It's a phrase he barely used in the last few weeks of his tenure at Goodison Park but Roberto Martinez spoke frequently of his desire to see his players "enjoying their football." It was reflective of his almost relentless optimism but for all the sunniness of his disposition, it had become quite clear by the Anfield derby and beyond that Everton's players were no longer enjoying anything.
Fast forward to three days after his overdue and necessary dismissal and there was much joy to be found at the Grand Old Lady — from the stands to the pitch, there were smiles and a noticeably elevated mood as the club began looking to a potentially brighter future than the stagnant one that has faced them in recent months.
As David Unsworth's well-received team selection and the impressive displays by its youngest members showed, that optimism for what lies ahead is not just confined to the search for a new manager to take the helm at Everton. Four fresh graduates from the club's academy featured prominently in a handsome 3-0 victory over relegated Norwich City, lending credence to the stand-in boss's confident assertion that the next permanent manager will inherit some real gems mined from the youth system.
Matthew Pennington, starting again at right back in the absence of Seamus Coleman, would have been more familiar to Toffees fans, having featured in recent games. In any case, he would manage just 28 minutes before succumbing to the same injury as his more senior team-mate but was ably replaced by Jonjoe Kenny — the captain of Unsworth's Under-21s side when he wasn't on loan helping Oxford United gain promotion from England's fourth tier — who made his senior bow in impressive fashion.
In midfield, the much-anticipated Kieran Dowell didn't disappoint with his hour-plus on the field and was involved in two of the Blues' goals but it was Tom Davies who emerged as the star of the show and finishing the game as many people's man of the match. Still just 17, Davies exhibited a wonderful blend of touch, skill, steel, awareness and maturity in the middle of the park that defied his tender years, more than justifying his selection. No wonder Unsworth has made repeated mention of the need for the next manager to cherish and nurture Everton's stable of young players.
It meant that there was no place in the squad at all for Ramiro Funes Mori or Muhamed Besic, both of whom are young enough to also form the backbone of Everton’s future under the right manager, nor was there room for more senior players like Steven Pienaar and Arouna Kone. Oumar Niasse, under a cloud following his arrest on suspicion of assault, likely wouldn’t have featured anyway.
The blooding of those precocious young Blues wasn't the only refreshing thing about the Everton side that took to the field for this finale to another disappointing season. The attitude, tempo and intensity that a team blending youth with seasoned experience brought to the contest from the first whistle was in stark contrast to the insipid, pedestrian fare that plagued them for so much of 2016 thus far.
There was also a confidence coursing through players’ veins where so recently, with perhaps the exception perhaps of 45 minutes at Wembley, there appeared to be none. That was illustrated beautifully in the 19th minute when a lightning-quick move started by Tim Howard, making his last ever appearance, went straight down the centre of the field through James McCarthy and then Dowell, with the Irish midfielder continuing his run to meet a loose ball 25 yards from goal and bending a wonderfully crisp shot inside John Ruddy's post. Criticised so much recently for his staid, one-dimensional and crab-like performances, this was the sign of the kind of player McCarthy can be when the shackles of a flawed system are thrown off.
The goal epitomised a deliberate directness that was in evidence from the very first minute when Leighton Baines, similarly rejuvenated down the left flank, picked out Romelu Lukaku with a ball over the top from which the Belgian prompted a routine save by the Norwich goalkeeper from the angle.
Ruddy would make a double save to foil Lukaku again the 12th minute as the Blues threatened to score early, palming the striker’s first effort away as he tried to place it beyond him and then leaping to the same side of his goal to parry the second effort from Kevin Mirallas’s pass.
Tracking back, harrying and probing, Mirallas, like Everton as a whole, looked a man reborn and he almost made it 2-0 when he drove into the side-netting from Lukaku’s neat pass forward. Baines was charging up the flank like the attacking fullback supporters know him to be and McCarthy was operating more like the box-to-box midfielder many thought he had the potential to be under Martinez but always looked shackled and unsure of himself going forward.
Norwich, with their own weight lifted off their shoulders, did their best to feed off the home side’s energy and they had a couple of good moments in the first half: first when Ivo Pinto’s dangerous low cross was unwittingly diverted goalwards by Jagielka’s out-stretched leg and then when Steven Naismith’s shot took a deflection and hit Davies on the arm but referee Lee Mason determined it accidental.
