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Fans Comment
Dermot Duffy


Falling Standards
2 September 05

After the day of delirium (and, ultimately, dissatisfaction), I thought it may be safe to return to my PC this morning for some sense of normality and the show going on.

This Jean-Marc Bosman joker has an awful lot to answer for.  Not so long ago, phones were manic, websites were crashing and fans were going postal on the day that their respective football teams were playing in games that mattered.  Maybe I've missed something but for one day we've all become playthings for the screaming redtops and oh-so-hilarious internet hoaxers who are filling time before Mummy calls them down from the PC for their fish fingers.

Surely Uefa in their infinite wisdom could just move this deadline over to April 1st and be done with it?  Like nearly every other Evertonian on Wednesday, I spent the best part of my free time trawling through the three main fans' forums and beyond, looking for the merest morsel of gossip to get me to the next hour.

And I got exactly what I was looking for — Jesus, did I get the nonsense in spades.  Come midnight, I had gotten exactly what I deserved — that distinct feeling of being had.  Most of us realise that we really should know better but, for the most part, it was fun from the predictable ('my mate's uncle works at EFC') all the way up to the plainly ludicrous ('Licence Plate Watch') and when the clock struck twelve I toddled off to bed to lick my wounds and dream of what might have been.

Ahhhh... the deadline now passed like a kidney stone, I could finally get back to getting behind the players that we do own and spending my midweek worrying about injuries and nothing else....and then I read Lyndon's Falling Short article.

Lyndon, throughout the years you've been one of my favourite Evertonian contributors, and I've enjoyed the good cop/bad cop routine that yourself and Michael have fostered on the site, but this article is so uncharacteristically knee-jerk and uneven, I might be disinclined to believe you were it's author.  I say 'might' because in recent times I've found the site has become almost unbearably negative with regards to most aspects of our club (the ongoing backroom fiasco accepted).

Match reports with headlines such as "Normal Service Resumed'' and "Turning Three Points to One" were bad enough but Michael's description of Nuno Valente's signing was nothing short of disgraceful.  ''Normally the arrival of a new player fills us with hope and excitement... but another defender?  30 years old??  Disgruntled with his club???  And he gets a three-year deal????  Davie, he'd better be very, very good!''

I understand Lyndon countered this with an editorial reply but the simple fact is that the above was ToffeeWeb's sole description of his transfer on the homepage — buried in the Snippets section too, I might add.  If you are going to lambaste what many Evertonians see as a very, very astute signing (don't suppose you've organised a survey on that one?), can you please not embarrass the site by having someone who obviously paid no attention to Euro 2004 or, indeed, seems never to have seen Valente actually play, announce the transfer to the world?

Back to Falling Short though.  I agree with an awful lot of the article but, by the time we get down to the following, the wheels really start to wobble (to coin your phrase):  "This all may sound overly negative and I fully admit that I'm being ruled by anger, frustration and bitter disappointment..." — you're right, it does.  I just cannot believe you wrote this article in a wholly objective frame of mind.  D-day appears to have affected you more than most.  For Chrissakes, you suggested Roy Makaay as a possible target a few days ago.  ROY MAKAAY!!?  While we're at it, why not give Ronaldinho a bell or see how that Adriano fella is getting on down in Milan?  Just don't forget to hit 'save game' before you turn your PC off. 

But, but, Moyes was playing in a charity golf game yesterday?!  When he should have been on a plane somewhere, signing a striker from god-knows-where!  Anywhere!!  A proven goalscorer, we'll be goosed without one!!  GOOSED!!  Think of the goals we're not scoring!!  WON'T YOU PLEASE THINK OF THE GOALS?!!

I believe the simple fact of the matter is that Moyes had a number of targets and was probably aware by Wednesday morning that none of them would be signing for us, for whatever reasons.  I find it very hard to speculate on what goes on in the dingy transfer world but I have no doubt in my mind he did his utmost to find a player that, as he so often repeats, 'would improve the team'.

I'm not going to start naming players and how they would respectively improve or devalue the team, simply because I am not the manager of Everton Football Club.  I trust the current manager's judgement though, and my question is this — why don't you?  I'm getting sick and tired of this 'In Moyes We Trust' tag being labelled on anyone who has the temerity to believe in the decision-making of the manager who took a team of no-marks into Champions League qualification no more than FOUR MONTHS AGO.  He is not the finished article but most of us can see that he is developing further as he goes on with us, and also learning faster than most of his peers.  Yes, I am on the bandwagon, now get back up and join me until he lets you down.  Yes, I do believe he is above criticism and I want you to tell me why he isn't?

