OH I DO LIKE TO BE BESIDE THE SEASIDE
Mickey Blue Eyes
Now the "window" hysteria is over, now nincompoops and trashy rumours have again come and gone, we can get back to "normal." Fortunately, the majority of fans have paid little attention whatever to the small number of idiots and haters who try spotty adolescent "window" tomfoolery twice a year - except to take the piss out of them, something which must be intensified and encouraged. Take them on and pay them back in full coin, give them a dose of their own medicine and watch them squeal like a stuck pig. If you are one of the naive suckers who fell for their claptrap......have a serious word with yourself. Otherwise you will end up a member of a minute soviet of guttersnipe morons with the collective intelligence of a Weetabix. We have enough problems in the game without adding gang-idiocy to them. As I have said elsewhere and often, you can start to help here: http://www.fsf.org.uk/ ; but don't bother if you are merely an ale house or internet oaf with a big mouth. The game needs additional active long-term intelligent fans, not scatty knob heads.
It doesn't get more normal than Blackpool at home in early February, though there's little customary about Ian Holloway their manager. Sadly for him, dear Ian has discovered that shouting silliness at press conferences has a limited shelf life; sooner or later it gets just as tedious as modular tabloid journalism. After the novelty wears off untalented hacks start jeering instead of giggling. As we all know, that's the way their system works and keeps them in a job. Poor Ian, everybody expects his team to drop like a Hull stone once gravity takes effect. They had lost four in a row prior to this match. Not that We've had much to feel superior about. Blackpool have been ahead of Us in the table for the entire season and they deserved it. Prior to Saturday's match they were still two places above Us entirely on merit: I have no time for this "over-achieving" claptrap. The league table never lies, though tabloid hacks do as a matter of course.
It was the kind of day that gives an extra edge to the English game, low grey clouds, constant light cloying rain sluicing through the floodlights, and a slight chill. These are the kind of conditions that really challenge players and add extra mouth-drying uncertainty for fans when the ball is near the penalty area and defenders trying to keep their footing. English footy is unrivalled on these occasions, ninety minutes of edge-of-the-seat stuff if you're lucky. Given the clubs' respective seasons the game promised an interesting encounter. In fact it was wonderfully exciting and uncertain, especially in the second half when fortunes swung three different ways, a live experience you can't get through a computer or TV broadcast and ersatz internet hysteria. But then I've always preferred flesh and blood humanity, talents, mistakes and all.
The saga started interestingly when we had two shots inside the first few minutes, one a free kick - more, as Plewsy unkindly claimed, than we'd had in some complete games. But somehow you sensed the crowd felt this was going to be different. And so it was. It flowed back and forth edgily, mostly with Us in control. You could see, though, how Blackpool had done well in the first half of the season; they seemed to play it around in tight little groups of three and then moved quickly, a real high-energy style that could intimidate you if you let it. They certainly weren't dirty but they took no prisoners either, but neither did We. Niggly fouls came regularly from both sides as you would expect in the conditions. It could have got out of hand but didn't. The referee tried to keep it flowing and just about managed it despite a series of maddening inconsistencies that irritated both sides. It was nice to see there was no Wenger-Fabregas style whining. Both sides were too busy trying to play football.
Still, it was good to watch. A solid rare shot from John Heitinga presaged a series of corners in which (shockdelight!) We also managed to avoid the first man. Meanwhile, Bily seemed to revel in the rain and uncertainty, teased their right side defence, and even managed to get in a few tackles of his own.....Louis won headers and looked sharp......and Felli already looked superb, rain or no rain. But all over the pitch players of both sides were showing why all the bullshit about English football being "finished" is of course just that - bullshit. (Which is why the sport is better off without the perpetrators. The game's defects will be corrected by those with the strength to stay the distance, not run away.)
After twenty minutes the first goal arrived. Given the flow of the game it was inevitably to Us, and it was a great team goal that started wide right in Our half. Seamus Coleman intercepted an attack and laid it off infield to Felli. From there it went further inside via a deflection to Jack The Lad, who then showed why he is such a great prospect. He turned and switched the attack to Bily on the left, then joined him in a spiffy one-two in the corner that led to the Russki kidding two defenders near the goal line before closing and smacking in a hard ground cross that Louis smacked in equally hard at near-centre edge of the goal area. I am delighted to report someone appears to have lit a fire under Louis since the turn of the year. Either that or he's got pissed off at so many of Us - me included - thinking his time was up. I have never more wanted to be proved wrong.
The next phase of the game lasted about a quarter hour before Blackpool equalised following a rare attack. There was a lot of quick movement and bodies thudding to the floor at regular intervals, no quarter given or taken, and the crowd steadily more irritated. Plainly it was going to be spicey. Their goal came when a speculative up and under dropped at the front of Our D and Distin was penalised for a hand ball that naturally no Evertonian saw and howled at the ref accordingly. The free kick hit the wall and went out for a corner on Our left side, where their man duped everyone by hitting it hard and low to the near corner of the goal area and a fortunate knock on bulleted in off the near post before anyone could move. Why Tim didn't have someone standing there is a mystery.
