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Reflections from my seat

By Ken Buckley :  07/06/2009 :  Comments (16) :
The season is over... the dust is settling and preparations are underway to do it all again.

The season for me went from bad to worse to good to very good in a rollercoaster ride that no-one could have predicted. From a start that saw no transfer activity, pre-season training that only included five senior pros, a manager reluctant to sign a contract, and a first match of the season that could not muster a full squad and saw youth players making up the numbers on the bench.

By 25 October we had only 8 pts and 6 of those secured on the road; with not a victory recorded at home, many feared the worst, with relegation already being mentioned, along with the January window being a possible salvation route. Very few, if any, were thinking top five finishes and FA Cup Final appearance when, on 25 October, we were hosting the mighty Man Utd. We didn?t win but we didn?t lose... and a tackle from Phil Neville went into Goodison folklore as our season seemed to start that day.

From then until the season?s end we racked up 15 wins, 9 draws and just 5 losses. Was it really that tackle? ? Probably not... but it makes a great story.

Add to this six FA cup rounds, only losing the final one, all on the back of losing key players to long-term injury, playing with no recognised strikers, some players playing with injury as well as coming back from injury and having to find some form, then it?s hard not to say that we had a very good season overall.

From my seat, I had many ups and downs. A trip to City when I didn?t know whether to laugh or cry as our striker crisis really struck and we played 4-6-0 yet managed to nick it at the death and put on a good show. The agony against Villa after equalising in injury time only to lose it in time added on for celebrations.

The ups and downs brought into sharp focus over just a few days as we bombed at Wigan on a cold Monday night only to travel to Spurs on the following Sunday and turn them over 1-0 And Oh how opinions can change... in just those six days, berating to complementing in such a short time is what the great game is all about.

Beating Liverpool in the replay and ?Super Dan? is born; following this up by thumping Bolton and Villa only to be back in the dumps by not only drawing 0-0 with a poor Newcastle but losing Arteta for the remainder of the season.

The emergence of Jack Rodwell, who I thought most unlucky not to get a start in the Cup Final, really lit up my season and I can pay him no greater compliment than to say, ?"If he was not already ours, we could not afford him." I truly hope he turns out to be the player I am sure he is destined to be.

My Game of the Season was the FA Cup semi-final against Man Utd. Not a great match by any means but an occasion that will be remembered by many for its sheer emotional value, wall of sound, outpouring of emotions and the absolute joy it brought to all in attendance. It really was a case of you just had to be there.

The final never quite lived up to that and losing didn?t help as it left us proud but flat. It was a grim walk to the station but scouse humour was never far away to cheer us up as my pal opined that some of the smug pundits like Shearer and Co would put us down a voice piped up ?Shearer? He is the worst caretaker since Ian Huntley?!

So what of next season? I hope the manager uses whatever budget he has got wisely and is able to augment our present squad so that we can compete with some desire on the four fronts we have qualified for. I won?t opine on whom and what is needed as I believe our manager is paid well enough and is qualified enough to know these things. His acumen will determine mine and others' level of enjoyment and expectation for the coming season but to get where we really want to be then money certainly goes hand in hand with acumen.

I don?t particularly believe in ?glass ceilings? or indeed the ?Sky four?, to me they are there for Sky to use, they get there by results that qualify them for the Champions League, and that four usually go to at least semi-finals and each season one or maybe two contest the final, so they are the ?story?. Sky hype them and make money through them and they will not change in that approach if four others supplanted the present incumbents.

Sky or any media want to give precedence to the ?Story?; it sells, so over to the board and manager: get us in there and do well and we will become the ?Story?. We will then be referred to as Sky and media darlings and everything that goes with it. Easy to state, hard to achieve... but stepping stones of some success in Europa League, Premier League and domestic cups gets us closer.

I fervently hope the Board have these goals in mind and do indeed work 24/7 to achieve this. It may not take a billionaire non-Evertonista to achieve this but rather investors prepared to invest in the building blocks to further what we already have and see some return in that investment. But, sadly, for fan base unity, a new stadium may well be a prerequisite for these people.

I will dwell here briefly on the stadium move, but in no way to open any further stadium debate. I was filled with dread at one hearing when our CEO stated that fans will have to get used to a whole new ?matchday experience?. That is a dilemma for me as I want the club to join the ?Story? ? and indeed, if the only way to achieve this is to go to Kirkby, I would ? but a whole new matchday experience? I might have to suck that and see...

