EVERTON 1 "COCKNEY" RENT BOYS 1
Mickey Blue Eyes
I love the FA Cup because it is the greatest footy knock-out competition in the world, bar none. It contains wonderfully romantic sport stories and folk lore, everything that makes the game a first rate hobby. But what a pity to see it reduced at present to the level of an anaemic Italian competition. Roll on restoration to its proper place. Everybody responsible for its current state should be ashamed of themselves for bringing it to this nadir, from managers - particularly Ferguson of the mancs - who don't field their strongest team, to administrators who allowed this wretchedness to creep into the English game. If they can look with equanimity on the banks of empty seats at many prime games then they are even more myopic than most of us think. Still, the fans love the competition despite poor attendances prompted by a lousy live-TV policy and a cowardly newspaper/pundit agenda led by, who else, the Murdoch press. On Saturday our game with Chelsea brought in a mere 28,000 for a tie that at one time would have had a full house, notwithstanding our current debilitating season and yet another capitalist depression. If that doesn't sound alarm bells nothing will. Alas, too many have become used to dehydrated one-dimensional tabloidspeak with page 3 mentality to suit. "Dumbed-down" is actually a compliment for some, but that's no reason to spare them your contempt. You can't make a brick intelligent.
I relished the prospect of our tie with the Rent Boys and a chance to revenge the final defeat of a couple of years ago. The match was given added pique because a loss would mean our season wouldn't have much left in it. Furthermore, the opposition have come to typify everything loathsome in the modern game......bought trophies, contemptible player behaviour, a foreign owner and new hangers-on fans. Strictly speaking this isn't fair because there isn't a set of fans in the country who don't want Abramovich money, ill-gotten or not. This irony is often lost on Janus-faced scapegoaters, which is another measure of where the game stands. Funny enough, I quite fancied Our chances despite Our infuriating form this season. The Cup, the Cup, does that to you. It cauterises your disappointments and frustrations and opens up a chance of glory in the depths of an English winter. Us addicts fall for it every time, get our testicles frozen off in the early rounds and, if we're lucky, get baked in the sun of a semi final or final. Mad, the lot of us.
Saturday was a perfect day for football, bright sunshine and very cold out of the sun, a perfect allegory for the state of footy. Pre-match, the vast majority of fans I saw were up for the game in a big way and optimistic about it too. Even Plewsy wasn't threatening to dump his season ticket......well until three p.m. anyway. Like most of Us, five minutes after he says, "Fuck this, I'm not coming anymore," he asks, "Who are We playing next week?" No wonder alien life forms won't make contact with Earth. Speaking of aliens, Chelsea to their credit fielded a very strong team in search of a third straight FA Cup trophy, including Frank Lampard the Susan Hampshire of English footy. Their sour-faced Italian manager has so far survived a recent fans insane Ancelotti Must Go campaign for losing a few games, thus avoiding the fate of Abramovich's last three short lived occupants of the ejector seat. Anyone who takes that job should arrive dressed in a parachute. Meanwhile, we fielded the only team and bench we have because we're skint. Poor but happy, that's Us......or something. There's nothing like the Good Old Days is there? Things won't be the same until we bring back hanging and rickets and get rid of all those immigrants and asylum seekers. We might win the league then, if you want to believe the north Liverpool branch of the BNP and other nationalist nut-jobs. Just kidding, all you tabloid readers out there. After all, we have a few aliens ourselves in the beloved Royal Blue. In fact, they were all aliens; only one Scouser on the bench, Tony Hibbert. Eat that, Sun-reading racist xenophobes.
The first half was an extended sparring period, interesting and occasionally sparky at each end. Unfazed, We passed it around as well as We usually have this season and with the same affect: for some reason there's a no-go area in the final twenty metres. Nevertheless, Chelsea were wary and played a lot of careful possession stuff themselves, though to me they looked like they had a spare gear in them. But then, as it turned out, so did We. The "cockneys" showed their intent with an instant foul on Mikky that felled him centre field and had Us anxious until he got up. As that turned out, too, it was the worst thing the "cockneys" could have done because Mikky, pissed off, went on to relatively his best performance of the season. As the half wore on there were a series of fouls that went unwarned and unpunished by yet-again-hapless-Howard Webb. Being charitable, maybe his World Cup Final experience demoralised him. Then again maybe he's just a bad referee after all. Some of his decision-making in this match was simply appalling.