Their best chance fell to Matt Jarvis a few minutes before the break but, thankfully, while he’d capitalised on space in front of him as he cut in from the left, he hammered his shot over the bar when he should have done better.
He was left to rue that miss a couple of minutes later when, at the other end, Lukaku collapsed in the Norwich box under the attentions of Robbie Brady and the referee pointed to the spot. It looked harsh on the Canaries but Baines was handed responsibility for the penalty as Howard declined an invitation to mark his sendoff with a goal and, restored to spot-kick duties, the fullback made no mistake, slotting past Ruddy to send Everton into half-time 2-0 up.
The third goal was the one that put the game beyond Norwich’s reach but it was the one that will have Evertonians most excited by the future given that it involved all three of impressive-looking teenagers. Davies snapped into a tackle midway inside the Canaries’ half and the ball broke to Dowell. He nudged it on to McCarthy who in turn fed Kenny on the overlap and his low centre benefitted from a deflection before arriving at the feet of Mirallas who swept it into the empty net.
Having put all that effort into the first half, it perhaps wasn’t surprising that Everton’s performance tailed off from there as Unsworth removed first McCarthy for Aaron Lennon and then Dowell for Ross Barkley, but not before the youngster had surged superbly down the left and tried to bend a searching ball around the back of the defence that was just cut out looking for Lukaku in the middle.
Norwich had the odd flurry to try and find a way back into the game but Howard’s good save from Brady down at his near post was about the only time the American’s clean sheet was threatened.
At the other end, Barkley went on one of his powerful, determined runs down the throat the opposition defence, tried a drag-back on the edge of the box that was initially blocked but when he came away with the ball anyway, the angle was a little too challenging and his low shot was saved.
Lennon wasted a late chance by blazing over but a good job was done all round and all that was left was Howard to say his emotional goodbyes over the microphone and the players to do their lap of appreciation, one in which all the “appreciation” was surely from those on the pitch for the long-suffering fans in the stands.
It was an afternoon that could only have gone better for Everton if they had managed to pile on a couple more goals. Compared to what the day threatened to be were Martinez still in the dugout, it was an occasion pregnant with relief, hope for the future and expectation at the rebuilding job ahead over the summer.
2015-16 is a season that supporters will be glad to see the back of as the emotional toll has been a heavy one. It’s going to a busy close season, however, and 13th August will come sooner than you think!
Last game of the season with Martinez finally gone, David Unsworth in charge of team matters, ably assisted by Joe Royle. Youngsters Kieran Dowell and Tom Davies were rewarded with their first Premier League starts while Barkley and Cleverley were dropped to the bench. Captain Phil Jagielka made a surprise return after recovering from a hamstring injury and Tim Howard made his farewell appearance in front of a much happier Goodison Park crowd enjoying the bright sunshine.
Relegated Norwich City kicked off but as soon as Baines intercepted the ball, it was delivered long to Lukaku who had an early and welcome chance to fire in on ex-Blue John Ruddy.
Norwich responded and a tricky ball in from Redmond put Jagielka under pressure, Howard fumbling it behind. Olsson was injured and replaced after just 10 minutes for the visitors, Brady on in his place.
Barry did well to feed Lukaku again who made space and tried to place it past Ruddy but the keeper was down well, however, Lukaku got another bite of the cherry but it was saved again.
The Blues warmed to the new regime with some excellent interchanges between Davies and Dowell, who added a spirit of youthful adventure that had Lukaku looking a little rusty and hesitant in comparison. But the Blues still looked very vulnerable at the back.
The breakthrough came with a nice move full of forward intent, started at the back by McCarthy who gave Dowell the opportunity to run at the visitors and then smash his loose pass superbly into the top corner. Great goal.
Much brighter stuff from the Blues, with Pennington scooping an early ball up for Lukaku to chase and almost control, winning a corner that was strangely played short before the cross came in.
Pennington was the next player unable to continue, another youngster, JonJoe Kenny coming off the bench for his debut. Lukaku played in Mirallas for a great run on goal and fierce shot that tried to beat Ruddy inside the near post but smacked into the side netting.
Norwich applied pressure down the Everton right, testing young Kenny who had had some nice early touches, Redmond getting inside him to unleash a strong shot just over the bar.
