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Brown-nosing Liverpool

February 6, 2008

There is an interesting item in the Independent’s diary page today that notes Gordon Brown has been on the receiving end of some criticism from Evertonians.

Brown apparently took the time out from running the country to make the point that Everton’s motto ‘Nil Satis Nisi Optimum’ (‘Nothing but the best is good enough’) does not correlate with the fact that the club have not won a trophy since 1995 and could be done under the Trade Descriptions Act.

Is this the same Rt. Hon. Brown who, on his first day as Prime Minister, declared that he would be following his school motto (‘I will try my utmost’) during his tenure as the Head of Government?

Maybe there is more to this than you would originally think. Perhaps our Supreme Leader is now allying himself to the red half of Liverpool?

After all, which football team is embroiled in financial crisis, is involved in an unfortunate relationship with Americans and now finds themselves on the verge of being taken over by their rivals after spending the past decade in a superior position?

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Referee errors may cost Toffees

February 3, 2008

Alan Wiley may not have sunk to the depths of Mark Clattenburg or Graham Poll with his refereeing performance in the 0-0 draw with Blackburn Rovers, but the result may have a bearing on how the final months of the season shape up.

I watched open-mouthed as David Dunn, already on a yellow card, was given a bit of a telling off for the most obvious intentional hand ball you are ever likely to see, only for the midfielder to clear a Jagielka attempt off the line thirty seconds later.

Later in the game, yet another Andy Johnson penalty appeal was refused despite the fact that he was quite clearly kicked up in the air by Khizanishvili. It used to be that Johnson would protest the injustice towards the uninterested officials but now he now he shakes his head and carries on with the game, knowing it would take GBH for him to be awarded a penalty.

In the last five minutes Everton seemed to have found a winner when substitute James Vaughan appeared to play Johnson in who cleverly touched it past two defenders to then stroke it into an empty net. The linesman’s conclusion? Offside, despite the fact that there are three players ahead of Johnson when Vaughan touches it across. When Premier League linemen do not understand the rules of offside, there is little hope of improving the dire state of refereeing in English football.

Two draws and two clean sheets against two of our nearest competitors seems like good business over the last four days, but with the chasing pack closing in the games against Tottenham and Blackburn, which really should have been won, could come back to haunt Everton. Personally, I will be cheering on Ghana in their African Cup of Nations quarter final with Nigeria tomorrow – the return of Yakubu Aiyegbeni could not come sooner. Everton have gone three games without scoring but chances are being created. The predatory instinct of the Yak will hopefully mean Everton start to put some of the chances away as the Toffees battle to hold on to fourth place.

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In praise of King Newt

January 26, 2008

 

Raise a glass today for Ken Livingstone, who appears to be leading the polls in the London mayoral contest, in a YouGov/ITV survey.

Despite being the subject of a vitirolic Channel 4 Dispatches documentary and coming under attack on a daily basis from the Evening Standard, Livingstone appears to be leading Boris Johnson by four points at 44%. This is perhaps surprising given the intensity of the smear campaign and the popularity of Johnson in the Tory party.

There is a simple explanation for Livingstone’s lead though: over the past eight years he has done a good job and remains the best candidate for London mayor.

The personal attacks on Livingstone from the Standard are amusing considering the chequered past of it’s favourite son. Darius Guppy, Boris’ old mucker who defrauded Lloyds to the tune of £1.8 million and who collaborated with the Tory candidate to beat up News of the World journalist Stuart Collier, remains a stain on his past. Petronella Wyatt, the daughter of the late Lord Wyatt, with whom Johnson had a four year affair whilst he was married with children, remains another. This is without mentioning the embarassing run-ins with Liverpool and Portsmouth, Jamie Oliver and Papua New Guinea (read here for more). No wonder he struggled to hold down a proper jobs in the Conservative party and was regularly forced to apologise by whoever was leader at the time.

