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Not mentioned in dispatches...

By Thom Coleman :  09/06/2009 :  Comments (31) :
No sooner has the football season finished, and journalists, radio and TV pundits, and even surprisingly a few managers are already giving their so called expert views on what will happen and offering their thoughts and predictions for the next campaign.

I read and listen in disbelief, as each and every one of them gives the same predictable answers! Spurs (Southern media darlings), Aston Villa and now the mighty (don't laugh) Man City are apparently all lining up to challenge the Sky Big 4 next May, yet once again, surprisingly the team that have had 4th, 6th and two 5th place finishes in the last 5 seasons are once again ignored! That's right ? not even mentioned!

Even the fantastically under achieving and trophyless Wenger and Benitez have had their say! Both of them amazingly forgetting to mention the team that have troubled them most for an outside challenge consistently for a good few seasons now.

In the case of Benitez, I need to add that it is only to be expected. The man has taken as many cheap shots as he has been able since ariving at Anfield. Maybe he is slightly in awe of David Moyes, who has now collected his 3rd LMA Manager of the year award, whilst the bitter Spaniard is still living on his famous cup exploits of 3-4 seasons ago, both won magnificently on penalties.

But it is not only Benitez who seems to be at this. The media are playing their part in either trying to beliitle or undermine everything that David Moyes is achieving in building a very good and solid outfit at Goodison Park!

As well as their constant and tiresome goading to make him say he would crawl on all fours to manage Manchester United, they are also doing their utmost to now send good Everton players to inferior teams!

The most laughable example was the fantastic side splitting headline "Lescott looking at DREAM MOVE to Man City!"

Now I am 40 years old, and Man City have never been a dream move for anybody! At present, they are a club in complete limbo, like a chav that has won the lottery and wants to buy gold toilets for all over his rented council house!

I need to say at this point, that if Joleon Lescott or any other player was lured purely by the silly money Man City are having to offer players just to get them in, then I fully expect Moyes would just go and buy another player who will go on to be better than the player he has replaced, mainly due to proper coaching and management, such is my admiration for one of the games only proper old-school managers.

What is it that makes people's brains switch off and forget that when a club has a complete overhaul of fresh players every summer, it generally takes a while for them all to bed in? Have any of you learned anything from the demise of Newcastle?

Now don't get me wrong here, we would all love some fresh investment at Everton to spend on the team. It is long overdue, and Mr Kenwright does not look at all like he is trying to find that, despite all of his media luvvy speeches! Clubs are getting taken over on a daily basis, yet his apparent 24/7 searches continually seem fruitless! Wolf in sheeps clothing springs to mind!

But, considering Everton finished 5th (at a canter in the end) and were without the services of experienced and proven Premier League stars such as Arteta and Yakubu for most of the campaign, it actually makes you wonder what they could have achieved with a fully fit compliment of players.

However, it seems that the Everton style does not get the media juices flowing, as flashy and explosive will always get more headlines than steady improvement and consistency.

Good luck to them all though! Let them makes fools out of themselves again, then come back and apologise again next May when Moyes has moved Everton forward once more, hopefully with a bit more luck on the injury front and a couple of astute signings which should do the trick!

In fact, they need not bother! Let them carry on with their hype of the media darlings, Everton will continue to do their talking on the pitch.

Reader Comments

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Jay Harris
1   Posted 10/06/2009 at 01:07:11

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Thom, I too find it particularly insulting that even a fellow long-standing manager as Wenger should mention Spurs, City and Villa as the clubs he thought would be a threat.

I have given up on Sky Sports as these days it?s full of cricket and crap and even in season it should be renamed "The Man Utd show" with Liverpool as supporting act.

However, I suppose the good thing is it keeps the pressure off us and on them and it's not showcasing our players for some moneybags to come along and seduce them.
Ped Pearl
2   Posted 10/06/2009 at 01:07:01

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I agree of course with everything you have said... it?s quite amazing that after our achievements have been brushed aside when it?s obvious to all that Moyes has been building a squad that is perhaps just 3 or 4 good players away from challenging the top 4 seriously!!

