A CALIFORNIA YANKEE IN THE COURT OF KING LEAR
Mickey Blue Eyes
Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!
You sulfurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o' th' world,
Crack nature's molds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man!"
THE HISTORY OF KING LEAR, scene 9 (Quarto text), a play by William Shakespeare (1608).
Some Brits, naifs all, are convinced US Americans arrive in the world with extended arms, fists locked around a gun, shouting, "Step away! Down on the fuckin' floor now!" Of course it's an absurd notion. There are many more decent Landon Donovans than murderous John Gottis or fascist cops, just as there are many more beautiful US cities than that neon-lit, hood-owned slum of the human imagination, Las Vegas. But US pop culture has only itself to blame: make enough gun-toting cinema and TV and you deserve all the misconceptions you get, which is partly why Landon on (another) loan is a breath of common sense fresh air during January transfer hysteria, which lunacy is why football too has only itself to blame. At times the clean-cut one looks like he's straight from a prom or an expensive LA orthodontist. In fact his kind of welcome bright personality is what's left of admirable Yank "can-do," a self-made player with all the enthusiasm of a sixteen years old. You can't help but like him. I hoped he would get a game as soon as possible. Still, I wonder at his obvious popularity. Novelty, thirteen previous games and two goals do not a great player make. Maybe in this straitened era it shows how much Evertonians need a hero figure.
Meanwhile, pre-match Wednesday, Bolton Wanderers were rock bottom and looked doomed. Their problems illustrate how quickly footy fortunes can deteriorate these days. It seems only yesterday some with asinine diarrhoea claimed Bolton were yet another example worth following, to add to Aston Villa, Southampton, Newcastle, Portsmouth (now in its second administration mess in twelve months), Stoke, Leeds, Sunderland (Marks 1 and 2), Charlton and gawd-knows-who-all-else temporary bonfire of the vanities. In fact the current bottom three makes sad reading for the North West......Wigan, Blackburn and said Bolton propping up the rest. Me, biased, I want all the North West teams "safe." Not that anyone is invulnerable in the current financial system. Almost any club could go out of existence tomorrow, and it will stay that way until the whole existing footy-money system is dumped. Wanderers and Blackburn are merely the latest victims. Tomorrow it could be us. Like it or not - and nobody I know does, to put it mildly - that's the way it works. You still have to pay the banks, at least until the "derivatives" (read: rip offs) dam totally collapses. All the wilful fantasies in the world won't change that crushing capitalist scam; organised intelligence will, but only when there's no alternative.
Envy is the logical conclusion of it all. Since jealousy is the saddest vice, why be surprised if a system of fear-ridden organised greed produces angst even amongst proles? To wit, in your local it is likely the same people who slaughtered departed Yakubu and Beckford at their nadir who now complain they should never have left. In their absence the boo-boys have obviously settled on Louis Saha as scapegoat. Tomorrow it will be somebody else, probably Vic Anichebe, maybe Tolos or the Argentine Firecracker; perhaps, incredibly, David Moyes. I might be surprised if I hadn't been around so long and witnessed the snarling, ugly nonsense many times over, even in the non-existent "good old days." Footy adversity at its own level always bring out the wonderful best and vile worst in individual human nature. My Dad, wise man, used to have a phrase for it. "Who," he used to ask with a faint smile, "would you rather be in a trench with now?" You listened, since like many of his generation he had the scars to qualify him. It remains a salutary question, as events elsewhere have shown this week. O humanity.