Norwich had a strong spell were they pushed the Blues back on Howard's goal, Naismith trying to place a shot against his old teammates, the ball popping up off Baines's ankle onto Davies's arm but not given. Jerome did well to set up Jarvis who squandered a wonderful chance, blasted over.
Everton finally got out amnd Mirallas was challenged on the edge of the area, Baines putting the free kick wastefully straight into the wall. The Blues pressed and Lukaku switched play, Davies working the ball well and it getting played in perfectly for Lukaku who was impeded and collapsed rather theatrically. Penalty given... NOT taken by Lukaku. Baines delivered the spot-kick with aplomb as of old, and Everton 2-0 up at the break.
It didn't take long for Everton to go further ahead after the break, a determined turnover won by Dowell who again strode forward with purpose and intent, options left and right; he chose right where McCarthy paused as Kenny overlapped then placed a dangerous cross that bobbled through the crowd to Mirallas on his own at the far post where he had a simple task to convert before a Goodison crowd finally being treated to a display of proper football after months of laboured sideways and backwards possession football.
Baines went down with a painful clash of heads, but it was McCarthy who made way for Aaron Lennon. The Blues youngsters were chasing every ball and trying all sorts of quick passes. It looked raw and unpolished at times but the intent and potential was clearly evident. Baines was sharing set-piece duties with Davis, and it was the senior man who tried to beat ruddy from 35 yards with a curler that bent the wrong way, well away from goal.
It was revealing to see so many balls being played in to Lukaku, who was full of energy but the shockingly bad habits he had picked up under Martinez were all too evident, letting the ball bounce, messing up his first touch, being offside, not being in the right place in the penalty area...
At the other end, Norwich had some good spells, Brady firing in low, and Howard saving well at the near post. Jerome headed just over with pressure from Stones behind him. Kieran Dowell was given a tremendous round of applause when Unsworth decide to bring on Ross Barkley for the last 20+ minutes.
JonJoe Kenny was doing a great job to contain Brady down the right. Barkley looked to have worked an opportunity with Lennon but it didn't come off. He then went on a great run, seemingly losing the ball and going down but the jumping up and firing in on Ruddy, and effort much appreciated.
Lukaku played a great ball for Baines but Pinto caught him late and for the free-kick, Baines slipped and fell down, much to the amusement of the crowd. Lennon was largely disappointing in that the things he tried looked good but the end product, be it a cross or a shot, just did not deliver.
It became something of a training match as the last minutes of the season ticked away and Goodison bade farewell to Tim Howard. Leon Osman, who may also leave in the summer, did not get on the field this time, while Hibbert, also assumed to have played his last match for the Blues, could only participate in the Lap of Appreciation that wrapped things up at the end.
Everton: Howard, Pennington (30' Kenny), Stones, Jagielka, Baines, McCarthy (53' Lennon), Barry, Mirallas, Dowell (69' Barkley), Davies, Lukaku. Subs not Used: Robles, Cleverley, Osman, Connolly.
Norwich City: Ruddy, Ivo Pinto, Martin, Bennett (50' Bassong), Olsson (10' Brady), Redmond, O'Neil, Dorrans, Jarvis (72' Hoolahan), Naismith, Jerome. Subs not Used: Whittaker, Rudd, Andreu, Odjidja-Ofoe.
Referee: Lee Mason
From My Seat: Norwich (H)
Last home game of the season and after a week of turmoil in the club with disgruntled fans organising protests and mayhem for our final game, the club did the kindest thing possible and relieved our former manager of his duties after another calamitous game and loss away at Sunderland last Wednesday. Not only was the manager relieved of his duties along with the awards evening planned for fateful Thursday but a temporary management team was named and put in place ready for today’s fixture. Unsworth was aided by Royle, Ebrell and Ferguson.
We made our way to the Room of Nonsense and as it filled it became clear that there was a change of mood by the fans. Hope replaced doom and a debate took place re who should be our next manager with a mix of Koeman, DeBoer, Mourinho and Rafa. I was surprised at the number favouring Rafa but as our mate Alan said the club and fans need to concentrate on getting us the best possible and not be swayed by petty squabbles that took place a decade ago. He thought it would reinforce the small club jibe. We will see.