If I could be granted a wish for the coming season, then it would be for a player of power and flair, the type that puts ?bums on seats?... on who little lads and lasses demand their mums and dads take them to Goodison to see them play.

Soon be August kick off time ? how will we look then? Will we feel easier than last season? How will we do? With Everton, who knows... but I can?t wait for it all to unfold once again.


Reader Comments

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Christine Foster
1   Posted 08/06/2009 at 00:27:44

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Ken, great post, bringing back some of the good and the not so great moments of the past seaon. Sometimes progress is like that, good and bad, hand in hand. almost mixed marriages (remember them?). Indeed, David Moyes and Bill Kenwright could be taken for just that. The thing is it works for both of them.

Just how it all works for Everton and it's future is open for debate. I for one have enjoyed the roller coaster this season, although I confess to a few more grey hairs appearing by October!

You're right too in saying that Sky hype the top four because it has too, BUT even they must see that a Premier League where the gulf just gets wider and wider ends up being a turn-off rather than a turn-on. I am not convinced that everyone actually wants Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool to win anything, in fact it's become bloody boring, and now they hype up who is Best of the Rest...

Change will come to SKY, the PL and to the clubs above; are we in a stronger position to take advantage of it?

To next season, I would dearly love to just get ahead of Liverpool... but then that's not common sense, that tribal thing lol!

We are Everton.. the good, the bad and the ugly!!
Jamie Crowley
2   Posted 08/06/2009 at 04:11:51

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Ken, just a quick opinion on one small segment of your article - and a good one TYVM.

The Neville tackle on the greasy one was the turning point of the season IMO. No question. We were very negative, lifeless, et al. There was a dark cloud of gloom around the Club. We were playing poorly.

That tackle was the shot up the backside we needed. Goodison errupted - on TV at least :0) - and it woke everyone up. We played the last 30 or so minutes of that game with passion and desire. We rediscovered our pride that was seemingly lost in the darkness of a downward spiral.

With one hard, clean tackle, Neville sent a clear message as Captain. And everyone else understood what he did, why he did it, and they responded.

Moments like that are often so incredibly important, and that was the crux of our season IMO.

Newcastle never had that moment.
Where are they now?
Derek Thomas
3   Posted 08/06/2009 at 06:12:17

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Fair enough Ken, as usual. A point about the glass ceiling, it?s more like a sticky floor that stops you jumping any higher and the quickest way to get off it is to paper it with money.

Re the Sky 4, yes they are only the flavour of the month, season, decade coz they are what the worldwide punters see and know, a bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy. I was in Bangkok for the last 2 weeks in May (booked before the final was but a pipe dream) and they already had big billboards saying the Kop comes to Bangkok (25 July?) bums on seats, it?s all about bums on seats.

It?s all about what the punters want (or seem to want, do they know they get told what they want and do they care?)

We had, for some reason, an Indian feed for survival Sunday (poor old Newcastle, lol) and their promos show a player montage, not of the 4 but a 5.... guess who was the distant 5th man at the back??.... Spurs. The Indians must, it would seem, know the demographic that they aim at and as you say, they use them and well paid they are too for the privilge.
Andy McNabb
4   Posted 08/06/2009 at 09:12:20

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Great post. Share your thoughts completely.
Mike Green
5   Posted 08/06/2009 at 10:42:16

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Great post, Ken, to what, all-in-all, ended up, against all the odds, being a great season.

2009-10 is going to a be a big year for us ? DK will be decided one way or the other and you never know, we might sign a couple of quality players close season too. It?s time for the board to give Moyes every penny they can without breaking the bank ? which might not be much but I reckon they?ll get a return on their investment either way.

Here?s to another rollercoaster season. COYB!
Ian Kearney
6   Posted 08/06/2009 at 11:58:58

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For me, the real turning point was to play Arteta in centre-midfield, from that point on it became his team, and it played in his style. For me, he is the best CM in England, my only concern now is he is so good we might rely on him too much.
Giles Larkman
7   Posted 08/06/2009 at 15:28:36

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Great post Ken. Good reports all season. Same again next season please.
Micky Norman
8   Posted 08/06/2009 at 16:53:31

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Nice one. Lots to agree with there but the overriding memory I will take from this season (apart from the cup run) is the way the team responded to adversity and set backs and how the supporters responded to it. I think our fans have woken up a bit this year at matches and really were the 12th man in some games.

