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Coventry City Logo

Coventry City 1 - 3 Everton

Half-time: 0 - 3


Everton Logo
FA Carling Premiership 2000-01 – Game #23
3pm Saturday 20 January 2001
Highfield Road, Coventry
Att: 19,174
« Tottenham Hotspur (h) Ref: Paul Durkin Tranmere Rovers (h) »
[ Matchday Calendar ] League Position: 15th [ Results &  Table ]
 MATCH SUMMARY
Peter Clarke

 

Everton's decimated squad made a blistering start in this critical relegation struggle against Gordon Strachan's equally dire Coventry City: almost half the Everton Premiership squad are suspended, injured, or ill – a record 14 players.

Much against expectations, Everton raced into an amazing 2-0 lead inside just 15 mins!  A quick break by Cadamarteri set Gemmill on his way.  Then great work by Alexandersson fed Cadamarteri who buried his 4th goal of the season.

Alexandersson went down with a bad leg injury and was stretchered off, with Phil Jevons at long last coming on for his first appearance of the season.  Inside 5 mins, Jevons played in Campbell for a crushing third goal, with Everton playing some excellent football.  It was the perfect filip for Super Kev, who was glorying in the honour of being made captain for the day... wonder what Unsie thought about that?

Cleland also got injured after the third goal, and Peter Clarke finally coming on for his long-awaited Premiership debut – what a pity that it takes such dire circumstances to force Walter Smith's wizened old hand...

The second half was much a case of keeping the points in the bank, although Coventry mustered a late raid – Carsley winning and converting a penalty five minutes before the end, when he was brought down by Myhre.  But an excellent win, nonetheless.

 

  

 MATCH FACTS
   GOALSCORERS with .wav audio links  Debuts
Coventry City: Carsley (pen:86')
EVERTON: Gemmill (8'), Cadamarteri (15'), Campbell (31') Sub: Clarke
   LINEUPS  Subs Not Used 
Coventry City: Kirkland; Edworthy, Quinn, Breen, Konjic (25' Palmer); Thompson, Eustace, Carsley, Telfer (46' Chippo); Zuniga (59' Aloisi), Hadji.  Hedman, Bothroyd.
EVERTON: Myhre; S Watson, Ball, Unsworth, Cleland (32' Clarke); Tal, Gemmill, Alexandersson (26' Jevons), Pembridge; Campbell {capt}, Cadamarteri. 
Unavailable: Gravesen, Hughes, Moore (suspended); Degn, Ferguson, Gascoigne, Gerrard, Gough, Jeffers, Naysmith, Nyarko, Pistone, Xavier (injured)
.
Simonsen, Milligan, McLeod.
   Playing Strips  Formations
Coventry City: Sky blue & white shirts; blue & white shorts; blue socks. 4-4-2
EVERTON: Yellow shirts; blue shorts; yellow socks. 4-4-2
   Yellow Cards  Red Cards
Coventry City:
EVERTON: Gemmill (85')
 Sports.Com Detailed Match Stats  

 

 MATCH REPORTS
 REPORTS BY EVERTON FANS
Mickey Blue Eyes Death concentrates the mind
Julian Cashen What does it mean?
 NEWSPAPER REPORTS
ELECTRONIC TELEGRAPH Coventry drive fans to despair
by Trevor Haylett
THE SUNDAY TIMES Angry fans put heat on Strachan
by Douglas Alexander
THE TIMES Decline leaves Strachan at a loss
by Keith Pike
 LINKS TO NEWSPAPER REPORTS
THE INDEPENDENT Link to Match Reports
THE OBSERVER Link to Football Unlimited
THE GUARDIAN Link to Football Unlimited
DAILY POST Link to Daily Post Report

LIVERPOOL ECHO Link to Echo Report

 LINKS TO OTHER INTERNET REPORTS
EVERTON FC SITE Link to Official Match Report

BBC SPORTS Link to BBC Sports Match Report
SKY SPORTS Link to Sky Sports Match Report
SPORTING LIFE Link to PA Sports Match Report
SOCCERNET Link to SoccerNet Match Report
FA PREMIER Link to FA Premier Match Report

 Death concentrates the mind
Mickey Blue Eyes
 
The Weather

One of the reasons I returned to live in England was the weather.  Yes, you can double-take on that: the WEATHER!  Anybody who has lived and worked for an extended period in the hottest part of the world will tell you why.  

