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COLUMNIST JOHN HOLMES

Chiding Churls' Corner

By John Holmes :  10/01/2010 :  Comments (67) :

I’ll set my stall out from the start. Substantial criticism of Everton’s performance in Saturday’s draw against Arsenal is, in my view, the result of dogmatic belligerence rather than reasoned perspective. I say substantial criticism because I’m willing to concede we sat back too much after scoring the first goal and were guilty of wasting good opportunities with poor final balls, but to apply any of the usual claims of hoof-ball, negativity, cowardice or tactical naivety smacks of mendacity. Moreover, it echoes the tiresome claims that the crippling injury crisis that has beleaguered Everton for over a year is irrelevant to our performances.

Moyes sent out the team yesterday with a mission that was clear from the outset. Pressure from the front, get under their skins, force them into the middle of the pitch and crowd them out. Oh, and then, against character, play some football. As the BBC demonstrated, the Gunners’ most potent weapon, Arshavin, was kept out of the game by means more sophisticated than ‘stick three men on him’. Their inability to use width effectively meant our five-man midfield had no trouble snuffing out attacks before they became worthy of the name. Unfortunately, the downside of crowding the centre of the pitch is you become prone to the pinball effect. Clearances ricochet off team-mates, no one has control and suddenly the ball’s in the back of the net because, in that situation, a shot is always going to hit someone. C’est la vie, every plan has its risks and this one worked better than most.

What is undeniable is that Everton did not scrape this point, they won it. Above all others, Fellaini was imperious. He who, until recently, made Paul Scholes look graceful in the tackle... well, ok he still makes Paul Scholes look graceful in the tackle, but now he wins the ball – unfailingly. Peter Walton, the referee, was on the spot every time Fellaini got stuck in but time and again the Belgian carried the ball away leaving the Arsenal player sprawling. To his credit, Walton wasn’t distracted by the gangly limbs and size differential – the ball was being won fairly and disturbed simply. Suddenly, €15m looks well spent.

As for the rest, Cahill battled in his usual way, Donovan was increasingly influential until the pace started to tell, Pienaar was sublime — his pass for Saha’s right-foot howler was the type of genius we’ve sorely missed in his, and Arteta’s absence. Osman was his mercurial self but the defence were ferociously resolute. With Fellaini performing so well, Neville must stay put. For me, only Saha was off the pace. His finishing was poor, his distribution and runs were often mistimed and it was he who should have continued his run to seize on Cahill’s cushioned header in the first half. He wasn’t awful, but at his best he could have won the game for us.

So no, I don’t understand the criticism being thrown at the team by some. Aspire for perfection if you like; it is, after all, the Everton way. But don’t be churlish. This was a victory lost in the heat of the moment not the chill of the training ground. The allegation of psychological failings doesn’t stick for me. I didn’t see panic, I didn’t see a team terrified to try and take three points. Arsenal scored on the back of a spell of Everton pressure, not with Everton’s backs to the wall. Everton were not too deep, they were lacking numbers because Arsenal threw men forward, Cahill was dead on his feet, Vaughan hadn’t tracked back and missed tackles that took others out of the game.

We could and probably should have punished Arsenal before and after our second goal but the failings were in execution not application. Should Donavan have picked a team-mate out in the area? A debut goal clouded his eyes methinks. Should Cahill have cut it back to Vaughan? Check the replay, Sagna catches him in the eye and Cahill goes down clutching it after misplacing his pass, my suspicion would be he couldn’t see where he was passing.

If you’re looking for psychological impacts, here are some statistics for you. In the 26 games up to and including Everton’s last defeat against BATE Borisov, Everton had used 15 different back fours including 12 different players. Only 5 times did Moyes name an unchanged defence in 25 opportunities. If you’re looking for explanations of why Moyes’s defensive mantel his slipped somewhat, I think those figures offer a strong explanation – whatever you attribute the instability to.

My point is that I struggle to give credence to the opinion of those who say injuries shouldn’t affect Everton’s performance. Not wishing to labour the point but it is 13½ months since 30 November 2008, when Yakubu limped off against Spurs. Since then Everton have been, at various times, without any recognised strikers, without any recognised centre-backs, without four fit midfielders, lacking any fit left-backs and typically lacking at least three of our best players.

Even yesterday, with reports that the selection crisis is abating, we still lacked Hibbert, Yobo, Jagielka, Distin, Gosling, Arteta, Rodwell, Yakubu, Jo and Anichebe. That is a full outfield team of senior players, including our best defender, midfielder and striker, injured or unavailable over a year after our problems first began. Do some fans seriously believe this is irrelevant?

Moyes has not covered himself in glory so far this season. The team has played negatively at times and has certainly been guilty of looking somewhat directionless. However, after a year of incessant injury problems, I struggle with the suggestion that there wouldn’t be some toll on the ability of the manager and players to keep performing.

Momentum took us to the end of 2008-09 but, with no let up in the summer, everyone’s heads went down a bit. It is nigh-on impossible to form a solid defensive unit with a merry-go-round of personnel, even United can’t manage it and they don’t have injuries in other areas to contend with. It seems ridiculous with so many players still missing, but the relative consistency of late has, for me, been a key reason for the upturn in results. In the last five games the only changes have been the returns of Vaughan and Neville and, within the team, players have largely stayed in the same positions.

The draw against Arsenal gave an introduction to what Everton can do under relatively — and let’s stress that — relatively favourable conditions. Those favourable conditions being lacking only ten first team players, including our last two players of the season, our only striker to hit 20 goals in a season in 20 years, all of our natural centre-backs and our most promising youngster. To bring out the brickbats over an unfortunate injury time goal seems petty and ignores the upward trend in performances.

If Moyes is as flawed as claimed, the remainder of the season should give ample time for criticism as he gains the ability to field a team chosen from a genuinely talented pool of players. If he still cannot produce then release the hounds, until then, in the wake of a good performance, criticism rings hollow.

Reader Comments

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Dave Wilson
1   Posted 10/01/2010 at 16:53:13

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I agree with everything you say, John. I think the hand ringing hair-pulling frustration we all felt when the equaliser went in clouded a few opinions. We were terrific, absolutely terrific.
Ian Tunstead
2   Posted 10/01/2010 at 17:11:46

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I dont know how you can say ’’Moreover, it echoes the tiresome claims that the crippling injury crisis that has beleaguered Everton for over a year is irrelevant to our performances’’

Our bad form coincided with the loss off pienar to injury at pompy. He came back against Hull and had a stinker by his standards but has good from strength to strength and so have Everton. Perfomances improved and we began an unbeaten run, the performances improved yet again with the return of Vaughn and Neville from injury. Which proves what a difference a couple of key players can make whan they return. As well as having the ability to bring on quality from the bench once the opposition is tired.
Ian Tunstead
3   Posted 10/01/2010 at 17:17:46

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haha sorry John i mis-read that one.
Karl Masters
4   Posted 10/01/2010 at 17:23:51

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I agree. Good article.

All I would add is that Moyes has not always used the resources he has had to their best effect, but with your team constantly being changed by injuries, that is more understandable.

I’m looking forward to an interesting second half of the season and I will also add that we now have a better squad than our Red neighbours who rely heavily on 3 players ( Torres, Stevie Me and Reina ) and have not produced anything from their academy for years. Benitez can’t do anything than throw money around and now he has very little of it left.
James Thomas
5   Posted 10/01/2010 at 17:43:52

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A thoughtful and well written piece John. I have been very critical of Moyes and some the players’ attitudes and defending. Whilst I still don’t believe injuries to our better players is an excuse for a lot of what has gone wrong, your piece here has made me take a step back and look at things from a different perspective.
Ciarán McGlone
6   Posted 10/01/2010 at 17:39:01

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Firstly, I don’t think anyone suggested that injuries had no bearing on our performances — so that seems somewhat of a straw argument...

