DAS KAPITAL.* TWICE.
Mickey Blue Eyes
*Due acknowledgement to Herr Karl Marx.
A sensible man takes his laughter and pleasures where he may...even in London, a place least liked. Or, to be a bit more accurate, least liked for what it now represents. I suppose too the worst thing I could do after visiting beautiful Madrid was travel to England's unloved kapital. The comparison is stark, almost savage, even though Madrid has its own problems and indignatos. No, twice in eight days to the south east is not normally my idea of enjoyment; in fact I would rather have my neck sawn open by a rusty hacksaw.
Mistake-on-Thames has too many moronic metrobores like Boris Johnson and Jeremy Clarkson, dead-head media thugs such as Kelvin MacKenzie and Andrew Neill, Andrew Marr poltroons, suited-up spivs a la Terry Venables, and some stiff-faced residents with astoundingly little knowledge of, or interest in, the rest of the planet outside its M25 soap opera. Recent spontaneous tragic social combustion there came as no surprise to those not deluded by Daily Mail and Sun neocon propaganda, which, of course, instantly dumped the mayhem down a memory hole titled "England Riots," but only after outraged Celts rightly objected to "UK Riots"......Well, London does have its version of the Olympic Games coming up, a drugs-ridden international farce to which this citizen will not voluntarily contribute one penny or one minute of attention; in short, they can shove that too.
On Sunday my pre-match footy mood wasn't helped either by three straight previous defeats, one of them a home derby sabotaged by someone named Martin Atkinson, yet another a loss the previous week to Abramovich-owned plastic Chelsea. So, suitably jaundiced through sleep deprivation, I boarded The Bus at 6.00 a.m. for another five hour motorway journey for the match at Fulham. There's never any point querying why we do this sort of thing, we just do. It's crazy and highly irrational. But we are hopelessly addicted to football and treatment is not available. It's terminal.
As usual we didn't know which Everton would turn up, the one who can beat anybody, or the one who figures the game finishes after stitching macramé footy everywhere except the enemy penalty area. We saw both the previous week when, after an otherwise good first half, Tim Howard again produced his famous failed juggling act to ensure defeat. After which, Chelsea merely played routinely expensive keep-ball that bored the pants off everybody until substitute Velios nicked one for us ten minutes from time. It was the kind of Italian/Dutch-style stuff from Chelsea that would empty stadia across the country, especially at the disgusting price of £55 per ticket. We would have had more fun if rotund David Mellor had shown up wearing only an undersized footy shirt and a shy grin. We hoped for better against Fulham. I guessed a draw.
Actually, Fulham is the kind of club that drives some Evertonians up the wall and across the ceiling. Proud Royal Blues are apt to compare histories and wonder what Lahndan Tory corner shopkeepers and contract IT clerks are doing in the same stadium. It's erroneous of course because the real reason is one Mohammed El Fayed, which is more fuel on the footy chauvinist fire. We, on the other hand, are like impoverished aristocrats with no seat in our kecks and an ageing country mansion to look after. The truth is these comparisons are almost always nonsense: footy fans are footy fans the world over. We had plenty of time to ponder this during the journey. Not that anyone was gloomy; genuine football fans are much more upbeat.
As The Bus neared the south east the polluted grey-brown smudge in the sky got larger until we too were enveloped in its carbon-monoxide flux. You could almost taste airborne lead on your tongue once you were inside the ghetto and its scruffy yellow and red brickwork. It's an oddly disjointed town, London, almost without a sense of community or warmth. But not entirely, and when you do come across it it's like an oasis in a desert. This is partly understandable when you consider the prices they have to pay for basics. For instance, I imagine beer fans aren't happy at being charged more than £4 for a pint of lager with the flavour of virgin's water.
There was too a moment when the teams came out in bright sunshine and the PA announcer bellowed, "SHOWTIME!" to the disgust of veteran fans everywhere. Plainly the guy had completed his MBA first year first module in Spivvery and Marketing at the Norman Tebbitt "Business" School. If he tries that outside the M25 he'll get lynched. Deservedly.
Moyesy doesn't have many different options, but he sprang two when Roy Drenthe lined up at outside right and inexperienced nineteen years old Tolos Vellios at centre forward. Phil Neville came back at centre mid, with the usual suspects everywhere else. Somehow, Moyesy still conjures magic from his box. Gawd knows how. In this one he had his work cut out trying to deal with three seasoned threats in Zamora, Johnson and Dempsey, while Tolos was trying to do very experienced Hangeland at the other end. Plainly, anything could happen. Whoever won would leapfrog the other up the table.
But none of us foresaw what happened after a couple of minutes. It looked innocuous when Jack Rodwell sent an aimless, long range side footer from centre left mid in our half to our wide right in theirs. Ex pinkies Riise and Murphy loitered in clearing it and Murphy got caught in possession by Fellaini, from whence it bounced loose to Jack Rodwell, whose youthful legs had taken him rapidly from one end to the other. He tried to exchange forward passes with Tolos near the right edge of the enemy penalty area but it too bounced backward off a defender to Drenthe on a forward run from the right. He was all of twenty five metres out. It didn't seem to make much difference as he got a full left footed strike on the ball; it never got above head height as it swerved out-to-in and dipped in at ground level on the 'keeper's right. Absolutely brilliant, one we've yearned for all season. No wonder he took off on a celeb that almost took him through the dugout and into the brown Thames.