I have to say I have no idea who we might get but I hope that whoever is charged with appointing a new manager is clear in his thought train of what this club wants and by when, and if a credible applicant can meet the criteria then we will still need an element of luck that all concerned can be galvanised by the appointment. It seems easy to say we will get a new manager but more often than not things just don’t work out. I wish our search team the Wisdom of Solomon and then Watch. See and Hope.
The walk up was sunny with clear blue skies but typical of our weather it was a cold wind. The atmosphere was full of wonderment and expectation as fans headed for the ‘Old Lady’. We had demanded change and it came about and today we somehow knew it would be a better day at the office. The omens were good and bad. The fat van was doing well and the old large van was back after almost a season missing – a good sign! But then for the first time this season the hat, scarf and badge stand was missing – a bad sign! The Blue Dragon had a queue, the programme seller’s raucous cries merged with the cacophony of sound from the fan zone and Goodison Road was awash with fans intent on roaring our team that included three promising youngsters with two more on the bench. This bold selection had met with universal approval and a win to replace the gut wrenching feel of defeat was anticipated.
We won the toss and Norwich kicked off with the rookie Pennington at right back, eighteen year old Dowell and seventeen year old Davies in from the start there was a welcome youthfulness to the team. Right away both Dowell and Davies were conspicuous by their determination and fleet of foot as well as looking the part and far from overawed.
Around 10 minutes in and Lukaku, who hadn’t netted for nine games now, was played in by a superb ball from Barry and with goal in our throats he hit it tamely and our ex-keeper Ruddy saved and as the ball was put back into the mixer both players did better as Lukaku caught good and true but Ruddy flying to his right pushed the ball away.
The game had a bit of ebb and flow to it now and it was noticeable we defending with a tenacity and a hoof when required in contrast to that worrying keep ball in our own area. No doubt about it we as speccy’s felt more secure. The heart stayed out of the mouth more. McCarthy was looking more like his old self and covering acres as was Tom Davies and both seemed to benefit from each other. Then on twenty minutes Dowell, who had already showed some neat touches and positive running, went passed two Norwich men and played a ball to meet up with McCarthy’s surge and from some 20-plus yards he hit a screamer into the net. Oh Joy. The fans delighted yet the players seemed lukewarm in their celebration. I have no idea why.
The first goal is usually important but in our case this season we seem to have been undone soon after scoring so it was welcoming to see us keep our foot on the gas and look capable of holding the lead at the back and the midfield trying to create. In this mode we saw Lukaku at last to take a ball in and get his touch right and play in his countryman Mirallas who came in and shot and only troubled the side netting, but with some parts of the ground thinking he had scored. Sadly on the half hour mark Pennington succumbed to the curse of the Everton ‘Hammy’ and was replaced by another youngster Jonjoe Kenny
Norwich came back into it now and Naismith caused a couple of flutters with his nonstop efforts but we held firm and defended to a standard that keeps clean sheets, much to the fans' delight. There were blocks from all parts of players' anatomy along with well-timed tackles and good anticipation of danger. Barry was a master at that and young Davies was looking to emulate him.
The clock was ticking toward the break. Just before the board went up Baines got down the flank and crossed aiming for the head of Lukaku who was dropped to the deck and referee Mason pointed to the spot. Now as one all four sides of the ground roared Baines – Baines – Baines. Fair play to Lukaku he walked away and no one else was going to challenge the will of the crowd. Baines stepped up, the net bulged and now the celebrations were at fever pitch. Oh, if only Bainsey could have taken at Wembley. I think that is converted pen number 17 out of 18 attempts. Makes you think it might be best to let him take them when they arise.
Speedo Mick was named ‘Fan of the Year’ and Tony Bellew was introduced in Everton’s new shirt to promote his fight.
Second half and we had a two goal lead but with the season we have had then the thought of being pegged back is real but we seemed determined with the back four looking as though they were paying attention. Anything that looked dangerous was cleared forthwith up field and if time permitted playing out from the back and through midfield was accomplished to good applause.
From such a move just about 5 minutes in, Dowell won the ball and fed the impressive Davies who moved the ball neatly on to McCarthy who held the ball as Kenny roared past him which gave McCarthy the time to get a low cross in that somehow found its way to the far post where the revitalised Mirallas was in the right place to poach a goal with a simple side foot effort. He got a good reception for that but at three nil up and the way we were playing we sensed a stroll in the park rather than a backs to the wall deep defending amid rising blood pressure.