After a long while of actually relishing the heat and pitying everybody back home during November-February period, you finally get fed up with earth baked brown, beige at best, and greenery which clings to life, flourishes even, only by application of massive amounts of desalinated water.  You get to feel like you’re living on a space ship. 

Eventually, you yearn to see a natural change in the seasons.  Oh sure, depending where you are, you get this after a fashion in the Middle East too.  Kuwait for instance gets seriously COLD in December.  But it can’t match an English Spring at its best, or an Autumn of golds and coppers, or a sky with the living breath of clouds.  

Yes, you yearn to feel the earth breathing and drinking again, not gasping for an oasis.  Overtly visible cycles of life are important because they make you feel part of a whole, even when you get weeks of rain and grey skies.  You know it will change eventually...  

The Fans

Us Everton fans know all this instinctively.  There’s been a lot of rain and cold recently.  But Spring isn’t far away.  We look in the mirror and say this to ourselves every morning.  We are, of course, mad – every last one of us! 

Freud wouldn’t have had a clue how to deal with any of this.  Then again, he’s been long discredited and so has the myth of mental illness with behavioural causes.  Well, it keeps the psychiatrist “profession” in fees and social workers in the rationalised excuses business.  Domestic travel commerce doesn’t do too badly out of it either.  Like most fans, we have to hire The Bus for all our away matches.  And that’s a little behavioural study in itself.

The Bus

I mean, can somebody please explain to me why anybody with anything other than a completely selfish view of existence wants to play head-banging radio muck in an enclosed minibus space for a period of two hours?  Because our driver did, even with shouts of, “Will you change that SHITE…..NOW” ringing in his ears.  No wonder I had a terrible headache, never to be repeated, by the time we reached Coventry. 

Initially, I countered it by engaging in a bouquet of conversationalists which included me, Texyla and Jimmy; we discussed our chances at Coventry… the transfer system…. our likely team formation….. The Gravedigger… last week’s disaster against Spurs… the match against Tranmere in the Cup…. and the upcoming Commonwealth Games (“M2K2” to, haha, those of us in the know).  

When that eventually ran out of steam, I closed me eyes and thought of The Green Leaves of Summer...   Roy, the selfish single-brain-celled bastard bus driver, even navigated badly again once we got to Coventry.  Yeuk!

The Pub

Most of these East Midlands places are peculiarly characterless aren’t they?  Derby, Leicester, Nottingham, Coventry… they mostly look and feel the same.  The people are fine, of course – because most human beings are, given the chance and loonies apart.  

The aesthetic experience isn't one you'd recommend, though.  We ended up in a pub called The Hastings, a 10-minute walk from the ground.  Semi-dark interior, phony black and white timbered, supposedly – haha – “Tudor”.  The staff were great; service really good.  We went back after the game for a libation or three and a chat with the locals.

It was another bright, sharply cold day, enough to keep you walking quickly so you didn’t seize up.  Coventry’s stadium was unrecognisable from the last time I visited it.  On that occasion (April 1988?), we won 2-1 with a last-minute goal.  I hoped this was a good omen...  

The Ground

Not much to recommend the stadium really.  A double-decker stand behind one goal was about the only feature worth noting.  The other three sides were single-tiered with exec boxes right at the back.  They’re a modest club, though, and nobody should expect anything better.  Actually, their survival in the Premiership for so long is something of a miracle.  It speaks well for the owners, fans and management that they can have any high aspirations at all.  Salt of the earth, the very heartbeat of the game...