On the face of it our game on Wednesday night looked a shoo-in. Us unbeaten in four, them with one win in eight. A nailed on draw or loss, then.....So a loss it was in a game so awful it makes comment almost superfluous. Gale-force winds and ice-needle rain only served to emphasise Seasonal Affected Disorder. You could tell how bad we were when Moyesy disappeared altogether from the dotted line and hunkered in the dugout, his standard refuge at times like this. Even a risible gust-aided leading goal from Tim Howard couldn't improve matters. And late on the loss of an already-make-do-and-mend midfield led to total collapse and deserved defeat. In the end Bolton thoroughly earned the win. There wasn't a single Everton player performance of much worth. Landon played but was as invisible as everyone else, though in his case there's mitigation in January California and January England. Even Bainsey wasn't on top of his game. To add to the woe we finished with injuries and layoffs to Jags, Jack and Ozzy. As always, the gods of footy show no mercy when things go pear-shaped.
One hopes this will see the end of a 4-4-2 farce with our present players: once again it was tried, once again it failed, as it was bound to even against demoralised opponents. Nor would it matter much who was played up front from our present squad. We simply don't have the players even if we were clear of injuries in all positions. On the night Louis cut an almost footy-tragic figure after two "air shots" while Denis Stracqualursi is obviously a gamble that will never pay off. The truth is we were a hapless bunch, not just up front, and Bolton not much better but certainly good enough during the last quarter-hour. Any more performances like that and we'll be back among the dead men inside two weeks.
And so to Saturday and the FA Cup tie V Tamworth. It was a classic Cup prat-fall waiting, almost begging, for a first level team - us - to come off the back of a dispiriting loss and play a fired-up Blue Square Premier none league side. It was all reminiscent of a drawn home tie against Altrincham in 1975. And when the day dawned still there was no respite from the wind. It looked more awkward by the minute. The noon game between Birmingham and Wolves on pub TV pictured a half full stadium for a local Cup derby; it was the clearest example you could get of an economy in desperate trouble and a sport that has cheapened one of the game's greatest assets, The FA Cup. Nevertheless, in the circumstances our tie was a modest "success" with an attendance over 27,000, a hefty 6,000 of them visiting fans on their biggest ever day out. But Cup attendances elsewhere were mostly awful and way below former traditional expectations.
Team for us, Seamus, Bily, Felli, Vic and Jimmy Mac all in, and Phil Neville in at left back for Bainsey. It's probably the only game where we'd try it, with or without a full outpatients department. In the second half Bainsey, Denis and Royston came on in place of Seamus, Jimmy Mac and Vic.
Two minutes in Tamworth got a free kick centre mid in our half and the taker thudded in a solid, wind-assisted effort from twenty five metres that whistled just wide. It could have made for an interesting start if it had gone in. A few minutes later we got a corner on the left, Landon took it right footed, curved it into the far post and there was John Heitinga to butt it in with minimal effort. Gosh, an early goal. For the next thirty minutes Tamworth were gallant but couldn't get going at all. Not that we were doing much to threaten, as usual. But the visitors got a second wind for the last ten minutes of the half, got a series of corners and looked like they might just force the issue. All credit to them too for being undismayed. They never gave up.
The second half was mostly routine unimpressive stuff with an occasional unconvincing effort from both sides. As you would expect we had obviously better individual technique but Tamworth simply kept going and as long as the score stayed at 1-0 they always had a chance. Disaster is only a miskick away in the Cup. Then with a little over ten minutes left we were given a penalty after a tired but apparent trip on Royston as he closed in from the right; seemed innocuous to me. Bainsey smacked it home without ceremony. So we were two goals to the good from set pieces, and from defenders to boot, quelle surprise. Once more our "strikers" were anonymous. So was 4-4-2. Again.
We were a good deal better in the final twenty minutes, mostly thanks to Bainsey's runs. Otherwise, as you were, even against Tamworth. But once again, only a further goal to lose, the visitors came back. Had they scored you wouldn't have bet against an equaliser. I hope it doesn't sound patronising when I say they were a credit to the none league game. They fully deserved the applause they got at the final whistle.
Still, we're through to the next round. Whether we can go much further is another matter. Memories of last season's Cup are still fresh......a win at Chelsea, then a hapless loss at home to Reading. I wonder what Landon makes of it all?