We may not be used to this sort of stuff but hell we will take it. It crossed my mind that if David and Joe and the boys can get us playing like this after just two days why were we in such a mess over two and a bit seasons under our previous manager. Strange game at times this footy.
Coming up to the hour mark we had Baines down with a head injury but it was McCarthy who came off to be replaced by Lennon. There was no sign of injury so maybe just rotation. Lennon was his usual busy self but it was Davies who was really catching the eye with his boundless energy and at times superb positioning and ball winning to set up moves. At just 17... Wow! Dowell and Kenny were certainly holding their own too so whoever gets the manager’s job will have some fine young talent already here and raring to go and by the looks of it players who can be trusted.
Davies was ever ready to take free kicks and shared duties with Baines when a right footer was the better option and Baines had no qualms about that arrangement. We did get a free kick in a central position that Baines may have wished he had let Davies take as his effort bent the wrong way and was wide by some distance. The tempo of our youngsters was now rubbing off on Lukaku, who wasn’t that old himself, was running more and looking lively and hungry for the ball but when it was fired up to him his control let him down as did his habit of being called for coming back from an offside position. Whether he stays or goes one manager will have some work to do on him regarding that side of his game.
Norwich had a good spell which we defended quite well compared with some games this season. Howard was alert and made a couple of good stops at his near post and commanded his area well executing catches and punches. Jags and Stones were playing as a pair better than of late plus Stones seemed to make a hoof clearance when necessary rather than try to play out every time. He has learned a trick or two from Jags, as demonstrated when the merest of nudges ensured that Jerome headed over from a cross when danger beckoned.
Barkley replaced Dowell with 20 to go and the youngster was given a tremendous reception as he left the pitch. That will do his confidence no harm at all. Barkley was straight into the play and a move between him and Lennon got him into the box but he held on too long and that chance went. Then he had one of his surging runs that got him into the area but he was bumped and went to ground but somehow sprang back up and went to shoot as he was bumped again denying him any power in the shot which Ruddy gathered. The crowd liked that attempt.
We had a Baines dash forward but he was unceremoniously felled to the green sward. He and Mirallas stood over the ball and plotted. The whistle went – Baines started his run – Mirallas set off at great speed to get behind their defence and connect with the ball played through by Baines—unfortunately Baines fell over as he ran up much to the delight if those assembled. Back to the drawing board and a regulation kick took place which came to nought but Baines trotted back to his position with a big grin on his face.
The game was then played out by both teams in keep ball fashion with the Norwich fans providing the ole’s for both teams. Final whistle and a home win at last.
M.o.t.M. - Tom Davies
We then had an emotional Tim Howard on the pitch and on the mike saying his good byes. He has created an Everton record by playing 352 premier league appearances. He had walked through a guard of honour provided by his team mates accompanied by the stars and stripes. From the microphone he said he has loved the place since he came here in 2006. He said it was a privilege to play for this amazing club and although he is leaving tomorrow this will always be my home. He got another standing ovation.
Well that’s it another season over and as disappointing as the previous one. Yet today there was a difference in the mood of fans. It was as though a weight had been lifted and replaced by hope and expectation. The chat was upbeat as we considered when things may start moving. I can only hope our club makes the right moves. I hope that my most depressing moment of the season was when coming off the ground after the West Ham game was to overhear a youngster say ‘Dad, why do we always have to come to watch Everton lose’ won’t be repeated. That was sad.
Still we have the Euros to look forward to plus all the rumours of what is happening down Goodison way. Don’t believe anything until someone waves a shirt or scarf to save disappointment.
It'll soon be August when can meet again and off the roller coaster goes. I must put a tenner on us to win the league. Have a great summer break
UP THE BLUES
Positive end to season sets up summer of intrigue
It's always a little sad that final day of the season when you see people offering their farewell handshakes and goodbye's for three months... sometimes for longer... sometimes for good. Many lapped up the sunny weather outside the pub, ensuring it was a little quieter than usual inside whilst we watched Bradford City miss several chances in their play-off against Millwall.