Texyla steered us unerringly to the wrong seats… I was sure we were in Block A and not Block B, particularly when I saw a column obstructing our view of the far goal.  Which drew some choice and novel use of our precious language.  Still, we were in the away section with a veritable travelling army of hugely noisy Blue Bellies.  It seems like our dance on the trapdoor has induced a sort of choreography of determination amongst them.  If we do go down, it won’t be for lack of away support.  They made an enormous din before, during and after the match in a stadium which looked to be only seven-eighths full.

The Game

It was one of those matches in which The Moment was caught and maintained from beginning to end.  It doesn’t happen for us much these days.  You have to relish it – nay, GLORY in it – when it happens.  The away section was in uproar from the moment the teams came out and the whole team immediately came over for a ritual which is almost akin to The Haka now.  Everyone looked and sounded completely committed at a moment of sporting peril.  Most of the Coventry fans looked on bemused and white-faced as events unfolded.

Hapless City were simply swept aside from the opening whistle.  The Bellies were up for it in a BIG way!  And there’s no question the performance was aided by a City team which looks like goners unless they can summon equal reserves of determination.  You can’t afford to be sorry for them, though – not in our position.  They would be the same.  C’est la guerre.  Despite a minor second-half revival, they were never in it, looked mostly ragged, and their positional teamwork must give Gordon Strachan nightmares...

I was overjoyed to see the midfield in place that I would have chosen, even with everyone available: Nic, Scott, Pembo, Idan.  The back four was Alec, Stevie, Bally and Unsy.  Up front, SuperKev was captain for the day and had Danny alongside him.  Me, I’d make Kevin Campbell prime minister but, of course, I’m as irrational as the next fan.  Smiffy’s Rubik didn’t have much chance to twist this lot out of place.  Phil Jevons and Peter Clarke came on during the first half for Nic and Alec when the injury bug infected us for the tiresome umpteenth time this season.  Both of them knitted in seamlessly.  Clarkey in particular looks the natural his promoters say he is.

The Goals

Danny was moving quite sharply in the early stages, switching side-to-side and running their defence all over the place.  Gaps appeared in the middle where there shouldn’t have been any.  No surprise then, after almost 10 minutes, when Danny went left just by the penalty arc, took a defender with him and slipped the ball sideways to Scott homing right side and on his own.  Their young keeper Kirkland stood no chance and got none.  Welcome to pro football son.  Cartwheeling Bellies came over in a pack to the away section where there were thousands more cartwheeling Bellies, me and The Bus included.

More pressure, more appalling defence work by Coventry as we poured forward.  It was only a matter of time... Quarter of an hour gone and we scored the kind of goal we let in at Leicester.  Nic was half way in, right side, and crossed to just by the penalty spot where Danny was waiting , completely unmarked, and he knocked it home with time to spare.  Gawd knows where the City defence was.  Could’ve been at Coventry Cathedral for all we cared.  Who gives a shit for the opposition when you’ve got one foot off the trapdoor and the other one lifting gradually?

But the scoring wasn’t over yet.  Another quarter-hour gone, another move through the centre ended up with the Coventry defence falling all over itself again as they tried to get it away from SuperKev.  He hit one tentative close range shot just inside the penalty spot and it came back to him, left side, and he smacked it in to start more cartwheeling all over the place.

Five minutes later and he got a chance for the fourth from right side just inside the box.  This time young Kirkland made a first-class save to get it away for a corner.

The Consolidation

As expected, the second half was a dig-in exercise with us looking to get one on the break.  Coventry had a lot more possession and won a string of corners toward the end but they never remotely looked like they could breach the determined team of Bellies.  In the end, they scored the only way they looked capable of. Tommy fouled Carsley in the box with five minutes left and the penalty went the opposite way from his dive.