The one thing I don?t agree with, however, is the Billy comment. Would you wish for the same investment provided to the likes of Newcastle, West Ham or Portsmouth?? Where we not all a little envious when the Americans bought out the RS? I trust that, when the time comes that a serious offer is on the table from the correct people with the best interests of the club at heart, Kenwright will sell. Until then, we must continue to make progress... and we are!!
Terence Leong
3   Posted 10/06/2009 at 03:20:05

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I?ve been monitoring this for sometime myself, and when I was first made aware by fellow fans, I wondered if it was our emotive bias that got the better of us. Increasingly, I realise it is probably true. What?s my point here? My point is that there is probably some truth in the way media sees things.

Before I get hanged, quartered and sent to the dogs... There is something common about the teams mentioned instead of us. They have finance. The potential to grow the club. We are seen as a club punching above our weight i.e. people think that we have probably reached our potential.

While we can say that the spine of our team was out of action, the fact remains that people don?t see how much more our potential can be maximized. Forget the argument about financial crisis. Given the marketing potential of our Big Four, the powers that be won?t let them crash financially.

Man City may come and go (like Leeds), but the next group of money men will buy up yet another Pretender. And then we will find ourselves ignored and overlooked again. The sad fact as many fans have pointed out, we need some amount of financing.

Ajax was a team of endless youth talent conveyor belt, bled dry. They are also an example of how the lack of finances will ultimately do you in, cos every big player you develop will be targetted by the vultures with more money. Think Arsenal too. Even if the vultures don?t come, we might end up like what Arsenal is, not quite breaking through.

I am, however, in agreement with Thom that overlooking us can allow the team to prove the doubters wrong again without the pressure and the spotlight. But we must forge on. Look at what Ferguson did with his fledgings. He has to keep building. He didn?t stop attracting big names.

So... we still need to get the money in.

David Ellis
4   Posted 10/06/2009 at 03:30:15

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Thom, You are quite right. We have heard it all before regarding the challenges of Spurs, Villa, City etc. Every summer they are talked up. Every winter they are shown up.

Having said that it is likely that one of them will challenge us strongly for fifth place. Spurs came fifth two seasons running. And in the last two seasons it has been Villa who were pushing us.

Which of them will sustain a challenge next year remains to be seen. Villa ? the biggest threat in that they have a decent manager and a level of consistency of personnel ? seem to be going backwards. They have lost the spine of their team and may well lose Ashley Young as well.

However, what these teams ? particularly Spurs and City ? offer the press is change. The press thrive on change. They will be changing their team which means their output will be different next season. And because of their money they have a higher potential upside (although experience suggests that they will not come close to meeting this potential).

I think the press is focussing on this potential upside rather than taking a swipe at Everton. The recent press coverage of Everton has been very complimentary of late (if slightly partronising).

So I agree, it is annoying that these inferior teams get talked up. But it is not a press conspiracy deliberately aimed at Everton. It's just the way news works. As you say "flashy and explosive" makes better headlines than consistent improvement. But I know what I prefer in my team.

It wasn?t that long ago that Man U were in the "flashy" but "inconsistent" camp. Every year buying new stars and every year not quite matching the more consistent clubs. Things only changed for them when they got a dour Scottish manager and kept in the job for more than few years...
Patty Beesley
5   Posted 10/06/2009 at 08:44:15

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Don?t get your knickers in a twist ... or should I say underpants. Don?t we always like to be underdogs ? it makes us fighter harder and sronger.
Mike Bates
6   Posted 10/06/2009 at 08:41:46

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Just a thought, Jay Harris. It is called Sky SPORTS so why shouldn't they show other sports? If the channel was called Sky Football, you might have a point.
Sam Morrison
7   Posted 10/06/2009 at 08:42:29

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I?m torn between mild disappointment and electing not to give a toss, but disappointment wins because ? sadly ? how the media portray us dictates how we?re perceived by the greater public, and that includes (at least to some extent) potential signings. I think David Ellis hits the nail on the head ? slow and consistent progress just isn?t headline copy.