Secondly, the point of you article seems to be that anyone who makes a negative comment regarding yesterday's match is ’petty’, ’churlish’ or any other number of pejorative terms you wish to use...

I’m sorry, but that’s simply cack.

I thought we were superb yesterday — and showed a great deal of intent to play proper football. However, to suggest that there’s no room for critique is daft. You see, this site is about opinions — and putting some sort of caveat on opinion is contrary to the whole fundamental idea of debate.

You see, the great thing about opinions is that you can suggest that Osman was ’mercurial’ whereas I could delve a little deeper and suggest he was good in the first half, but still lost quite a lot of possession, and was almost anonymous in the second half.

You see — opinions. They make the world go around.

I can’t even begin to agree with an approach to debate which seeks to dismiss critique at all costs... If you don’t agree with the opinions on offer then produce a coherent and reasoned explanation... don’t take a half-assed shortcut.
John Holmes
7   Posted 10/01/2010 at 17:56:46

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Sorry Ciaran but I think you misinterpret my article. My point wasn’t that the performance was above criticism but that some of the criticism that the team and particularly Moyes came in for yesterday was excessive and often overlooked the massive positives evident in the game. Thus it was churlish, petty and belligerent because it seemed to just be looking for the negatives without any acknowledgement of the positives.

So yes, feel free to have a dig at Osman, I’d go along with your analysis of his performance in possession (although he was one of the leading harassers of Arsenal when they had the ball), but at the same time I just wish people would acknowledge it was generally a very good performance, particularly given the context.

As for your first point, you post on enough threads to know perfectly well there are plenty of people who have dismissed injuries as a partial excuse for our performances this season. See James’ post on this comment for a start.
Colin Potter
8   Posted 10/01/2010 at 17:23:41

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Why shouldn’t people criticise yesterdays result, if they think we threw away 3 points. They have a point of view like yourself. You fall back on the injury list again. Wasn’t there 10 full internationals playing for Everton yesterday.

I personally thought Everton played very well yesterday, plenty of effort was given. Michael Kenrick and Tony Marsh, and others of that ilk, myself included, want 100% effort every game, not one every so often, and unlike Doddy, we don’t want to settle for 8th or 10th, we want to win it. If your’e so called 2nd eleven did so well yesterday, can we expect your first team to start really sorting out the opposition?

The way you put it, John, you would think we were in dire straits trying to make a team up, and because we did, we are not allowed to criticise.

Max Main
9   Posted 10/01/2010 at 18:17:19

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Excellent article.

This site is so often plagued by articles which share the sentiment of Colin Potter (above). An out-dated sentiment of "we’re Everton, we should be winning every game regardless of injuries or any other factors. We are Everton.". It’s refreshing to hear a voice of reason for once.

I’ve never been moved to post a comment on here before, but I am sick of people failing to accept that injuries, particularly the quantity we’ve had, are a valid excuse for poor performances/results.

As stated in the article, all season we have been without essentially our best defender, midfielder, and striker (not to mention the others). Look at Arsenal without Fabregas yesterday - they are basically nothing without him. Liverpool without Gerrard and Torres for most of this season - struggling to get into the top four. Take Terry, Lampard and Drogba away from Chelsea and see how they fare.

I’m not saying Moyes is perfect, why Hibbert’s been our right back for the last however many seasons is beyond me. But he IS taking us forward, and there is NOBODY I’d rather have in charge of Everton right now. I am looking forward to an enjoyable second half of the season when more and more injured players return and we do indeed start "really sorting out the opposition".
Nathan Ward
10   Posted 10/01/2010 at 18:28:57

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Cracking article.

It is very disappointing not to win; whilst it wasn’t the perfect performance, it was pretty decent and certainly better than we have had recently.

That said, some of the criticism has been over the top. We want the best and to achieve the best we can but some people's dislike (or hatred?) of the current manager/chairman gets in the way of objectivity.
Ciarán McGlone
11   Posted 10/01/2010 at 18:53:28

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John, if you essentially agree with my opinion of Osman... then that’s a critique. Which kind of puts you in contravention of your own article..

ps: James's point is not a dismissal of the effect of injuries... Like me, he probably thought there were probably a few other factors involved in our previous form.
Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
12   Posted 10/01/2010 at 18:52:13

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Neat trick, John: opinions counter to yours are, by definition, petty and churlish. Cairan is spot on calling you on that.

"I’m willing to concede we sat back too much after scoring the first goal and were guilty of wasting good opportunities with poor final balls" — that was my issue, not the other things you cite. But rather than accepting that and then "looking for the positives", I’ve asked (for nearly EIGHT years now) why does it happen???

I have my explanation; it’s not down to "dogmatic belligerence" — it’s a reasoned perspective from my observation of the game we play, not clouded by the opinions of pundits who get paid to watch every other team in the Premier League as well and who have no particular affinity to my team.

My conclusion is clear: it’s down to Moyes’s management, as I’ve explained on the other thread. Injuries are a fact of football; every season we have injuries. I’m talking about the way these internationals we have on the field actually play when they have the ball at their feet.

Every week, whatever happens on the field, we have someone posting that Moyes is somehow above criticism; some excuse about why we must hold our tongues at this time, and we can only assess him at some point in the future. Well, bollocks to that.

I call it based on the game I just watched, and on how I see the players perform. I register my assessment week by week based on that prima facie evidence. Dismiss it as "dogmatic belligerence" if that helps. But doing so tends to devalue any other reasonable points you may be making.
Dennis Stevens
13   Posted 10/01/2010 at 19:02:30

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Some interesting points, John. The one that particularly caught my eye was the ever-changing back four, which also featured youngsters, new players, & players in unaccustomed positions. However, I couldn’t help reflect on how different our defence may have been for the first half of the season if the Lescott transfer had been more swiftly concluded & Distin, Heitinga & Neill signed earlier. I wondered whether those players being fitter sooner & more up to speed with Moyes & the rest of the squad, & in the case of the latter pair - available for Europa League matches, might have lead to more stability in line-up & a better defensive record for the first half of the season.
Colin Potter
14   Posted 10/01/2010 at 19:02:53

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Max, It’s not "should be winning" — we should be strving to win every game. Too many times with Moyes, it’s "don’t let them score, and we’ll try and sneak a goal". Everton proved yesterday they can match these teams if you put the effort in.

You can tell by the amount of defenders we have in the squad, that Moyes is too defence-minded. Little things like leaving a couple of men up when we defend corners, instead of every one back, could make all the difference.

To harp on and on about those injured players is a nonsense. You are more or less saying that they would done better than those lads did yesterday. They wouldn’t have done, I don’t think so anyway; they played better because most of the hoofers were injured.

Dave Wilson
15   Posted 10/01/2010 at 19:38:59

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Osman was superb yesterday, time and again he won back possession with clever interceptions, just as he did for our second goal. He scored a cracker and set up another superb chance.

Everton as a team were also superb, we went for the jugular even AFTER we scored the second, missing wonderful opportunity and forcing 4 corners in the closing minutes.

John's right, everyone could see we tried desperately hard to put this game to bed.

Claiming Osman shouldn’t never be near a first team place again, is proving to be a silly statement, why not just admit it, rather than seek refuge in what John so aptly describes as dogmatic belligerence.

Des Farren
16   Posted 10/01/2010 at 20:41:13

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Good article, John. Well reasoned, articulate and I enjoyed the read.
However... differing opinions such as Colin Potter’s or Ciaran McGlone’s are equally valid.

We all love this club and analysis/critique of a performance which, tho memorable, did leave something to be desired. What is wrong with stating this simple fact?

