After the trauma of another three defeats, including the now
ritualised exit from the Worthington Cup to inferior
opposition, Everton need nothing short of a win to restore
confidence, and demonstrate that the bright early-season start
was no fluke.
There must be a strong chance that Tomasz Radzinski will make his
first start after recovering from the hamstring injury and getting
an ultimately frustrating run out against Liverpool. But it
will be no surprise if Walter Smith sticks with his talismanic "Bruise
Brothers" pairing of Captain Campbell and the Big Yin – despite
that ridiculous name, they have scored in every match so far this
season, after all!
Pistone, Alexandersson. Pembridge and Gemmill all remain injured and
apparently have little chance to play, which is a pity because
Gemmill has been one of the few positives in Everton's weak
midfield. But Gazza could well get another chance, after
showing he still has that football brain.
Everton need much stronger performances from a number of
key players who have done poorly in recent matches. And
this match must be considered winnable, despite some good
recent work by Blackburn, who held high-flying Bolton to a 1-1
draw during the week.
For Blackburn, Martin Taylor has twisted his knee. He
joins Craig Short and John Curtis in the treatment room.
They are also without the injured Keith Gillespie and David
Dunn. Out-of-favour Jason McAteer, who has again been
linked with a move to Everton, remains in the squad because
they are so short of first-team players.
The Waltershed Match
by Rob Burns
A full compliment of Evertonians at Ewood Park witnessed what must surely be
Everton's waltershed match of the season. Possibly the most lacklustre Everton
performance, including the roll-over in the Derby last week, the salmon pinks
simply weren't at the races.
Frustration boiled over and the early bickering
between supporters was one unified voice by the end, calling for the removal of
the manager and his animated but ineffective assistant. To add irony to the
drama, the 'talisman' that is Duncan Ferguson was roundly booed as he led the
team off the field and briefly clapped the travelling support. He is rapidly
becoming more of an albatross than a lucky charm.
The team selection
that had been widely predicted on Friday did not materialise, although
Gascoigne's name made the team sheet relatively good reading – along with the
inclusion of the youngster Tony Hibbert, impressive as a substitute on several
recent occasions. Radzinski was a notable and mystifying absentee, rumours
abound of a fall-out with the manager, the official line that he pulled a groin
muscle in training on Friday - either way, extremely disappointing.
his place on the left, Xavier lining up at the back with Weir and Stubbs and
Hibbert on the right. In midfield Gravesen, Gazza and the recent struggler
Niclas Alexandersson. Ferguson and Campbell up front the two foreign strikers
(to each other, anyway). No sign of Idan Tal on the bench, perhaps involved in a
disastrous three way pile up with Radzinski and the injured Watson on Friday
that never even got a mention on the traffic and travel news.
the game was all set for an upset: Grabbi – labelled a 'misfit' by Rovers fans
by Evertonians...) – was looking for his first goal of the season; Mark Hughes the
ex-Everton man on the bench; and transfer target (hah!) Jason McAteer looking to
do the highly possible and impress his boss-elect, but messing the whole thing
up by crossing the half-way line just after kickoff.
The whistle came and Blackburn
looked there for the taking. As in their match against Bolton, passes
failed to find men and Everton stumbled back into possession. Gascoigne showed
the enthusiasm of a 19-year-old, picking the ball up at the back and supplying
Naysmith, Alexandersson and Hibbert who impressed the fans but disgusted Walter
with their moves forward.
Hibbert's confidence grew as he found space to run the
line and cross. Ferguson particularly arrived late and failed to connect.
Alexandersson looked indecisive and weightless and failed to hold the ball or
really penetrate. Naysmith made some good chances from the left but too often
found the box overcrowded or deserted.
Campbell's first touch was poor, but
forgivable in the early stages. Ferguson showed all the strength of Bonnie
Langford without the aerial prowess and neither used or held the ball up.
Cue the white-shell-suited, made up to the nines, female character from Harry Enfield
30 to begin a volley of verbal abuse re my frustrations with 'the Big Yin'.
good cross-field move that resulted in a foul on Alexandersson on the right of
the box as he steamed in to volley home was Dunc's chance to repay our olive
skinned beauty - but a weak side foot into the already prostrate Friedel was the
More criticism led to the offer of a personal 'golden shower' from said
lady when the big man made up for his error as he was certain to do later.
piss on yer when e scores ya bastard"). Sadly, I left the ground pac-a-mac intact
The bickering ceased as the two front men showed the mobility
of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, on top of each other, failing to make the
runs into the box and leaving Gazza and Gravesen to look foolish as they tried
to play the through-ball.
Blackburn, for their part, showed more inspiration from
the penalty miss than the Everton number 10 and attacked with fervour.
every inch the diving, whinging Italian, hit the post with a clever free kick
from 25 yards after an Alexandersson foul as he was forced to make up the
numbers in defence when out of possession - this is surely not a position that
will allow him to show his real ability.
Shortly before half-time, it was
Grabbi again who got on to the pass and some terrible uncertainty in the defence
was expolited. No-one moved towards the man on the edge of the box. Hibbert read
the game well and shot in from wide to make the tackle, shortly followed by Weir.
The Italian was open on the right and couldn't fail to score past a helpless
Gerrard who for once had caught the early bus. 1-0; half time and they really rub
it in at Ewood by running through the goals from every angle - mainly to show
those fans who'd been discussing the pies during the half to see how the action
The second half was much of the same. Naysmith got forward well and
crossed on several occasions, Ferguson was lost in mid-air and penalised for
fouls on the keeper, and later missed a gilt-edged chance for 1-1 when he turned
a header past the post. Again when the ball did arrive there was no recipient.
Walter really provided the rope for a hanging when he sent Unsworth and
Moore to warm up – Unsworth of course a certain match winner for every
occasion. Gravesen was coming into the game more and more and would surely have
set-up a goal if the two idiots on the front line had not run alongside each
other into the box as he broke through the middle - a pass either side or a run
through and the Blackburn defence were outnumbered.
The boards went up and there
was chaos. Unsworth for Gravesen and Moore for Hibbert. Astonishment led to boos
- and chants of "you don't know what you're doing".
Everton pressure but little in
the way of chances - Moore making one good break, but unable to find the
shot. Campbell was abused by a player in the stand as he waited to take a
'sporting' throw - in after a Friedel injury. He looked distraught.
crowd did sing for the team - a sort of 'its not you' gesture. 'We want Walter
out' at the end said it all - the scenes were depressing as another Everton
manager lost credibility with the supporters, but not undeservedly.
called the players around to acknowledge the support before they left the field
- Ferguson had already left, Gascoigne received an ovation for his 110% game.
Walter does not inspire the side, appears to have personal issues with
players, is tactically lost, and above all self-righteous. His press conference
could have been lifted from any game since he came here - no defence or
criticism, not even a variation in tone.
It is sad that any one man can be
chastised by thousands of others who ultimately want the same thing. But until
the board wake up to performances like this and see that his stewardship is fair
to neither the players – whose abilities and confidences he is destroying – nor the supporters whose souls he is slowly destroying.
note: these are the expressed views of Everton fan Rob Burns, who was at the
game. They are not necessarily endorsed by the management or workers at