BOBBY IN BROWN SHOES
Mickey Blue Eyes
It has been an odd few weeks meteorology-wise. We have watched large tracts of the rest of the country battered by high winds, floods and other weather assaults. Meanwhile we have suffered little more than an occasional rain shower and slightly increased jingling of wind chimes. We have our own natural duvet on Merseyside. So of course early risers on Saturday found themselves sluiced with hailstones, rain, low clouds and high winds. It didn't look promising. But the clouds were soon ripped apart to give us cold, bright sunshine for the home match V Norwich. By match time there was scarcely a cloud in the sky, perfect playing conditions. Scouse weather. Maybe El Bob's irrepressible sunny Cataluña disposition and famous lucky brown shoes had something to do with it.
So if you are an Evertonian get your lazy fat behind to Goodison because there is nothing like a live match while the team is playing so brilliantly. Streams of VDU electrons, arse-heads like Robby Savage and message board knob heads are no substitute for the spectacle of human flesh-and-blood athletic competition and good-humoured common sense chat. Screw IT cyber neuroses and their phony clichés. Give me real footy and real people every time.
Pre-match, new signing Plastic Paddy Aiden McGeady made an obligatory introductory pilgrimage to the centre circle from Spartak Moscow, apparently as much-liked authentic Croatian Nik Jelavic was going through the exit door to Hull City, proof of the eternal cycle of professional football expat life. Doubtless there will be more evidence of it during the next few weeks. Take my tip, ignore all the paranoid bullshit and ale-house gossip until a signature has dried on a playing contract. Your footy life will be much easier and more enjoyable. A quick glance at McGeady's spud-shaped face and waist line hints at a life lived too easily and perhaps less exacting than at Finch Farm; we hope this merely shows what two months inactivity, stroganoff, Novyi Svet products and vodka can do to the human frame. Shape up, Aiden. Fast.
Once again the opposition brought only a few hundred with them. More confirmation, if it was needed, of the socioeconomic mess we live in. Presumably the rest were busy building defences against another North Sea surge. We can only wish them well. It sort of paralleled the pattern of match play, in which, yet again - I know, by now it is almost tediously predictable - the visiting team was largely outplayed, swamped, their own late purple patch excepted. By any standard some of Our Boys' play was spasmodic footy-dazzling. If they can keep this up some visiting team is going to get a right going-over. For the first time in almost two decades pre-match Goodison Park buzzes with justified anticipation and confidence. Me, I am a little more guarded, though I intend to enjoy it while it lasts. But there's no question slow build up play chastens crowd reactions and noise. We live in different times, the difference between continental café society and a smoke-filled ale-house bar reeking of bleach. Take your choice.
Return to league play meant return of most of our established first team players: Tim Howard, Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Kevin Mirallas, Steven Pienaar and Romelu Lukaku. Sadly, no Ross Barkley, not even on the bench. A gorgeous pitch showed how much the game has progressed. Years ago there would hardly have been a blade of grass in sight in January. Nevertheless, it looked like Norwich was in for a hard time.
We had two clear chances in the opening phase of play, one missed by Romelu Lukaku, the other missed by Seamus Coleman. Both came as a result of left wing moves and long crosses. How Lukaku missed his header from two metres out is a moot point. Had he butted it firmly it couldn't fail. Had he even leaned on it it would have gone in. Instead he fanned it - someone nearby said "fannied it" - with his forehead and it went past the right hand post. Then an up-and-under moment at the same place left Coleman with a snatch shot at the right angle of the goal area but he bladdered it over. Typical of football, Norwich got a breakaway to the half way line from where a quite magnificent right-to-left fifty metres pass had their man clear on the left with only Tim to beat; fortunately our American cousin smothered it in fine style. Later he had to make another outstanding save high on his left from an equally good cross-shot-cum-lob from outside the penalty area.
Twenty minutes in Gareth Barry scored with the kind of shot the crowd had been begging for. It was another splendid team move, yes, on the left. A high ball was played out of defence......so high we had time to scan the likely landing area for who could pick it up when it hit ground zero and went loose. Except it didn't. Lukaku had a bruising battle all afternoon with Bassong, and this was another one. He had his back to goal, Bassong doing his best to imitate a male rapist, as the ball dropped almost vertically in front of Our Loan Boy. It wouldn't have surprised anybody to see it bounce clear. Instead, Lukaku killed it stone dead on his instep, then laid it back to Barry on a forward run toward the left side of the penalty area. Twenty odd metres out, the defence retreating in front of him, he let loose a left foot high velocity round toward the far post. It swerved out-to-in slightly before burying itself in the far corner, thus demonstrating that anything Seamus can do, Gareth can do.
The rest of the half basically consisted of us running rings around the visitors and failing to press home territorial advantage, much as it has been now for eighteen months. If we ever get a prolific goal scorer........well, we can fantasise.
Inevitably, the second came on the hour mark as for the umpteenth time Bainsey raced in at left mid and got bowled over. Free kick, again twenty metres out, left of the D. Kevin Mirallas took it, three paces run up, lean back, right footed, just short of full speed to get it up and over the wall, then dip inside the left hand post half way up. Their 'keeper flew across the goal, fully horizontal and got a slight touch on it, enough to wave it goodbye as it went in. Magnificent, similar to the effort at Stoke that hit the goal frame and came out. This one still fizzed in the net for a few seconds. It was one of those glorious moments, like when someone mentions Twitter and Facebook and you tell them not only do you not have an "account," but you have never, and never will, so much as read anything on either. The vacant adolescent look this draws is as priceless as the Norwich 'keeper's face.
