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Rantings of a frustrated football fan

By Jonathan Martin :  14/04/2008 :  Comments (17) :

I?m heavily involved with a team of my own - I?m the manager. We?ve got a good squad made up of a number of different individuals who all combine to create a whole, bigger than the sum of its parts. We?re short of a few squad members though, which makes life tough sometimes ? we all have to play different positions occasionally, be flexible in our approach. The most important thing is that everyone works for each other ? we know that?s the way we all win the prizes on offer.

Our season finishes at the end of April. We?ve outperformed this year ? the goals we were set seemed completely unobtainable at the beginning, but through some brilliant decision-making, sheer hard work and a fairly large slice of luck, we?re in a superb position to make this season the most memorable we?ve ever had.

We?ll all earn good money this year - some would say that we earn more than we deserve and at times it?s hard to disagree. But, that?s the going rate ? we could all earn more money at bigger teams but we?re in a very competitive environment and we think our team is capable of reaching the heights of the big 4 ? sometimes its better being in a small, committed group who are on the up.

Does this sound a little like our beloved Everton? I hope you think so.

So, why you may be asking, am I waffling on about my own sporting prowess? Well, those that know me reading this will know that I have nothing to do with football ? or any sport actually.

My team is actually a bunch of highly committed, very well paid IT professionals who work their arses off day in, day out for our company (with a bunch of American owners who drive us up the wall sometimes ? hey, even that sounds familiar, doesn?t it!). Five of us cover a region that stretches from the UK in the West to the far reaches of Russia in the East; from Finland in the North to South Africa in the South and also takes in the extreme temperatures and culture shock of the Middle East.

Our season does indeed end on April 30th ? that?s our end of year. Unfortunately, for anyone who works in a Sales environment, you will all know full well that the new season starts on May 1st. For us, there is no 10-12 week summer holiday, no pre-season tour of the US (actually, that?s not strictly true ? for hitting our sales target we get to spend a jet-lagged 5 day holiday with our colleagues on a beach in the Caribbean ? we?re not complaining).

We spend our lives on a plane, always down the back in the cheap seats, rather than the luxuries of First Class or even a privately chartered jet. We get off the other end, find a taxi to another unremarkable hotel or office block and have to perform in front of customers and prospects straight from the airport. If we fail ? if we don?t win the deal, then questions get asked. And you don?t want your America owners asking questions too often because very quickly the answer comes in the shape of a P45.

We frequently work 6 days a week - we frequently work 12 hour days. Take Monday this week, for example. I?ll be up at 6:00am for a conference call with a prospect in Kuwait then on the train for a meeting in London at 12:00. I?ll be lucky to be home before 5:00pm (11 hours after I started work) and will then have to start on my day?s work ? all the emails and calls that have built up during the day whilst I?ve been on the road.

Do you give a damn? I hope not. It?s my choice to do this and I absolutely love it. I love it nearly as much as I love Everton. Which makes the time and money I spent at Birmingham on Saturday all the more frigging frustrating.

You see, all the crap excuses about being physically and mentally tired, of it having been a long season, of all the games we?ve had to play, all the squad not being big enough for the challenge of the Premiership and Europe etc etc etc ? I?m sorry, they don?t wash with me.

I do my job for the money, for the prizes, for the challenge of being the best at what we do (which, as it happens, most of our competitors think we are), for the camaraderie, for lots of other reasons. Sometimes I moan about it because its hard work, tiring physically and mentally (try being coherent in front of a customer who you hope will part with half a million dollars of his money when you?ve just walked straight off a sleepless, uncomfortable, overnight 12 hour flight to South Africa!) ? But the one thing I can guarantee you is that I will always give 100%, always give my best.

I wish I could say the same about the load of shite I had to suffer on Saturday afternoon at St. Andrews ? which incidentally was pretty much the same load of shite I suffered at Fulham 4 weeks ago. If my level of performance was as up and down as Everton?s has been this calendar year, then I?d be out of job. If I played as badly as most of the 12 outfield players in the Royal Blue on Saturday, then no-one else would want to employ me either.

But I?m not a poor, cosseted over-paid footballer who can play brilliantly one week and then appear to be completely disinterested the next. I?m not the guy who has every move of my working life planned out for me, who turns up for work for a couple of hours each weekday and then for a couple of hours again at the weekend. I?m not the guy who earns so much money that I don?t know what to do with it apart from spend it on gambling, alcohol or drugs.

But it?s not just the players who I blame. As I mentioned earlier (if you can remember that far back!), any good team is bigger than the sum of its parts. You see, the problem at Everton at the moment is that no-one is performing; everyone has got their eyes on that Caribbean holiday in May. How come it has been blindingly obvious to everyone watching us this season that Neville and Carsley can not play together in midfield? We?ve proved it on a number of occasions this year. So, in a game that we absolutely had to win, not only to try and put pressure on Liverpool for 4th place, but also to ensure we finish 5th, why did we stick with this formation pretty much all game? By half-time we had created nothing. No serious shots on goal, no corners, no incisive moves at all. The only option available to Moyes was to break up the Neville/Carsley axis of evil by introducing the Court Jester that is Thomas Gravesen. But what happened? Diddley squat ? until 3 minutes before the end when he was introduced and promptly showed why he should have been on at half-time by producing our best, in fact our only half-decent move of the game by playing a superb ball in behind the defence for Hibbert to cross.