At City away in particular, there were hardly any spaces in our section, right up to the goal in the 94th minute, and the noise we made seemed to keep the team running right to the end. I?ve only managed to get to 5 away games this year and the support on the road has been incredible ? as it always has been.

But the support at Goodison has been too quiet for a long time. This year we got back to that old feeling of fortress Goodison on many more occasions and it felt that it was more like the supporters lifting the team.

Ajay Gopal
9   Posted 08/06/2009 at 17:34:47

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Thanks Ken for your summary. Quite even handed as usual, and nice to see another opinion of the Sky 4 ’glass ceiling".

Also, did you notice that there was much less moaning about the referees from Everton supporters this year - was this due to genuine improvement by the referees or a growing self-belief among Evertonians, that is spite of some decisions that may not go our way, our destiny is really in our hands ? IMO, a subtle but important change of attitude amonst supporters - a growing belief that we really belong among the top league of clubs.
Steve Blackman
10   Posted 08/06/2009 at 19:24:22

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To state the obvious, the season (and pre-season even), to start with was nothing short of a disaster. The contract issue, the lacking of new additions, the stadium debate also for good measure, and when the season did get underway in a short space of time the club found itself out of two cup competitions before autumn had really set in, and the first few weeks in the league are now, rather thankfully, water under the bridge.

I was surprised more than angry when Portsmouth and Blackburn managed to put three pust Timothy at Goodison back at the end of last summer but knew that the season does not consist of a month of gameplay.

Move on ten months and what do we have to look back on, a fifth place finish and an FA Cup Final. I know there are individuals out there who do not take the competition with the respect it deserves, but I for one was thrilled with seeing our name as one of two sides in British football's pinnacle showpiece. Don?t forget the number of teams who started out even in the preliminary rounds, and to finish with silver medals after the long list of sides who fell by the wayside is a fine achievement, even if last year?s final line-up did have an uncanny look to it.

Keith Glazzard
11   Posted 08/06/2009 at 21:21:34

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Very fair Ken, thanks.

I totally agree about Jack Rodwell, and hope as much as you do that you?re right about his future ? which I confidently expect to be ours too.

Ajay ? difficult to quantify this, but I think the moaning about refs has subsided because they make fewer really bad decisions against us (like chalking off perfectly good goals). For me, this means that they (and they do stick together) now regard us as a good team, one to take seriously. Added to this, the club confronted them ? via Hackett ? about booking Fellaini for next to nothing, and they listened. That?s progress.

Steve ? like you, I can only hope that whatever the close season and pre-season bring, it must be thousands of times better than last year. Then perhaps we can go on to beat teams in the PL which we only beat in the Cup this year.

I?m always nervous at this time of year ? no points on the board. But we are now again a good football playing side, and that?s progress too.
Jay Tee
12   Posted 08/06/2009 at 23:14:25

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I remember that tackle Neville made and it was definitely the one that sparked the season off. We had been poor each game prior to this and did not look like we were going to do much until then but, after that, all the players were just up for it. This then lasted for the rest of the season.
Jamie Crowley
13   Posted 09/06/2009 at 04:50:19

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Ian ? I agree as well. moving Arteta to centre-mid was a huge turning point. He changed the way the team went about their business. As soon as he moved off the wing, we kept the ball on the deck.

Even after his injury his influence had effect. You could tell, despite sometimes reverting to hoof it up and pray, we tried to be more of a possession team.

We absolutely must have him back, healthy, and bossing the game in the center.

Steve Mink
14   Posted 09/06/2009 at 19:48:38

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Thanks for your reports this season, Ken. Greatly enjoyed them all.
Kev Clark
15   Posted 10/06/2009 at 10:08:44

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"Sound of Applause" Ken great final report, have enjoyed yours throughout the season, ever thought of applying to the papers? Your reports are always more interesting, balanced and better written than those I pay money for to read.

I look forward to more next season... COYB
Ken Buckley
16   Posted 12/06/2009 at 10:48:03

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Thanks for the comments. Have a great summer and whatever you are doing and wherever you are going -- ENJOY.

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