A few minutes later John Heitinga came on for Leon Osman. Then with twenty minutes left Steven Pienaar came off for Steven Naismith. The game pattern changed immediately Peanuts disappeared down the tunnel. Norwich had their best spell of the game but couldn't make any real impression despite pressing forward. It left the enemy open to quick counter attacks which Our Boys duly delivered when possible. Still, we missed a few chances to seal it, even scored an offside goal, so it was a matter of safety first for the closing minutes. It wasn't edgy as much as pissy-offy that we hadn't scored the four or five our approach play deserved.
A word here about Steven Pienaar, our little South African genius. He has to be one of the most unlikely looking footballers you have ever seen......short stride, tiny body, baggy long shorts, socks at mid calf, even a small shirt that looks like a tent on him. I don't know who nicknamed him "Peanuts," but it is exactly right. However, this is one fan who thinks he is the real creative heart of the team, a superbly courageous and skilful player who takes the most appalling physical punishment in every game. (Believe it or not, on Saturday some nearby idiot stinking of cheap beer, mothballs and rank ignorance actually claimed, "Ee goes down too easy, 'im." It must be easy avoiding all those knee "tackles" in his thighs, and similar trips and elbows almost every time he does his trademark quick inward turn.) Against Norwich he had to come off or doubtless he would have missed the next game. In my view he is virtually irreplaceable, which is why he gets targeted in every match. By now every player in the Premier League knows that if they slow him down it will interrupt our playing tempo.
A word too about Jimmy McCarthy and John Stones. Both of them have been absolutely magnificent. So much so, it is likely a certain kind of mentality will start taking them for granted. This would be a bad mistake. They are still young, still developing, still in need of support and advice. Don't expect too much of them. I hope they use Seamus Coleman as their yardstick for development.
Overall we are in very good shape as we enter the second half of the season, though from here on in it is generally about how injuries start to bite. The toughest test lies ahead. If we come through this and stay the pace it will be a tremendous achievement by Roberto Martinez as he begins to build his own squad. He faces less of a problem than David Moyes because he was left a first rate squad, albeit with some veteran players. Which is why this year promises to be exciting, and perhaps tricky at times. If it gets much better this fan is likely to need oxygen every week.
Finally, my tuppence worth on a subject that does us Evertonians no good service: current gloating by some at the difficulties endured by David Moyes at Manchester United. Now, we all know the game has always suffered from a minority "hate" mentality, and, people being people, always will. Every club has its crackpots. We are no exceptions. In fact a tiny gang of ours are the most poisonous tenth rate hillbillies anywhere in the game. Of course, mainstream media makes it worse through the manufacture of half-literate "controversies" (read: sales pitch). Over the years we have seen it directed at, amongst others, Harry Catterick, John Moores, Gordon Lee, Philip Carter, Howard Kendall, Keith Wyness, Walter Smith, Bill Kenwright......and, of course, David Moyes. Sensible fans, the overwhelming majority, see this happen time after time and quickly dismiss it and its loony perpetrators to the sewer where they belong. So there's nothing new about it. We have seen it all before, and always it is the same sickening sight and sound from the same kind of retard.
But enough already with this anti-David Moyes muck. He left our club after ten years of mutually beneficial cohabitation: we gave him his breakthrough opportunity and he saved us on the pitch. We needed each other. Badly. We both gained. That is what grown up people do in hard circumstances. They strike a bargain. Make no mistake, this club stood on the brink of disaster when he arrived. By the time he left, the transformation at all playing and administrative levels of the club was truly remarkable. And that could only be achieved by stability and support provided for him behind the scenes. Without that, he was nothing. Conversely, without him our playing future at that time was distinctly bleak. It was a good arrangement for both parties. It probably finished at the right time for both. He was stale and he had lost the fans with some bad results. It happens.
None of this means he was or is some kind of football saint or messiah, the notion of which is vomit-inducing to anybody with secular common sense. We know he didn't tell the truth about the Manchester United appointment because he was condemned out of his own mouth, which was a great pity because it was so needless. We know he dithered over transfers and some other important decisions. We know he could be stone-head stubborn. He never was very good at public relations. But so what? Who in their right mind gives a solid brass shit about public relations and market consultants, both of whom are nothing but trained liar-clerks living off the backs of genuine creativity? Furthermore, his move out was about the worst kept secret in football, especially once mainstream media and its bought-and-paid for Neanderthals got to work, just as they helped prise Wayne Rooney away from his home city club.
The fact is, David Moyes is a gifted football manager with some faults. Show me any human being who doesn't suffer from that curse of the species. Sure, his faults at their worst are as silly and as perverse as anyone else's. Again......so what? Sure, we can poke fun at the irony of him going to the so-called, self-styled "greatest club in the world"......and then find himself trailing the club he has just left, he ignominiously out of all three major domestic competitions, and likely to exit from Europe. We can even say, "Serve you right" and grin before moving on to our own concerns. But anything beyond that sinks to a level where nobody decent wants to be. It demeans us all by falling from imperfect, reasonably civilised enthusiasm and humour to the Hogarthian ale-house brutishness of the Sun "newsroom."
In any case, it is highly likely he will rescue the situation - provided he is given time and doesn't lose his nerve; frankly, for his own sake I hope he does manage to turn it around. So far as Manchester United is concerned I really couldn't give a damn one way or the other. Backed by mainstream media in branch office Manchester, and the even worse lowlife London breed, they have had it their own way for far too long. It is no coincidence it runs parallel with the despised Premier League era and the dominance of Rupert Murdoch and his mob of scumbag, phone-tapping, lying employees.
So if you are an Evertonian I say let it go. Let it be. David Moyes is no longer One Of Us. He's gone. And that's as far as I am willing to take this tribalist nonsense.