenly and quickly have to make a key change without having such a procedure in place can prove dangerous and, in this day and age extremely expensive if it goes pear-shaped.

In much the same way as good managers and Directors of Football have a scouting system for players, there should, to my mind, be exactly the same research and scouting system for coaches and potential managers.

Football is way too expensive and dangerous a business these days to make hasty appointments of the flavour of the day, the first out of work name that springs to mind, or to leave things to chance and hope for the best.

If we were to be in any way critical of where Everton are at present, we could suggest that the appointment of Ronald Koeman was made largely on his undoubtedly stellar playing career in Holland and Spain and for the Dutch national team. His previous managerial stints particularly with PSV Eindhoven, Valencia, AZ Alkmaar, Feyenoord and Southampton were at best functional.

The appointment of Sam Allardyce in the wake of Koemans’ demise was a safety-first, guarantee us Premier League survival move and whilst Allardyce achieved what was asked of him, he did so with a total lack of ambition to do more, lack of charm, disregard for the supporters, lack of grace and an appalling style of football completely alien to the traditions of Everton Football Club. Twelve months on, his tenure as manager of Everton remains regarded as an indelible stain on our history.

And that brings us to the current manager Marco Silva, who came with a reputation for improving players technically, an important factor if the focus for the long term is on youth. After a reasonable start and fledgling signs of a style Evertonians could get on board with, the wheels have somewhat come off the wagon, and he will surely accept that there needs to be a dramatic upturn in what remains of this season.

Whether we make another change rests, I’d suggest, not only on the results but also on the nature of the performances between now and the end of the season.

My hope therefore is that Marcel Brands has a head coach/managerial appointment strategy similar to that I’ve suggested… because we can’t afford to get it wrong again.

For those interested, here are the links to the articles I published just over two years ago…

https://www.grandoldteam.com/2017/01/29/recruiting-need-character/

https://www.grandoldteam.com/2017/02/02/building-a-squad

Match Report – Everton vs Manchester City…

Valiant effort by the Blues, but City take the points.​

Everton 0-2 Manchester City

Goals from Laporte and Jesus in added on time at the end of each half saw City take three points from Goodison on Wednesday night but oh boy, did Everton make them work for them.

Going into this Wednesday night clash of the northwest Blues, Everton were licking their wounds after a desperately disappointing loss to Wolves last Saturday while City had bounced back from a rare defeat to Newcastle by comprehensively beating Arsenal on Sunday

Marco Silva, under pressure from many Evertonians, went into the game looking for a dramatic improvement from his team and in his pre-game media gathering, defending his use of younger players. “We took a decision to make some young players part of our squad at the start of the season, a decision we took as a club.”

Addressing the pressure on himself personally Silva noted calmly, “when you are winning games the things people say it is good. When you are not [winning], this type of situation is normal. It is nothing new in our club, but it is about the now.”

With Lucas Digne available again after serving a one game suspension and a shoe-in for selection, Silva still had selection issues in midfield where Idrissa Gana Gueye was expected to return.

The Everton team sheet was submitted reading: Pickford, Digne, Zouma, Keane, Kenny, Gana Gueye, Gomes, Davies (c), Walcott, Bernard and Calvert-Lewin.

The reigning champions arrived at Goodison looking for a victory to leapfrog them back into pole position in the race for the Premier League title and with a galaxy of stars for Pep Guardiola to choose from.

City won here 3-1 last season, but Guardiola needed no reminding that his first game at the Grand Old Lady saw Everton thrash him and City 4-0. But this City team are even stronger this season than they were last in lifting the title.

Guardiola was suitably focussed when he spoke ahead of the game, “Goodison Park is always a tough game for us, but the approach is the same – going there to try to win the game and of course, we have the chance to go top.”

City duly named their starting eleven: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Laporte, Fernandinho, Gundogan, Silva (c), Sane, Bernardo and Aguero.

On a cool, breezy evening, Craig Pawson was our referee for a game massively important to both clubs.

A good competitive first half saw City have more possession, but Everton match them every inch of the way effort until right on the break, the defensive frailty that has blighted the Blues all season struck again.

A decent start by the Blues saw DCL intercept and get away from Laporte to cross only for the ref to blow for a foul in the area. City countered to win a corner on the right that was only part cleared to Sane who controlled and drilled a low shot just wide.

