Boy… don’t the heady days of July seem a long way away now? Everton “winning” the transfer window. The return of the Mersey Millionaires. Talk of a dark-horse run at the top four behind the leadership of Ronald Koeman who would finally have got his players through the door where the summer before he had been left visibly frustrated.
How quickly all that has unravelled. Far from being stronger than when they entered the summer window, the Blues look considerably weaker overall and it’s not just for the want of a striker. Olivier Giroud wouldn’t have been the panacea for this Everton side under Koeman… although this clash with Burnley was one of the few games this season where you could have made the argument that a top-class striker might have made the difference, even if it would be masking problems elsewhere in the side.
Indeed, it’s important to view this defeat in the wider context of a failed transfer window because, with Koeman at last moving towards a more effective formation — he didn’t have the courage to dispense with his two holding midfielders, unfortunately, until more than an hour gone — it laid bare the deficiencies that are at the root of this latest false Evertonian dawn.
This was, as Koeman rightly stated after the game, Everton showing commitment, decent tempo and “aggression” — in his parlance, which seems to translate more as tenacity — in the early going, at least, and it still wasn’t enough. Not by a long way.
Sean Dyche’s assessment that his side wasn’t really troubled in the second half when Everton were chasing the game and enjoying the lion’s share of the possession was fairly damning of how unthreatening this team can be despite £140m spent on new players over the summer.
Koeman bristles when the issue of the Blues’ significant expenditure is raised, offering the rather spurious defence that once the sale of Romelu Lukaku is taken into account, the net spend was only around £45m. As if that somehow makes the situation more palatable; more excusable.
The bald fact remains, however, that Everton did spend an eye-watering amount of money in the expectation that it would move the team forward — closer to the top six not mired in the bottom half dozen clubs in the Premier League with six games gone and struggling in Europe.
And it’s ironic — or, perhaps, it’s a “dog whistle” nod in the direction of the man who nominally runs the recruitment side of things at Everton — that his argument highlights the very glaring fact that Lukaku wasn’t replaced and that the manager’s striking options have been so desperate that in Oumar Niasse he has had to rehabilitate a striker he had written off and put up for sale.
Niasse started a Premier League game for Everton for the first time in a year and a half and, unlike his early appearances in a blue jersey under Roberto Martinez, he didn’t look out of place. Operating alongside Dominic Calvert-Lewin, the Senegalese provided energy and directness and the first shot on goal, albeit straight at goalkeeper Nick Pope, after just two minutes, a strong effort following lovely control by his strike partner from Cuco Martina’s cross.
Niasse would also go close six minutes later when he was alert to a looping ball over the top that he toed over the advancing ‘keeper but couldn’t get enough purchase on it to trouble the goal.
Either side of that effort, Gylfi Sigurdsson really should have scored and, perhaps, send this match in a very different direction to the one it eventually took. First, great speed and determination from Calvert-Lewin took him close the Burnley area where he found Nikola Vlasic. The Croat, in the starting XI as reward for his stellar appearance as a substitute against Apollon Limassol on Thursday, eschewed a shot and played Sigurdsson in but the Icelandic midfielder’s shot was tame.
Then, after Niasse collected the ball at the end of another fast-paced Everton move and squared it invitingly, Sigurdsson somehow failed to get a shot away with the goal yawning in front of him.
The home side’s early fire dissipated after that, though, and the visitors, who hadn’t really threatened beyond a 13th minute cross that Jordan Pickford had to parry away, began to settle into a rhythm of their own. In the 21st minute, they took the lead thanks to a 23-pass build-up that eventually carved Everton open down their vulnerable right side.
Martina, already infamous among Blues fans for his poor positional sense, was sucked inside and Vlasic went to sleep as Steven Ward stole to the byline on the overlap and crossed to Jeff Hendrick. The Northern Ireland international showed impressive composure to evade Morgan Schneiderlin and open up the whole goal into which he placed a shot wide of Pickford and Ashley Williams on the line.
Koeman said afterwards that he wasn’t disappointed with his team’s response to going a goal down but they were clearly deflated, mustering little by way of reply beyond Niasse’s shot that bobbled past the far post and a skied effort by Idrissa Gueye that drifted into the Gwladys Street End.
