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What do you think?

By Stewart Littler :  18/03/2010 :  Comments (25) :
However positive or negative you are inclined to be, I think we can all agree it's been a disappointing season. There are many reasons/excuses involved, but ultimately, it's not turned out the way many of us may have thought. False dawns aplenty, sublime to the ridiculous with apparent ease, I'd sum up my mood as frustrated.

Of course, if we went on to win our last 9 games, I might not be quite so frustrated, though something tells me that's extremely unlikely — we've won just 3 away all season out of 14, those being Portsmouth, West Ham and Wigan. At the same time, our league form has been very good in 2010 — 20 points from 10 games only bettered by Man Utd and Arsenal, though Chelsea only a point worse off having played a game less. Not only that, there have been some genuinely good performances against Arsenal, City, United, Chelsea & Hull.

This has lead to some declaring that we hold in our hands our best squad since the eighties. For me, that's a pretty bold statement to make, notwithstanding the almost barren 20-odd years that encompasses. The argument is there that 2010 has seen a number of key players return to the frame. Counter all the positive, though, with miserable defeats in both cups and the effective loss of 6 points in games versus Liverpool, Spurs and Birmingham to see exactly why it's been so frustrating.

At the same time, I do believe that we have the best squad since the 80s, and a fairly young one at that. I think we have a decent chance, if we can continue our form so far this calendar year, to hit the 60-point mark, and we've only done that 4 times before in the PL. To only drop 3 or 4 points from the previous season with the kind of injuries we have had would not actually be too shabby, though again the argument exists that we could and perhaps should finish with more points than we actually will. Either way, you would think we are due a decent season injury-wise sometime soon.

That's why I think we need as strong a finish as possible. We need to gain some consistency and confidence and go into the summer on a high, even if that high is only having made it 10 straight home league wins. There should be nothing to disrupt the start of next season, and a good start next year could be crucial.

There'll be some Evertonians, maybe more than I think, who know about the so-called rule of 24. For those that don't, Everton have won a league title every 24 years, on the mark, since their first in 1891. The digits of the club's foundry year also add up to 24. Failure to win the league next season would break that sequence, which has lasted 119 years.

"Hang on a sec..." I hear. I know, I'm not even gonna suggest Everton winning the title cos even I know it's ridiculous. Continue our form for the rest of the year and I might think differently next Christmas. But that would mean that the above is just coincidence. I suppose it depends on what you believe in.

I know what I believe in. It's that somehow, David Moyes has actually built a pretty useful football club and whilst it has been and continues to be at times downright painful, the progression has been steadily upwards, if not a little too slowly for most if not all of us.

The way I see it, DM needs to work on one or two things, nay 3 or 4 actually. For a start, his general use of his squad is not world class. He's had many of his teams and squads picked for him this season, but has not yet developed a talent for rotation, something needed to have a genuinely good season. He also needs to get better at coaching his team to see out a result. I'm sure there are many more...

When you look at the quality of our squad, the big Moyes positive stares you in the face: a squad that cost around £65M, now worth around double that based loosely on market prices. If we get a little bit of luck, and the squad that Moyes has built delivers its true potential, I really don't know what is possible.

That's not to say this season is over. As I pointed out earlier, our end-of-season form could be crucial in other ways, and perhaps impact on the start of next season in a positive way. Three wins from three in March could set the last month and a half of the season up nicely, but that would involve back-to-back away league wins for the first time since May last year. I just need to see a bit more consistency. 20 points from those last 9 is achievable, which would make a half season of 40 points. Hell, might even check the odds of that Everton title at the bookies if we do achieve that!!

Reader Comments

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Ajay Gopal
1   Posted 19/03/2010 at 04:42:46

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Thanks Stewart, your article puts succintly what I myself feel about the club right now - a confused, bemused ambivalence. The positives are there for all to see, but then so are the frustrations, especially highlighted, when you see what teams like Fulham, Villa and Birmingham have achieved this season.