This ongoing obsession with formations is getting ridiculous too.  Yes, I too want 4-4-2, with flowing football, with flying wingers, with overlapping fullbacks, with whipped crosses, two strikers in double figures and the return of the School of Science.  And, while we're at it, why not Scarlett Johansson in a pair of French knickers throwing toffees into the stands before every game?

Chelsea used it (4-1-4-1, 4-5-1 and 4-3-3 are matters of perspective and one for another day) to win the league; Arsenal used it to win the Cup; and Brazil used it to win the World Cup.  And please don't forget that we used it to finish in a ludicrous fourth.  We do not play football like Sunderland and cut that allusion out now please.

We are Everton.  We are Evertonians.  Now tell me that there isn't a certain pride restored to that statement?  And try telling me that there isn't a single other reason (other than David Moyes) why that is so?  I admire any Evertonian who strives toward our motto and equally approving of any that can see that the bar has now been raised and we need to follow suit.  But if you can't see that we have The Real Deal here than I don't know if you ever will.  It's brow-beating and it's corny but I had the two of the best days of my life on a Tuesday and Wednesday not so long ago and I won't forget who took me there.  And, if I ever get to thank him in person for it, I know that I will not be thanking him just for standing in El Madrigal, but all the other places he takes myself and Everton Football Club over the coming years.

I'm fully aware you have a number of contributors who counter a lot of this negativity and I commend that; long may that continue.  My point is — you are the main people who are responsible for the output on the site and, personally, I find the cynicism which both of you seem to be developing toward the club and, more specifically, our manager close to insufferable.  I don't think I am alone in this.  ToffeeWeb is set as my homepage and will continue to be so.  And while before that was down to the fact is was simply my favourite website, now it is because it's the best of a bad bunch of websites devoted entirely to my favourite football club.  Lyndon, Michael, please get those toys, put them safely back in the pram and get back to maintaining the most consistent, excellent and complete reference point that Evertonians have on the web.

Duffer


Responses:


Wow, nicely written and powerfully argued, Dermot.  Where to begin? With thanks for the compliments — of our past performance at least! — followed, I suppose, by apologies for now letting you down.

I know that yesterday's piece appeared to be a knee-jerk reaction but it was the culmination of frustration at seeing the promising performances in midfield in all five of our matches so far this season scuppered by an agonising lack of quality up front.  I felt that we needed to add an element of pace, creativity and clinical finishing up front and that by not doing so early enough, we didn't give ourselves a big enough chance of qualifying for the Champions League.  I had convinced myself that the solution was obvious and that having spent so much money so well over the summer, the manager feeling the same urgency to address the situation would have moved heaven and earth to resolve it.

As you say, who's to say he didn't?  But the statistics don't lie.  We were easily the lowest-scoring team in the top four last season, finished with a negative goal difference, and have only scored one goal in three games so far this season.  To me, the highest priority was obvious and I wasn't convinced by the strategy of waiting until after the second leg of the CL Third Qualifying Round if we were already targeting the likes of Michael Owen and Dirk Kuyt a month ago.  [While I'm on the subject of Ickle Mickey, I did couch my Roy Makaay reference in the context of our overly ambitious efforts to sign Owen — did anyone believe we ever had a chance of signing him? :) ]

So, was it a wholly objective article?  Not even close... but when is devoting your life to a football club ever an objective exercise?  It was written from the heart and delivered as one man's opinion: nothing more, nothing less.  I too had been religiously trawling all the media outlets and fans' forums, not to mention corresponding privately with people who potentially knew more about what was really going on than all those other sources put together.  And, after hours of hoaxes and red herrings followed by the big let down at midnight, I was was sleep-deprived and emotionally spent.

I've been a little surprised at the reaction, to be honest, because I don't think I was nearly as scathing as some other's reactions on the message boards.  I fully recognise the progress we have made under David Moyes and thank him for restoring pride to every last one of us who suffered through the 1990s and the worst of Walter Smith's tenure.  Finishing fourth and earning a shot at the Champions League has quite rightly been proclaimed as a bigger achievement than Chelsea buying the title and that is down to the manager.