Everyone at the club is guilty of this recent, appalling, apparent lack of commitment to the cause, from Bill Kenwright (as the man at the top of the tree, he holds ultimate responsibility in my business), down through Moyes for not being adventurous enough to the players who simply are not earning their money and haven?t been since the Fiorentina game. Actually, I absolve the tea-lady.

I?m beginning to fear that we won?t finish 5th. I can see Portsmouth pipping us for that place. As long as they win the FA Cup (and surely they will), then 6th will be good enough for a European place. Trouble is, we have to play Villa at the end of this month. Soccerbot (http://www.soccerbot.com/fa/tables/ukprem08.htm) is currently forecasting that Villa will finish 6 points behind us. However, they are forecasting that we will beat them on April 26th. If they beat us, then that?s a six point swing. That puts us on the same number of points. Our goal difference is +4 on them ? so if they win 2-0, then that goal difference has gone. The nightmare scenario for us this season could not be finishing 4th, not 5th or 6th but 7th with no European football next season except via the Intertoto.

That must not be allowed to happen.

I?ve rattled on long enough now (am I Colm Kavanagh in disguise, you may ask?) ? I?ve got a day job to attend to (and I need some sleep before that 6:00 call). I just wish that sometimes professional footballers showed the same level of commitment.

Reader Comments

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Dan Walker
1   Posted 14/04/2008 at 14:32:27

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An interesting and entertaining read Jonathan. Thanks for taking the time to write it. We all share you pain
Nick Entwistle
2   Posted 14/04/2008 at 14:49:25

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Footballers i.e people who are good at kicking a ball, in todays modern game are trained as athletes, when athletic ability is maybe not part of their ginetic make up. So yes, they can get tired... being bothered though, that’s different all together!
David Edwards
3   Posted 14/04/2008 at 14:35:03

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Interesting article, Jonathan. Given the work, travel and salary you and your team get I hope you’ll forgive me for not feeling too sorry for you! Writing this on a North-East production plant office PC with it pissing outside, I feel somewhat League 1 compared to your EPL status! Seriously though, your analogy to modern day footballeras is a valid one, and is one that has been repeated many times on Toffeeweb as he hear about how tired our players are becoming as the season draws to an end (when have we ever had a real spurt of form in the last few games in recent years!). Whether you’re a shelf-stacker or an executive salesman, you’ve got every right to question some of our lads at present (although I also think other clubs have a greater problem at present). I’d love to know how successful we are in games following our team’s morale-boosting mid-season sun breaks in recent years - my gut feeling is that it’s money down the drain!

I won’t start on the reasons why we are floundering at present - other threads are doing a good enough job discussing injuries, tiredness, morale, quality,disappointment, tactics, positions, subs bench selections, leadership etc. I just thought I’d share my doubts on whether we can hold onto 5th (I really don’t want Portsmouth to beat us after the season we’ve had, or have to rely on them in the FA Cup Final either!).

Our run-ins are quite a contrast and based on current form, I can see:

Everton v Chelsea - L
Everton v Villa - D? (if we’re lucky, given how they took Derby apart, while we struggled against them)
Arsenal v Everton - L
Everton v Boro - D or W (if we need a win by that stage of the season and Boro are safe, we might be able to raise our game enough).

That’s only 4 pts in my view - taking us to 65 pts (and probably a smaller goal difference once the cockney’s have dealt with us!)

Meanwhile:
Man City v Portsmouth - D or W (Sven’s lads are not what they were earlier in the season)
Portsmouth v Blackburn - W
Boro v Portsmouth - D (only because Boro are home)
Portsmouth v Fulham - W

I make that a realistic 8-10 pts, which takes them to 65-67 pts (with us just about holding onto our goal difference lead - just!). Perhaps their attention on the FA Cup might just work in our favour.

Hmmm....It makes the Villa and Boro home games must win games and hopefully we in the crowd and the boys on the park can raise their game. Even then, any morsel we can unexpectedly pick up from Chelski and the Arse could be worth gold!

All very hypothetical and blindingly obvious to most people, but also realistic in my view, unless we get our act together. So come on you blues! Start earning your end of season bonus now!
Michael Kenrick
4   Posted 14/04/2008 at 15:19:26

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Come ed, David. Predictions are daft enough at the best of times, but when you can’t even get the fixture list right, FFS!!!
David Edwards
5   Posted 14/04/2008 at 15:21:54

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Sorry Michael! - Please remove my post - major information source failure - please do the honours and remove my post
David Edwards
6   Posted 14/04/2008 at 15:28:47

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That’s what happens when you have a Boro and Toon fan in your office - you get brain freeze!
Tommy Harris
7   Posted 14/04/2008 at 16:39:17

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Recorded points in a season.
Best goal difference for God knows how long.
Most clean sheets for 12 years.
A striker with 15+ goals

What a crap season(!)