City were settling into their passing game, but Everton were closing down well in midfield and not giving them the kind of time on the ball the visitors like to enjoy.

Some good defensive work from Kenny and Keane saw them snuff out a threat from Aguero. A quick header forward then by Aguero set Sane going in a foot race with Keane and despite a bit of a miskick , the Everton defender prevailed to work the ball clear.

Bernardo was next to try and open Everton up with a ball from right to left for Sane but Zouma was quick to get to his cut back cross and clear at the expense of a corner, which Gundogan fired to the back post where Laporte climbed for a free header that went wide.

Fernandinho found Sane again in space and his quick pass to Silva saw his quick cross find Gundogan, but his close range shot came back off the crossbar.

Everton having got through the opening twenty minutes then began to press forward themselves with DCL and Kenny combining to get the ball into the area for Walcott, but Stones was able to head clear. A fine tackle by Gomes won possession back as City tried to break out and he fed Davies whose first touch sadly let him down.

Evertons’ best move saw Kenny and Davies combine to find Walcott for a cross that was met by the head of Bernard, Ederson tipping his effort away for a corner.

Digne from the left found DCL and a nice turn saw him get away from Stones and cross for Davies with City happy to concede another corner.

Sane with a quick breaks as the Blues defence in a bit of a scramble but they didn’t panic and got the ball clear. But with one added minute signalled, a rash tackle by Gana Gueye on Fernandinho on the right gave City a free kick that Silva floated to the back post where Laporte climbed again the plant a firm header back across goal and beyond Pickford.

It was tough on Everton who had far from disgraced themselves in an entertaining first half.

Half Time: 0-1

An early cross field ball from Gana Gueye saw Laporte clatter into Walcott, both players needing attention while the Bullens Road fans howled for a yellow card for the City player. From the free kick, Everton won a corner that was cleared out to Gana Gueye to hit a powerful 25-yard shot straight at Ederson.

Evertons’ next attack saw Fernandinho somewhat agriculturally take down Davies with no yellow card from referee Pawson, Digne hitting the wall with the free kick.

City really should have increased their lead in the 58th minute as a Bernardo cross came out to Walker whose shot bounced up nicely for Aguero but his put his bicycle kick wide. City made their first change bring Sterling on for Sane while Everton took the goal kick.

Stones over elaborating played a poor ball across his own area that Walcott got to but his cross was poor and City survived. Davies again turned to get away from Fernandinho who again took him out and again, no yellow card.

Everton swapped Gylfi Sigurdsson for Andre Gomes on 63 minutes.

City got forward through Sterling and the Blues defence worked overtime to block shots from Sterling and Silva to eventually clear only for City to come again with Gundogan finding Silva with Tom Davies making an excellent block to clear the threat.

On 72 minutes, referee Pawson finally showed Fernandinho a yellow card for a foul on Gana Gueye and Everton withdrew Bernsrd in favour of Richarlison.

Everton were battling for every ball and not giving City any time on the ball with excellent showings from Kenny and Davies, the enthusiasm of youth shining through.

Changes on 78 minutes saw Jesus replace Aguero and Cenk Tosun replace Theo Walcott.

A quick ball out from Pickford saw Richarlison beat Walker and send the ball towards Tosun, but Ederson was very quick off his line to gather and deny the Turk a shooting opportunity.

A high, hopeful ball into the City saw Ederson gather as Tosun and Otamendi collided, both needing some brief attention.

City made their final chance on 88 minutes, de Bruyne replacing David Silva.

Many of the 39,000 plus crowd were surprised when seven added minutes were signalled before a quick break by Tosun to feed Richarlison saw his cross deflected nicely for Ederson to gather.

And cruelly, City wrapped up the victory in the dying seconds as a ball into the box saw Jesus loop a header over Pickford to settle into the corner of the Park End goal.

City may well go on to successfully defend their title, but Everton made them work for their victory and will take a lot of heart from their own performance against arguably the best side in the country and possibly Europe.

Full Time: 0-2

Everton, we need direction and some answers…

Directionless

Everton, bereft of leadership, concentration and a coherent gameplan yet again, were comfortably beaten for the sixth time in nine Premier League games as the malaise that has flatlined their season deepened. The spotlight will inevitably fall on a manager who appears powerless to react to the slump or galvanise his team but players who are going through the motions at Goodison shoulder responsibility too. They have become the epitome of a nothing team.

