How on earth do you
preview a team that performed so unrecognisably in two
sequences during its last 90 minutes? A midfield I described
as "having nothing" ran rings around a game but
ultimately isolated Gravesen and an irrelevant and
invisible Scott Gemmill. Alexandersson? Maybe he was
still getting over the shock of being drawn with Nigeria,
Argentina and England. If so he'd better hope Sweden's
coach wasn't watching the match as there is no way he
could hope to "grace" a world cup pitch with that performance.
BUT I am an optimist - Yes Blue
optimists do still exist even if we are in danger of
extinction - so I shall preview based upon the 2nd Everton -
the one that cared, the "hungry" Everton, the
one that had an amazingly animated Walter Smith (does he
read ToffeeWeb previews?) urging, screaming and
eventually applauding them on.
Fulham. Joan Collins.
Oh how lovely it will be to see him again. Signed in a
wave of glory and publicity, misses a penalty on his debut and
then it goes downhill. Just how much of a signing on fee
and wages did he pick up in his first year while he sat
with his foot up, toe nicely bandaged? Never mind eh?
As he watched us struggle against relegation, you just
knew that he accepted that he owed us. He would come back
stronger and more committed to the Blue cause...
More likely he would come back ready to play in 1 of
every 3 games, run himself stupid playing for Scotland
against The Auld Enemy and then bugger off to Fulham - after declaring unconditionally that he wasn't going anywhere -
to join his old French mucker in the bloody 1st division!
Gravesen, just kick the bugger up in the air; and Stubbs,
make sure your boot breaks his fall.
Southampton, most definitely do have something in midfield.
Collins, Malbranque (a under 21 French
international and a Fantasy Football Managers dream) and
Legwinski. A trio of exceptionally technical and
potentially devastating midfielders. All able to see openings
and good enough to harness Saha's ability to explode in
to them. The guy is fast. And so is Hayles, if not quite
with Saha's balance.
18 months ago Walter was linked with
Hayles, we all moaned - just as we did when Stewart (then
at Huddersfield, Ł1.5m !!) was linked. Now he would be perfect
to cover our obvious deficiencies up front. Strong and
powerful, quick and able to finish. With Saha and Hayles
on the end of that midfield they possess the ability to
destroy disorganised teams - look at last years 1st
division scoring charts and Old Trafford on the opening day of
BUT Everton are not a disorganised
team. Over 300 mins of Premiership football without
conceding a goal strongly supports this view. Also Saha
and Hayles are not bubbling with confidence. Since Old
Trafford, Saha has not been the force that many
"experts" predicted; Tigana dropped him for 4
games and he probably wouldn't be playing now if Fulham's
record signing Marlet
hadn't fractured his leg - which is good for me 'cause I
don't know anything about Marlet! Fulham as a team have
also failed to score in their last 2 games.
that matchup that will decide the game - Fulham's undoubted
but slightly misfiring attacking threat against our
strong, disciplined, resolute back line. Our midfield
cannot allow Fulham's time on the ball; our defence
cannot allow gaps between centrebacks or centrebacks and
fullbacks. Leeds showed exactly how to defend against Fulham.
A tight neat back four, and an aggressive midfield.
will score. What? Yes, I strongly believe it.
Fulham's defence is not
that strong. Goma was awful when at Newcastle and the
rest of the back four (Finnan, Brevett, Melville) still look
at Coleman to return and "shore them up". Come on lads?
The guy was a 2nd division player 3 years ago
(admittedly for the one season) but he ain't great.
Brevett? I still mistake him for Andy Impey. Van de Saar
has also showed that he is a very good keeper but he's
not that outstanding. He's conceded 13 goals in 14 games
whilst keeping 6 clean sheets - One clean sheet every two
games and he kept a clean sheet in the last game....
Rads can get behind them. With that one burst, on
Sunday he showed he can get behind any team. How do we give him that chance?
I think Walter would love to
play a 5-man midfield. Swamp the middle, give Gazza a
start and see if we can't release Rads just a couple of
times and see what he can do.
Stay in the fancy midfield's
face, let them play in front of us - which they will do
all day long - and then look to catch them. Unfortunately Rads
has a physical presence resembling that of dear old
Jigsaw (Barlow). You cannot ask him to play with his back
to the goal - the ball won't stick. So 4-4-2 must be the
way that Walter will go, asking the midfield to harry
'til they drop. Gazza a 2nd half sub again when the game is
just that little bit slower - and Collins is carrying a
Rumours that an Argentinean striker, or even
Booby Zamora - now THAT would be a signing with promise -
may arrive to replace Watson could give a very
interesting selection dilemma to Walter at the back. Does
Watson revert to right-back, Pistone back to left-back? If
so, does Naysmith stay in left mid or does Pembo get a
start after an excellent 2nd half on Saturday?
believe it the Toffees may have to drop someone who is playing well!