The manager may have deployed two strikers and dropped Wayne Rooney to accommodate the formation but it wasn’t a true 4-4-2 because it was bereft of genuine width. Vlasic has been viewed by some as a winger but he clearly prefers to operate more centrally, as does Sigurdsson who cited being stuck out on the left flank as one of the key reasons why he didn’t succeed the way he wanted to at Tottenham.
If he has any, Martina’s strengths lie more in his ability to get forward than in his defensive work but he rarely, if ever, gets to the by-line, preferring instead to loft in deeper deliveries that are proverbial meat and drink to opposing defenders.
On the opposite flank, Leighton Baines cut a badly isolated figure when he came forward, all too often searching in vain for an inside pass and then struggling to get back to his defensive duties when moves broke down.
Having taken the lead in the first half, Burnley had Everton just where they wanted them and could afford to drop off a bit and dare the Blues to break them down. They made it incredibly difficult for a team as lacking in genuine creativity as their hosts and it wasn’t until almost 20 minutes into the second half that they created a genuine chance. Baines crossed accurately to Niasse but the striker’s header dropped the wrong side of the post.
Koeman withdrew Schneiderlin in favour of Rooney — it was a toss-up between him and Gueye, really, even if it was the latter who had been charged with being the more advanced of the two defensive midfielders — after that and then introduced Tom Davies for Vlasic who had, sadly, vanished from the game almost entirely.
Nine minutes from time, Niasse made way for Sandro Ramirez but there was precious little penetration from Everton as time ticked on and more and blue seats became visible around the ground.
Rooney tried a speculative shot from distance that deflected behind, another he belted from a similar distance into the Park End, while there were appeals for a penalty for unintentional handball by Matt Lowton off Sigurdsson’s cross but referee Jon Moss was unmoved.
Everton did manage a late flurry in the final few minutes when Davies’ attempted curler deflected off a defender’s head before it could threaten the far corner of Pope’s goal. A good move involving Baines and Sigurdsson ended with a decent chance for Calvert-Lewin from close range but his shot lacked power. And an Ashley Williams header in stoppage time bounced off Lowton’s chest and inches past the post.
All in all, though, this was an Everton performance almost unrecognisable from the ones that blew the likes of Manchester City away at Goodison Park earlier in the year.
Ultimately, the transfer strategy was grossly naive. No proper fullback cover was brought in for either side. The centre back position was left badly exposed even though they knew well in advance that Ramiro Funes Mori was going to be out until the end of the year.
Weeks were spent chasing a £45m player who is being played out of position and looks lost while the search for a centre-forward was left to the final few days of the window and ultimately proved — gallingly, unfathomably — a failure.
Just as damning was the apparent absence of any desire to sign a player capable of being the creative heartbeat of the team. If Rooney was to be it, it was a poor miscalculation, likewise Sigurdsson or Davy Klaassen. All three of those players smack of being Koeman signings, not those of Steve Walsh and that muddying of the waters where responsibility for transfer lies isn’t helpful when trying to nail down what went wrong over the summer.
Even allowing for those mis-steps and oversights in the market, there is enough of a nucleus of a squad there to fashion a side capable of beating Burnley… and Limassol… and generally making a better fist of that difficult start to the season than what Evertonians have had to witness.
Ultimately, it is the manager who trains the players, picks the team, sets out the system and is responsible for their state of mind when they cross the white line and Koeman is falling short of expectation on all counts at the moment. If there were signs that it will get better under his stewardship, that would be something but it’s hard to envision anything other than the Koeman project dragging on to an unsatisfying conclusion, whether it’s in two weeks or 20 months.
Reader Comments (45)
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1 Posted 02/10/2017 at 06:49:57
I've said three times in various posts, Koeman recruits the players, he selects the team and the formation, he coaches the players and above all his job is to motivate the players. He fails on all counts.
His recruitment policy in the summer was a disaster. Three number tens: Sigurdsson who looks unhappy that he is being asked to play in various positions in different games; Rooney who looks as if the pace of the game is beyond him and seems to slip deeper and deeper to find the space he now requires; and Klaassen who looks like he'd be more at home in a team playing in the bottom half of the Championship. Buying three players for basically one position is simply idiocy.
Martina looks lost, he has never been a premiership defender. Vlasic, no doubt has potential, but he too is probably another number ten, certainly he is not a winger. Williams was bought too late in his career and is struggling with the speed of the game, rather like Rooney.