Øystein Bjaanes Lemvik
17   Posted 10/01/2010 at 21:10:12

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Enjoyed the article, John, and I have to take Michael to task here.

Yes, you call the game as you see it week after week. BUT you never (or, in my seven-eight years visiting this site, once in a season at most, I don’t believe it’s that often) miss a chance to post — even when we’re splendid — something along the lines of ’why don’t we play like this every week’. Drop that, and your arguments carry more weight.
John Holmes
18   Posted 10/01/2010 at 21:04:31

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Apologies to Michael and Ciaran, the tone of my article was a bit petulant. Although in Ciaran’s case, I never said criticism was undue, my problem was with the level and nature of it.

Nonetheless, I stand by the general point that the team delivered on most of the points that they’ve been criticised for in the past. They played good football, there was a positive and aggressive attitude, they were not scared of supposedly superior opposition. My frustration stems from the debate getting dragged into what’s wrong with Moyes rather than what he got right. The surprising nature of the second goal was emblematic of that in that it highlighted something that has been sadly lacking from the team for so long — the ability to break with pace. We did it throughout the game but instead the focus gets dragged onto why we weren’t more effective at doing it.

For me, yesterday was a massive step forward on the road to salvaging our season and evidence that, with a settled and strong line-up, we could be serious contenders for Champion’s League places and knock-out trohpies. The sense that others see it as just another episode of Moyes’s incompetence bewilders me.

So yes, it’s a fair cop on my use of petty etc, but to shroud that result and performance in a Moyes’s failing rhetoric still seems wrong.
John Holmes
19   Posted 10/01/2010 at 21:19:40

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Dennis, I have to say I’m with you on the point about the late signings/sales. I think not having the money in place earlier has just added to the inconsistency as we’ve played different line-ups in Europe to compensate. That said, would we have got as high a price for Lescott if we’d have sold him earlier? Would we have brought in the same players?

I think the lack of a settled team has been a massive factor. Look back on our results over Moyes’s tenure and the good runs have come with settled teams, none more so than the 04-05 team. He thrives on consistency; if people are looking for an explanation of Hibbert’s pernennial selection, it’s that Moyes likes a steady ship. He knows what he’s going to get, he gets it and then he leaves things be rather than experimenting. It’s a blessing and a curse but it’s part of a method that has taken us forwards.
Jay Harris
20   Posted 10/01/2010 at 21:26:48

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Excellent post, John, and one which I wholeheartedly agree on.

Colin, there is a difference of opinion within the game now re whether to leave a forward up the pitch for set pieces or to have more players to defend the set piece.

So many games are decided from set pieces now and most teams will leave at least one defender in their own half anyway that the case for or against leaving a forward up the pitch is now down to personal preference of the manager.

I guess Moyes feels the benefit of an extra player to defend a set piece is more worthwhile than having an outlet to hoof it up to if you get the ball.
Max Main
21   Posted 10/01/2010 at 21:32:02

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John, the Hibbert thing was just an example to illustrate that I don’t think Moyes is perfect - I think he should have tried to replace Hibbert earlier when we had a steady defence so he could gradually phase him out. But as stated earlier, I am 100% behind Moyes, and I really don’t know why anyone wouldn’t be. It annoys me that even when we play as well as we did yesterday and somehow only draw, people still criticise Moyes. We out-played Arsenal, even Wenger admitted that, and more importantly we didn’t just sit back when we went ahead with 10 minutes to go. In the last 5 minutes we had several corners and could have scored again. Inevitably, Arsenal had attacks, and unluckily we conceded a deflected goal.

Finally Moyes has started to get some players back, and a bit of stability throughout the team, and there’s no coincidence that we’ve started playing well and accumulating more points. This site, and most of its contributors seem to have a real anti-Moyes agenda, possibly brought on by dreams of the "good old days" of the 80s and such where I’m sure we played great football and went out to win everything. But as someone who started supporting Everton in 1990, and growing up watching the years of relegation battles, it’s patently obvious that under Moyes we’re making actual progress, and I don’t think he should be blamed if we sometimes have to "win ugly", as they say.
Steve Hogan
22   Posted 10/01/2010 at 22:53:05

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John, a really concise article which tries to demonstrate some of the reasons for Everton’s inconsistencies this season.

The majority of responses agree with you and many clearly felt lifted by the overall display of the team and it offers some level of optimism for the remainder of the season.

Many of your detractors have never chosen to write an article on TW before, simply choosing the easy option of trying to ’dumb down’ the contribution despite it’s merits.

The same people seem reluctant to raise their own ’literary’ heads above the parapet for a change.
Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
23   Posted 10/01/2010 at 22:46:13

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Max, a couple of things need straightening out, since you’re new here:

1) "I really don’t know why anyone wouldn’t be [behind Moyes]" — I’ll tell you why: because he is fundamentally negative defensive-minded and unadventurous, or at least has been for for too long. (On the very hopeful assumption, based on some aspects of yesterday’s performance that he is now changing; I remain to be convinced of that, however.)

2) "This site, and most of its contributors seem to have a real anti-Moyes agenda." Please don’t mischaracterize the site as a whole or try to pigeonhole the bulk of its contributors. On any issue, there is a wide range of diverse views. If you must play the numbers, Moyes’s detractors are probably in a minority judging by the wrath heaped upon me by his acolytes* whenever I dare to critique him. Also, the only ’agenda’ we have is for Moyes to do his job properly and to bring us success. He’s taking his own sweet time over getting us there. People still talk about making progress but we have yet to get back to finishing fourth, which for me was his greatest achievement. That was now 4½ years ago...

3) ..."possibly brought on by dreams of the "good old days" of the 80s and such..." — No, Max, It’s all about the here and now, week to week; it has nothing whatsoever to do with the 80s, other than that was a period of Everton briefly achieving success. They did it in the 60s... and in the 30s, so what? Nothing to do with the present. Try to stay focussed, please.



* People seem to have taken offence at my use of this word ’acolyte’... I’m not sure why. The meaning is "a devoted follower or attendant", which seems quite apt surely... no offence intended. Isn’t that what you are? I know I’m certainly not!!!
Dennis Stevens
24   Posted 10/01/2010 at 23:14:04

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I agree with you about the issue of consistency, John. As you said, it can be both a curse & a blessing with Moyes.
Whilst we can only speculate as to how the summer trading may have gone if a different approach had been taken, there’s no doubt the actual outcome has contributed to the nature of our season so far. Again, we can only speculate as to how far it’s fair to criticise Moyes and/or the Board, but I’d hope there would be some reslove not to allow the same situation to occur yet again.
Max Main
25   Posted 10/01/2010 at 23:39:07

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Michael, firstly, I suppose techincally I am a new member and first time poster, but I have been visiting this site for a long time, so please don’t think the views I’ve stated are knee-jerk reaction to one or two articles. In truth, while "agenda" may be an aggressive term, I do find that this site as a whole has a negative feel to it. Certainly there are some good contributors who post reasonable and balanced articles, but I have found a lot of articles DO have an anti-Moyes agenda, not to mention an almost raw hatred of anything Bill Kenwright does. Maybe I am wrong to attribute this "agenda" to the site, but I’m afraid if articles like this are published on ToffeeWeb, it will affect my characterization of the site as a whole.

Also, regarding your opinions on Moyes:

Yes he’s taking his "sweet time" in getting there. Of course he is. Surely you remember the shambles he inherited, and surely you can see that at first he basically had to stop the rot, and since then he has been building a squad of (generally young) players, who have consistently been finishing in the European places. Did you really expect him to be challenging the likes of Man U, Chelsea by now?