If Watson does drop back, I reckon we'll see Pembo
on the bench; if Watson stays up front then expect
Naysmith to replace Unsworth at left-back and Pembo to
play in front of him.
Be prepared for Fulham to have
at least 60% of the possession, if not more. Expect us to
score... and expect them to score. I'm praying for
a 1-1 and that's possible, but realistically 2-1 to Fulham
would be my best guess. Mind you I got the score right on
Sunday — I NEVER get two games right on the bounce. But here's
by the Squire of Beckenham
“Severity breedeth fear, but roughness breedeth hate. Even reproofs
from authority should be grave, and not taunting.” (Francis Bacon, “Of Great
“Few people can be happy unless they hate some other person, nation or
creed” (Bertrand Russell)
I’ll begin by getting the football (such as it was) out of the way.
We started with the same side that finished the Southampton game with so much
finesse only six short days ago, with Gascoigne and Pembridge on from the
Fulham, however, are a far different proposition to Strachan’s side, with
much more emphasis on culture than agriculture. Tigana has built an
attractive footballing side, with a mouth-watering mix of pace, skill and
movement balanced by a physical presence and aggression that is more than a
match for virtually anybody else in The Premiership.
If one can take anything positive from this game, one could examine the first
20 minutes and say that we produced some nice, flowing passing coupled with some
intelligent movement from Radzinski. The real problem was the lack of a
fully-fledged striker to partner him; often the moves would end in a pass which
would have been meat and drink to a quality forward, but these were wasted,
finding the space with nobody moving into it.
Gradually, the lack of ideas upfront ate into the confidence of our midfield;
one could almost feel the hesitation in their minds when they approached the
final third of the pitch and looked for some movement, with the horizon vacant
for miles around.
Fulham were producing more of the same at our end, with an important
difference; the power, pace and guile of their forwards, particularly Saha.
Even then, we found some solace in the fact that — despite the lad’s awesome
talent, allied to the not inconsiderable contribution of Hayles, Boa Morte,
Malbranque and our very own Johnny Collins (booed at every turn – more of
which later) — our defence was holding steady and looking fairly comfortable
in doing so.
Thus, it was all the more galling for us when we were undone by the most
uncomplicated of moves: from a contentious free kick 20 yards outside the box,
the ball was simply knocked wide left and, as the cross came in, Hayles just
rose unattended on the 6-yd line to head past a stranded Simonsen. No
fault of the keeper’s; it seemed just as if a collective narcolepsy had
afflicted the defence when the ball was delivered.
The hesitation in our game became even more apparent at one down; the mind’s
eye envisioned Walter’s pre-match postulations urging his side to be ‘cautious’,
and them taking him at his word no matter what. With this, Fulham became
ever more threatening and one sensed that the game had already escaped us.
The second half saw no immediate changes, either with our line up or with our
inability to compete. Sadly, the aspirations of Gascoigne to compete for a
place in the England World Cup squad were betrayed as a pure pipe-dream — he
became an ever more peripheral figure as the minutes went on. The simple
fact is that he cannot complete 90 minutes at the highest level any more; Walter
Smith’s decision to leave it until the second half to bring him on against
Southampton shows that he’s rather more tactically astute than we give him
Having said that, he was no worse than any of our other midfielders; Gemmill
was invisible, Pembridge seemed destined to give the ball away at every
opportunity (a shame that) and Gravesen seemed intent of having himself sent
off. We were two down by then; a corner from our left was treated like a
live hand-grenade by all four defenders in front of Simo. Hayles said ‘thank
you very much’ and toe-poked it home.
And that was more or less it, save for two irrelevant substitutions
(Gascoigne for Alexandersson with 20 minutes left, and Moore for Gravesen 10
minutes later)… Oh, and a 22-man brawl precipitated by Wier being fouled
by Boa Morte.
As Wier got up, Boa Morte grabbed his foot which unbalanced Wier and made him
appear to knee Boa Morte’s head; over went Wier, Hayles stamped all over him
and everybody else piled in. A special mention here to Van Der Sar, who
ditched his reluctance to come off his line and ran a full 70 yards to join
in. Wier got a second yellow and went; Boa Morte got a straight red;
Hayles got away with it. One for the FA panel to watch, I think.