Similarly, I paid lip service to the impressive signings Moyes did make over the course of the summer and defended the much-maligned James Beattie.  Michael's front-page editorial regarding Nunc Valente was very harsh and, as you point out, I countered it with a blog post of my own.  And it was reduced to the snippets column purely because — if I recall — Andy van der Meyde was the headline news of the day as was expected to sign any hour on Friday.  To me, he sounds like a terrific acquisition and I'm excited to have him on board, just as I am thrilled that van der Meyde did eventually sign.  Add those two to Davies, Arteta, Neville, Ferrari, et al, and we have three quarters of a brilliant side.

Perhaps that is why I was so disappointed when the deadline ticked by without us having added a striker.  In my opinion we were one signing away from completing the jigsaw, setting us up for another fantastic season.  Of course, everything could click into place and the goals could start flowing, in which case I'll be the first to say I was being premature and pessimistic.  But if it doesn't, January seems an awfully long way away.

Darn, there's that subjectivity again.  I think I'm going to need more time, Dermot :)

Lyndon
 

Yes, Dermot, I would back up Lyndon's response: yours was a very well written and sensibly argued piece.  Although I come over as the "bad cop", I was surprised to get the computer on Wednesday (after working long and hard on a quite unrealated project) to find Lyndon going spare!  This was before he wrote his piece, but it was clear from his detailed and lengthy Rumour Mill updates that he was really looking for something to happen, and in that it was clear he was reflecting a massive wave of excitement building among the Everton internet community.

Something I didn't really share in, to be perfectly honest.  Yes, we'd had lively Deadline Days before, but my personal view of the transfer sagas is simple: they are all garbage until someone actually signs.  Not many Evertonians think like that... but I do.  Years ago, in the formative ToffeeWeb years, I would deliberately ignore and refuse to carry transfer rumours.  ToffeeWeb would be, above all, factual. Well, that was never going to fly if we really wanted ToffeeWeb to become what you described in your final line.  So we introduced the Rumour Mill.  And what is one of the most popular parts of the website in terms of hitrates...???

That brings me to last week and my infamous response to the announcement that we had signed Nuno Valente.  I hold my hand up and admit that your charterization is pretty close.  I have no interest in other players.  I have no interest in other European leagues.  I hardly ever watch any other teams play.  I only watch Everton.  So, when, the signing was announced, I could adopt my best 'Alan Green' posture, flop myself over the keyboard, and emphasize all the aspects of this transfer that showed it to be totally out of the Moyes mould.

  • Another defender?  Well, that's pretty obvious from this discussion: Davie's preoccupation with building the defence, at the clear cost of our ability to score goals.  Shoot me if you must, but I love to see Everton playing attacking football...
  • 30 years old??  Again, this is pretty obvious.  Stubbs?  Weir?? Watson???  All had passed the 30-year mark, and there was, or so we believed, a club ceiling in terms of discouraging older players (unless they are very good we'll get to that). 
  • Disgruntled with his club???  Since the Bellamy thing, we've all been talking 'character', and we've had Lee Carsley piping up about team spirit... so to read that we are buying a player who's first words were not about Everton but about what a pile of twats his previous club were.... well, that again is quite out of character with Moyes.
  • And he gets a three-year deal????  The 30-year-olds at the club were being limited to one-year extensions, so this also was a break with Moyes's own rules.
  • Davie, he'd better be very, very good!  Which really was the key, here, and which both you and Lyndon seemed to ignore.  Yes, he'd better be bloody good because that is the only way to justify all these departures from the norm.  And the key is that his previous pedigree is not that significant at the end of the day.  Because, however good you or Lyndon think he is, on the basis of watching endless hours of European football, it will all be worth nought if he doesn't do it for Everton.  Think Bilic.  Think Wright.  There is always that risk.

Yes, it was somewhat tongue-in-check, tinged with light-hearted cynicism.  Must we always report stuff in a deadpan unemotional fashion?  Perhaps we should... but I think a bit of attitude gives the site that bit more personality.  Of course we get lambasted by some for being negative; we also get lambasted by others, who refuse to read us, because we do not take a strong enough stand against the club, or do not do enough in-depth probes of what is really going on, and how bad it all is. 

Bottom line: we cannot hope to please all of the Evertonians all of the time.  We could make the website be what you, Dermot, want it to be.  But it is what it is and we are who we are: at the end of the day, just another group of Evertonians.

Michael
 

 

 

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