Possibly the worst of all the buys was Schneiderlin. Before he left Southampton he was an outstanding midfield player who often dominated games. Whatever happened at Man Utd, including his injury, have denuded him of his powers. In his time at Everton, I have never seen him put in a display where you could say "Schneiderlin was the man today." He is hesitant and his passes are basically crablike.
Then there are players Koeman is failing to use or develop. Tom Davies is being mucked about; Kenny for some reason is deemed inferior to Martina; Lookman is signed and not used; Holgate is totally a fringe player; Galloway is sent on loan when we need him at Goodison; Sandro Ramirez understandably looks totally lost when he is sent on.
Tactically the players look confused, they go forward in a series of square passes, no-one makes a run and they stop and go back and across and in the end throw in a blind, fifty-fifty ball into the box. Despite playing two holding midfielders, we look defensively inept.
Koeman blames the problems on lack of confidence. He is meant to man-manage his players, to encourage and motivate them, this he singularly fails to do. His handling of our most talented player, Barkley, last season was a textbook case of how not to handle a young and talented player. Public criticism of individuals is something that top managers rarely do (Mourinho, as in so many things, is the exception to this rule).
Koeman is even more fearful in his approach to games than Moyes was, he is tactically less astute than Martinez and that takes some doing and handles players, particularly flair players as well as Gordon Lee handled Duncan MacKenzie.
If Koeman had a shred of integrity he would resign. To sack him will be vastly expensive, but not as expensive as relegation would be and that seems a possibility after recent displays.
2 Posted 02/10/2017 at 07:45:05
3 Posted 02/10/2017 at 08:13:06
I'd call Gueye a destructive midfielder who charges around a lot but defensive, no not for me. He's very rarely in the right defensive positions as he's often chasing down in the wrong positions leaving huge holes in the middle.
I'm not totally defending Schneiderlin as he's in terrible form but he is being left exposed so often and is expected to stop and start attacks, dictate games and also get forward. It's a lot for one man.
We're so poor defensively and I'd argue that we really do need 2 defensive midfielders, just not the ones we've currently got. Huge error in allowing Barry to leave, he's exactly what's needed to shield our fragile defence.
However, the biggest things killing this side are what we all know, no pace, no width, no gameplan, no balance, no striker. Utter shambles
4 Posted 02/10/2017 at 08:21:01
I have been watching the Blues since 1959 and of course apart from some great times there have been many dire periods; teams and managers in that time (I am thinking of Walker/Smith et al). However, yesterday I was alarmed at how easily Burnley dealt with us; we had no spirit on that pitch; no organisation and in truth Burnley looked the better side.
That for me is a formula for a very uncomfortable winter unless Koeman does the decent thing and moves on to let Unsy step in until a manager can be found who really cares about the club as well as his own personal ambition. Maybe Unsy is that man?
5 Posted 02/10/2017 at 09:10:22
Marco Silva has gone to Hull and Watford and turned them into well drilled, competent teams, who clearly understand what the manager wants them to do on the pitch.
I'm not saying we should go after him, but to say there isn't anyone who can be an improvement the the Dutch dunce, is talking as much crap as the man we need to get shut of.
6 Posted 02/10/2017 at 09:11:42
Giroud needs wingers and pace on the flanks, which is exactly what we lack. Deulofeu, like Barkley a skilled, flair player, might have provided that, but again, he was a player Koeman managed to totally discourage and alienate.
7 Posted 02/10/2017 at 09:14:47
8 Posted 02/10/2017 at 09:16:42
Rooney, Siggurdson, Klaassen, Vlasic and Ramirez maybe Lookman and Barkley as well?
The question about whether to sack Koeman should be considered very carefully. Can he right the wrongs in time to save the season? The goal surely was to have a good cup run and Europa League run, but barring an unlikely revival, our Europa League season is dead and with the current issues it seems unlikely we'll win at Stamford bridge in the league cup.
All that's left is to salvage our pride in the league and get things in shape for a good FA Cup run, and that requires a change now in my opinion.
Knee-jerk? No. We can only get new players in January. By then it will be too late. A new manager must have time to settle in and adjust the tactics accordingly and January is too late. Also a new manager can hopefully rebuild the damage done to Barkley and Mirallas, whom I think will be valuable.