For us, the only sour note came when some dickhead threw a coke can at David Thompson while he took a corner.  Thank christ it missed him narrowly.  Unremitting barracking is one thing; this kind of shite is quite another... David Thompson is a good, unpretentious pro . Neither he, the game, or our club need or deserve this.  I hope the bizzies collared the culprit and he gets six months in Coventry jail.

The Celebration

So we went back to pub and got pleasantly drunk. The journey home went well.  And there was no head-banging shite on the radio . But there was loads of singing.

And the bonus was… for the moment both of our feet are off the trapdoor.  Death concentrates the mind wonderfully.


   Up to Reports Index ]
 What does it mean?
Julian Cashen
 
It's miserable being an exiled Evertonian.  Match afternoons are – more often than not – spent struggling to get a decent connection on Real Player to listening to the commentary on the Official Propaganda Site, or following the game via postings in the ToffeeWeb Forum.  Desperation occasionally causes one to resort to Ceefax on the basis that the delay in the updating of scores could allow a late but unlikely goal flurry for the Blues anytime up to around 5 o'clock.  It's debatable, however, whether this torment is actually preferable to attending the games themselves, as pre-match nerves affected me to such an extent driving to this one that I had to make several unscheduled stops during the journey – and not for a cup of tea.

The sheer lack of resources meant for once that Walter Smith was unable to surprise us with his selection.  Leaving aside his usual policy of banging square pegs into round holes, he simply reached for the only 11 pegs he had available and tried to make them fit.

And, wouldn't you know, as in the other fixtures when we have been down – almost literally – to the 'bare bones', the so called second-stringers did us proud.  To the accompaniment of a huge wave of noise from the travelling contingent, they grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and didn't stop shaking till the points were well and truly pocketed and the opposition defeated, demoralised and dead on their feet. 
  

  • Seven minutes and Scott latches on to an intelligent through-ball from Danny ('intelligent' and 'Danny' in the same sentence!! – there's something you won't read in too many match reports) and fires confidently past Kirkland!!  Get in!!  Our first first-half goal in... what – 12 games?  Mayhem! 
  • Fifteen minutes and Danny, having run the whole length of the pitch, finds space in the box, and blasts it in through the keepers' legs.  Hysteria!!  
  • Thirty minutes and SuperKev turns neatly in the box, sees his first effort well saved but, as two Coventry defenders collide comically with the keeper in their desperate efforts to clear, our Captain for the day fires it into the empty net.  Pandemonium, delirium, delight!!!

Although we could have had more, in particular a good stop denying Superkev a deserved second, the game as a spectacle was over.  The Evertonians however kept the singing at an unbelievable level, due at least in part to the huge sense of relief at seeing Coventry in a position we have been in all too often; losing at home to fellow strugglers with the fans on the back of the team, the management, and the Board.  From a Blue point of view, it was just a shame that Tommy, who had celebrated the goals with as much fervour as any supporter, got caught with a rush of blood to the head and conceded the late penalty that gave Coventry some scant consolation.

What does it Mean?

So what do we take from this result?  First and foremost we take a precious three points.  Make no mistake, Coventry were terrible.  On the other hand, they are the same side that pilfered three points with a smash-&-grab raid on Goodison a mere three weeks or so ago, so they were (arguably) better than us on that day.  So what's different this time?

Well, when we're really up against it, Walter seems to be able to pull something out of the bag.  These second-stringers seem to care.  They play for the shirt.  Scott Gemmill in particular is pressing for a regular place – even when the walking wounded return.  He took his goal well – and, since Hutch and Barmby left, don't we just need some goals from midfield?  He worked his socks off, passed economically and got his foot in where it counted. 

Tommy undoubtedly gives the defence more confidence than the agile but mute Paul Gerrard.  Tal, while woeful defensively, gives us penetration on the left even if he couldn't score in a brothel.  SuperKev, like Dunc before him, responded well to being given the armband, and it was clear from his Match of the Day interview that he considered it a genuine honour.