To the general public he may be the clown who appears on quiz shows and rugby tackles Germans in charity football matches, but as the Compass group asserts, in reality he is little more than ‘Tebbit in clown’s clothing‘. His appeal to Londoners stretches as far as those residing in Kensington and Chelsea and people who only spend five days a week in the city and are back on the commute in the evening. He doesn’t represent London – just ask the 750,000 ‘picaninnies’ with ‘watermelon smiles’ who make up 10% of the city’s population.

Livingstone has undoubtedly made mistakes, and some of the accusations brought up by Martin Bright’s Dispatches programme should be answered and investigated in full. However, he has proven over eight years to be an effective and charismatic leader of London, which under his tutelage, has established itself as the world’s leading city. Crime has been cut and there are record numbers of police officers. He has boldly introduced iniatives in public transport, the environment and affordable housing and taken tough political decisions, such as publicly standing up for Sir Ian Blair in the wake of the Jean Charles de Menezes shooting. He has spent his political life working for London, with his two terms as Mayor, his 14 year spell as MP for Brent East and as leader of the Greater London Council in the 1980s. He should be allowed to continue to excel as leader without the distraction of personal attacks from Boris, the television personality and sometimes politican.

Following the campaign, I keep recalling the episode of the Simpsons when Homer runs for the office of Sanitation Commisioner. Homer is elected after a smear campaign on the incumbent and is elected on the back of a series of unfulfillable promises. When it all goes predictably tits up, Ray Patterson (voiced by Steve ‘why are you not funny anymore?‘ Martin) declines the offer to return to the job telling the Springfieldians to ‘wallow in the mess they made’.

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Disappointed but optimistic

January 24, 2008

If last night was a disappointment, it is only a sign of how far we have come.

Five years ago Evertonians would have been ecstatic at reaching a Carling Cup semi-final, never mind sitting in fourth place in the league and looking good in Europe but Moyes has given Toffees the license to dream beyond mid-table consolidation.

Everton are not in a false position in the league but their results against the teams immediately above them have demonstrated the massive gulf in quality that exists in the Premiership.

Some before the game suggested that if ever there was a chance to end the Chelsea hoodoo (it’s now eight years since we beat them), it would be in the semi-final at Goodison. They were missing Terry, Lampard, Essien, Mikel and Drogba and were apparently not the force they were under Mourinho.

In reality, they came up against a supposedly makeshift side that had a centre half who probably cost more than the entire Everton team combined. They were resilient in defence and exhilarating when they counter attacked, swarming forward like bees in those hideous illuminous shirts. They are probably the best team to play at Goodison this year but when they can dip into the market for an emergency £15m striker, it’s the very least you would expect. Avram Grant was meant to be a regressive step and yet Chelsea look a much more convincing side even if the ‘sexy football’ that was promised has not quite arrived.

Everton have hit the glass ceiling in fourth place as they struggle to make the leap towards the elite and the regular Champions League football that entails. Foreign investment would be the obvious solution given that all of the clubs challenging at the top are owned by foreign billionaires but there is no guarentee that this will work as evidenced across the park with Statler and Waldorf at Anfield.

 

‘The fans are revolting!’
‘Yeah, we knew that already’

Everton’s best bet is to stick by David Moyes and to stick by Bill Kenwright who although he has had criticism, has allowed Moyes to build a challenging football team within the club’s meagre budgets.

My only hope is that last night will not make our talented nucleus of players believe that winning trophies is now beyond us. Rome was not built in one Carling Cup campaign. We’re getting closer.

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Everton’s Euro crackers ready to spoil Manchester United’s party (Sportingo)

December 21, 2007

The way things are going for Everton at the minute, they couldn’t lose even if they wanted to.

David Moyes elected to pick a second-string team for the apparently meaningless final fixture against AZ Alkmaar yet still finished the game 3-2 winners.