Moyes has done 90% of the job, but it is the remaining 10% that will be toughest, and until then it is job incomplete. My message to Moyes (for whatever it is worth):

"Believe in your ability, believe in the ability of your players, and instil that belief in your players. Only then, will you win anything".
Brian Noble
2   Posted 19/03/2010 at 05:07:08

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Whichever way you look at it, Everton are now amongst the also-rans.We can make all the excuses we want-Lescott, injuries referee bias , bad luck etc.etc.... but our season was over before mid-March and I see no prospect of any improvement next season.Throughout Moyes’ tenure we have failed to win the really crucial matches and the ’great man’s’ tactical limitations will always mean we fall short.
Do I see any alternative to this ’safety first’custodian? No, I don’t....and that’s what is really depressing me!
Gareth Humphreys
3   Posted 19/03/2010 at 05:35:34

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I’m glad i’m not in your world Brian.
Mike Elbey
4   Posted 19/03/2010 at 05:33:19

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Brian, ’failed to win the really crucial matches’ ? - a bit unfair if you ask me - yes we have failed to win SOME really important matches but we have certainly WON some as well.

1. 2002 - Derby away won 4-3
2. 2005 - Man Utd home - won 1-0
3. 2005 - Newcastle home - won 2-0
4. 2009 - Liverpool, Aston Villa, Boro, Man Utd in FA Cup - all won

I would say all of the above were pretty crucial games. Add to this the fact that we have qualified for Europe in 4 of the last 5 seasons you have to agree that we must have won a fair percentage of important games to have achieved something that no-one outside of the so called ’big 4’ has have achieved.

To suggest that we are amongst the also rans is well over the top. We have a good squad that HAS been decimated by injuries and yet has still managed to compete in the Premier League thsi year. Yes it has been fustrating because we always want our team to win no matter what the circumstances but we should all admit that our injury list has been exceptionally unlucky. How would Man U fare without Rooney, Fletcher, Ferdinand and Giggs for MANY months at the same time, Chelsea without Terry, Lampard, Drogba and Malouda, Arsenal without Gallas, Fabregas, Van Persie and Song, and the Rs without Carragher, Gerrard, Torress and Mascherano ? Anyone suggesting our injuries should not have an impact is talking nonsense.
Dick Fearon
5   Posted 19/03/2010 at 05:29:35

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Stewart L and Brian N you have captured my own thoughts about the team and manager.
The players have the ability and age is on their side but they do not perform week in and week out.
Except for Cahill and Heitinga who maintain a reasonable standard the rest go from brilliant to the pits in consecutive games.
I appreciate the good that David Moyes has done but until or unless circumstances force his hand he invariably takes an over cautious approach.
For example, is it really neccessary to pull everyone back to defend corners and free kicks. That is something you might expect from relegation fodder battling for survival and not what I expect from a team chasing honours.
Martin Mason
6   Posted 19/03/2010 at 06:33:19

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We aren’t a top club and that is what is galling but why should we be given how underesourced the club is? Also apart from a spell in the mid to late sixties we have also never consistently been a top side. I’d go as far to say that we have been totally shite for many of the 50 years that I’ve watched them and we are undoubtedly better off now than we have been since the late 80’s. Think what it must be like to support Pompey or Wigan? They’d give anything for the squad Moyes has assembled for precious little. He has weaknesses but overall I see him as massively positive for the club. I remember the 1980’s side became great from total dross and maybe it can’t happen nowadays but I feel that if we can keep clear of injuries we have the core of a very good team.
Charles King
7   Posted 19/03/2010 at 06:56:11

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I think we have managed to reach mediocrity, and many of todays supporters accept that.
David Hallwood
8   Posted 19/03/2010 at 07:32:04

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Charles I don’t think that supporters accept mediocity, I think they accept reality, 20 years ago anyone of 6 teams and maybe 2 dark horses could win the league, the dark horses included teams like watford, Luton, QPR. That doesn’t exist in football since the inception of the premier league, just check the records, theses days its impossible to break into the top 4 let alone win the bleedin thing, its the same with the FA cup. If we’re accepting less then so is spurs villa et al. As a season ticket holder, I want to see Everton win the league atleast one more time before they carry me off in a box, but I think that will only happen if we take the billionaires out of the equation, and we get back to a situation pre prem.

