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View From a Distance

By John Sutton :  07/03/2011 :  Comments (15) :
I have been a devout blue for over 15 years now. I've been hooked ever since that first game at the age of 6; Goodison was like a giant castle to me, full of 40,000 expectant soldiers.

Unfortunately, the game failed to live up to all the stories my dad had told me of the promising, yet flawed 70s teams and the stuff of legends 80s teams... we lost 3-2 to Bradford City in the the Round of the FA Cup. The majority of the game is a blur... although I remember an over-the-hill Chris Waddle lobbing Big Nev, from a distance that to me seemed like 100 yards out. I had always dreamed of seeing a player score direct from a corner; and Gary Speed duly oblidged, although it was not as beautiful as i had envisaged, in fact it was a mess but i didn't care. I was gutted we lost, but I left the ground and knew I wanted more.

I had to wait a while for my first taste of success; growing up, the boys in blue seemed to fail me game after game and I couldn't understand why... eventually we improved.

A few years down the line I witnessed a washed up magician perform one last magic trick. Although the opposition was only the might of Leyton Orient; I had witnessed the mercurial talents of 'Gazza' and at a level that helped to show why I couldn't help but wish we had him 5-10 years earlier.

The Moyessiah came as the teenage years began. Boy, did we need him! Walter had managed to bring in some talented individuals although never quite got it right through poor management and some strange tactical decisions. I now breathe a sigh of relief as I see Rangers playing what can only be described as something akin to 7-3-0...

Stability was the name of the game. This was achieved after a season or two. Then the miracle of 4th place. I still struggle to believe we did it... with that squad and them players, we had achieved the impossible. The heartbreak of Villarreal was hard to recover from. The overriding feeling was one of daylight robbery, well the Italian equivalent. Collina, I still hate you.

Fast forward to the present day, the season ticket still eats a considerable chunk of the dwindling student funds up; that little bit of plastic is worth its weight in gold though. But this season is frustrating the hell out of me.

There is the team that beat Spurs, Liverpool, Man City, drew with Man Utd and Chelsea... Or the team that lost to Newcastle, was destroyed by West Brom, failed to beat Wigan, Wolves and countless other teams; culminating in the Reading dross. That ranks as probably the most gutless, clueless performance I have seen in these 15 years, given the players in comparison to past squads. If there is another, it slips the mind. I wonder, which team will show up against Birmingham. I know which one I'm hoping for.

I figured I would round it off with a review of the Newcastle game and a brief insight into my views of the players; an opinion on them all would seriously slow down my uni coursework.

Howard: Flapped at the goal a bit, had a good game otherwise. I just wish he would command that area. Great shot stopper.

Hibbert: had a pretty average game I thought. Has been a great, if limited, servant. I'm afraid it scares me when I see his name on the team sheet; he seems to be an accident waiting to happen. Poor positional sense and recently it seems it's a lot easier to go past him than maybe it once was. Made a fairly ordinary winger look like good.

Jagielka: Glad to see him score, it's been far too long. As a defender, very few faults although always seems liable to an own goal. Distribution could be improved.

Distin: Slightly at fault for the goal I thought; however, Man Utd game aside, has been a colossus. Seems to get faster with age, somehow.

Baines: Quiet by his standards, great free kick for the goal; I think Arteta in front of him will help.

Osman: I will admit I'm not a fan. Although he was very good against Newcastle; bewildered me slightly how everybody seemed to wax lyrical after the Sunderland game. I don't see how missing three/four easy chances can constitute a good game... and I'm convinced my nan would beat him in a tackle and she's nearly 80.

Rodwell: Seems to have lost his way this season. Had an OK game but nothing more, wish he would pass forward though... Jesus Christ that bugs me. Not sure what his best position is? Problem is: I don't think him and Moyes know either...

Neville: Good captain; can do a job at full back or centre mid, the way he backs off and allows opposition space grates on me.

Heitinga: Cool as a cucumber centre half; but if a headless chicken could play in midfield it would be him, he looks lost in there. Should be centre back or benched. Seems to bottle tackles at CB but gets stuck in CM; go figure.

Arteta: Genius; ran the show against the Barcodes, more freedom and he shone. Still think though given a proper holding midfielder alongside him then CM is his best position. I don't think Fellaini is the answer for in front the back 4; as good as he is there, I can't help but feel it takes away his goal threat.

Beckford: Unlucky, denied by one great save and should have done better with the volley. Glad to see him running at defenders with the ball. Touch of an elephant but can make things happen. Great movement, makes space for Sulking Saha.

Saha: Harder to figure out than the enigma code. Thought his finishing was lazy on Saturday, bit of concentration and he could have had 4. Capable of the sublime and the ridiculous, in equal measure.

Subs: too late and often poorly; I've give up hope on that changing though.

Kick-offs: we do not have to go backwards and then lump it; I despair at this from my seat on a regular basis.

Corners: Wish to god we would leave someone on the half-way line.