And what about Danny?  A well-taken goal and an assist – an intelligent, perceptive and well executed assist at that – together with a performance full of willing running.  Everyone agrees that he has pace to burn, frightens defenders with his direct play, and is a decent finisher when playing confidently.  So why does he play for too much of the time as if his head is stuck up his arse?

Which brings us back to the big question: can Walter Smith and the rest of the coaching staff take us onward and upward?  If a player has a lot of raw talent that needs refining and disciplining, aren't the coaches meant to do something about it?  They've had Danny for two years and haven't yet managed to coach the headless chicken out of him.  

For some reason, it's only when we're in the tightest of corners that Smith seems to be able to motivate the players.  In all his time with the Club, we have barely strung together one decent run – just the odd excellent performance.  And let's be honest, the recent run of results – mostly against fellow strugglers – has been absolutely dire.  Defeats to Derby, Charlton, Coventry and, humiliatingly, Man City, represent an embarrassing run of form.

So, even after all this time, the jury has to remain out on Walter Smith.  However, we've had a couple of wins which have shown real character.  A win against Tranmere and suddenly the season has a bit of meaning....  We should have gone on from the wins against Arsenal and Chelsea, but instead we went backwards.  Let's hope this time we can go on from these couple of decent results and rescue the season....

... And, in the long-term, produce a side worthy of playing in that brilliant-looking new stadium.


   Up to Reports Index ]
 Coventry drive fans to despair
Trevor Haylett, Electronic Telegraph
 

WHEN the Everton contingent began to chant "Going down, going down" and those purporting to support the home team voiced their agreement loudly, Gordon Strachan probably thought a numbing afternoon could not get any worse.  Wrong.  At the final whistle, a fan had to be held back as he made his way menacingly toward the Coventry manager amid a chorus of "Strachan out".

Another pitch intruder stripped off to express disgust after Everton had seriously endangered Coventry's survival chances.

When the Merseysiders are able to pilfer three goals inside the opening 31 minutes in a remarkable return to form, you know you have problems.  Everton had not won in the Premiership for seven outings – an abysmal run which had heightened their own relegation concerns.  But they were easy victors yesterday.  Only when Lee Carsley rapped home a penalty with four minutes remaining did Coventry's sense of shame lessen, but not for long.

There were names on the Everton bench not immediately recognisable [to ignorant journo hacks...] and the sense of unfamiliarity also extended to the way Walter Smith's team began the match.  First to the ball and confident in possession, they scarcely needed the space afforded them by a despairing rearguard.

After little more than 15 minutes, Strachan had forsaken his seat in the stands for a touch-line view but, even at that early stage, it looked as if he had left it too late; his team were two goals adrift and provoking only derision.

The first came from a Mo Konjic clearance that thumped against the back of a team-mate and set Everton in motion, Scot Gemmill accelerating on to Danny Cadamarteri's pass to comfortably beat Chris Kirkland.  Coventry's 19-year-old goalkeeper had gained an £8 million price tag this week in the face of speculation that both Liverpool and Arsenal had joined his fan club, and he was preferred here to Swedish international Magnus Hedman.

Kirkland was exposed again when a sweeping counter-attack, following a Coventry free-kick deep in Everton territory, provided Cadamarteri with the chance to swivel and tuck his shot away.

Coventry hardly knew how to make a tackle count and were frozen with indecision all over the field.  Phil Jevons should never have been permitted the room to put over his low centre, which Kevin Campbell gathered with a deft turn that rendered Gary Breen another hapless spectator and enabled him to force home the third on the half-hour.

A tame effort from Carsley prompted ironic cheers around Highfield Road.  It was on target but of no bother to Thomas Myhre.  Instead, the end of the first half should have yielded another Everton score as the back line opened up once more, but this time Kirkland was able to avert the danger.

Strachan had replaced Konjic with Carlton Palmer between the second and third goals and made another change at the interval, with Youssef Chippo introduced.  He was soon joined by John Aloisi, but there was little hint of a comeback

There was the merest consolation for Coventry in the 85th minute when Myhre came off his line, took Carsley's legs and was then beaten from the penalty spot by the same player.