PS On the thread I think there’s still lots of points to win & lose, and when I go on BBC predictor, we get 4th everytime!
Charles King
9   Posted 19/03/2010 at 07:46:13

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David. my concern is that the reality you speak of is indeed mediocrity, I am a self confessed dreamer a romantic my notion of football and in Everton is do or die death or glory I accept that behind what we see on the pitch, the money influence, should not be ignored.
The reason I watch the game is to see the unexpected, to see the mighty dethroned, to see courage triumph. Another thread recalling great moments witnessed at the game is presently running and the stories are the lifeblood of the game, recalled as milestones in peoples lifetimes. My concern at us becoming embroiled in justifiable reasoning whether it be financial or otherwise for non sucess is these stories will diminish and ultimately peoples interest will go. I see your thoughts about a level playingfield are of the same tone and I would suggest we heading the same way, maybe its just that I miss throwing cushions from the main stand.
Phil Bellis
10   Posted 19/03/2010 at 08:37:17

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Agree with all you say, Charles
I am sick of fellow Blues on here saying ’get real’, ’best of the rest’, ’we’re skint’ and all the other excuses for mediocrity
Do we all take that approach to life - we know our place, be humble - and do nothing to improve things
I am not a realist - I’m an Evertonian who has seen and lived through the best; and I’ll not settle for less
I think that is a problem for younger Blues who can’t make comparisons apart from "we were worse ’til Moyesie came"
We are all in the gutter...
James Boden
11   Posted 19/03/2010 at 08:58:12

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I think, as infuriating as he is (and I think he is bloody infuriating), there is no question that David Moyes has had a very good impact on this club. ore often than not, he has showed himself up when it matters. His tactics are the opposite of his motivational levels. However, there is no question we have moved in the right direction.

Regarding consistent success and good finishes over years, looking at it since the war, who aside from Arsenal, Liverpool or United has been more consistent than us in the league? And even with that Liverpool and United have been in the league less consecutive years than us.

Your supposed big clubs like Chelsea and Tottenham have had a couple of good years. In fact Chelsea’s only bit of success came in recent years when unlimited funds did this. But then therein lies the problem. So I suppose stability (it can be argued) certainly does have good effect — no matter what anyone thinks of our manager.

But with clubs like Tottenham, despite years of high spending, are still nowhere really. And Spurs have always been a cup side — never done it in the league. Villa, who had a couple of good years in the 80s, had done nothing for about 70 years previously or since. City have had 1 good side in their history. Leeds were very consistent over mid-60s to 70s and are nowhere now.

Whereas we have had 4 titles since the war — which incidentally is the 4th highest, despite not winning it for 23 years. I suppose looking at it outside of 60s (which was probably our most consistent era league wise) and the 80s, this is the best we have been since the war. And also we were what? — the 2nd best team in the 30s. History lesson there I think.

So, although we have suffered, we have over the years done more than the majority.

Larry Boner
12   Posted 19/03/2010 at 09:21:37

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I started watching Everton in 1959, in that 50 year period we have only had three, three, managers who have actually won a trophy, Catterick, Kendall and Royle. Over the same 50 years every Liverpool manager has won at least one trophy, from Shankly to Benitez, even Souness and Evans won at least one trophy.