In my opinion he has done as well as could have been asked of him. Last season finishing "best of the rest", and getting to an FA Cup final isn’t progress? Yes we finished 4th early in his tenure but I think it’s ridiculous to suggest that anything below 4th can’t be considered a general progression. And I’m sure you will be quick to say that we are clearly not progressing this season from last, but I will once again point to the injuries that have plagued us, which are out of his control. We are not Man City and he could not just go out and replace the whole squad.

And to quote Colin: "to harp on and on about those injured players is a nonsense". No it is absolutely not a nonsense. There seems to be some insane idea that just because people stress the same point (that injuries have massively affected our season) it somehow holds less weight. I’m afraid that is in fact nonsense. As I’ve said ANY team with the injury list we’ve had, would have been severely affected. Some things really are out of the manager’s control, and I think some people can’t or won’t accept that.

And just to reiterate, I do not think Moyes is perfect, but I do believe he is the best man for the job, and I do believe we are making progress under him. And I also do believe that when he does have a full (or reasonably full) squad to choose from, we will play good football, and we will be more adventurous.

Brendan O'Doherty
26   Posted 11/01/2010 at 01:08:04

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Good article John, not a bit petulant. Anyone who doesn’t agree with your point that the lack of a settled team has contributed to our form so far this season needs their head examined.

I especially agree with your points about Fellaini. He has to stay in his present deep-lying position where he looks comfortable. This means Nev staying at right back where he was excellent, notably the block and clearance just before our 2nd goal. Hopefully as well with Donovan offering a good alternative wide right, Osman will stay in the centre of midfield. Roll on the rest of the season!
Matt Traynor
27   Posted 11/01/2010 at 03:38:14

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Straying off topic slightly, this whole issue about tarring the ToffeeWeb board with the "negativity" brush is a fallacy.

Toffeeweb represents a wide range of opinions - from Blues all over the world (and not all are expats clearly). The editorial team on here do a good job (unpaid) in publishing the majority of views aired, and occasionally even taking time out to edit submissions on behalf of readers.

You can only publish what is received. That does not mean it is representative of the readership or fanbase as a whole. It does not mean that Moyes’ "acolytes" are less inclined to post than his detractors, or vice versa.

Despite being the editor of the website, Michael is entitled to his opinion as much as the next man. He does not have to remain impartial to any views - and I’ve even seen him and the webmaster disagreeing on a thread - a sure sign to me that there is no "Editorial Policy" on this site.

All contributions are valid, and serve to stimulate the debate. Other websites have a mailbag, but with limited "right to reply" functionality, and often filled with "tabloid-esque" rants full of text-speak, or downright appalling English.

It’s horses for courses - ToffeeWeb has a reputation of being more high-brow than some of the other sites out there (all of which have their strong points, and loyal readers), often borne out by the fact that respected journalists and fans of other teams often post on here - but the majority of ToffeeWeb’s content is user-driven - so it is what we, the readership, make it.
Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
28   Posted 11/01/2010 at 05:20:09

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Excellent post, Matt. 100% spot on. Cheers!
John Holmes
29   Posted 11/01/2010 at 10:02:48

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I’m still not sure about this idea that Moyes is ’fundamentally negative minded’. Obviously, we’ve played some poor football over recent years and been prone to excessively defensive tactics, but I’m not sure how much of that is Moyes’s voluntary choice and how much of it he chooses because he believes it’s the least worst option.

I remember writing a column a couple of years ago suggesting that Moyes had battled through the time when he’d arrived at Everton with a paltry squad of mediocre players available to him and slowly transformed them into a winning team with more talent. I speculated that he was now moving to a new stage where he needed the talented players to take centre stage and re-invent the team.

I felt in 2007-08 we were well on our way to achieving that. We played excellent football at times - a memorable away victory at Man City sticks out as a time when the pundits were watching and all were impressed at how we’d changed.

However, with 2008-09 being an awful summer where the already limited spending dried up and then the injury crisis beginning, I think Moyes has struggled to find a way to continue that momentum and has reverted to the Everton of 2004-05. That’s why I think the Arsenal game was such a big step forward, it seemed to be a marker of the upward trend in performances; a suggestion that Moyes was starting to believe he has the players to play the kind of football he’d like us to play.

In other words, I think although he believes in strong defending, I believe a lot of the negativity people label him with has been a less than voluntary choice (hopefully I’m not going to get taken up on the philosophy of choice always being voluntary). As the squad situation improves he’s now less constrained and I think, I hope, it will start to show.
Simon Williams
30   Posted 11/01/2010 at 10:56:09

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Great article.

It’s nice to read a point of view that correlates with my own — and whilst I agree that there is no sense in regarding one opinion as more valid than another, I do think that sometimes posters fall back on this assertion rather than engaging with the ’debate’ that everyone actually wants.

The purpose of debate is ultimately to change opinions isn’t it? To present a better argued and more compelling case that makes people think differently. If it is then simply saying ’my opinion is as valid as yours’ isn’t really taking part. Well that’s what I think anyway. And my opinion is extremely valid.

As for the game, personally I think confidence has been a bigger factor than ability or tactics in the last several games. The reason passes don’t quite make their intended target or players don’t make the right runs at the right time is a lot to do with players’ belief in their own ability and the abilities of their teammates to actually achieve what they’re attempting.

In the context of a game, making a decision with the ball at your feet — how likely you feel you are to hit a perfect 40-yard crossfield pass — is going to affect what you choose to do next. Personnel changes and injuries etc don’t help this intangible asset. What we’ve seen since the Liverpool game I think, is confidence slowly creeping back into the team along with previously injured players.

I also believe that Moyes’s reign, when viewed as a whole, has been a somewhat bumpy ride, but overall it has been a story of progress, developing more expansive play with the addition of better, more multi-talented players.

Moyes is a pragmatist, and not much of gambler — but I don’t think even he believes defence-only teams will in breaking the top 4. WIth confidence, we can start to see what the team he’s put together can actually produce, and it IS better, more flowing attacking football.

Lastly (sorry this has turned into quite a long comment), I do think that ’acolyte’ is a bit of a loaded term. To me it sort of suggests that a Moyes supporter is unthinking, that they blindly follow out of faith, duty or tradition, and aren’t capable of exercising their own critical faculties and making their own minds up. It doesn’t offend me personally, but I don’t think of myself as an acolyte, in the same way I don’t think of Moyes as an actual Messiah. I do think he’s a pretty good football manager who’s put together a pretty good football team — who, with a bit more confidence, will give other supposedly ’top’ teams a proper beating sooner rather than later.

Peter Roberts
31   Posted 11/01/2010 at 12:25:21

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I almost feel compelled to comment on the vibes I’m getting from some posters about Moyes’s management tactics after we went 2-1 up.

You could see on the highlights we were defending too deep for Rosicky’s goal, but before that we’d had a couple of excellent chances to wrap the game up, Vaughan’s being the most notable.

Secondly, I would understand the criticism aimed at Moyes if we were clinging on to a win at home to the likes of Wolves, Burnley or Bolton. But away to Arsenal, a team to whom we haven’t beaten in 3 years and haven’t beaten in London for 14, is a game where I think a little bit of pragmatism is called for.

Now if Vaughan’s effort had gone in and we were 3-1 up maybe the defending wouldn’t have been so desperate. But it is plain to see Moyes is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. FWIW, I would have done the same. If we’d held on, would people be complaining about such a pragmatic approach?

Phil Bellis
32   Posted 11/01/2010 at 12:24:58

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I like Moyes; I think he’s honest, has integrity and, although he mostly hides it, a wry sense of humour.

But I would love to know why we are so crap at taking throw-ins, lobbing it to Fellaini and hardly ever throwing to a man moving into un-marked space.

