COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY
The season is done and dust settled — just in time for the speculation period to begin with wild ‘Exclusives’ claiming insider’s knowledge.
Our past season will impact on the new with players either accepting or rejecting new terms or just plainly taking time to think things over. The upshot being we will have a team to put out for our first game and, whatever the shape and look of it, we will still have till the end of that month to either gain or lose a player or two. Quite exciting times for transfer window addicts and if you believe newspaper inside stories! — It looks like about 'nine out and fifteen in' already.
What of the season past? Not the most auspicious of starts with no incomings due to the Lescott affair until almost Deadline Day. Lescott started the first game, looking sheepish and... was then gone after a 6-1 thumping reverse at the hands of Arsenal. With Arteta, Jagielka and Yakubu out long term, so began the ‘mitigating circumstances’ period.
By the end of the year, we had amassed the grand total of 22 points and only 5 wins in that total out of 19 games, hardly top four form or anywhere near good enough for a Europa League place.
In that first half of the season, we saw mostly lows — especially the away games at Burnley and Hull. Burnley caught us feeling sorry for ourselves and, although we had most of the players we would end the season with out on the park, we looked a demoralised, disjointed outfit and managed to squander three gilt-edged chances, one being Saha completely missing the target with a penalty. Walking off the ground that night you somehow felt short-changed by all in Blue, including the manager.
It got worse at Hull’s KC Stadium (a name that always reminds me of a bag of crisps), where we were humiliated for 30 minutes, going 3-0 down. Wednesday 25 November went down as ‘Black Wednesday’ in my book as it was the worst first-half display I had seen in many a long year following the Blues. If you check the team we had out that night, there was no excuse for the display — although Rodwell lining up on the right wing did make me wonder what the manager’s tactics might be... not too good, as it turned out.
Highlights of that first half to the season had to be the thrilling comeback from 2-0 down v Spurs at home with the Coleman cameo getting Goodison rocking... and then that 3-3 draw away at Chelsea a week later, an unlikely result as, in truth, we were battered but just would not give in and, although Chelsea went ahead three times, three times we found a way back with sheer grit, determination, some doses of joined up stuff and one large slice of luck when a Chelsea clearing header hit the back of Saha’s head and went into the net for 3-3 and a celebration as though we had won.
We lost the home derby 2-0 against the worst Red side I have seen for years, through bad luck and lack of penetration where it matters, and some woeful finishing. This was the game where at last Pienaar showed just what value he is to us and many called for his contract to be sorted — still no progress on that one!
On the European front, we had qualified for the knockout stages despite being battered by Benfica along the way.
The second half of the season saw the arrival of Landon Donovan for a short loan spell and it seemed to spark players and fans alike and ensure more highs than lows and mitigating circumstances. The lows being going out of both FA and Europa cups with barely a whimper ,along with Liverpool doing the double over us in a game where we allowed them to make it a disjointed fight, if we had stuck to the joined-up stuff instead of dropping to their level, I am convinced we would have won. Another low from that game was the loss of Fellaini for the rest of the season. and just when he was really showing his worth with forceful box to box mid-field displays.
The game away to Arsenal was the one that set the tone for the remainder of the season and, although we only drew, it was the manner of our performance that seemed to galvanise the players and make them realise that could mix it with the best. We beat Man Utd then Chelsea all within a week and then went on to beat City twice, all to the absolute delight of Evertonians everywhere. Our second half league record of played 19: W-11, D-6, L-2 was top four form and but for those draws, many in games we really should have profited, 3rd was more likely than our eventual 8th.
From that second half to the season, my favourite was the double over City — not just the wins but the manner of the wins. I think though my most exciting and emotional moment was in the Man Utd game when Rodwell strode through and calmly slotted home across Van de Sar. 3-1 securing a comprehensive win that even SAF. acknowledged. Tear in eye time.
As far as mitigating circumstances go I think the departure of Donovan and the Fellaini injury accounted for the draws in a big way.
A mention for the manager over the season, who I thought did a very good job to get us back into shape for that second-half-of-the-season surge. He continues to bring progress year on year and is obviously held in high regard by his peers as well as the majority of the travelling faithful who sing and chant his name most of the time. I do have one reservation though: he does not seem to be able to affect the play from the bench, depending on circumstances, as I have seen some of the top coaches do. If he gets that right, we could have the perfect manager — if there is such a thing.
What of next season? Who will come in? Who will leave? Who will sign extended contracts? My answer is ‘not a clue’... I have renewed my season ticket and, on taking my seat at the first game, I will hope that the manager, chairman, CEO and Board of Directors have excelled themselves and bad starts to seasons have been banished, injuries or not. If not, I will still be delighted to follow the Blues and once again see all things unfold. You can bet your boots it won’t be straightforward, whatever the close season brings... Footy never is.
UP THE BLUES
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1 Posted 17/05/2010 at 09:00:39
When you cut all the bullshit and different opinions aside, we all support the same team and all only want the best for Everton Football Club.
A lot of my friends here support Man Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal.... the more fashionable clubs. Some are British. Some are Yanks. Some are Chinese. None of them have anything near the level of this fansite.
Credit to all who manage this site, write the match reports and to all who contribute any and all views weather we agree or disagree.
This is a very special ToffeeWeb community of all of ours.
2 Posted 17/05/2010 at 11:41:01
3 Posted 17/05/2010 at 12:54:50
Re 'kicking on', the perrenial nearly men of one-day cricket have just broken the mould and smashed the previously undefeated Aussies for 6!
Stuffing Chelsea and Man Utd in a week, coming from behind in both games, undeafeted in the league in the last 11!
With the right start, right luck and right belief, Moyes's Boys may just garner the momentum and ongoing surge needed...
24-year wait ended in May 2011? It would not be a moment too soon. Give those prayer beads a polish and BELIEVE — if we don't, no other fooker on the park will!
4 Posted 17/05/2010 at 13:04:44
5 Posted 17/05/2010 at 16:13:20
I'm not sure if the Everton management and board would get an extension for their essay. The Lescott saga it seems was deliberately dragged out to extract the maximum amount of money from the transfer. The consequence of this strategy was a relatively crap season and no Europe. I accept it because I think we will now have a much better squad for 2010-11, no distraction from Europe, and a very real prospect of Champions League football if we continue playing as well as we did for the latter half of this season. z
We also had more than enough notice of the injuries to our star players Arteta and Jagielka but did not do enough to compensate when we had the chance. Heitinga and Neill arrived too late and Bilyaletdinov was always going to need time. I truly hope we get a very clear attempt to freshen up the squad over the Summer and avoid messy and embarrassing contract disputes with our best players.
I don't expect wholesale changes but I do for once expect us to be ready to compete when the first round of matches starts. We are better than Villa, Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal and are on a par with United in terms of playing staff in my book barring the odd exceptional player (Torres, Rooney, Van Persie). No excuses this year!
6 Posted 17/05/2010 at 16:30:12
As to the next one? Well, if Kevin is to be believed, Arsenal, Spurs, City, Liverpool, Utd and Chelsea will do nothing to improve their squads, whereas we will strengthen in at least two areas very significantly.
Ain't gonna happen. Maybe sixth or seventh next season but no more than that.
7 Posted 18/05/2010 at 09:53:47
Last year, we had some of the teams above us at our mercy and just didn't finish them off. Only Man City really felt the true form of the Blues.
How did we give six points to the RS? When are we going to get our just desserts and beat Villa 5-0? I also expect 18 points from the promoted teams, they will have huff and puff and not a lot else.
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