The above statement was penned, perfectly in my opinion, by Andy Hunter in his report in the Guardian on the defeat by Wolves at Goodison on Saturday.

In just 74 words, he has encapsulated the feelings of so, so many Evertonians, growing increasingly fed up with our once proud football club continuing to disappoint with alarmingly regularity. And those final nine words read like a gravestone epitaph.

Being an Evertonian in recent years has been far from easy. The club has stumbled through four managers in the past five seasons and is again, disturbingly and worryingly at a crossroads. What direction are we going in and do we stick with Marco Silva or make another managerial change?

Saturday’s loss to Wolves appeared – to me from my seat in the Main Stand – to be the game that might just have broken the resolve of many Blues. With twenty minutes still to play, huge numbers of fans headed for the exit disillusioned by what they were watching, a team playing with no apparent plan, no pace and defending uncomfortably again from set pieces.

The post-match radio phone-ins were almost unanimously critical of the manager and the way he sends the team out to play, without pace and almost suicidal defending with poorly executed zonal marking.

Contrast that aspect alone with the way Wolves employed it. Whenever we got the chance to throw a corner or free kick into their penalty area, their back five and in particular the three centre backs knew exactly where they should be and what they were doing individually and collectively.

Their second goal served to highlight the difference between well-coached and executed zonal marking and the mess that has been set piece defending this season by Everton. Moutinho chipped a simple free kick into the space for a forward to run onto and Raul Jimenez duly obliged, escaping the attention of Coleman and Richarlison while the rest of the Blues defence were, not for the first time this season, blind to the threat, static and unable to prevent the goal.

I seem to recall from my long, distant schooldays, defenders being instructed, ‘be first to the ball.’

Wolves went into the game with a clear plan and evidently with all their players fully on board and confident in their ability to execute said plan. Wolves were efficient without being spectacular, played with belief and at pace and always looked threatening on the break.

Everton for all their possession, 64%, didn’t appear to have a plan. Gomes worked hard and scored a stunning goal to bring the Blues level, but was rather fortunate not to see a second yellow moments later with an unseen, by referee Mason, foul on Jota.

But too many other players went missing in action. What has happened to Theo Walcott and Gylfi Sigurdsson? Richarlison was largely a spectator and we simply cannot carry passengers any longer.

A huge question that needs to be asked and answered is this – who on the Everton medical and coaching staff approved the selection of Leighton Baines? We all know Lucas Digne was unavailable due to his one game suspension, but picking a patently obviously less than 100% match fit Baines was, quite frankly, a ridiculous decision.

The player will almost always ‘pass’ themselves fit to play, they naturally want to play as much and as often as they can, and with Digne unavailable, Baines probably felt ‘obliged’ to declare himself fit to play.

But following the way he left the game at Huddersfield on Tuesday, grimacing in pain, surely the manager and his medical staff need to be asked some searching questions. Baines lasted 36 minutes during which time he conceded the penalty for the opening goal and looked increasingly uncomfortable until finally indicating the need to come off.

How on earth could one of the manager, his coaching staff and the club medical staff not have foreseen this likelihood?

How often do we hear the phrase, ‘Play your strongest side’? You don’t need the benefit of hindsight on this occasion to know that Jonjoe Kenny should have started yesterday with Baines, at best, on the bench.

Looking ahead, our next five home games see us take on Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United.

What’s the betting we hear someone use the often quoted, sound-bite, one-liner, “the players will raise their game for these ‘big’ games”?

My questions are… Why do they have to raise their game? Shouldn’t they be playing at their highest effort level every game? Shouldn’t they take every opposition as seriously as the likes of City and Liverpool?

Will City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and United ‘raise’ their game to play Everton – No. And the reason why… because they play at the ‘raised’ level every game.

Did Wolves raise their game on Saturday – No, they didn’t. They had a firm and well drilled game plan and executed it almost flawlessly.

Let’s assume for a moment that any of those next five home game opponents do have an off day, they all have managers capable of getting or making their players ‘raise’ their game – be honest do we? Andy Hunter suggests in those 74 words that we don’t, and there are thousands of Evertonians who will all too readily agree.