We have had a glut of positive reviews in the press recently, but Thom?s right, they tend to come at the end of the season rather than the beginning.
Davey Militwitch
8   Posted 10/06/2009 at 09:05:45

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It is a worrying sight when you see these teams with rich backers flouting around the cash buying up the reputable players and even having the guts to enquire about our own stars. But one critical advantage that we have is David Moyes.

Our manager is our stability, instilling a togetherness, and emphasis on team ethic as opposed to any individuals. I have never seen an Everton team so together as this one. The team ethic we have CANNOT be bought and has enabled us to keep the ship steady, even in the face of despair by losing key players down the spine of our team.

However, as Terence Leong rightly picks up on in his response to the post, the key to reaching the Dizzy heights of the top 4 lies with Kenwright and his board. One £10m plus player a year and a couple of loans will not get us there ? it will only help us to tread water.

We need the right quality players in depth ? quality players who are consumate professionals, with a nurturing quality to bring on youth in keeping with the Everton Way. Only then will we have the strength to challenge the top 4 in my own opinion.

Not every team with financial clout will be as wasteful as some like Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Tottenham have been. I see similiarities between Manchester City and Chelsea a few years back. I think that City will definitely improve next season with their emphasis on buying British so far this year. It was the same emphasis on buying British that Chelsea seemed to do so well a few years back ? and look where they have come since the heady days of Gavin Peacock.

We can compete with them BUT we must find an investor to back Davey all the way.
David Chait
9   Posted 10/06/2009 at 12:29:26

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To me its simply that they are aware it will take heavy spend to catch up. We feel that way too. They know we can’t spend that much therefore for all the good intentions we probably won’t close the gap. The others - even if historically rubbish just need the right manager and they can transcend based purely on the capability to spend the necessary cash. Sad but true..
Jimmy Hacking
10   Posted 10/06/2009 at 13:58:47

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Though I agree to some degree that sections of the media have had it in for Everton since the Joe Royle days, The simple fact is that the indisputably greatest, most knowledgeable football experts in existence, the bookmakers, also thing Everton will finish below Spurs, Villa and City next season. And bookies never go skint.
Stephen Williams
11   Posted 10/06/2009 at 14:05:40

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When have the media ever been pro EFC?

As for Tottenham, it's a fair point as Harry Rednapp knows his stuff and he was the first decent manager Spurs have had for a while. Villa, if they sell Young to one of the big 4, will be greatly weakened. As for City, they will have too many new faces to bed in.

Gary Hankey
12   Posted 10/06/2009 at 15:09:32

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The other issue concerning Spurs which the media and numerous other parties seem to have forgotten about is, Harry is still on bail .... and being looked at for his dealings with transfers etc. That will at some point come to a conclusion and I am not to sure Harry’s luck will still be around. But I guess the media will use the end of that episode as the dawning of a new era for Spurs.
Alan Kirwin
13   Posted 10/06/2009 at 15:20:05

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Jimmy Hacking - Last season the bookmakers also had Everton behind Spurs, Man City & Villa. I find the best solution is not to give a shit.

I also find that, in reading reasonably good & informed newspapers, we get plenty of plaudits and are usually in the reckoning or at least mentioned in despatched. The Independent, Guardian, Times & Telegraph have all been rather kind to us for quite sometime.

Money makes most people’s world go round. It’s taken over football but not in a good way. I can hardly contain my indifference when I hear the bugles blowing for Spurs, Villa and City. I know a little about football myself (as you all do) and I was right this season whilst they were wrong.

So, as I say, not giving a shit is the best approach.
Mike Green
14   Posted 10/06/2009 at 16:04:50

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I regularly take £20 a season each of two mates of mine who are Sp*rs fans. Same thing happens every year under Moyes - they gob off about how they’re going to challenge for the title and break the big four, they’re f**ked by Xmas and I’m £40 better off.

Bring it on!