Report © The Electronic Telegraph

   Up to Reports Index ]
 Angry fans put heat on Strachan
by Douglas Alexander, The Sunday Times
 

THIS match ended with the opposite of being sent to Coventry – being asked to leave it.  Instead of silence, Gordon Strachan had to endure calls for his resignation.  One fan attempted to confront the manager as he walked the gauntlet to the tunnel, but was restrained by a steward.  Others remained behind to continue their chants of "Strachan Out!" 

Strachan refused to discuss the crowd's reaction at the end, but said he would not be walking away.  He said everybody at the club should be "embarrassed" by the performance.  "That was something that will stick in our memories for a long time," he said.  "We have no comeback, no excuses for whatever criticism we receive."

His team were spineless in both senses of the word, something he alluded to when he said: "Whatever you are manifests itself on a football field; you cannot hide your character on a football field.  The players have to have time to reflect on that performance.  A wee bit of self-analysis for everybody involved would be a good thing."

Coventry, who have preserved their status in the top division since 1967 with nine final-day escape acts, may require another one.  They have sunk to second-bottom of the Premiership and their confidence has perhaps gone even lower.  Within 31 minutes, they were three goals down as Kevin Campbell and Danny Cadamarteri made merry in the gaping holes of their defence.  Strachan had used all three of his substitutes by the hour mark and the home crowd were ironically cheering their team's pitiful and rare shots on target.

Strachan didn't know how he would spend his Sunday, but it is guaranteed to be a miserable one.  Walter Smith, meanwhile, will head north to manage a team of Rangers veterans in a charity match against Celtic at Ibrox with a smile on his face.

Down to their 11 remaining players with significant first-team experience, Everton showed precisely the appetite for this dog-eat-dog affair at the foot of the Premiership that Coventry lacked, devouring their chances hungrily and snapping around the heels of the home team from the outset.

Campbell, free at last of the injuries that have plagued his season, played a captain's part with his intelligent and nimble leading of the line, but Cadamarteri was an impressive sidekick.  It was his cute reverse pass in the eighth minute, after Coventry had carelessly conceded possession on the edge of their own penalty area, that sent Scot Gemmill through to curl the ball beyond Kirkland.

Cadamarteri was the central character as Everton doubled their lead in the 15th minute.  He led a break-out from a Coventry free-kick and then made up the ground to finish sharply after Niclas Alexandersson's cross from the right.  To the consternation of Strachan and the home fans, he was left completely unmarked as he did so.

The supporters signalled their discontent with a round of boos, while Strachan signalled his with a substitution in the 26th minute.

Mohammed Konjic, who had looked uneasy from the outset on his first start since Coventry beat Everton 2-1 at Goodison on Boxing Day, was replaced by Carlton Palmer.  Everton also made a change, although theirs was enforced as Alexandersson, who had recovered from a virus to play, was taken off on a stretcher.

The changes made no difference and soon Everton were three up.  Phil Jevons, filling Alexandersson's slot with aplomb, sent in a cross from the right, Campbell turned smoothly on to it and then scored at the second attempt after an initial effort to lift the ball over Kirkland had sent it spinning back into his path in front of goal.

As the rest of his teammates celebrated, Alex Cleland went off injured to be replaced by Peter Clarke.

It was the 18-year-old's first-team debut, but Coventry were unable to make it an uncomfortable one.  The only person exposed on Clarke's beat was a second-half streaker.  It said it all about Coventry's lack of guile, without Robbie Keane and Gary McAllister – who provided it last season – that the streaker's appearance was the highlight of the half.

Lee Carsley's late conversion of a penalty, after he had been felled by Thomas Myhre, came too late for a comeback.  By then, Strachan was already being invited to leave.