Perhaps a lineup that looks like:
Baines Jagilka Keane Coleman
Mirallas Klaassen (or Rooney) Barkley
9 Posted 02/10/2017 at 09:29:48
10 Posted 02/10/2017 at 09:33:38
11 Posted 02/10/2017 at 09:39:02
The media are now jumping on the bandwagon regarding his future; yes, he should go now but I think, as daft it may sound, he will be kept on until Coleman is up and running again.
I just hope that, when he does go, Unsworth is given the chance. It may well take another couple of years to bring these lads through but rather that than a quick fix with mercenaries.
12 Posted 02/10/2017 at 10:37:59
I really can find no justification for this man to be in charge of our club. He is going to get us relegated with his lack of tactics and man motivation. Pay him off now!!!
13 Posted 02/10/2017 at 10:45:13
14 Posted 02/10/2017 at 10:56:05
Two or three players going for the same ball - yes!
Complete imbalance? Yes!
Weak defence? Yes
Poor attack? Yes
Cluttered midfield? Yes!
WTF. Could do better and would only charge less than GBP500,000.00!!!!
Simple is stupid and stupid is simple. Why do we pay the big dollars to these coaches/managers? when most of them dnotavafkn clue?
15 Posted 02/10/2017 at 11:21:30
The way it is going we will be able to field an 11 of tens!
The fact that Lukaku wasn't replaced is becoming the story of our season.
It was truly painful to see the 30 and 40 yard shots yesterday. A side without the imagination, creativity or pace to get behind or play through a Burnley defence says it all.
I invented a few new swear words after the 7th or 8th shot from distance flew high and wide. It was severely depressing fayre.
We have to shake off this diabolical form and fight like lions, or we will be in a bottom 6 dogfight.
I am starting to think that elimination from the Europa cup will give us hope of avoiding relegation. What a terrible way to be thinking , but it is pragmatic looking at the current situation.
16 Posted 02/10/2017 at 11:45:18
17 Posted 02/10/2017 at 13:19:01
18 Posted 02/10/2017 at 13:28:54
Time, we have to give him some more time. I'd've said a season... he probably has a month.
19 Posted 02/10/2017 at 13:36:31
The board need to decide whether we want to be a top club. If they do, then they need to be ruthless and sack Koeman and especially, Steve Walsh. How can either of them justify their exhorbitant wages? I was a fan of Koeman but I hate myself this morning for being so gullible, yet again. When do we ever learn eh? We're so desperate for success that we think we've turned a corner just by spending some cash. I have to say that every single one of Koeman's signings is looking questionable at this point with, possibly, the exception of Pickford but he's still not convincing me.
How many players down the years have stepped up a level and joined us and turned out to be awful signings? There are some players like Tim Cahill, say, who manage it but most of them are overrawed and never quite play well for us. Sigurdsson is a case in point. He really does look to be one of the biggest waste of money transfers in our history. The guy looks like Niclas Alexandersson. It's so depressing being a Blue sometimes.
20 Posted 02/10/2017 at 13:48:40
The major problem though is that the mismanagement of the project has happened and reversing it will be difficult for any manager including the worlds best. We have many one paced, aged or just tactically naÃ¯ve players who are now on the books for years and, like Koeman are going nowhere without being paid off. We can't re-spend that money, it has been thrown off Brighton pier already.
Unlike most I don't just blame Koeman, he's just a jumped up and fairly untalented coach. The blame has to be taken by Moshiri and BK. The situation we are in now is not just bad, it could mean the end of the project before it has really begun and a return to our managed decline into oblivion.
A real lesson is that buying players on its own isn't a guarantee of success. We lost the transfer window and burdened the club with half a team of donkeys and the only solution now is to replace them with players who cost us nothing. Keeping Ross is critical now for the club.
21 Posted 02/10/2017 at 13:50:11
However, with this team and with this number of chances created, I think major surgery will be required in the next transfer window to save us.
Koeman has failed. All we are waiting for now is when he gets sacked.
22 Posted 02/10/2017 at 13:50:36
23 Posted 02/10/2017 at 14:24:21
The FSW is a better coach than Koeman , thinks about the game more intelligently.
He has a limited side in Newcastle but has them organised , well drilled and is getting the best out of them.
Whether he is right for our club is debateable.