Guardiola, Klopp, Sarri, Emery, and even Solskjaer to a lesser degree than the others, have all shown they have what it takes to instil a belief into and extract a greater effort from their players. I venture the opinion that sadly, Marco Silva does not have this skill set… yet.

And if he hasn’t got that skill set yet, how long is it going to take for him to acquire and exercise it and more importantly, can Everton afford to wait that long?

Sadly Marco Silva seems to be demonstrating he is a man incapable of changing set ideas. All his teams in England – Hull, Watford and Everton – all have or do play zonal marking and all leaked goals from set pieces. Lots of goals. Regular goals. This is a man who does not (or worse will not/cannot) learn from his mistakes… Stubborn.

It’s like being at the fairground and the same rides come round again!

There is a nicely argued article on http://www.GrandOldTeam.com – saying if you don’t give a manager/coach time then you are forever in transition from one set of ideas to another. Very fair comment, and in the interest of balance so that everyone can make up their own mind, here’s the link to it… https://www.grandoldteam.com/2019/02/02/the-silva-debate/

But the harsh, stark reality of Saturday was Wolves brushed us aside, not by playing dazzling unanswerable football, just by employing a well thought-out, well executed game plan.

I and so many other Blues cannot see ours. I and so many other Blues cannot (yet) see his philosophy. But, if this – what we’re watching – is the level he thinks is good – then there’s the door son. All the best, and take your coaching and medical staff with you.

And as a final sobering thought for everyone reading… just how many wins and points do you honestly expect this Everton to earn at Goodison from City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and United?

Don’t Go Breaking Blue Hearts…

yinmh

In 49 years of watching Everton, I’ve seen some wonderful footballers play some magical football, the Holy Trinity, Latchford and Thomas, the Kendall mid-80s’ sides and the occasional flirtation with success of the ‘punching above our weight’ teams under Moyes.

Along the way there’s been trophies and despair, but in hugely uneven proportions the wrong way. Too many times we’ve been the bridesmaid when being the bride was within reach – 2009 FA Cup Final and the 2016 League Cup and FA Cup semi-finals to name just three.

But that was history and we have to deal with the ‘now.’

Up until the mind-boggling added-on time defeat at Anfield, there were some reasonable signs of improvement emerging, albeit slowly. But given the depths of anguish under Koeman and Allardyce we were seeking to break free of, Evertonians well used to needing patience in bucket loads, were sensing daylight at the end of a very long, dark tunnel.

Since that derby loss though, the despair has returned as the signs of improvement have all but disappeared. The green shoots of recovery have either died or gone back into hibernation awaiting sunnier days.

We’d begun to play some attractive, attacking football. We’d begun to look like a team, something we haven’t done, dare I suggest since season one under Martinez. We’d begun to play some footie with a swagger, a style was emerging and hopes were raised, maybe prematurely, that a corner was being turned.

Almost all of that pre-December optimism has disappeared, evaporated into the ether and Everton Football Club needs to fathom out precisely why, and furthermore implement strategies and policies that will prevent it ever happening again.

Is it the players, is it the coaching, is it the manager, is it the board of directors, even is it the supporters? We all have opinions, some much stronger than others as to what the hell has and appears still to be going wrong.

Boxing Day at Burnley was a most welcome Yuletide gift, but we didn’t build upon it. Was the somewhat fortunate win over Bournemouth a new dawn? We earnestly hoped so but after a quite shocking and supine defeat at Southampton, the rather overwhelming thought now is that we aim for the mythical forty point survival mark and then take a deep breath of relief.

Farhad Moshiri joined the club and has invested heavily. Bank debt was resolved, Goodison got a facelift, ambitious plans for a new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock were launched and the transfer business went into overdrive.

Almost three years have elapsed since Moshiri arrived, but for the rank and file supporter, little appears to have changed for the absolute better where we can see the evidence – on the field of play.

Borrowing a catchphrase from National Rail about problems on the trains, we need to ‘See it, Say it, and Sort it.’

Moshiri upon listening to and reading the match reports from St.Marys’ might find himself thinking, “Do I need this?” But then, if you’re a billionaire, I guess you also think, “I have (some) responsibility for this…”

Let’s cut to the chase… it needs saying… Moshiri probably needs to be wondering whether Marco Silva is the right man for the job, or organising and getting the best from a group of young men? Moshiri might need to be calling a meeting with his newly appointed Main Board Director of Football Marcel Brands to ask, “Marcel, what do you think right now?”

