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Colm's Corner
Columnist: Colm Kavanagh

Ashes to Ashes
27 September 2005


Its all Andrew Flintoffs fault, you know.  Even a Fenian like myself can appreciate the majestic heroics over recent weeks by Flintoff and his English teammates, as The Ashes, though never ever departing Albions shores, returned home.  England was swathe in Jerusalem mode.  Fly the flag of St. George with pride and take to the village green and place your stumps twenty-two yards apart (make that twenty-two metres if playing on the Balmoral estate!).  Jumpers for goalposts?  Not this summer

Its not really that long ago since commentators were openly criticising the schedule for The Ashes series why so many one-day games before proper battle commenced against the old Australian enemy?  Whose idea was it, to schedule Test cricket to clash with the nations beloved football?  Ludicrous!  Get the series over and done with before a ball was kicked in the new footy season.  Cricket, they said, had spurned a glorious opportunity and those scribes who are paid to fill our back pages with words of wisdom told it so.  As it happened, they were wrong.  A wonderful five test series going right to the wire captivated a nation and booted football off the back pages.  It became irrelevant whether you knew your silly point from your cover point; cricket was boss and Flintoff became Botham Revisited the nation was Freddy mad, both on the back page and front page.  He will be duly recognised in December by BBC viewers no doubt.

The Ashes done and dusted, an unofficial declaration, of sorts, that summer was now at an end... time surely for football to return to the back pages and resume being that integral part of our every day lives.  Arent we the fortunate ones to have it all live and exclusive in our living rooms, on Sky Sports?  Failing that, theres always the option of a Saturday afternoon in a pub that resembles Mission Control:  Arabic TV showing one match in one corner, Canal Plus offering another elsewhere and the obligatory screening of Manchester United, the feed from another foreign station, on the big plasma screen.  Who needs the hassle of attending football grounds when you can have a pint, and a laugh, in your local?!

Over the opening weeks of the season weve seen plenty of empty seats up and down the country.  We failed to sell out for the visit of Manchester United.  Sunderland, on their return to the Premiership, faced Charlton Athletic in a sparsely populated Stadium of Light.  It was a similar story down the road, in Middlesbrough, where Liverpool were the visitors.  The first Super Sunday of the season proved to be a damp squib, with Arsenal leaving it late to ease past injury hit Newcastle United and Chelsea, for all their millions, were blessed with injury time intervention to steal all the points against newly promoted Wigan again, a stadium with a surprising number of empty seats.  It has lead to some of our more sensational sports writers mulling over the future of the Premiership.

Has the bubble finally burst?  Personally, I dont think so our own attendances figures remain on a par with last seasons efforts despite the paucity of entertainment on view.  Im also pretty confident that the attendance this coming Thursday evening for our last throw of the dice in European football will be greater than anticipated such is the blind loyalty of many Evertonians who attend regardless.  It was with curious interest so, to read in Sundays Observer, our CEO Keith Wyness say, no longer can we say play the game and they will come.  Clubs have to be much smarter about how they price their tickets, look after their season ticket-holders much better, be much more fan-friendly in general and, especially, do far more to attract a new generation of fans.   Where do you start with that, eh? 

  • Be smarter with ticket pricing?  Tell that to those whove been ejected from their seats, making way for corporate clients who thus far have not been present in great numbers. 
  • Look after season ticket holders?  Hello, did the Villarreal ticket debacle never happen? 
  • Be more fan friendly?  Oh aye, which is why the CEO labels fans in Thailand as being as knowledgeable and as committed as those within the shadows of Goodison.  And they in turn (the locals) are the same fans labelled as stupid by Wyness for their opinions on a manager whos overseeing our worst run for a long time.  Im sure our friends over in Thailand wont appreciate being guilty by association!
  • Attract a new generation of fans?  While commending the Club for their lower under-16 prices, I genuinely believe the price of a ticket for Thursdays night is excessive considering the circumstances and a chance spurned to attract younger kids to Goodison.

Anyway, 5 - 1 down, one goal scored domestically thus far, bottom of the League... yet Evertonians will be asked to pay 25 (truly a Peoples Club price that!) to witness the mother of comebacks thats not going to happen (says he tempting fate!).  We need four goals unanswered just to level matters!  The only place where we score four or more is high in the Alps on pre-season training camps in Austria!  We wait with keen interest to see if a 25 price tag on entry affects the attendance in any negative way.  Dont we Mr. Wyness!

I see another nail has been hammered into the coffin of David Moyes with the Sunday Mirrors revelation that Everton chairman Bill Kenwright has injected twenty million quid into the Club this summer.  Someones having a laugh claiming that!  I cannot argue with the claims that its the manager, Moyes, who has failed to secure the services of a (proven) goalscorer but spin is spin is spin when I read it!  I cannot argue with the reality that its this manager who is responsible for us being bottom of the Premiership as we enter October.  Its not going to be pretty but weve placed ourselves in a position where survivals become the name of the game, not European qualification.  Dare I suggest our hopes for the season lie in ashes of their own already? 

A nervous glance at the upcoming fixtures and youll need inspiration from Above trying to assess where the next League win is going to come from.  Ive no doubt that the media love the sniff of a club in crisis, as it fills their back pages for days on end.  To be brutally honest Im expecting to see ourselves rooted in the bottom five or six right up to Christmas time our confidence has been shot to bits and losing at home to the likes of Portsmouth and Wigan Athletic does not fill any Blue with much confidence.  Its a situation requiring calm heads, no knee-jerking and for what little it may be worth, the fullest of support for the manager, warts and all. 

Even those shouting from the rooftops for Moyess removal must surely have placed their faith in Moyes before a ball was kicked this season?  Six games into a 38-game season and people want shut?  That amazes me, how quickly we forget his achievements to date.  Perhaps we should look towards a favourite son of Goodison Park, Andy King, sacked earlier today at Swindon!  Should Moyes walk or take a taxi then Ill bet my last quid that therell be regrets aplenty in a year or two from now, from those shouting loudest right now, as Moyes is seen doing a bloody good job elsewhere.  Back him, not sack him.

When does the cricket season restart?!  HOWZAT!


Colm Kavanagh


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