Sure, it might end in disappointment and we’ll finish 6th, but there is the Intertoto as well and if that is what it takes, then that is what it takes.

Adam Cunliffe
8   Posted 14/04/2008 at 16:43:05

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Good read a very intresting piece. I agree with it completely. The whole tierdness thing is crap, I?d pay to wear the royal blue just once in my lifetime and I think the players should take a one look at the FULL away end and realise that most fans would too.
Seamus Murphy
9   Posted 14/04/2008 at 17:31:46

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Excellent article, well written and spot on in most of what you say.
Jason Lam
10   Posted 14/04/2008 at 18:10:01

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Thanks for sharing, rather long-winded but point valid. However, some fans here believe that because we are not premiership players therefore we have not right to criticize them whatsoever. I suppose these forums should be members-only, reserved for those plying their trade right now in the premiership. As a fellow IT project manager myself, you may want to review the fishbone diagram, it might be the tea that causing our poor heroes their current plight.
Albert Dock
11   Posted 14/04/2008 at 18:39:56

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I have a willy wavingonometer installed and it has now moved towards the ’caution’ zone.
Steve Ryan
12   Posted 14/04/2008 at 23:09:59

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Excellent article Johnathan.
Anthony Newell
13   Posted 14/04/2008 at 23:24:50

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Very well paid IT professionals who work their arses off?, a contradiction in terms surely?!!
Derek Thomas
14   Posted 15/04/2008 at 06:46:07

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I don’t from a physical point of view, totally buy into this tiredness thing, some part yes, some part mental, yes. But some has to come down to plain can’t be arsed.

Now Chelsea have just had a hard game Vs Wigan (Monday ) and come to us on Thursday, yes I know they have a bigger squad, but the whole point with them is they still think they have something to play for. Lets see just how tired they look.

Sometimes it’s the old old story, who wants it more.
Alex Mather
15   Posted 15/04/2008 at 06:51:19

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Is it just me or has Everton’s slump in form coincided with the men in suits asking us to fork out for our ’cheper’ season tickets before this season has even ended. Many will say its what normally happens around early April at Everton, the players who have worked hard all season and at times played some ok stuff have been replaced by clones who couldnt give a s@ite and think their holidays began 4 weeks ago. Its just typical Everton that as soon as they start asking us to fork out hundreds of pounds the players think im off to book my holiday!! I personally cant afford to renew my ticket right now so will probably miss the deadline of the 19th, I should imagine im not the only one. Hopefully the blues will prove me wrong on Thursday night but to be honest I cant see it, what with us playing terrible and Chelsea only drawing last night I think we are in for a long Thursday night. Anyway im off to look for some change down the back of my couch so I can start trying to think of getting my season ticket sometime before August!! Up the Toffee’s
Roger Jones
16   Posted 15/04/2008 at 13:58:01

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Simple fact is that no matter what your job is, you’ll perform less well if you’re knackered than you would if you weren’t knackered.

So all you can realistically ask of anyone, is that they give 100% of what they’re capable of - in their current state - not 100% of what they WOULD be capable of at full fitness/freshness/whatever (unless of course, they currently happen to be at full fitness/etc).

If (say for the sake of argument) 100% for someone in a ’knackered’ state equates to 70% of their performance level in an ’unknackered’ state, there is no useful purpose served (other than possibly demotivation) by castigating them for performing at 70% of their full potential (because they’re actually performing at 100% of what they’re currently capable of).

Whether or not someone is actually performing up to their maximum current ability is of course another question, but that’s one that is in principle almost impossible to answer, unless you happen to be in possession of all the facts.

Oh, and how much money you get paid isn’t a factor either - no amount of money can ever persuade anyone to do more than they are capable of doing (granted that it might well be a factor in persuading someone to perform closer to their current potential, if they’re not achieving that, but that’s something else).

Mike Allison
17   Posted 15/04/2008 at 15:40:09

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Well written but pointless. Jonathan, when you and your team do your work, is there a team of highly paid professionals directly opposed to you, working to prevent all your plans coming to fruition, deliberately setting out to block all your efforts. Do they have important motivation of their own, roared on by tens of thousands of people supporting them? No? Then your job doesn’t compare to being a footballer, no-one’s does, and the comparisons people constantly make are pointless.
I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the Birmingham game, and like you, I’m sorry we didn’t win it, but most of that should be put down to the Birmingham players continually trying to stop us from scoring goals and even, sometimes, trying to score goals themselves. You can’t complain about our ’highly paid, cosseted footballers’ without acknowledging that there are 11 guys on the other team who are just as highly paid. As Roger says, money doesn’t make a difference, pay me a £1M a week and I won’t become Cristiano Ronaldo crossed with Superman. Opposing footballers cancel each other out, that’s not something that happens in other jobs.

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