24 Posted 02/10/2017 at 15:25:57
The excuses of players getting used to each other, the number of new faces need time to gel, injuries, fixture list early doors are all pathetic. Professional, international footballers can surely master the basics of a really basic sport.
For someone who was reputed to be one of the best defenders in the world, Koeman's defensive set up and tactics are horrendous. He like us witness the same shit game after game and for whatever reason known only to him, he refuses to totally revamp his plan.
The Club cannot allow this to continue and I suggest he be replaced immediately and the Royle/Rhino team step in until a top replacement can be sourced.
25 Posted 02/10/2017 at 19:05:50
We play with no width, defensive midfielders and midfield to close together, we cannot carry on playing this way, something has to change and quick.
We can put it down to having a tough start to the season, injuries, Burnley being well organised, Europa league teams being decent, but personally, last Thursdays game and Sunday, we were simply poor, we made Atalanta look like world beaters.
Keane does not know who he is playing alongside from one week to the next, Davies is in and out of the team, Ronnie needs to get a settled side and stop playing too compact with no width, I will give the guy until the end of October, but I am not holding my breath.
26 Posted 02/10/2017 at 19:30:22
I said to the fella, sitting next to me yesterday, that I had seen Sean Dyche, leaving Goodison, after Everton, had lost to Spurs, and I bet you they try and attack our right fullback?
Koeman's getting paid a fortune, and Koeman, is learning fucking nothing. Like most people I've said enough about him now, and hope for the good of Everton Football Club, that his time is now up.
I'm older now, but it still hurts, I actually ended up going to the pier head, and going on a big long walk after yesterday's game, because after everything that has gone on before, I couldn't believe we still never played with no width?
Went the gym this morning, and quite a few of those horrible red bastards were trying to give me loads, it wasn't easy, but like most Evertonians, I just wished that the team could show as much fight and defiance as us fans.
27 Posted 02/10/2017 at 20:01:06
This isn't to defend him but failure in that area, coupled with a net spend of just £40mill since he was appointed, might be the responsibility of others. Failing to sign a centre-forward has criminally let us all down and de-railed the three year project for at least one full season in my opinion and, as I've said before, whoever was responsible deserves the sack.
28 Posted 02/10/2017 at 20:12:58
Could you go on a very long with and talk his nibs with you? You can come back.
29 Posted 02/10/2017 at 20:40:01
Or is it the song to hell with Liverpool, and Koeman too?
30 Posted 02/10/2017 at 20:51:58
Awful game I said, your compatriot is killing us, and that was the end of the convo, haha!
31 Posted 02/10/2017 at 21:02:44
32 Posted 02/10/2017 at 21:04:02
33 Posted 02/10/2017 at 21:43:15
You make good points about the new arrivals, but are they struggling to bed in(wouldn't be the first) or are they just bang average players.
My own hobbyhorse is the 2 holding mids: It worked well 3-4 seasons ago when we had flying full backs BUT the goal return from the 2 holders in the last 3-4 seasons has been pitiful and I would be surprised if it's in double figures-so we have 2 mids, regardless if it's Barry, Macca, Gana, Snieds, Besic, that aren't chipping in with goals, and looking at our goals against column, don't stop them going in either. Added to that Snieds and Gana are horribly out of form, and a pale shadow of the 2 players that were the heartbeat of everything we did after Christmas.
What's to be done? well if Koeman is to stay it's a statement of the bleedin' obvious that things must change, so do we pray for a Kevin Brock back pass moment, or should it be (my favoured option), change the formation to 4-4-2; pace down the flanks and two centre mids as opposed to DM(and if you want to know the difference see how Burnley set up).
This isn't Walker or Smith revisited; the squad is far superior than the Mitch Wards, Scott Gemmils, Carl Tilers of the world, which probably makes the shite being served up all the more inexcusable.
So over to you Ronnie; go and earn your ٤ mill. Final point, ther's been a number of posters with the opinion that RK doesn't care about Everton. That's tosh; he mightn't care about Everton, but he cares about his reputation, and should he get sacked the chances getting a job on par with the Everton job, let alone a top one will be nil. He'd be remembered as the man who spent 𧵎mil and went backwards.
34 Posted 02/10/2017 at 21:54:20
35 Posted 02/10/2017 at 00:12:24
That's our back 4. Anyone who thinks we have a quality squad, think again. Baines & Williams are finished as first choice Prem players. One is Martina for Christ sakes. Keane is suffering.