Out of intrigue, we were all itching to get the team news and certainly weren't disappointed to see some of the younger players involved. Matthew Pennington beginning the game at right back with Phil Jagielka returning and Ramero Funes Mori not involved at all. The majestic Tom Davies and Kieran Dowell both began the game and Jonjoe Kenny also came into the match, replacing the unfortunate Matthew Pennington, and performed solidly. Ross Barkley, another fantastic product of our youth system of course, was dropped to the substitutes bench. Tim Howard played in goal for his Everton farewell appearance. Steven Naismith began for the already relegated visitors.
We were into Goodison Park in good time for kick off, Everton winning the toss and attacking the Park End in the first half. David Unsworth taking the place of Martinez in the dug out.
We began at a bright tempo with Romalu Lukaku forcing a save out of ex-Evertonian John Ruddy within 30 seconds. Our young lads Tom Davies and Kieran Dowell were particularly eager to get involved from the start and their effort and craft in their performance was encouraging. We survived a slight scare when Tim Howard had to be alert to push a stray clearance from Phil Jagielka around the post, but otherwise we were well in control and didn't have long to wait until we were ahead. Kieran Dowell showed great persistence as he charged forward in possession before laying the ball into the path of James McCarthy who drove at goal first time from 20 yards, bending the ball precisely into the corner of John Ruddy's net. I didn't know McCarthy was capable of such a strike! It's funny how all five of his Everton goals have come at the tail-end of every season.
With Norwich City offering little resistance, Everton took the initiative. Kevin Mirallas slotted one wide with a great opportunity having been set up by Romelu Lukaku and Leighton Baines hit a tame free kick straight into the wall, before Lukaku was dragged back in the penalty area as he went to attack a ball and Everton had a penalty. Leighton Baines stepped forward straight away and with little, if any, debate it was Baines who stroked in the penalty, sending Ruddy the wrong way with his trusty left foot. I don't know if this was a command from David Unsworth before the game (he was also a left-back penalty taker for many years of course) but it was pleasing to see Baines given this opportunity again.
That was on 44 minutes and I took the opportunity to go straight to the toilet before it got busy up there. I was glad I timed it well as half time was rather special. Firstly Tony Bellew arrived onto the pitch, getting wet from the sprinklers in doing so, to promote his Goodison Park fight next weekend. Everton Fan of the Year, Speedo Mick, also made an appearance, as too did young Everton fan George Shaw to the adulation of the crowd. "We'll win 4-1" he said when asked. "Steven Niasmith will score for Norwich!"
It was more of the same in the second half. Everton didn't let up and made it 3-0 very early on, with all three youth players involved in the goal. Tom Davies, who was a joy to watch throughout, won back possession with a great tackle. Kieran Dowell then ran the ball on and slipped it in to Kenny who's deflected cross set up Kevin Mirallas for an easy finish to put Everton out of sight.
Tim Howard was I'm sure anxious to keep a clean sheet on his final game and though it wasn't his busiest Everton game, he did have to make one smart stop from Matt Jarvis low down to his right. Otherwise he caught and punched what he had to and, along with his defenders ahead of him, contributed towards keeping Norwich City out.
Off the pitch meanwhile there was a comical moment in the Lower Gwladys. I hadn't noticed a pigeon fly up and land on the upper scaffolding on the underside of the roof of the Gwladys Street end, but Gary had. "That pigeon is about to shit on someone" he announced. I was naturally oblivious to this and just as I looked up, the pigeon poop came down, landing on some poor fella a few rows ahead of us. We spent the next few minutes nervously looking up at the pigeon to spot further danger.
Back on the pitch and despite a few threatening breaks we were unable to add further gloss to the scoreline and the game finished 3-0. Tim Howard was given good applause from the crowd as he got emotional in his farewell interview, and the players did a quick lap of the pitch to thank the supporters for their support in this dreary season.
A positive end to a poor campaign then, but the performance of the younger players certainly offers hope as we head into an intriguing summer with a new manager to arrive and surely several players both coming and going.
Onwards and upwards into the next campaign. Have a great summer Blues!