And I firmly believe that if we were playing Weymouth at home, winning 7-0 in the last minute and had S Gonzales and R Runner in our attack, Moysey would still pull all 11 back to defend a corner.

Brian Waring
33   Posted 11/01/2010 at 13:10:53

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Moyes along with the players, deserves loads of credit for Saturday. But it doesn’t get away from the fact that in all of Moyes’s tenure with us the football has been mostly woeful, and tactically the man is inept; one great performance doesn’t hide that fact.

Injuries keep getting brought up as the reason we haven’t been playing well this season, in that case then, what’s the reason for the other 7 years?

And Matt, spot on mate, second that all the way.
Rob Hollis
34   Posted 11/01/2010 at 13:30:31

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Just one minor point, John.

I don’t think our best midfielder is out. I have thought Peinaar was our best midfielder since he settled into the team. It is close but I think he is quicker with the pass, a harder worker and (stats might prove me wrong) more inclined to have a shot.
John Holmes
35   Posted 11/01/2010 at 14:21:40

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Fair point, Rob, but I think we miss Arteta’s set-pieces. Baines’s corners are pretty inconsistent. I think Arteta and Pienaar bring different things. Arteta is calmer on the ball and is the one player we have who can slow the game down (intentionally — we have plenty who can slow it down in other ways). Pienaar is a live wire and always injects some impetus into things.

It’s a massive shame we haven’t seen more of them in tandem as, when we have, we’ve played some great football and it brings the best out of the players around them.

Max Main
36   Posted 11/01/2010 at 14:17:35

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Matt, I’ve no problem with Michael individually (though in the responses to another article he has threatened to remove a post which is merely pointing out that something they suggested earlier has been proved right recently. And said thing appears to not agree with Michael’s personal views), I didn’t even know who he was until yesterday. And yes of course he’s entitled to his opinion, and works hard for the site unpaid, yada yada yada. I am aware of all this.

But the point is not that the editorial team can only print what they receive, but more that they can choose to print some of the things they receive. And as I’ve stated, I believe this site has a negative vibe. Whether that’s because 99% of the articles they receive are negative, or that they have an inclination to publish articles that they feel are good as they agree with their own personal beliefs, I don’t know.

A site such as WSAG has a much more positive feel to it, and when visiting there it’s refreshing to read articles from people who genuinely support Everton, with no anti-Moyes/Kenwright agenda, which seems to plague this site.

Stewart Littler
37   Posted 11/01/2010 at 15:57:06

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Just a few points from my head:
Firstly, Ciaran, with the amount you obviously visit this website, you claim "Firstly, I don’t think anyone suggested that injuries had no bearing on our performances" - if I could be arsed, I could find at least 100 comments suggesting exactly that. You then go on to say "the point of you article seems to be that anyone who makes a negative comment regarding yesterday’s match is ’petty’, ’churlish’..." when John has made it clear that substantial criticism is way off in his opinion.

Colin, no there were not 10 full internationals playing on Saturday. Osman & Baines have never played at international level, whilst Neville and Saha have a good few years since their last cap. And when you have a guy making his debut after not playing for 7 weeks, as well as 2 players playing yet another game after so long out, I’d say there was a little bit of a struggle to put a team out (though not as bad as recent weeks - mind you, as far as you’re concerned, we still had 8 internationals on the field, never mind that the bench looked like a college canteen)

Max - I have to agree with Matt on the subject of TW being negative or not. The editors have published all of my articles, and I would definitely class them as being positive so I would think it is more to do with the material being overly negative, and not the site as a whole. However, I think it would be fair to suggest that MK is fairly negative in his views re Everton. Nothing wrong with this, but one thing that irks me personally is that those who receive warnings from MK tend to be those disagreeing with a negative point of view, which suggests MK is more favourable with his editorial power to those with a similar viewpoint to his.
Max Main
38   Posted 11/01/2010 at 17:56:35

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Well fair enough then, Stewart. Maybe I’m doing the site a dis-service. Maybe it just attracts negative Evertonians. Or maybe just most Evertonians are negative? But I don’t think it is this, as with the WSAG example I used earlier, there are sites with a more positive outlook.

I appreciate your input though. Interesting to know that all of your articles have been published.

Also, going way back to the original point of the article, I have to say I completely agree with what you (Stewart) have just said about the opening paragraph. The word "substantial" is key. I do not think John was being hypocrtical, or contradicting himself at all.
Colin Potter
39   Posted 11/01/2010 at 17:46:28

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Sorry about that Stewart, I thought Baines had had a game for England. Although Neville and Saha haven’t been capped for a while, they have plenty of experience, which Neville showed off extremely well. If, for arguement's sake, all those that were mentioned being injured were fit for next week, who would you drop, and who would replace him with?
Brian Waring
40   Posted 11/01/2010 at 18:13:48

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Max, the other site you mention being more positive. Have you never thought that maybe they delete most of the negative comments posted because it doesn’t go along with their thinking?

The one thing about this site, is that it doesn’t matter whether you are posting something negative or positive, it mainly always will be printed. I’m probalby classed as a whinger, negative fucker etc, and I have had some of my posts not appear on here, but I have know deep down, that there would have been a good reason behind it.
Max Main
41   Posted 11/01/2010 at 18:37:11

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Brian, I’m referring to the articles published, not the comments.

Toffeeweb can’t, or at least shouldn’t, and generally probably doesn’t, control the comments afer the articles, but it does choose what to, and what not to publish.
Stephen Kenny
42   Posted 11/01/2010 at 19:54:15

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The fact that the term "best of the rest" is used so often in deference to some kind of achievement, and is used again on this thread sums up the attitude some of our fans have toward how well we should do. The phrase knock’s me sick as it basically means you finished nowhere!

Michael, please ban it and insist on people calling it 'fifth'.
Max Main
43   Posted 11/01/2010 at 20:40:51

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Of course being best of the rest is an achievement. Some people don’t seem to get that the top 4 basically have an unfair advantage over everyone due to the Champions League money which came into effect when they happened to be in the top 4, and his since helped them exponentially ever since. Had the Champions League, and all the money that comes with it, come into effect when Everton were flying high in the 80s, it would have been us who benefited. But it was not, and now we, like "the rest" trail behind the big 4 season after season as they pile up the money, and pad out their squads with internationals, while we look for loans and youth players. Of course this can probably be evened it somewhat with sizeable investment but this clearly hasn’t happened for us.

Finishing best of the rest IS an achievement. It may not be ideal, and we’d all rather be winning the Champions League every season, but consistently finishing best of the rest is definite progress for a club who was largely a laughing stock not 10 years ago.
Ciarán McGlone
44   Posted 11/01/2010 at 21:13:57

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Mr Wilson, my claim that Osman should not play again, was not a statement as such — it was a wish!

And i’ve no problem backing up the wish to not have one of the most inconsistent and wasteful players in our team to be replaced with better....

Now, It was hadly going to happen considering our injuries and poor transfer capability... But it’s a wish I have, nonetheless... No doubt you’ll categorise this wish to improve such an important part of the team as some kind of vendetta against locals... I assure you, it isn’t.

I’d also take geat issue with your synopsis... It certainly didn’t apply to the second half as he was anonymous; as for the first half you’ll probably recognise I stated that he had played well.


Stewart, so were do we draw the line in regard to what amounts to ’substantial’ criticism?
Eric Hardman
45   Posted 11/01/2010 at 21:26:16

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I think the main reason this site appears to be negative is because many Everton fans, particularly those like me who remember us winning things, have had it up to here with Moyes. His consistent lack of tactical awareness, inability to make substitutions at the right time, general defensive attitude, failures in the transfer market, a style of play which ignores the concept of passing to your own player (aka hoofball) and poor man management have rightly attracted criticism.

None of this has anything whatsoever to do with injuries.