Clearly we have had periods of success that have not been sustained, not always our own fault, but generally the club does not seem able to sustain success.
The 80s we were close to the top table in European circles, but unforseen circumstances conspired against the club, but we then stagnated during the period of the ban and came out the other end as just another club.
Joe Royle restored some pride and will to win in the club, but again we shot ourselves in the foot and entered the darkest period again, pathetic playing staff = pathetic football.
Moyes, to give him credit has largely brought us away from the worst excesses of dire relegation type football with a higher class of player, but he still has the safety first attitude that with the total lack of support and initiative from the board will, I am afraid, slowly lose the outstanding players we have.
The wonderful Goodison Park tells its own story over the last 15 years, an iconic stadium always at the forefront of innovation and investment, now almost derelict compared to other grounds in this country, a terrible legacy of poor management by the custodians of this club.
Phil Bellis
13   Posted 19/03/2010 at 13:17:00

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I get so angry when the officials of our club (paid or otherwise) go on about how poor/derelict/dangerous Goodison has become (’66 and all that)
Whose f’n fault is it then? The supporters? the players? Heysel?
Successive Boards must share the blame for the state of the Old Girl
I still can’t get over the publishing of the crumbling step displayed in support of the move to Kirkby
That, I think, summed up the attitude of the numpties in charge - my reaction was ’don’t show me a photo - get it fixed!’
Larry Boner
14   Posted 19/03/2010 at 13:53:01

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I have in front of me the renewals for my dads, son and my season tickets. I feel I want to make a protest and send a message to the board or whoever that another close season like the last few is unacceptable, stick your tickets I will pick and choose my games.
I cant do it, I always fall for the same sucker punch, renew early we will have our squad sorted etc,etc
I watched the gobshites across the park last night more out of morbid curiosity to see what favours would be done for them, there it was, diving, weak refs, etc and they grind inexorably to another Final and trophy, while we gaze through the window from outside.
Now I believe that our squad, man for man is better than theirs and with a little foresight and investmant in the team we can move ahead of them, will it happen, will it fuck ?
I would not be surprised if we sell at least one of our top players in the summer, exactly as we always do.
Fulham put us to shame last night, taking out one of Europes biggest names while we again meekly surrendered.
I will have to turn the lights on its getting really dark in here.
Brendan McLaughlin
15   Posted 19/03/2010 at 14:39:55

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FFS Larry at least try and let your comments have some even fleeting connection with reality. You would’nt be suprised if we sold one of our top players in the summer EXACTLY AS WE ALWAYS DO.. Ok Lescott last year and ...... oh right Rooney several years before that. This exodus of top players must be halted!
Karl Masters
16   Posted 19/03/2010 at 15:29:15

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There are some right miserableso and so’s on here sometimes! Woe is me, beware the ides of March, Rodwell and Pienaar are leaving this Summer, blah, blah, blah!

I like James Boden’s broader view. Football goes in cycles and over the years Evertonians have had more highs and less lows than probably about 3 Clubs, which out of 90 odd is pretty good going.

Our time will come again, in fact I think it’s not too far away. The 24 year Rule may seem ridiculous to some, but if everything in this life was set in stone the World would not be the place it is....
Mike Allison
17   Posted 20/03/2010 at 08:39:00

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"Do we all take that approach to life - we know our place, be humble - and do nothing to improve things"

The same old bollocks from the ’real’ Everton fans who cry because we haven’t won the league again. I normally try to be as reasonable as possible but this bullshit is really getting on my tits. Its not about ’knowing your place’ or accepting mediocrity, its about how you react to adversity, having the ability to place it into a wider context (in your language that’s ’excuses’ apparently) and avoid the whingeing, moaning negativity that some people seem so desperate to spread on here. (oh no sorry, you’re being positive by moaning, because there’s only the moaners who want us to be the best, I forgot)

Everybody wants to improve things, there is nobody who thinks this is as good as it gets and we should shut up and be grateful (with the possible exception of Richard Dodd) but you can’t improve things without recognising what’s already good. Otherwise you risk jeopardising it. We are among the also rans, and over the last 4-5 years we’ve been the best of them, behind only the Sky four. One injury hit season where we finish below Villa and Spurs for the first time in ages (even that hasn’t actually happened yet) and somehow all the fans who maintain a positive outlook are ripe for criticism. I’m sorry you lived through the 80s Phil, as it seems to have given you unrealistic expectations of the second biggest club (fame, money and fanbase wise) in an impoverished city who’s best days were in the 19th century. We do bloody well, we could do better, but what would be the point? Even if we did, you’d find something else to moan about.