A couple of minutes later we got a disallowed goal that annoyed everyone even further. A Mikky led attack right centre mid had him surging toward the corner of the box and then laying it off wide right to Seamus, who skinned their defender on the inside, got pulled back, but still got it to Louis. A quick, brilliant swivel right side between the penalty spot and the goal area and it went home instantly. Oh no it didn't. The referee gave a free kick which Bainsey inexplicably put in row Z to a storm of boos at the hapless official. Apparently he didn't play the advantage despite the obvious opportunity and that he is allowed some seconds to do that and still bring it back if no advantage accrues. Go figure. Seems obvious enough to me.
Anyway, We went in front two minutes after half time courtesy of another magnificent move down our left. Mikky and Bainsey played superb combo tight on the touch line near half way and as they moved forward Mikky put through a defence splitter that left Bainsey clear and he hit one of his hard low specials straight into the path of an onrushing Louis and he side footed it in left edge of the goal area after outstreaking their centre backs. All of it played along the ground, an absolutely outstanding piece of footy.
The game went on its exciting, fast paced, foul-ridden way. We had a series of corners and dominance that had us beginning to think We had it made, that We would need an abacus to count them in. How daft can you get? A quarter hour later Blackpool got two goals in as many minutes and went ahead after the kind of defensive errors that have plagued Our season. The culprits were John Heitinga for the first and Sylvain Distin for the second. Quite what was going through Johnny's mind is a question for him and his psychologist......the enemy made a scatty attack down Our right that should have been cleared before it even pinged off Our Cheesehead centre right mid. He went after it but for some reason made no tackle whatever, so their man took a few paces and then stuck it acute angle left to former Royal Blue Beattie, who crossed it to the far edge goal area and a hard cross shot did the rest. Straight away We had a left side corner, Felli got a shot in and a defender booted it off the line. Then We had a right side throw-in near their corner flag. It got headed out to the middle where Distin made a pig's ear of an easy tackle, fell to the ground, and left them breaking out five on four. It played to their right of the D and a tremendous left foot shot left Tim helpless before it came off the bar and then got headed in. Shit, we were 3-2 down and the Bovril wasn't even cold. All of which finally fired up the crowd even more.
Then a few minutes later their 'keeper made a hash of a clearance at centre edge of the box, lost the ball, and Jack The Lad chipped it straight back over their defence only for a defender to race back and make a superb last minute hooked saver. Clearly, nobody was giving up the ghost, energy-sapping conditions or no. You couldn't take your eyes off it. Then, another series of corners and a couple of shots to Us on each side of the substitutions. Tim Cahill and Jermaine Beckford replaced Bily and Jack. As it turned out, Moyesy won the battle of the subs.
The game took another melodramatic turn with a quarter hour left when We scored two goals in four minutes and went in front. Strewth, you could hardly catch your breath. Rain soaked bodies everywhere, standing up and writhing on the ground, magnificent individual ball control and passing in the conditions. It was a superb spectacle. The equalising goal came from what seemed our umpteenth left side corner swung in by Mikky to the near post where sub Tim Cahill got his inevitable touch, it travelled to the far side of the goal and Louis got higher than a defender and nodded in for his hat trick. Three minutes later Becks put Us in front again: Distin broke up an attack on the left, fed it through to Bainsey wide on the touch line, a jink inside, then another piece of footy craftsmanship - this one right footed - long passing that scythed through the middle and took out the entire defence as Becks raced through and volleyed home left footed from left of the spot. When their 'keeper got to his feet his face was streaked with blood. You couldn't write a script like this. Nobody would believe you.
But still it wasn't finished. With just over ten minutes left and all of Us glancing at the clock Blackpool got a throw-in on our left side midway in our half. It bounced around at the corner of the box before ricocheting clear to Felli wide left. A lucky bounce then and it could easily have been 4-4. Instead, a world class counter-attack in the teeming rain. Felli took it forward a few metres before sliding an exquisite pass straight in front of Louis lurking even wider left at half way. At which he took off on a lung-busting run which left it at two-on-two, Our other one being Becks in the centre, leaving their centre backs with a fearful problem, especially since Louis plainly had the heels of the man chasing him. Most of Us were howling for Louis to get it across to Becks, who had drifted away from his marker. Fuck that, Louis just ran straight through and clipped it home from left corner of the goal area. Another magnificent goal in a magnificent game. That was it, though either side could have scored in the closing phase. Nothing would have surprised Us by then.
So that one was for all you Evertonians, the vast majority, who haven't listened to the whining, carping fish-wives who tried to poison the atmosphere during the last month. After a season like this, you've earned it. Enjoy while you can.