Jimmy Hacking
15   Posted 10/06/2009 at 16:12:21

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Alan Kirwan - Last season, Everton were joint favourites with Villa to win the league without the big four. I should know, I put a bet on (and won!) at very short odds.

My point is that if Everton finish ahead of the media darlings again this season they really will be defying the odds; If Spurs, Villa and City splash enough cash, they are bound to come good eventually... Aren’t they?
Paul Gladwell
16   Posted 10/06/2009 at 19:18:46

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I think you are all going OTT myself. lately we have been getting some great press compared to past years and I am sure if we do add to our squad you will see a few tipping us.
Jamie Crowley
17   Posted 11/06/2009 at 04:25:43

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We have a better squad than Villa, Spurs, or City (at present moment).
Money can’t always buy it. It helps, but it does not guarantee success.

Kirwin’s on the mark - don’t give a shit.
The press means nothing. They look for the sensationalist story to sell copy.
IMO we’re the team best poised to bust the Sky 4 ceiling.
Phil Guyers
18   Posted 11/06/2009 at 09:34:10

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I also had that bet last August and Spurs were definitely the favourites to win. I don’t know what you consider to be short odds but I got 11/2 with Ladbrokes. We were about the same odds as Aston Villa, Man City and (most laughably) Newcastle!

This year Skybet have got City as the favourites at 7/4 and we are joint second favourites on 7/2 with Villa and Spurs.

I think I’ll be having another go!
Graham Atherton
19   Posted 11/06/2009 at 10:19:01

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Its probably about who has the potential to get to 70+ points needed to get into the top 4.
We have remained stable at 60-64 for the last 5 years and it is difficult to see where the extra 10 points are going to come from - there is no overall sign of improvement in those figures.

I would say that our 1st team squad is much better, but squad depth still isn’t a match for the top 4. Other, better funded teams have the capacity to develop bigger squads and thus have the capacity to progress.

Having said all that, I think Everton can do it next year, especially considering the ’give away’ of points at the start of last season. 17 matches to win Europa might be a big ask though...
Brian Waring
20   Posted 11/06/2009 at 17:38:34

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Terence has it spot on. It is down to finance, we are skint, the other teams have loads of cash, and we all know that to have a chance of breaking into the top 4, you need a lot of it. The media, etc, obviously know that, and think the teams mentioned are more equipped to do it.
Billy Brad
21   Posted 12/06/2009 at 19:49:04

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It's back to the best Evertonian in the world. I will stand corrected on this, but is it 10 years that Billy Liar has been at the helm and still no investment forthcoming????
Tony Dooves
22   Posted 13/06/2009 at 05:26:15

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Replace Lescott with a Gurkha and ask Joanna Lumley to get on the box to find a new owner and voila ? 100% prime time tv and everyone will love us.
Tony Anetts
23   Posted 13/06/2009 at 23:33:20

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James Crowley ? do you really think that we have a better squad than Spurs and City at the present time?? I?m not so sure - the strength of a squad is judged by the strength of the bench and ours is weak, week-in and week-out; David Moyes seldom has game changing options available on the bench ? and particularly attacking ones. When you look at their squads (not first XI) they are much deeper. Their first XIs are probably better on paper as well.

What they don?t have is the commitment, organisation and spirit that we have. These are intangibles, cannot be bought and are hard won. But to say that their squads are shallower than ours is probably a long bow ? I for one would happily take some of their squad players, if just for the added options to change games where required.

The harsh reality is that Spurs and City already have squads that are rich on talent. We need to hope that they don?t learn how to build teams and keep buying individuals who are high on style and low on ethic. If they get it togther then they are genuine challengers for 4th and 5th based on player weight, whereas we challenge on using every ounce of each player?s courage and energy.

James Boden
24   Posted 14/06/2009 at 18:39:58

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This is no suprise at all. The press continually forget us and even so-called experts. One thing that irritates me is we were slated for struggling to defeat Man United reserves ? well Chelsea were not exactly playing our strongest line up in the Cup Final, now were they?

