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COLM'S CORNER, #64


After being one of Walter Smith's earliest and strongest critics, a couple of good wins see Colm Kavanagh definitely wavering... 

 

 Better The Devil You Know?

 

A saying that could well apply to Walter Smiths position as Everton boss

One look at the bottom of the League table this morning shows that three clubs occupying the dreaded positions all have one thing in common theyve recently got shut of their managers.  The panic button already applied and not even ten games gone!

Southampton are arguably THE prime example for those who think getting shut of a manager as a bad move.  They were going along nicely until they pulled the rug from underneath one Dave Jones.  The golden carrot dangled before their eyes, Glenn Hoddle, proved irresistible and Jones was shunted to make way for the England golden boy.  But he fair shit on them as soon as Spurs came knocking...

Their own fault I suppose for allowing him to insert the clause into his contract.  You sow what you reap.  Now theyve got shut of another in Stuart Gray and lie in the bottom three still awaiting their first home win of the season and probably looking on enviously at the good job Dave Jones is now doing with Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The weekend just passed saw an excellent three points secured by Everton against Aston Villa.  Its been a long time since we put one over them.  In recent years weve witnessed a Groundhog Day scenario with the Villa theyd come to Goodison and wed snatch defeat from the jaws of victory (Merson last year and Tommy Butterfingers Myhre in that FA Cup Quarter Final with Bolton waiting in the semi).

At Villa Park wed get tonked in grand style and have the obligatory man sent off pre-half time.  Villa are one of those clubs Ill never ever tire of seeing us beat.  The pain goes back to 1977 and our League Cup Final defeat a trilogy we should never have lost

Anyway, as one who shouted from the rooftop last season for the manager to be shown the door after a catalogue of embarrassments in league and cup football, its nice for me to look at the current run of results and be able to credit the man for our position today.  We may be only eighth in the League but five points from the top is Boys Own stuff in comparison to recent seasons!

If a decent start can be built upon then a relegation battle will be the last thing to occupy us this winter.  And yes, that also puts paid to calls for the gaffers head.

In boxing parlance, Ill put it this way  Walters come off the ropes after a sluggish round or three and come back fighting when the likes of me had him pronounced dead.  Well, nine games into the season, and you can almost name the teams who are going to be involved in a battle for survival this year.  We are not one of those teams, thankfully.  Oh, granted, we could yet nosedive and find ourselves embroiled in the annual dogfight - but that seems highly unlikely at the minute.

If you believe, as I do, that a manager lives or dies by his results then, taking the good with the bad, youve no choice but to offer credit where due.  Yes, weve won when not playing as well as wed like.  But weve also lost when playing some decent stuff at times.

Cest la vie!

Losing both Michael Ball and Francis Jeffers was a bitter blow this summer.  If we are to believe the line, the bank called the shots and demanded the cash.  But Walter may have succeeded in replacing Jeffers with a gem.  Since finally shaking off his hamstring injury, Tomasz Radzinski looks to be the main man in the side the one to link midfield with attack and give opponents something to think about.  If he maintains his present run of fitness and form it wont be long before he becomes a star.

I prefer his partnership with Kevin Campbell.  Campbell may well be firing blanks right now but you have to at least get into those positions to miss.  That partnership will not be so profligate in front of goal before long.  So let's get off Campbells back, hell come good.  Again.

Ive no doubt that Walter will continue to baffle us with a fair percentage of his decisions this season.  If he can resist the temptation to muck about with a fairly reliable and solid 4-4-2 then we can hope to see more good days than bad.

Add a little luck into the mix and who knows a good run in the one Cup left for us, preferably all games being played at home as our away form shows us to be goal shy and a weekend awaits us in Cardiff next May!  Dont laugh, it could happen.

Remember the immediate impact Joe Royle had on a lacking Everton side?  From no-hopers to FA Cup winners inside seven months!  And yet, some would accuse Big Joe of also being tactically inept.  Ill admit to having a soft spot for Joe as our manager.  I knew his weaknesses as well as his strengths and admired him for what he achieved when manager of Everton yet here was I, arguably not allowing Walter the same sort of slack afforded Joe during his time.  Why is that?

Simply down to the disastrous season we had last year?  The (subliminal?) fact that Walters not a die in the wool Bluenose?  I dunno  If Walter was to pack his bags in the morning I wouldnt lose any sleep.  Itd be a case of thanks very much Walter and off you go.  I do believe that there are better managers out there whod relish the prospect of returning Everton to a position where we can validly claim to being the Big Club we know we can be.

However, in a world where we must cut the cloth, weve little or no choice at present but to remain with the present managerial team.  A year ago, I dont believe a managerial change wouldve hurt us.  Now I do.  

Two years ago, Walter had something going for him on the pitch.  We were doing well, particularly at home and scoring goals for fun.  This was being achieved WITH an injury crisis, particularly upfront where both Campbell and Jeffers missed most of the second half of the season.  We had a glimpse of an open door leading to European footy.

Okay, it was shut before we could get too worked up about it but we did indeed see visible signs of improvement.  But weve hit reverse gear ever since.  Up till now, that is.

The West Ham match may well have brought with it the expected result but Id like to think it instilled a little self-confidence into a misfiring mish-mash of a team.  The likes of Niclas Alexandersson and Alessandro Pistone have improved immeasurably since.  Confidence 'tis a wondrous ingredient in any footballers make-up.

Look at Thomas Gravesen!  Is this the same player who looked like a flapping headless chicken last year?  All of a sudden, hes leading on the pitch, authority applied to his game.  Leave him be, Walter, to his own devices in midfield!

We now look like a team.  Not the greatest ever team, but also not as bad as some pundits would like to think we are  Its imperative we remain as injury free this term as possible.

Too often in the past, when injuries have hampered team selection, weve seen Walter overload the side with defenders, leaving more attack-minded players to twiddle their thumbs on the bench or in the Main Stand.  Abel Xavier is not a central midfielder.  Nor is David Unsworth.  Its rarely worked and the results have been painful.

There comes a time when being overly cautious is only asking for trouble and I cant but help recall days last season like the Arsenal (home) and Coventry (away) games where Walter was left with little or no choice but to play a team more inclined to give as good as they got instead of playing with a maxim of "what we have we keep".  Ive always felt that Walter Smith was prone to shooting himself in the foot with his preference for ultra-cautiousness at the expense of more pleasing football on the eye.

Lets hope the winter of our discontent that was last year becomes nothing more than a bad memory and a paragraph, instead of a chapter, when time comes to measure Walter Smiths tenure as an Everton manager.  As has so often been pointed out by many a wise old Blue in the past, a certain Howard Kendall oversaw some torrid times before entering a Golden Era.

Itd be nice (though not expected) to think that Walter Smith could enjoy even a smidgen of the luck we last witnessed during HK1