Anybody who is concerned purely with matters on the pitch should now leave
and go to ToffeeWeb’s news links to check the latest news on the mooted Bobby
Zamora transfer. However, I would urge anybody that cares about the
well-being of our club to read on and realise why if Zamora’s got half a brain
he won’t go near us with a shitty stick.
Before the match, I joined up with a few of the lads at the King’s Head on
the Fulham High Street. I had suggested the venue, and it didn’t take me
long to regret my decision as, when I arrived, I found that we were hemmed in by
a mass of inebriate boneheads intent of inebriating themselves still further, to
the point of near collapse. It seemed that the only thing reviving their
rapidly-flagging ‘spirits’ was the opportunity to spout orchestrated vitriol
about Houllier’s heart attack, Emile Heskey being a ‘nigger’, killing ‘Pakis’,
’39 Italians down below’ and other such fulsome behaviour.
Sickened as I was by the torrent of filth that assailed my ears in the pub, I
was still totally unprepared for the extent of what went on at the game
itself. Our supporters kept up non-stop renditions of the ‘Heskey will
you be my slave’ song, added a song about Markus Babbel having Aids to the
mix, and then excelled themselves with a stream of racial abuse directed at
Fulham’s coterie of black players.
In the first half, especially, Rufus Brevitt (unfortunate enough to be
playing at left back and therefore directly in front of our section) was the
recipient of an unprecedented level of chants and monkey noises. He
responded by giving the crowd a ‘Nescafe Handshake’ on the linesman’s
blind side, which (and I fear with no sense of irony) brought howls of
self-righteous hurt and angst from the boneheads. I hope the FA don’t
decide to punish him simply for telling the truth.
At half-time, a collection took place for the Variety Club of Great Britain,
and as the mascots and the Fulham girls toured the pitch one of our ‘supporters’
took the opportunity to throw a whisky bottle at them. Two more bottles
followed in the first half to my knowledge, one of them aimed at Steed
Malbranque as he took a corner. Malbranque then slammed the ensuing kick
straight into the advertising hoardings, which the knobheads probably saw as a
validation of their actions.
The chants continued throughout the game: Collins was booed every time he got
the ball for the crime of having once played for Everton; one Boa Morte run was
greeted with “get back on the ####in’ jam jar!” by a bloke behind me; the
‘nigger’ chants grew ever more vehement... and so it continued.
When the brawl broke out, I even saw and heard one of the nobs going up to a
policeman and saying that he wished to report ‘that man, with the white hair
and the black body’, for assault on Wier. Yes, the knobchops had
mistaken Saha for Hayles... Still, I suppose he’d justify the mistake by
saying “ah well, dey all luke de ####in’ same t' me”.
What saddens and angers me is this: firstly, this behaviour is increasingly
prevalent at every away match that I attend, and I shudder to think of what will
happen by the time we play Tottenham; and secondly, it’s increasingly common
to see kids spouting this shite having been brainwashed by their parents.
I actually heard one girl of about 16 or 17 shout out “trigger trigger, shoot
that nigger”; I hadn’t heard that for about 10 years, and she’s far too
young to have picked up that one herself (her father’s look of satisfaction,
turning around and grinning to all, spoke volumes).
What do we do? The club have printed statements in the programmes at
home games threatening sanctions against anyone involved, and making
announcements at half time (when most of the arseholes will be emptying their
straining bladders into the sinks at Goodison anyway). While this is
welcome, I do feel that the club now need to make a more concerted effort to rid
the club of this poison, before it’s too late. Many of these people will
be season ticket holders, and they need to be identified and told that their
support (and more painfully for the club perhaps, their money) are no longer
welcome. The club can’t hide behind the bland “it’s a small minority”
statement any more, because it’s becoming a ####ing big minority.
In order to take action, the club needs help to identify and isolate the
perpetrators, and to do that they need the help of the genuine supporters —
the ones that attend away games to watch football — not as an excuse to get
pissed up and taunt black players.
I will be writing to both Everton FC and Fulham FC to report what I saw and
heard; while I can’t identify individuals at this game, I will do all I can to
help. We are witnessing a cancer, a hatred that feeds on itself, and if we
don’t do something NOW then I promise you that it wont be long before
we're back to organised violence, and possibly even deaths.
Dominic Lawson, a very passionate and clever Blue whose opinion I respect
highly, described this behaviour as dealing the club a “death by a thousand
cuts”. Perhaps, Dom. But maybe a “death by a thousand cunts”
would be more appropriate…