London clubs, the likes of Spurs, West Ham and even Fulham, play some fine football but Everton... well, we play dull, dour football which is just about good organisation. Remember, the Cockney press know best.

Now if I look at the teams who supposedly will finish above us, City have spent millions but mostly has been on players in their late 20s to early 30s. Wayne Bridge was quite the signing wasn?t he!. And Gareth Barry... well I for one believe Villa got a great deal out of that. They still have defensive problems and I believe for them it will be another season of rebuilding.

Villa have just lost half of the spine of their team with Barry gone and Laursen retired and a few average centre-halves and full-backs left. Again, I really do not see the big worry from them.

And finally on to Spurs... while they may spend what seems close to a billion pounds a year, the fact is half of these signings are failures. Players are in and out the door like water and they still have room for improvement.

If you were to go through teams outside the top 4 surely half our players would walk into others teams. We should be aiming for at least 5th next season. But then this anti Everton talk from the press is what spurs us on. COYB

Tim Welsh
25   Posted 15/06/2009 at 12:42:52

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A number of points in response:

1) More column inches are devoted to the RS than any other club (most of those seem to be the rhetoric of Mr S Gerrard). Does this not tell you something about editorial control and the audience that newspapers are looking for? They have done their market research and they know that most casual supporters in this country (for some inexplicable reason) gravitate towards the dark side, and good copy about them sells. Good copy about us doesn?t.

I am witness to this as a teacher who has a parade of ?Kopites? before me in my classes, each of whom know next to nothing about ?their team? when challenged about even the most obvious features of the evil filth. This is self perpetuating: publicise Liverpool, because they are popular, so more idiots will ally themselves to them.

To digress (even further) about this, a colleague of my (Everton supporting) brother bemaoned my brother?s reticence to support ?them? in the Champions League final in 2007. My brother responded by saying that the media hype about them was obscene and out of proportion (citing their ?wonderful? victory in 2005 being more celebrated by the press than an England World Cup final victory) and added that he hadn?t observed the same hype about Arsenal the year before (2006). To which he is colleague replied ?Were Arsenal in the final last year, then ??.

The gist of what I am saying is that, at best, we are invisible to the press; at worst, they seek to undermine us (Lescott to Man City ? a dream move? Do me a favour). All this is down to the love affair they have with ?brand LFC?. After all can any of you think of a manager that could say the things Benitez has said and not receive censure from the press? If he didn?t manage them he would have been charged with bringing the game into disrepute and villified on the back pages.

2) Spurs, Villa, Man City ? yes, they have the money, but, as we have seen with Newcastle, money doesn?t buy loyalty. In fact the reverse. Newcastle?s tail spin out the Premier League was precipitated by players who knew that they would still be playing Premier League football next season, because they?d bail out to Wigan or Fulham or Portsmouth.

David Moyes doesn?t have the luxury of annual ?war chest?, but has to spend wisely. He has shown that he can take players from all possible sources and arrangements and develop them into Evertonians (yes, with a few obvious exceptions ? Andy van der Meyde... but they are getting rarer).

It was very telling that one of his recent utterances was of getting the characters right. He won?t just sign anyone, he is looking for those that fit in ? bitter experience has probably taught him this ? but don?t we all know what difference one person (right or wrong) can make to the place where we work? Nevertheless, if we had Sky4 money, Moyes would still use it and his players with prudence and caution.

3) The underdog tag is all very well, but Everton have played some magnificent football in recent years. Maybe not every game, but then, who does? And our team spirit is second to none. (As for ?them?, they play niggardly football, and everything they do comes from the gut.) The players should get public recognition. This is why the Cup Final was a let down, because we didn?t do what we know we can do.

4) Bookies? What money is to be made on a safe bet? Our pedigree is now proven over 4 seasons. What odds would you give?

Great article. If there?s anyone still left standing. Thanks for reading.