Howard: Saved what he had to and had reasonable command of his penalty area. 10 years, 414 games, 133 clean sheets and even a goal! Thanks for your service Tim. Good luck in Colorado. 7
Baines: Nice to see him score and good to see him getting forward positively. 7
Jagielka: He really makes defending look quite easy at times. John Stones also seems to perform better when alongside Jagielka. Had he have stayed fit for the season it might just have made the difference for us. 8
Stones: Performed well, as I say, plays much better alongside Jagielka. 7
Pennington: Was doing well until injury struck. Great to have another talented player within the ranks. 6
Barry: Another excellent display from our Player of the Season. Hopefully he has enough in the tank to help us along next season. 8
McCarthy: Got about the pitch well and contributed with a well-taken goal. 7
Davies: He was exquisite. A really gem of a player and completely fearless. He plays with an arrogance and if he keeps his feet on the ground has one exceptional future ahead of him. A real star in the making. My Man of the Match. 8
Dowell: If I was going to be critical I would say he perhaps needs to strengthen up a bit as he gets knocked off the ball fairly easily. That said, he is only 18. He also plays with a confidence and wasn't overawed by the occasion, playing a key role in two of our goals. 7
Mirallas: Showed what he is capable of with an industrious display and makes you wonder why he has been very much on the periphery this season. Perhaps a change of manager can offer new hope for Kevin Mirallas next season. 7
Lukaku: Will be disappointed not to have signed off the season with a goal. Will also be disappointed to not have registered a goal for over two months. His link up play was good and Norwich City didn't really have an answer to him. I hope he sticks around for next season. 7
Kenny (for Pennington): A solid debut from Kenny and great to see him get an assist also. 7
Lennon (for McCarthy): Got involved and was busy in the time he had on the field. 7
Barkley (for Dowell): Did one great surging run, though otherwise laboured through his 23 minutes somewhat. 6
When the fixtures for 2015-16 were released last June amid optimism that the previous season's slump had been merely a case of second-season syndrome for Roberto Martinez, most Evertonians would have regarded a four-game sequence that included Bournemouth, Leicester, Sunderland and Norwich as the ideal run-in to possible Champions League qualification.
Expectation was high that the Catalan would be able to follow through on his stated primary goal of landing the creative “No.10-type” player that the side had so clearly lacked in 2014-15 and that further top-quality additions would be made to attack to help Romelu Lukaku.
That neither arrived and that the criminally-belated striking acquisition at the start of February was the entirely untested Oumar Niasse goes part of the way to explaining why the Blues will kick-off the finale to their season knowing that, just like a year ago, they will finish in the bottom half of the Premier League.
The rest has been pored over and dissected at length in recent days and weeks — suffice to say that all of it contributed to an awful run of results dating back to early March that eventually ended with Martinez getting the proverbial bullet on Thursday.
The mood has lifted since the Board's decision, one which heads off planned protests at Goodison, so it's an opportunity for Everton's players to relax and, hopefully, end the season on an upbeat note. It's not a meaningless fixture, however. There's also the not-insignificant matter of as much as £6m riding on the outcome, depending on results elsewhere.
A win for the Blues in combination with Swansea City failing to beat top four-chasing Manchester City would see Everton finish in 11th place, either outright or on goal difference depending on whether the Swans lose or draw. In the unlikely event that Everton lose and all four of Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Watford and West Brom all win, they would end up in 16th which, with £1.24m at stake for each position, makes winning an important goal this weekend. Like severance-pay-for-the-former-manager "important".
David Unsworth and Joe Royle will take charge of the game in concert with Duncan Ferguson and John Ebbrell, an all-Evertonian team sure to boost the atmosphere inside the stadium ever further. Unsworth has already pledged to honour Martinez's promise to give Tim Howard his Goodison Park swansong so one name on the team sheet is already guaranteed and he also committed to selecting a side capable of winning rather than throwing in other veterans who are also likely to be playing their last games for the club.
Of the Under-21 players he has presided over this season, perhaps Matthew Pennington and Kieran Dowell have the best chance of being involved from the start, although much depends in the former's case whether Seamus Coleman is available, which doesn't look likely. The same goes for Phil Jagielka who also has a hamstring injury.
For Norwich, it's merely a question of playing for pride after their fate was sealed by Everton's defeat to Sunderland in midweek. Alex Neill's men must contemplate life back in the Championship but Steven Naismith will be hopeful of getting a run-out on his old stomping ground.
Kick off: 3pm
Referee: Lee Mason
Predicted Line-up: Howard, Pennington, Stones, Funes Mori, Baines, Barry, McCarthy, Lennon, Mirallas, Barkley, Lukaku