Moyes: he has turned the club round though; badly needs investment.

I won't get started on the board and Kenwright; I'm afraid I'd probably rant for hours on them clowns.

Hopefully the Dr Henry Jekyll side of the team show up on Wednesday; I'll be cheering them on / tearing my hair out, from the Upper Gwladys.

See you there.

Reader Comments

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Steve Leary
1   Posted 07/03/2011 at 21:21:06

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I honestly don't know what performance to expect on Wednesday. The first goal is vital in this one; we dominated Brum last year at home but drew one-all, and lost the cup game.
Andrew James
2   Posted 07/03/2011 at 21:17:10

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Good article... and it's a wonder we got any new fans in the late 90s. At least, being a decade older, my first match was Graeme Sharp volleying in from about 25 yards at Loftus Road in our last title-winning season! I remember that Waddle goal well ? was it early 1997?

Anyway, your article raises the interesting point that this season has been very unusual in the Moyes era. Our two worst seasons under him we finished 17th (where we consistently poor) and 11th (where we had a dreadful start but a half decent second half to the season).

Otherwise, we've seen consistency, especially in getting clean sheets and not losing to teams below us (I am referring to the league as the cup has been different). However, this campaign has, as Michael said, been Jekyll and Hyde from game to game.

I knew we'd beat City away and Spurs at home yet had a very uncomfortable feeling about Reading and Bolton. It's all extremely bizarre and ultimately frustrating. One week we're on a high from doing Chelsea on penalties and the next week we're getting beat at home by lower division opposition.

I want us to return to boring one-nils next season. I wonder if we can buy back Carsley, Zinedine Kilbane and get Big Dunc out of retirement?

Tony Doran
3   Posted 07/03/2011 at 22:13:10

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Give Hietinga a go at right back, he played there when he first come and done ok.
Tony J Williams
4   Posted 07/03/2011 at 22:38:15

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It will be 0-0 or 1-1 on Wednesday... we always seem to draw with the Brum of late.
John Sutton
5   Posted 07/03/2011 at 22:50:55

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Andrew, it was 4th Round day in January '97, towards the back end of the month. I think the infuriating thing about this season is the inconsistent form. We're used to poor starts and a post Xmas recovery; this season has been a real mixed bag.

I'm not sure about Heitinga at right back, his lack of pace would be a worry; I'd give Coleman a go. We've got nothing to lose; probably too late for a late European charge and we're not going to go down.

I'm not sure about Wednesday either, an early goal can make such a difference. They seem to have a few injuries that may help us.

Any more post, articles will be under my real name; Luke O'Farrell, I was using a pseudonym and forgot to change it before posting the article.

Thanks for the comments.
Dalziel Kane
6   Posted 08/03/2011 at 00:43:03

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Right off the bat, I remember full well the Bradford City game, February 1997 or thereabouts. Waddle scored from distance, think I can remember the other scorers but won't mention. This was after a home success against Swindon, I think it was in Round 3, and less than two years since the Rideout goal that won the Final. Royle was still in charge at the time, albeit for a little longer, and earlier in the season saw another cup embarrassment at the hands of York City of all things.

Back to the present day, and I haven't had a chance to mention it but I was well pissed off with Reading last week. I printed off some various Everton related reports and fans comments to read at home and the frustrations just leapt from the pages. That was a real disappointment, there was a real viable chance to do something this season.

Going to Man City in the 6th Round wouldn't have been an impossible task. After that, the semi-finals and I just think a real chance to finally win something after 16 years could of been there, but it all just fell apart. I wasn't there to see it, those held culpable have been named and shamed but after the event there's not much anyone can do about it now, there's no sense in crying over spilt milk.

What made it all the more agonizing was that, on the day that Everton put forth one of their most inept and piss-poor "couldn't give a rat's" performances in recent times and waved the white flag, it was also the same very day that arguably the club's greatest ever player in one William Ralph Dean passed away in the Goodison stands some 31 years earlier.

It would appear that some of the players involved that night had given up the ghost as well and some supporters by the end had lost the will to live.

Weren't Moyes or any of the players aware of it, I mean, someone could've said pre-match "This is the anniversary of the death of the greatest player ever at the club, so go out there and put on a performance that would be a adequate tribute to the great man." Obviously whatever was said fell on deaf ears.

It was imperative that Blues got back on track with a win at the weekend; Newcastle away has been an awkward venue for years... Regardless of where both sides are, or could be, it's a good result to go up there and get three points.

To state the obvious, one week it's a good result and hope abounds... and the other, it's almost to despair again. There has been a lot of talk about Moyes's situation and is he still the man to take the club forward. There have been others who have spoken in more length and eloquently about the situation. It's been nearly nine years now, he's done well with the lack of resources, but one FA Cup Final and a couple of other semis, some would say could be better.

Being regulars in the Top Six more often than not in the recent past, after the shambles of what came before him, deserves credit, but those Cup embarrassments always seem to crop up at the worst possible times.