Chad Schofield
26   Posted 15/06/2009 at 22:38:29

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Great article and many good points in response.
Stupid stuff in the press such as "Moyes good enough to be Chelsea boss" (day of Cup Final), Lescott?s "Dream Move" along with so many pundits' blinkered vision can serve as ammunition for our players to bond, but in the long run it has to have a negative affect. However, pundits and journalists make their money from talking about what is happening...

The tabloid end tend to exist basically to speculate on where money is going to get, or in/on whom Cashley?s, spunked. Last summer, we found ourselves linked with tons of players, only for us to do something inconsiderate by signing Screech all of a sudden without the papers being able to inform us what we?d be paying him a week and how he?s going to spend it.

Pundits should discuss what is actually happening ? but of course end up being sucked into the who?s going to do this or that ? it doesn?t really seem to matter how accurate they are, just so long as they can deliver a coherent sound-bite.

In this time, though, when everything is being scrutinized for how much value they are delivering (in everywhere except Madrid perhaps), maybe we?ll see an end to this notion of just getting little cliques of pundits on TV who quite like playing a round of golf together and a few drinks as soon as they?ve "delivered".

On the whole, most informed fans only seem to have good things to say about Everton - RS excluded by definition. We have also had many good things actually written about us in some of the more high-brow papers, and hopefully this will continue and filter lower down, or those with their "finger on the pulse" will simply be viewed as not delivering enough perceived value and asked to close the door on the way.

David Moyes has just won LMA Manager of the Season for the third time as someone mentioned ? a fantastic achievement, and one richly deserved. To be given that accolade three times is no mean feat. It?s surpised me about Wenger?s comments, but I?ve not had a chance to read them. The FSW, well I?m sure he applied the same voting tactics as the Iranian Pres!

Moyes is the manager of Everton, not David Moyes FC though. I hope he does continue to stay with us and grow and improve... it will be sad when he leaves but he is with us at the moment but sometimes it feels as though it is only he who receives the plaudits. Perhaps that?s just me looking at it too much. It will be him though who will be the first to remind Joleon that those "Dream (money) Moves" can easily turn sour quite quickly, and to the detriment of an international career too ? which, given the World Cup next year, might not be the best time. Just look at SWP.

Rob Jones
27   Posted 17/06/2009 at 22:27:26

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Not quite the same but represents the perception of our club - whilst trying to find out the fixtures I noticed one link (Setanta I think) telling me that Spurs was the pick of the first day fixtures. Last season’s fourth vs fifth not likely to be a more competitive game?
Philip Rowe
28   Posted 18/06/2009 at 08:26:39

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When I see the debt of many other clubs, which is clearly not sustainable in the long term, I would not swop our position for any of them. Better 5th and in control of our own destiny than in the top four & reliant upon the banks.
Peter Hurley
29   Posted 21/06/2009 at 06:58:48

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Call me a cynic but isn?t it all just hype by the media to try and get as much interest and therefore sales in their products? City, Spurs and to a lesser degree Villa all have finance to purchase new players ? we don?t; what sells papers? stories. So with these clubs the media can simply link one of hundreds of half-decent players over the off-season and it will, to most, seem beliveable, even Tevez to Eastlands!

We have long been the forgotten football club in England for many reasons, currently though I think its as much to do with not having any cash as anything else. Personally, I think it's better that we are not in the spotlight, as I?m sure the players who went through the whole Rooney saga will agree. Onwards and upwards for us next season, steady as she goes, Captain Moyes!

Jamie Crowley
30   Posted 25/06/2009 at 04:18:09

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Tony A ? Yes, I do think we have a better squad than both City and Spurs for the exact reason you stated: they?ve no clue how to build a squad! Teams win matches / games, not individuals. And don?t underestimate the importance of players respecting their coach / manager ? ask Hughes.

I readily admit City has me concerned. They seem to be building a squad and not as star-struck as they were when they landed their billions. But until they actually top us, I think they should be listed below us.

We had a massive injury riddle to solve last season ? 5th, FA Cup Final, how many results (albeit a lot of draws) second half against top 4 clubs? We were damn good.