I will be prepared to give him credit when (or should that be if) he ever wins anything. At the moment he’s having trouble winning matches, let alone trophies because the chickens have come home to roost. In my opinion far from being honest, Moyes is hiding behind the club’s lack of resources to give himself an excuse for failure. Not good enough for someone who gets paid (not earns) more a week than most people take home in a year.

Saturday was an minor exception and a very frustrating one at that. Last time I looked we only got one point.

Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
46   Posted 11/01/2010 at 20:27:50

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Max, your impression is that this is a "negative" site, refering to articles posted, and you wonder whether 99% of the what we receive is "negative" or if we make it so — by (you presume) witholding the positive articles.

Let’s think a little bit about what you’re saying... and go with that 99% number. That means, of the last 10 articles posted, all are probably negative. Have I got that right? (If I have my probabilities correct, there is only a 10% chance of us finding a positive article.)

So, if I can find just one article published recently that is, by all reasonable assessment, not "negative", that would mean you’re impression is wrong, right?

Here goes:

1) Let it Snow by Tony I’Anson: Seems a positive, upbeat idea to look forward, and some of his thoughts are optimitsic; however, some are not... are these "negative"? Okay, that’s one for you.

2) Landon by Jamie Rowland; is that "negative"?, wanting our players to live up to the high (surely positive) standard of the shirt? Personally I disagree with the Jamie completely; I was very pleased to see him given the No 9 shirt, but he is being rather negative about Donovan... so I guess that’s two for you.

3) Change The Rule by Chris Butler. Definitely negative without a doubt... the rule is wrong; the club is bad; things must change... except that if you happewn to be in favour of standing then you might view what Chris is saying in a rather positive light. Is that three to you?... I’m getting worried.

4) Away fan in the Park Road End by Rob Watson: not even an Evertonoian but we published it. Why? because it puts the club/fans/steward in a negative light? Yet reading the comments, the pure rarity of the response Rob describes, amidst a stand holding 7,000 Evertonians... but okay, I’ll give you that one too.

5) Merseyside Derby Myth by Chris Butler: what’s he moaning about this time... oh, wrong perceptions about the whole derby thing. Very negative... unless you in a minority that thinks perhaps Chris is trying to put some record straight? Isn’t that a positive thing? No? Okay, that’s five... I should probably stop now and admit defeat.

6) 2010 by Andrew James: Everton over the last decade... and yes, this one is pretty negative. Even I can’t find anything positive in there. Six outta six!

7) John Moores by Bob McEoy... Aha! I think I may have hit pay dirt: "club’s first benefactor" "Ring continued to be mesmeric for the rest of the season." "This was a great time to be an Evertonian." "We were now winning more games than we were losing" “Thanks for the memories” ... but I guess the whole point of publishing that was to underline in a negative way the paucity of the current regime under Kenwright (even though that is not actually what the article says) ... Damn! ~ I thought I had one there!

8) The Moyes Conundrum by Shaun Sparke: I thought this was a good piece of writing but it does have a "negative" thread running through it, and ends up with the ultimate negativity of contemplating the loss of Manager Moyes. Damn and blast it!

9) James Vaughan: A New Beginning? by Dick Anderson: surely this has to be it — the one positive article I need. No, but he spoils it all by focussing in on the lad’s dreadful injury record... how negative is that?

10) Work harder, donkey, by Chris Kelly. My last hope, but with a title like that and a harsh critique of Moyes the maestro? No chance. Now in truth, he is calling for Moyes to do a better job... which is positive, surely? But at the end of the day, he is pretty negative about the man.

So that’s it; you win. 99% of our articles are "negative", or at least contain some content that can be considered negative...

Or are they actually just making their own individual realistic assessments about all sorts of diverse aspects of Everton Football Club, unprompted by me or anyone else?
Max Main
47   Posted 11/01/2010 at 23:05:12

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Sarcasm. I get it. Very good.

Taking something that was a clear exaggeration for effect and trying to dismantle it doesn’t make for a great argument unfortunately, Michael.

But fine, there are some positives amongst the negatives, I never suggested there wasn’t. Too much negativitiy though, I stand by that, and I stand by my feeling that there’s an anti-Moyes/Kenwright agenda.

And I’d just like to thank Eric Hardman for vindicating my earlier claim that many older Evertonians are longing for the "good old days". I’m sure you remember the comment, Michael, you asked me to stay focused.

"I think the main reason this site appears to be negative is because many Everton fans, particularly those like me who remember us winning things, have had it up to here with Moyes."
Ciarán McGlone
48   Posted 12/01/2010 at 00:03:34

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Max,

You’re being awfully negative...
Stephen Williams
49   Posted 12/01/2010 at 00:51:53

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Hi guys, it's not often I post on here but, after reading Mr Holmes's article and reading some of the responses, I personally agree with most of the points. You make what you all fail to spot some important points that got us a draw We are going slightly overboard seeing Arsenal had three world class players missing.

For me, Song has been a rock for Arsenal, the equal of Chelsea's Essien and just as important as Fabregas, a little genius who makes them tick. And Van Persie — with these three, I am not so sure we would have drawn the game.

So... missing players does effect how a team plays and their confidence anyone and there are some on here who do argue contrary to the point that it should not matter, I would say have never actually played the game and think all they need do is articulate a good arguement to be right.

Liverpool missed Gerrard and Torres and fell apart. United sold Ronaldo and Tevez and no longer look convincing, failed to break down Birmingham the weekend we drew with Arsenal Saturday because Nev Ossy and Fellaini were all playing in their preferred positions with some pace on the right side of midfield, which has not happened for quite some time.

When a squad sees the manager pick the right formation, it gives them a lift. Moyes forced Arsenal's play from the wings into the middle and right into the hands of Fellaini. We had five attack-minded players on the pitch for the first time in a while... and at some points in the game, we were playing 4-3-3, which I think we have the players for.

So, to end my comment, good article, mate.

Stewart Littler
50   Posted 12/01/2010 at 08:39:57

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Colin, as good a game as he had, I would whisk Osman straight out and replace with Arteta. Jags would come in for Neill. And if we were at home, the Yak would start instead of Cahill. That is, if we had a fully fit squad.

I must admit to being a little pedantic towards your comment, but it does rile me a little when people point to how many internationals are on the pitch, as it matters fuck all IMO. What’s more important is having players in their natural position, or as close to as possible. All four ’non-internationals’ played these positions on Saturday, and the team looked better as a result.

Ciaran, fair point. I was simply pointing out that John had mentioned "substantial criticism", not just any criticism as intimated in your reply.

John Holmes
51   Posted 12/01/2010 at 09:46:34

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I also find the internationals counts a bit ridiculous. International for who and when? Pele was a Brazil internation but you wouldn’t throw him on the pitch now. Likewise, Coleman has more international caps than Arteta but does that make him a better player? Anichebe chose to play for Nigeria and consequently has been capped, would he be a worse player if he’d chosen to play for England and hadn’t been capped yet? Jeffers has been capped by England but Baines hasn’t, what do you read into that? Lucas Neil has a host of caps whereas Jagielka has a couple but who thinks Neil should stay in the team when Jags comes back? Jo has played for Brazil but few fans call for him to start ahead of the uncapped Vaughan.

The whole thing is a nonsense. That’s why I simply listed the players and said what they’d achieved or how they were valuable to Everton.
Colin Potter
52   Posted 12/01/2010 at 09:43:02

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Stewart,
I agree with you. I made the point of the internationals, because I am sick of reading about the injuries. It could have been 11 non-internationals, the point was, for once he got them playing together, and passing the ball around, especially in the first half, and I don’t think if you would have played most of those that are, we would have played any better, and I think with the "hoofers" back I think we would have been beaten.