"So what we beat Real Madrid 3-0, if we’d played better we could have had 4 or 5, and besides, they were shite..."
Phil Bellis
18   Posted 20/03/2010 at 20:14:19

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Mike...OK we disagree
80s were good but ..ah 1966-70..happy days!

One man's bollocks are another man's balls

Phil Bellis
19   Posted 20/03/2010 at 20:43:22

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Addendum - post Bolton match
Well Mike - that's me told! (I think)
Quite a barbed riposte for not sharing your view of things. No matter, your prerogative as a ToffeeWebber
I agree we disagree, but whilst recognising we are better than Fulham etc, I don't think that's cause for an open-top bus tour of the City - nor do I feel any elation of accomplishment - do you?
Why the hell should I be satisfied just because the Board appear to be?
I'm not sorry I lived through the 80s - some damn good times
But the quality from 1966-70...ah, happy days!
Don't equate ambition with moaning; after all, one man's bollocks are anotther man's balls
Mike Allison
20   Posted 21/03/2010 at 11:49:23

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Thanks for your measured response Phil, I was feeling a bit spiky yesterday, but my reaction is more of a cumulative one to many posters over a long period of time rather than a feeling that your individual comments were genuinely outrageous.

I share your ambition, I just don't see the moaning as helpful in achieving. In fact I would bat your phrase back at you and ask that you don't equate lack of moaning with lack of ambition.

I'm not talking open top bus parades, but as I Moyes said in his post match interview, we're pretty good, but we know can be better. Not to get too smug but that's the basis of my (and the OP's) view of where we are.

I do like your new signature phrase, although I'm not sure it'll catch on, but yes, one man's balls bollocks are another man's balls (never to be taken literally one hopes...)
Phil Bellis
21   Posted 21/03/2010 at 13:07:17

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Nice one Mike - had me smiling at the end as much as Neville's twinkle-toes stepovers yesterday!
I know we've a really good squad now and the makings of a top-class team.
We are so close and the Academy (however we use it) may well turn out to be the key to our future.

The downside, for me, is that the Board apparently don't have the nouse or whatever to help Moyes make the leap forward. They appear to use the `we're skint' as the end of the argument and an acceptance of this is as far as we can go.
Having money these days is the biggest plus but it's not all that goes into the making of a winning team
Different era, I grant you, but I can't imagine Clough, in his interviews at Derby and Forest saying "we can't compete for money with the Evertons, Uniteds and Liverpools so I won't bother nurturing, coaching and moulding youngsters, has-beens and lower-league players into a winning side"
We've all seen, in patches, the standard of football this squad can achieve. If we throw away again the chance to progress this close season I'll be right back into moan mode
Keith Glazzard
22   Posted 21/03/2010 at 17:25:12

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One player most unlikely to be sold over the summer is Marouane Fellaini, who hopefully will be getting back to fitness. Heitinga, I suspect, is here for years to come.

Perhaps we should keep this for the long summer evenings, but who will be first choice for that role?

Now that is proper squad building.
Mike Allison
23   Posted 22/03/2010 at 09:30:23

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I'd want Heitinga at the back alongside Jagielka, so Fellaini gets that role. I'd make more of an effort to groom Rodwell to be the understood, something Moyes is reluctant to focus on because of his age.

In response to you Phil, the way we conduct our close season is the big thing I think we can legitimately moan about. I don't know how the finances and transfers work, but we seem to take forever every year and miss out on an opportunity to progress every year. I find it hard to believe we can't do this stuff any differently.
Mike Allison
24   Posted 22/03/2010 at 16:28:52

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I meant understudy, obviously, dunno what happened there.

Phil, I think Chris Brereton at the Daily Telegraph has been reading us!:

"It was that trait that has got them back on their current plain but for Moyes, durability is not enough. It will never be enough. We may all be in the gutter but Moyes, more than any of us, is looking at the stars."


(See your sign off to post 10)
Phil Bellis
25   Posted 22/03/2010 at 17:39:40

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Thanks, Mike
Piece of cake this journalism!

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