There've been times in recent years I felt like pulling my hair out with this club but you just have to have a good rant after the event and remain loyal. I'm in for the long haul, have been for long enough now.

Lori Fekete
7   Posted 08/03/2011 at 08:44:31

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Well we've won our last two prem games so Unfortunately we know what will happen on Wednesday night. We simply don't win three league games in a row.
Denis Richardson
8   Posted 08/03/2011 at 12:05:33

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This really is one of the most bizarre seasons I have ever experienced.

We have been utterly appalling at times this season, with some truly embarrassing performances, results, tactics, atittude etc. However, with 10 games left, we somehow find ourselves just 6 points off 6th with a game in hand.

Add to that the next three games (on paper!) are all definitely winnable (all home to Brum, Fulham, and Villa). If we somehow manage to win all three (getting close to dreamland here, I know), then we should find ourselves in a European position!

Which makes this season all the more frustating as another "could've been but wasn't" year).

A final push into 6th/5th would be a great achievement but again would cover the cracks at the top of the club (board, direction, manager etc).

I am really in a bind; I want to see the team do well but also know that by doing so it will prolong the life of management....

I guess all we can do is get behind the team to the end of the season and then see what happens in the summer with no cash left in the bank. Unless we borrow yet more from the bank, we have no choice but to sell in order to buy ? presumably. A few contracts need to be renegotiated (Fellaini) so interesting to see what happens there.

Short term glasses on ? let's do the business against Brum tonight and move up to 8th!
James Hollister
9   Posted 08/03/2011 at 22:25:11

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Denis Richardson ? I really wish I had you optimism.

I think though, if the Premier League had not been so competitive this year, we could have been in far worse trouble.

Just goes to show that outside of the top 4 slots the league is now as competitive if not more so than the old First Division before Sky reinvented football.

I absolutely agree with you on the performances, though, and, despite it being a generally rotten season overall, with the only thing to show for it loosing Pienaar, I think we may well escape the clutches of relegation.

Out of those three teams, there are only two that really bother me. Those being Birmingham (fighting now for their very lives in the Prem, being 2 points from the drop zone) and Villa, who seem to have a field day at Goodison in the past... If there was ever a bogey team and a time to end it, it would be against Villa.

Fingers, toes and everything else crossed we can pick up those points and press on... I am not looking forward to next season if we end up with yet another barren transfer window.

Last point, no more travelling to the States or Australia. Let's get some friendlies against some decent European teams in the close season if we can, and then he can pinpoint weaknesses within the team properly, and try to do something about it, instead of bullshitism about it being 'the best team he has had at Goodison' nonsense.

Fingers crossed... :D
John Barnes
10   Posted 09/03/2011 at 12:19:04

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Tony #3. Heitinga did play RB when he first came, but was shite.
Mark Murphy
11   Posted 09/03/2011 at 14:39:16

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Tony #3 (and John #10)

No-one (except John #10) is listening mate! I've been saying give him another shot at right back for an age now. It's where he played in the World Cup Final and made it look so easy I could have played there. And I'm a left back!

Sadly, I don't think his future lies at Goodison now so probably too late!

Erik Dols
12   Posted 09/03/2011 at 15:13:09

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Mark #11,

Gregory van der Wiel played right back for Holland in the World Cup Final and did it without any problems at all. Heitinga played in the centre and did ok until he got his second yellow card.

Heitinga is far better in the centre than at right back. And I've seen him play at both positions a lot.
Luke O'Farrell
13   Posted 09/03/2011 at 15:29:35

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Heitinga hasn't got the pace or the stamina to play at right back. Although at home I would have him there over Hibbert as he won't just lump it forward aimlessly and he can actually head a ball.
Mark Murphy
14   Posted 09/03/2011 at 15:43:26

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I agree he lined up at CB but Van der Weil played so far up the pitch, a la wing back, that Heitinga was always in that gap behind him, at least that's how I recall it ? I began to doze off after a while.

Luke#13 ? he didn't need stamina in that game, I don't think he even broke sweat, but looked very comfortable. Of course, the Dutch played further up the pitch than we tend to and the pace of the game wasn't as quick as the Prem (walking pace for most of it, as I recall) but I actually do think that Heitinga would work as right part of a back three with Coleman in front of him in the Van der Weil role.
Luke O'Farrell
15   Posted 09/03/2011 at 16:26:45

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To be honest, the way things are going with midfielders dropping like flies, I think we're going to be seeing a lot of him in front of the back 4 at the moment.

I wouldn't put him there though, tonight I'd like to see a midfield 4 of Coleman Osman Rodwell & Arteta.

I think Coleman is suitably rested up and can get after Ridgewell who isn't and never will be a left back. Osman can do a job in the middle; if a little lightweight. I think it's madness to put Arteta back in the middle after he was so good out wide with more space and freedom.

Unfortunately, I think we could see Coleman come in for Neville with Arteta moving inside.

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