I thought we needed 2 new first choice centre backs prior to Mori's injury. It's been very apparent for over a year a long term successor to Baines was required. This is a slow, old back 4. That leads to trouble. We are paying the price for some shocking recruitment at center back. We badly need a quick, commanding one. Dare I say, a young Jagielka.
Defensively, we are in the position of needing to sign yet more players, meaning more churn, more flux, more players to bed in. However even if it's only a loan, he badly needs a centre back in.
This window has been a total fuck up & we have turned ourselves into relegation candidates. This is one of the most unbalanced squads I have ever seen a top flight side put together. To compound matters, we are fundamentally weak in crucial positions.
Fuck the Europa. We havent got the squad to handle it. I would play weakened sides in it from now & focus everything on the league.
This is why. The next 5 league games are:
Away Brighton; Home Arsenal; Away Leicester; Home Watford.
Depending on results, it could be game over for Koeman at home to Watford.
After that we have Palace away 18.11.
Make no mistake, we are a poor side with problems at the back & up top that aren't going away anytime soon. Buckle up.
36 Posted 03/10/2017 at 00:46:53
Me and the lad initially thought it was refreshing to hear a manager who was unimpressed by everything. Antidote to 'phenomenal'. Turned out that the manager was too stupid to be impressed by Ross Barkley and alienated players who we desperately needed.
This is a poor, poor side. When he came we had Lukaku, Barkley, McCarthy, Deulofeu. Look at us now. And it's all his own work.
37 Posted 03/10/2017 at 11:17:11
38 Posted 03/10/2017 at 12:46:22
People keep saying we are a poor team and, although results never lie, and the biggest barometer is always performance, I'd still argue that a decent manager could turn our season around. I'm pretty certain in fact.
39 Posted 03/10/2017 at 13:17:50
Does he look like he wants to stay, It seems to me that it doesn't matter one way or the other to Koeman, especially with the pay off he will receive.
40 Posted 03/10/2017 at 13:42:24
I believe he may last another month and then he will be axed if things continue as they are. We all wonder why the situations regarding Niasse and Barkley came about and maybe also why Lookman hasn't progressed.
Sandro still looks out of his depth and Mirallas clearly is awaiting the January window. As I said yesterday something is rotten in Denmark not just Goodison.
41 Posted 03/10/2017 at 13:48:19
44 Posted 03/10/2017 at 17:28:18
We all know the problems so let's look at the possible solutions based on current form and players available. Perhaps we need to take a leaf out of Joe Royle's book, a much derided and under appreciated manager, get some fight back, pace and width in the team.
Formation: 4-4-2 (no so called No 10, 2 strikers linking together not miles apart)
Left back: Baines
Right back: Kenny
Central defenders: Keane, Holgate
Central Midfield defender: Besic
Central Attacking midfield: Rooney
Left side midfield: Mirallas
Right side: Vlasic
Strikers: Lookman and Calvert-Lewin
Bench: Robles, Jagielka (assuming fit), Davies, Klaassen, Niasse, Gueye
We would then have pace, strength, width and goal scorers. There might be some eyebrows raised but we need to tell each player what their role is and then get the team to play to a pattern. We need guts and team spirit.
Play Rooney in short bursts, swapping with Davies so not always in the team, depending. Don't play him for more than 70 minutes unless he's outstanding.
I don't believe we have brought in bad players but they need time which we don't have much of so they will have to wait.
Get Dunc in the dressing room to give a short 1 minute speech before the lads run out, no harm done.
Give the manager until Christmas, if things have not improved then he has to go, appoint Unsie and either Joe Royle as assistant for advice when needed or Dunc (if Joe doesn't want it), if Dunc then Joe still available as an old head if necessary.
Finally, Geri Deulofeu in Barcelona's 1st team, best right midfielder since Trevor. Definitely missed.
45 Posted 03/10/2017 at 19:04:42
46 Posted 03/10/2017 at 19:09:04
47 Posted 03/10/2017 at 20:08:25
How many times have we seen this scenario in the present century? So desperate are we to see our Club 'turn the corner' that 'blips' like the present run of results are forgotten in a trice. It's what being a Blue is all about, don't ya know?
So just cheer up, won't youse all!
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