Drogba had their first shot after five minutes and Bily Ours after twelve minutes, both of them harmless. Most of the ensuing efforts came from the enemy but the clearest chance fell to Jack the Lad on a mid right run into the box after twenty five minutes that brought a good low save from Cech. It's good to see the giant back in goal after a serious head injury nearly finished his career courtesy of that disgusting hobbit, Stephen Hunt, a sort of Robby Savage mooning garden gnome. Naturally, I still want Cech to fall on his arse when they play Us even though he is, or was, the best 'keeper of the last ten English seasons. Five minutes after the Rodwell effort Anelka had similar but left side unsuccessful one-on-one which Tim Howard won. By the end of the half our beloved Royal Blues once again showed they can give anyone in the league a good run for their money. The only half-time question was: can We keep it up? Answer: yes, we could, and better. Which was nice.
In fact, We were the better team in the second half and clearly had the measure of the "cockneys." Chelsea looked apprehensive throughout, though they were always dangerous. It couldn't be otherwise with Drogba and Anelka on the pitch, despite the former's uncertain form and fractious drama queen behaviour. Anelka these days has lost his skinny and sulky look and now has the formidable physique and determination of an accomplished football athlete. For our part, Bily, wide left, seemed to relish the occasion; at times he looked almost arrogant. Jack Rodwell began to impose himself after a slightly ring-rusty first half and by the time he was substituted looked much more like himself. Mikky was fighting for the ball a lot more and giving it away a lot less too. But midfield, and the match, belonged to Marouane Fellaini, who was just magnificent in everything he did. By the end of the game even the muscular Essien had ceded the midfield battle to a more skilful and imposing player. Once again David Moyes's judgment of a young aspirant has proved brilliantly correct. Wide right, Seamus Coleman's all round game has improved beyond all recognition, a great credit to him and Moyesy's perseverance; in this match some of his unspectacular support defending with Phil Neville was superb and crucial. Gradually he is learning the right time to go on a run and not listen to the gung ho idiots in the crowd. All of it was helped by a Louis Saha performance that had Terry on edge throughout, winning headers and occasionally off on a slalom he hasn't managed all season - one in particular in the first half almost burned off three defenders, left to right. Interestingly, his hair colour is beginning to co-ordinate with his boots. Either he's making himself a clearer target man or traditional French haut couture has gone Punk.
Five minutes after the restart Jack chased down a long ball to the right goal line and managed a highly unlikely cross to the far post that Louis reached with an equally unlikely high up left foot volley which was going in until a "cockney" threw himself in to block it at the last moment. There followed a series of corners to Us and an increasing number of desperate fouls by Chelsea as We pressed forward in steady attack waves. Quarter of an hour in, We got a leading goal, well deserved by Louis after he kidded Terry brilliantly at a right side corner again superbly taken by Bainsey. He feinted toward the corner, Terry went him - as he had to - then Louis timed a check-back perfectly to leave himself a clear header when it came in and he bulleted it past Cech's right hand. Terry must be as sick of the sight of Louis as Man Sitteh are of Tim Cahill.
A couple of minutes later Bily tried a spectacular overhead kick from the left edge of the goal area that would have brought the roof in had it gone home. Alas, he couldn't get over it enough. But it was a measure of his and Our confidence during this phase of play that he even tried it. Chelsea were rocking, and their foul count went up unhindered by Webb. A second goal then and it would have been game shot. And we nearly got it a quarter hour after the score when Seamus did a reprise of his right side close-in miss against West Ham, got it on target this time, only to be denied by Essien's last ditch body block. A minute later we got yet another left side corner, it got cleared down our right, then got passed quickly across to our left where Bainsey still wasn't because he had taken the corner, and their unmarked man, a recent sub, rolled it softly beyond Tim's right hand despite desperate attempts to cut him out. It wasn't fair, but that's footy.
We had yet another series of corners for the next ten minutes until Jack was subbed by Becks in an attempt to make the pressure pay off. Unfortunately it also deflated the midfield and allowed Chelsea to get more into it, the gamble you take with this kind of move. It can go either way. In this case Chelsea increased their attempts on goal, but Becks almost won it a few minutes from time from his apparently-favoured left side. A spiffy knock on - don't recall who by - left him clear, angled and closing in the box, and he hit a magnificent left foot volley that on a better day would have screamed home. Instead, Cech pulled his magic trick and kept it out. It was another match We should (coulda, shoulda, up, down, our beloved vertiginous Royal Blues) have won but turned into Our thirteenth maddening draw of the season.
So it went to a replay. And if We play like this again there is every chance of turning them over, especially if Tim Cahill comes home fit from the Asia Cup. Fingers crossed the best Everton show up. Do that, and the "cockney" Rent Boys will know they've been danced with. If that happens, Abramovich might have Ancelotti's guts for balalaika strings, which would be highly amusing.