Another point of mine is, you don’t need billions of £s to get people to play the game properly. Brian Clough was capable of this, as were a few others. Moyes, to my mind is incapable of this, all he worries about is defence and he is unwilling to advance any further. Sad... but, to my mind, very true.

Dave Wilson
53   Posted 12/01/2010 at 10:39:28

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Ok Ciarán, it was a wish, but at the time I told you we would start winning on his return. You say Osman is wasteful and bemoan his inconsistency, but if it's consistancy you want, look at the facts, we consistently win when he plays, and we consistently don't when he doesn't — the stats are actually staggering.

I’m in total agreement with you about our right to criticise players, but preconceived ideas often cloud judgement, it's difficult to give credit to a guy you have consistently hammered over the years but I would like to think you were big enough to do it.

Osman was fantastic throughout the game on Saturday, if anything he was better in the second half than he was in the first. Arsenal were swarming forward when Ossie made a terrific intercepton to launch the counter attack for our second goal.

I support your stance on our right to offer a game by game critique, but lets do exactly that. If you're going to single him out for criticism, at least wait for a game in which he wasn't magnificent.
Kevin Sparke
54   Posted 12/01/2010 at 11:02:15

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The reason the site appears negative is because it is... and long may it continue to be so.

The reason — discussion and debate. Some of it verges on the ridiculous at times, none of it is ever going to change anything beyond reflecting a mood from a certain section of the Evertonian ranks — those who have access to IT and who can be arsed to comment and think their views are important enough to be shared. All of it is good fun, sometimes illuminating and thought provoking; often insightful... very occasionally maddening.

The editor is clearly unbalanced (and I mean that in the nicest way possible) and has a view on Moyes he is not going to hold back on — his comments at times really verge on the pathological side of hatred and defy logic — but they are his views and he’s entitled to air them (it’s his train set after all).

Now, bearing all this in mind, there is a question that has to be addressed — does the editor’s views determine and direct the debate to such an extent that the views on show become inconsistent and unrepresentative of the greater Evertonian community?

This is important — because if they do; he and by extension ToffeeWeb, has no valid claim to represent the views of greater Evertonian community — they are merely the view of ToffeeWeb as partially determined, governed and expressed by editorial direction and comment.

If the editor has got the balancing act wrong (and I’d argue he has) then you will get comments from match-going Everton fans who frequent the site but don’t normally comment along the lines of:

"Miserable shower of bastards... never have anything good to say... always doing the club down... I used to go on there but they never have anything positive to say"

All of which have been expressed to me in the past... sometimes more forcefully than others. (Yes, Stevie Mac - I mean you.)

But don’t take my word for it ed - do yourself a favour; do some market research (I’ll even design it free of charge and distribute it).

Is this important? No, not really - the only thing that winds me up personally is Everton ’supporters’ who want us to lose tell us they want us to lose, revel in fact we have lost and factual inaccuracies put forward as proof to back up suprious argument. Strangely enough, these excursions into mythology and fantasy often go unchallenged by the editor if they support his own viewpoint.

It’s really quite simple — if the editor wants a site that reflects and encourages the views of all Evertonians rather than a rehash/challenge of the views he holds, he should refrain from comment and hold back on the dreaded blue pen... otherwise, whether he likes it or not he’ll merely set up a set of binary oppositions - ’for or against?, hater or acolyte?, pro Moyes anti Moyes?.... pro Michael anti-Michael?’... and discussion of football and what goes on on the pitch gets lost in all the personal chaff.

Finally, two points. Firstly, I’m not suggesting for one moment that the editor has a conscious agenda to control and direct site content to only reflect his views (If he has, it is clearly not working — see above). I’m not suggesting that views that reflect Moyes, Everton, Kenwright etc in a good light are excluded from debate or marginalised — they clearly are not. (I apologise for suggesting this in the past). However, the editor sets the tone; he fixes the parameters of debate; he directs the traffic and sometimes he sends that traffic up a one way street...

Second final point — this is still without doubt the best fansite on the web and I say that as someone who visits quite a few... if at times the editor could refrain from exercising his mighty and all powerful presence on the comment side of things and avoid involving himself in contentious debate — it might just get even better!
Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
55   Posted 12/01/2010 at 14:07:50

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Kevin, I do actually agree with most of what you say, with a couple of exceptions:

We don’t try to represent the views of the "greater Evertonian community", however you might define that. I represent my views; Lyndon represents his... and all the other people who post are (I hope) doing likewise, representing their own individual views.

(In references to others, there is no ’agenda’ — a comment I find really annoying in the context. But there are firmly held views...)

Do my views determine and direct the debate? I did sense that making a first Blue Font comment at the head of each thread was probably doing just that. It’s something I have curtailed massively — not eliminated, but close.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed either but I very rarely pen articles anymore. I leave that to our contributors, many and diverse they are... and anyone with any view whatsoever will get published — Conditions of Use notwithstanding... and a few other editorial strictures I have that are designed to maintain the quality of the site in general and the discussion in particular.

On Saturday, I made a rare exception to that: we had just finished a fantastic match, and nobody... NOBODY had posted anything I could use as a starter for the post-match comment thread. Mind you, this is a common pattern: if we play well, far fewer people comment; if we play badly, the internet heavens open. And as you say, that (somewhat unfortunately) makes the site appear "negative" but it is mainly a human/IT construct that we have to live with.

Now you could argue that we don’t need the post-match thread — why not continue with the matchday thread? Well, it usually gets very long, is mostly one-liners, and is essentially unmoderated (I’m watching the match and writing my Match Summary). I like to start afresh with a new thread for the slightly longer discussion posts about what happened in the game.

I like to get that going as soon as possible — not so much for the match-going elite of the Everton community, it’s for the far larger audience of Evertonians (especially for away games) who have watched the game live on TV or the internet and who can start the ball rolling straight away. It’s a personal thing, too. I like to talk about the match I’ve just seen.

The irony to your point is this: if I do comment and it is a little off the mainline of thought, people who think differently react massively to let me know I’m "wrong". Surely that then swings the balance in the opposite direction, away from my thoughts to those of "the majority" whoever they are? So how can I possibly be "directing" the debate?

As long as people write intelligently, coherently and are not abusive, their views will get published. Negative, positive... I don’t give a shit, who cares? But I would never claim those views are representative of anything other than the views of the individual Evertonians who take time to post. In fact, I reject posts from people who claim, to be talking for some "majority"... nobody can do that.

If some people deem the mass of those contributions to be "negative", so be it. I think it’s their narrow-mindedness coming to the fore, their inability to grasp the diversity of opinion that is out there on any Everton subject you care to name.

And their lack of respect for the idea that someone can hold a view which is different from their own. We get that a lot...

John Holmes
56   Posted 12/01/2010 at 17:50:42

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Just a thought Michael, but why not post in blue when you’re posting as editor and then in black when you’re just joining in?

There’s is something ominously authorative about the editorial contributions that sets the tone more than anyone else (except Tony of course) could.
Mike Allison
57   Posted 12/01/2010 at 21:21:15

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Michael I don’t know how no-one mentioned George Orwell and 1984 up above. When you responded to Max Main you seemed to me to come very close to saying ’being negative is being positive’. This seems to go very nicely with ’war is peace’, ’freedom is slavery’ and ’ignorance is strength’.
Ciarán McGlone
58   Posted 12/01/2010 at 22:05:03

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Ah Dave,

Come off it... our form has improved because Osman is back?

You’re astute enough to do a bit better than that.

And your assertion that I cannot give him credit is roundly contradicted by my assertion that he played well in the first half — That’s twice you’ve repeated one interception in the second half as proof positive that your opinion he played really well the whole game is some sort of fact.