(Read more at Sportingo.com)

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Everton head for new heights, but could they have done it without Lee Carsley? (Sportingo)

December 12, 2007

Everton’s winter revival continued with a 3-0 win over Fulham as the Toffees took their recent record of 10 games without defeat. For David Moyes, it seems everything is now falling into place. Yakubu, the £11.25m striker who did not enjoy the happiest of starts to his Goodison career, scored a ‘perfect’ hat-trick (one each with his left, right and head) to add to his tally of eight goals this season.

(Read more at Sportingo.com)

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Everton make their point at Pompey

December 3, 2007

(match report written for Portsmouth vs Everton, 1 Dec 2007)

After the events of the last week, it was no surprise that the interest in Everton’s fixture against Portsmouth on Saturday was not the Toffee’s impressive recent form.

Harry Redknapp’s arrest on Thursday by the City of London police as part of their investigation into allegations of corruption in football ensured the spotlight was on the Pompey manager and his team but with Everton continuing their now eight match unbeaten run, that will do just fine.

There was little of the sparkling attacking football that both teams have shown in recent fixtures as two sides in direct competition for European places cancelled each other out, but considering Portsmouth’s unbeaten home record and ten match unbeaten run it will go down as another successful weekend for David Moyes’ side.

Redknapp was considered to be one of the major candidates for the vacant England job and while his chances may be reduced by his association with the ongoing investigation, he has built a very competent football team on the south coast.

At times the flair of Niko Kranjar and the excellent Sulley Muntari threatened to overwhelm Everton, but the Toffees were excellent defensively with the partnership of Joseph Yobo and Joleon Lescott providing an effective barrier to Portsmouth’s forays forward.

Last week it was the Everton attack who earned the plaudits as they plundered seven goals past Sunderland, but the impressive rearguard on Saturday showing suggests Everton are a team with balance and quality all over the pitch.

There have been doubts over whether Lescott and Yobo could play together without an experienced head like Alan Stubbs to organise the defence but with each game the pair seem to develop more of an understanding.

Lescott has struggled for form since his early season goalscoring exploits, but leading the back four at Fratton Park he showed the quality that lead to his call up by McClaren to the national team.

Vociferously backed by a home crowd determined to show their support to their beleaguered manager, it was Portsmouth who dominated the first half with Sulley Muntari constantly finding himself with the space around the Everton box to try his luck with long range efforts.

The Ghana international also came close with two free-kicks, the first evading Papa Boupa Diop head for a likely goal and the second crashing off the top of the cross bar as the first half drew to a close.

Tim Cahill’s return to the Everton midfield has been successful and borne six goals from seven starts but the side of his game that means he commits needless fouls remains a weakness in tight away fixtures such as these.

With a lenient referee and home backing, his niggling style can work to the team’s advantage, but his rash tackle on Muntari on 30 minutes meant a booking from Peter Walton and diminished his impact on the game.

Steven Pienaar too was booked for a challenge on the lively Kranjar and was lucky to stay on the pitch after several frustrated fouls.

After a half of Portsmouth dominance, Andrew Johnson’s introduction after 52 minutes gave Everton the impetus to go and make a stake for the points and Leon Osman should have done better when he failed to control in the box with only David James to beat.

There were not enough superlatives to shower the performance of Mikel Arteta last week but he was largely anonymous on an afternoon where the midfield seemed to struggle, with only the hard-working Lee Carsley shining in the Everton quintet.

However, James had to be on his guard on the hour when Arteta’s free-kick was saved comfortably.

An altercation between Sol Campbell and the substitute Victor Anichebe threatened to liven the game up but the situation was defused without the referee having to book any players.

In the frantic final minutes, Portsmouth almost clinched the win when Kranjar’s drive was parried by Tim Howard, but Joleon Lescott slid in to put the ball out for a corner when Kanu seemed certain to pounce.

Another point on the road for Everton against a good side as they enter the busy Christmas period bodes well for the rest of the season, but the Toffees will need to recreate the attacking form they displayed last week if they are to continue their climb up the table towards the European places.

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