And that set the pace for the first twenty minutes, during which Fulham looked as porous as we do on a low. Royston made Riise's life a misery during this phase and got dropped a couple of times, but it didn't make much difference to his determination: he must have been covered in bruises by the end of the game. At ten minutes Jack missed an easy header at the centre. Five minutes later Tolos missed an even easier header chance even closer in. Three up and that would have been game shot. But that isn't the way football works......
Gradually the enemy made their way back into the match. In my view the change came about when Royston switched wings with Leon, by now a routine move of Moyesy's that even Kikuyu must be aware of. It had the usual result too. Tony was left on his own to cover attacks down his side. He did it as valiantly as usual - had another stormer in fact - but he can't do everything. Inevitably, most Fulham attacks came down our right. Twice in a few minutes Tim had to pull off tremendous saves from Murphy shots low down to his right, one of which actually ricocheted off a post.
Fulham had done well to get back into the game. However, they couldn't overcome the centre mids of Jack-Phil-Felli, and that restricted chances for Zamora. The striker has come a long way since his gawky looking clumsy adolescence, has filled out and poses a muscular threat to any team. You can't leave him alone for a second, which made for some edgy tussles with Sylvain and Jags. Then Dempsey tried a long range shot from right of the D that went narrowly wide of Tim's right post. By half time the game had balanced out and looked like it could go either way.
Moyesy's first throw of the dice came after three minutes of the second half when he subbed Louis Saha for Tolos, who hadn't got much change from Hangeland. Ten minutes later Jol subbed Murphy with Ruiz, who immediately went left side, presumably fresher legs to take on Tony, still on his own for the most part. He'd only been on for a few minutes when it paid off following a patient attack threaded down the right and then across to their left side of the penalty area. Tony raced across to cover but he can't do the work of two men. Ruiz had been forced wide but he still had time to shape and chip the ball carefully over Tim at the near post. Another brilliant goal. Fulham grew in confidence. They didn't have it their own way, though, and ten minutes later Louis burst through, tussled Hangeland (in a way Tolos hasn't yet learned) on the left of the goal area and brought a magnificent low down left save out of their 'keeper.
With a quarter hour left Seamus and Tim Cahill came on for Phil Neville and Leon Osman, both of whom had plainly run out of gas. This visibly tilted the game again. Now Tony had better cover. Within a few minutes at the other end Seamus ran straight at their defence and turned them over, though there was no immediate result. The enemy now had to be more careful. The game hung on a thread. As the minutes ticked away you could feel both sets of supporters just wishing for the final whistle in case disaster hit. Which it did...for Fulham, at both ends. For us, relieved heaven. But not before Tim had made a brilliant spontaneous save with his feet from a Ruiz volley that should have been buried. Then in the final minute of normal time Andy Johnson put Zamora clear right side of the penalty area; he went round Tim...and then hit it over off the crossbar.
A minute later a long air ball out of our defence got nodded on by Royston from left centre mid. Louis was on to it in a flash, again, burned off their just-sub Hughes and clipped it home from the same position he had forced a save earlier. It was fantasy stuff, but still it wasn't finished. Another minute and a foul wide left on Louis. Free kick, taken by Royston. The cross dipped in dead centre where Tim pressured a desperate defending header, it dropped perfectly to Jack, centre left edge of the penalty area and he volleyed it straight back past the 'keeper's right hand. 3-1, and what footy's all about, especially when you win.
A good game to win this one, and an important one. Well done to Moyesy and the team for staying strong when it mattered most. I bet that left the London media staring up its own deluded arse, which made it even sweeter.
For me there were three good developments in this game. The first was the rather obvious one of Royston as man-of-the-match. He took some fearful bruising throughout but never complained once and kept on running straight at their defence until they must have been sick of the sight of him. If he can keep this up and his weight down he's not only going to be a crowd favourite he's going to terrify a few defenders. This also assumes he's learned finally to control a notoriously single-minded if fragile temperament - if he has, plainly the world's his oyster. Or something. The second was Jack Rodwell slowly bedding himself into midfield, though I still think he's a future outstanding centre back, possibly a great...the future's his to lose. The third was increased playing time for Tolos, who we tend to forget is only nineteen and still fairly raw. There were other good things too: Sylvain Distin, Tony Hibbert among them. Moyesy's substitutions were masterful, as are everyone's when they work. Most of all, it was a much-needed win against very experienced opposition. Moyesy is only in the foothills of team transition and some of Our Boys are nearing the veteran stage; it is an edgy time in which anything can happen and probably will if the past is anything to go by. Yes, we cling to straws, but then we can't afford an alternative. There's no point doing much else. Get busy living, or get busy dying.
Still, there's three stern tests coming up, Chelsea again, the Mancs and the Geordies. All of them should be interesting, possibly disastrous, possibly glorious, especially in view of results that filtered through to The Bus on the journey home to fresh sea air. There was no triumphalism and no whingeing. My kind of people.