And then you say he played better in the second — which is contrary to nearly even opinion I’ve seen of him.

You accuse me of being preconceived — perhaps it’s you that’s actually preconceived to not being objective... Just a thought. The other side of the coin — so to speak.

Anyway, we both agree the game was a success... and we’ve done Osman to death. So long may it continue.
Kevin Sparke
59   Posted 12/01/2010 at 23:13:52

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Thanks for the response Michael.

I do appreciate what it is you are saying. If I get this correctly you are using a definition of a forum in its original sense as a meeting or assembly for the open discussion of subjects of public interest - in this case, your public is Evertonians who can be arsed to post.

On any subject there is going to be diversity of opinion; it’s human nature and is one of the cornerstones of civilised society - the ability to engage in free debate.

Sometimes the ’truth’ is so obvious to some people that debating alternatives causes emotional attachment to their argument to arouse passions which are going to be clouding the possibility that they actually might be wrong. I think it was J K Galbraith who said "When faced with the prospect of changing their mind or proving there is no need to do so - most people get busy with the proof"

EG in my opinion Howard Kendal Mk1 is the finest manager we ever had, bar non - anyone who thinks otherwise had better have some damn good arguments to convince me different... and I still might not be convinced.

To enable this kind of debate to ebb and flow you need a good ’referee’ - in my opinion this is the primary role of the editor - to facilitate debate, not to direct it, nor to unbalance it with too much input on one side.

As it happens, I reckon you now get it right most of the time - but sometimes, you get it very wrong. One example which sticks in my mind is when you allowed one prolific contributor who happened to hold opinions similar to your own, free reign to abuse other posters - but edited out replies and called out other posters who replied in kind.

Stuff like this gives the impression that ToffeeWeb is skewed too much towards criticism and not enough towards praise - and this raises hackles in some people, who will choose not to contribute unbalancing your pool of contributors and skewing your content even further away from the centre.

I’m not saying for one minute that there is a mass of Evertonians who hold you and the site in contempt - most people probably don’t have a strong opinion either way. However, amongst Everton supporters I personally know and converse with there are a quite a few who have expressed the ’perception’ that ToffeeWeb treats Everton FC and all who sail in her with a degree of sceptical criticism that is sometimes and quite often, over the top.

If this perception does exist widely (And don’t take my word for it that it does - do some research) it must have come from somewhere. Either, these people are stupid and incapable of making rational judgement - or you’re doing something very wrong.

Anyway, keep up the good work - it is appreciated
Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
60   Posted 13/01/2010 at 05:57:11

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John, that is indeed the effect if I resist the privilege of First Response, which prints in Blue on the Mailbag page, and instead chime in later on, in black, within the body of the thread. I just need more people to post summarizing thoughts at the end of a game so I don’t feel obligated to set the tone!
Dave Wilson
61   Posted 13/01/2010 at 05:48:47

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Ciarán

Yes you're right, I did use the same incident twice to make a point, but Osman’s pass to Cahill was every bit as good as Cahill’s and I felt it had gone totally unnoticed. Donovan and Saha offered themselves for the first hour and Ossie unerringly found them. Unfortunately when the lights went out on both of them at almost exactly the same time, Arsenal grew and started to attack with more menace, that's when Ossie shone, he made some very clever interceptions to break up their play

I’m not claiming that our performance’s have improved simply because Ossie is back, we all have our own reasons for the improvement.
All I’m saying is I told you — and others — that when Ossie and Neville were back our performances would improve and we would start winning, well they are back and performances have improved, improved to a point where we are disappointed with a draw at the Emirates and fully expecting to turn City over.
Of course there are other factors, some of our players are unrecognisable from the shell-shocked little mice we were watching 2-3 months ago.

Your critism is usually fairly accurate but your praise could use a little work, especially to players who wouldn’t be your personal choice, a begrudged "had a decent first half" sold the little fella well short.

The boys are back and we are unquestionably improving... coincidence? surely not even their biggest detractors will be silly enough to claim that.

BTW If you lived over here, I would invite you to come and sit next to me at the first available opportunity. You would then hear first hand how preconceived my opinions are.

Ciarán McGlone
62   Posted 13/01/2010 at 10:21:10

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I may take you up on that option next time i’m over Dave.

Mike Green
63   Posted 13/01/2010 at 14:14:22

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Don’t ask me why, it may just be the nature of the beast but there is undoubtedly a negative vibe amongst much of the comment (rather than submissions) on TW.

To suggest that this is down to the Editorial team, however, is misjudged. Every comment I’ve submitted – one which I know Michael Kenrick took great exception too but argued against rather than striking off the site – has been published and remained published. Also – what I view as negativity will be viewed as positive critique by others. C'est la vie. Is not the accusation that this is a negative site negative in itself and thereby helping shore up the whole argument?

Interestingly though, a mate of mine’s an Arsenal season ticket holder who sent me the following text after the game on Saturday – this is it word for word.

"I can’t believe we got a point out of that today. We were shite! Last person to boss our midfield like that was Roy Keane. We should buy the bugger. Fellaini was everywhere. I’ve never seen him play defensive midfield before. He would be perfect for us. Can pass, tackle, shoot and a dirty bugger. Exactly what we need."

Now – if a Gooner can give us unstinting praise for our performance on Saturday, why cant we?

Also – his negativity towards his own team isn’t lost on me either, which is why, as I said at the top of the piece, that it may just be the nature of the beast.
Mike Green
64   Posted 13/01/2010 at 14:49:44

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Another way of looking at it - sorry for going on - is perhaps, to a greater or lesser degree, we are all looking for the perfect world.

As such we dont focus on the good things in life because they are already in place, deal done. Instead we focus on the things we are not happy with in an attempt to put them right and edge one more step towards the ideal life.

And hence we appear negative as a result.
David Gallant
65   Posted 14/01/2010 at 08:46:52

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John Holmes, may I just say that this is a cracking article if ever there was one! Well said man! I agree with virtually all your observations.

I’d also like to point out that this very article and ensuing thread is a classic case in point vis. ’how the nature and content of threads are influenced by the esteemed webmaster’ - this one started out being a positive, balanced view of the Arsenal game and yet degenerated into pettiness once more.

Well that’s my opinion anyway. May the protestations begin . . .
Chris McGlynn
66   Posted 14/01/2010 at 14:12:01

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On the subject of negativity, here’s a nice positive article on BBC Sport from the learned Jonathan Pearce

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/8457986.stm

I particularly like his comment that he’s "never heard a bad word said about Osman".

Somehow I sense Toffeeweb isn’t bookmarked as one of his favourites (and to be fair to Toffeeweb, either he’s deaf or hasn’t been to GP in quite a few years.
Howard Don
67   Posted 16/01/2010 at 12:22:19

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Every so often you read an article and think "I wish I'd written that"

http://dixies60.com/2010/01/pele-was-woeful-alex-young-was-worse-and-moyes-will-get-everton-relegated/

The link to an article and the posts beneath it on the "Dixie's Sixty" EFC website says a lot of what's been bothering me for a while about the level of unreasoned criticism on TW. I know, I know it's all about opinions, of course it is, but that's my point. What we get from some posters here is completely illogical negativity. My favourite after the Arsenal game was "it's all Moyes fault for failing to close the game down". This after a superb, tactically spot on performance with a team still hit hard by injuries, snatched from us by two of the spawniest goals you'll see.

I know it's not all posters here by a long chalk, and in defence of TW, it is the best structured most popular site so it's going to attract more people of all opinions. All I ask is for a little more objectivity and less negativity. Given the resources at this club the manager does a fantastic job, not perfect, not blameless, who is? But let's have a bit more credit and a bit less blanket criticism in what's been a very difficult season.

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