What such a conversation might need to also address is… is this manager ever taking this club into serious European competition?

He can be given all the statutory soundbite statements – support, patience, adjustment period blah, blah, blah but beyond his bent to attack, which is admirable, where’s the philosophical steel that players can cling to when things go wrong? And as many are posing in lots of other forums, if there was a plan A yesterday there certainly wasn’t a plan B.

Whether that conversation takes place and what might be said, is all a matter of pure conjecture. And as we’re still carrying financial responsibilities for previous managers and coaching staff, it’s probably reasonable to suggest that Marco Silvas’ position is safe… for now.

So let’s look at other issues…

Not for the first time this season, at Southampton our team were beaten, simply and pretty straight forwardly by another ordinary team – because that’s what we are at present – who simply wanted it more.

Southampton came into the game off the back of an exit from the FA Cup last week that went to extra time and penalties. Shouldn’t they have been both mentally and physically tired, well if they were they gave a pretty fair imitation of not being. They were hungrier for the ball, quicker to the ball, stronger on the ball and they played to their strengths, as individuals and as a team.

Their manager put together a game plan based on quick counter attacking and occasional Route One football, and his team clearly understood and adopted the plan successfully… and Everton failed to see it and consequently had no idea how to adjust to nullify the hosts.

In contrast, it was hard trying to figure out exactly what our game plan was other than to dominate the possession. Sure we did that but in so doing, failed miserably to register one shot on target in the first half and only two in the second half.

Playing Richarlison as a lone striker just doesn’t suit the boy, lumping balls out of defence for him to try and win in the air was and is futile. Gylfi Sigurdsson saw the game pass him by for long, long periods, he’s got skills of that there’s little doubt, but does he have it within him to take a game by the scruff of the neck and run it… the jury is out.

The adoption of zonal marking continues to astound and confuse many fans and seemingly one or more of the players too.

Andre Gomes has gone from looking breath-taking in November to looking lost in January, and his early substitution didn’t appear to come as any surprise to him. Collectively, Everton were second best all over the field, with the possible exception of Jordan Pickford and on loan Kurt Zouma.

We played with no great pace, too often – as in recent seasons – players looked for the safety first pass, more in a ‘get rid’ way of playing rather than a way of trying to hurt the opposition.

If we’re not going to do any January transfer business as appears likely, surely we need to stick DCL up front for the rest of the season with the service to him from Richarlison wide left, Lookman wide right and Sigurdsson from midfield?

There’s no real need to go much further with a hatchet job on the performance at Southampton, we’ve all seen pretty much the same traits since the beginning of December. We’ve lost that sense of confidence, swagger and style that was slowly emerging and we’ve scuttled back into our shells, hoping the next error or goal conceded can’t be blamed on me.

There’s another question that also needs to be asked and answered… about leadership. Right now, we just don’t seem to have a natural leader on the team. We’ve had no fewer than five starting captains this season but I still cannot see a player who all the rest can and will readily turn to for direction, guidance and inspiration. Moreover, who in this current squad can we honestly point to and say, ‘he cares as much as we do.’

I’ve only ever been a fan and being honest, it’s been a few years since I went traipsing all over the country to cheer the Blues on, these days my season ticket in the Main Stand is my footie fix, but I admire and respect the stoic steadfastness of the fans who do still make the every week effort to follow the Blues.

What I know for absolute certainty though is that a fan lays his or her heart on the line every single time the team comes out to play, the roar that greets the players merely serves to confirm that.

We all know we can’t win every game and if we played Barcelona tomorrow, we’d expect to get beat, but equally, we’d expect our team to play to the best of their ability.

When that simply doesn’t happen and on a hideously regular basis, a fans heart breaks.

Back in 1976, Elton John wrote the following lyrics, and they describe perfectly the relationship between football fans and the club they support… “Right from the start, I give you my heart, Oh… oh I give you my heart, So don’t go breaking my heart…”

It seems in this day and age, that doesn’t count for diddley-squat.

And as a final thought we perhaps and albeit reluctantly have to accept, that clearly Guardiola and Klopp are the best and most recognisable examples that it is possible to take and mould a bunch of strangers into a functioning, proud unit.

Right now, this Everton squad are neither functioning nor proud.