Report © Times Newspapers Ltd

   Up to Reports Index ]
 Decline leaves Strachan at a loss
by Keith Pike, The Times
 

HE SPENT much of last week trying to invest £5 million of his club’s money in a lumbering centre forward with dodgy limbs and an even dodgier temperament, but it is not so much John Hartson as Harry Houdini that Gordon Strachan needs now.  Coventry City, the great Premiership escapologists, and their manager will do well to get out of this one.  For 34 years, since Jimmy Hill led them triumphantly into the top division, Coventry have defied logic and gravity simply by staying there, but the poverty of their performance at Highfield Road, where Everton were transformed from contestants on “Can’t Score, Won’t Score” into the veritable galloping gourmets of goalscoring, suggests that they cannot possibly survive again.

Everton had managed precisely two league goals in 647 minutes and had last scored more than a couple in a game 23 matches ago.  Stripped to the bone by injuries, their starting line-up boasted four league goals fewer than Marcus Stewart, the Ipswich Town striker, had managed on his own.  Yet within half an hour on Saturday they had lashed three past a shambolic defence and might have had five.

It was hard to think of a shoddier surrender, one guaranteed to drain whatever confidence was left in an already fragile Coventry side.  But if they recovered to the extent that they avoided humiliation, that could not spare Strachan the full force of the fans’ anger.

There may have been a touch of humour when one supporter ignored arctic temperatures to stride on to the pitch dressed only in beret, socks and shorts, which he dropped to express his view of Coventry’s display — either that, or he was suggesting that Willie Carr should make a comeback — but there was nothing remotely funny about the two supporters who had to be restrained by stewards after moving threateningly towards the manager at the final whistle.  One, the size of a corner shop, seemed intent on confrontation.  Others called, in turn, for the heads of Strachan and the board.

Quite why they believe that Coventry, who have finished in the top half of the table only eight times in 33 attempts, should now be immune from difficulty is unclear and unrealistic.  There are bigger clubs in the Nationwide League, after all, who have never tasted the much-hyped Premiership experience.  Perhaps it is simply because they have been punching above their weight for so long that the prospect of a knockout blow sparks such resentment.  But if they expected Strachan to pack his bags on their say-so, they had underestimated the Scot.

“The whole thing was embarrassing, to ourselves and the club,” Strachan said.  “There are no excuses. That performance will stick in our memories for a long time.”  He “had not got a clue” how he was going to engineer a recovery, which was perhaps one confession too far for his own good with only Bradford City now below Coventry in the table, but it had never crossed his mind to resign.

Support came from all quarters: his own boardroom (“there is no doubt that the man we want to get behind is Gordon Strachan and I would urge all the fans to do so,” Geoffrey Robinson, the president, said); the Everton equivalent (“it is hard when supporters call for the manager to go, but what I have learnt in my short time is that stability is everything,” Bill Kenwright, the deputy chairman, said); and Strachan’s opposite number (“I think it is important for fans to get behind their manager, although we all have to achieve results, otherwise we are under pressure,” Walter Smith said).

But where he needed understanding most, on the pitch and in the stands, Strachan was left isolated and vulnerable.  Weakness in the tackle in midfield and a lack of communication in central defence were contributing factors to each of the Everton goals, scored by Scot Gemmill, Danny Cadamarteri and Kevin Campbell.  For the third, almost comically, David Thompson prevented Chris Kirkland from saving by blundering into his own goalkeeper.

As error followed error, disappointment turned to despair and it was going to take more than Lee Carsley’s late penalty in reply to placate fans who had seen their side manage just two other attempts on goal.  “At times we made it look easy,” Campbell, captain for the first time in his career and suitably proud, said.

“Everton’s problem is that everyone still says we are a big club, but in reality we are not,” Michael Ball, their impressive young defender, had said on the eve of the game.  “We have to think of ourselves as a mediocre team and a mediocre club.”

It is advice that Coventry fans might also wish to take on board.

Report © Times Newspapers Ltd
   Up to Reports Index ]
 


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