With the injured players returning (hopefully from the get-go), we?re a very strong club and can play with anyone. And I think we beat Villa 7 out of 10 times, Spurs 6 of 10, and (if City keeps adding players like Barry and SC) it might be straight up 5 of 10 and very level. But again, don?t they have to actually top us to earn the right to say they have a better squad?We could admittedly use more depth, but the summer is still young and I hope we?ll add to the right side. We don?t have a ton of household names, but we?ve got a great club.

A Club! Not a collection of overpaid mercenaries. Teams that are well run and play with heart will always top expensive, fantasy-style clubs. I have about 1000 North American examples to cite (Steelers, Patriots, Red Sox, Penguins, Devil Rays, Phillies, yadda yadda... ) that prove this point. But I won?t bore you with it, and 80% of the folks on this site wouldn?t know a thing about them anyway.

Let the others spend, spend, spend. We?ll build, buy wisely, and create a culture that expects workman-like, blue collar efforts from all players who wear the shirt. That?s what we have. And that?s exactly why I think Villa, Spurs, and City will finish below us again next season.

In short, effort and attitude are more important than money and skill if you ask me. We got it. They don?t. But I do agree with your assessment; if they figure it out ? how to build a squad and not just plug talent into the equation willy-nilly ? then we?ve got cause for concern.

As I said, City admitedly has me concerned at present. I like what they?ve done. And Jesuz don?t give them another bullet in the holster with Lescott, please! We cannot have them take from us, and add to their squad a very talented defender. We have to keep Lescott ? if for no other reason to keep them from improving. But why look down the table? I?m looking up...

Peter Lee
31   Posted 26/06/2009 at 08:22:51

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People are right to go on about the money but it isn?t simply about cash as we all know. MUFC have been the richest club in England for as long as I can remember. They bought and produced some great players but they also bought junk, and expensive junk at that.

United have dominated the Premier League but let?s not forget that the circumstances of Leeds dumping Cantona were, shall we say, unusual... and without him would it have happened as it has? Arsenal without Wenger?

That respected (don?t know why) journalist Henry Winter wrote in the Telegraph immediately after the 1996 final that the north was set to dominate the Premier League for ever and he named LFC, MUFC, EFC and NUFC. Got to put money on his judgement then. I think he?s backed Spurs to make the big break quite consistently too. That summer, Wenger arrived and it all changed and then the Russians decided to make money not war and thought to launder a bit in West London.

Nothing is for ever. I think the year we finished fourth (too lazy to check) LFC were 35 points behind winning the title. The gap, between first and fifth, is closing ? slowly. We?ve taken some points from games with the teams above when we haven?t in the past. The challenge is to do more of it.

There have been times in the season when all of the teams above us have looked very ordinary. It isn?t the mark of a great side to play poorly and win 1 ? 0. At least it isn?t if you are doing it week-in, week-out. Great sides don?t draw loads of home games to at best average sides.

The demands on players in teams trying to compete on every front are enormous. Look at the fixture list for the new season. Two games most weeks with your best players away for internationals. The money men won?t allow any of the big four debtors to pass on competitions to concentrate on the league. MUFCs ticketing policy would get even greater abuse than it already has and that?s a big earner for them.Given their precarious financial positions all it takes would be one season for LFC or AFC to miss out on the Champions League and all bets are off.

Remember that we dropped stupid points by the bucketful at the beginning of last season. If we had gone into the last few months with six more points than we had then AFC?s end of season could have been very interesting indeed. Wenger could have needed to dump a Champions League place, which he wasn?t going to win, to concentrate on the league.

It?s alright strolling around knocking the ball about when there is no real pressure on but we have seen what pressure can do to some of the AFC select. They didn?t look too artful at Goodison although the equaliser was a stunner. Don?t forget they resorted to long ball stuff and needed mistakes to beat us the season before and 1 ? 0 AJ the year before that.

It?s like hyenas really, just nibbling away at the trailing leg in the pack until it falls over. Slowly, slowly cathchee maybe. And as for the original article about the papers, who cares?

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