Second best

By Paul Traill 01/01/2018 34comments  |  Jump to last

After a pretty roast dinner with a few ales I felt so bloated and tired as Gaz picked me up from my parents’ house for our New Year’s Day game against Manchester United. Collecting Ste on route, we joined quite a posse of Evertonians in Gary, Dan, Alfie, Sue and her extended family for a few drinks in the pub pre-game. Sadly with the mystifying team news and Liverpool pipping Burnley at the death, we should have suspected a defeat against Manchester United. I actually fancied us to win somehow, that we, following a few poor performances would turn on the style under the lights at Goodison Park against a depleted Manchester United. This was too much to ask of course.

As we walked on to the pub the wind and rain really set in and we were grateful to get into the shelter of Goodison Park in time for kick off. Manchester United supporters backed their team as noisily as ever. Goodison Park was somewhat flatter than I expected but the lack of intensity in our play accompanies this. Press, harry and get into teams and the Goodison crowd get behind you. Everton sat too deep for large sections of the game and it often felt like Tom Davies was performing something of a one-man press when we had opportunities to bring the play up the pitch.

We had a few scrappy openings in the first half and forced a few corners but with Gylfi Sigurdsson rested, the delivery was never quite right and these were easily rebuffed by Manchester United’s defence. Though nothing clear cut was created by Manchester United, they did break threateningly in the first half with only the final ball lacking at times. Come the break, though second best, we were level, and hopeful of an improved second period.

This never came as Manchester United really got on with the second half like they meant business and we never got out of the blocks. Juan Mata had already been thwarted twice, once by Jordan Pickford, and another time by the post with a speculative effort, before Anthony Martial picked his spot with a fine finish from outside the penalty area. It was thoroughly deserved from the visitors and Everton had their work cut out.

Wayne Rooney and more particularly, Yannick Bolasie, were spent on the hour and were replaced by James McCarthy and Aaron Lennon as Everton sought a way back into the game. Losing Wayne, and without another calm head on the field (I.e. Gylfi Sigurdsson), affected our play and we struggled to find a way to break down Manchester United but credit to the players, for about a 10 minute spell we did rally and you felt we needed to score in this period to get back on level terms, the best chance coming and going when Oumar Niasse headed wide from a Mason Holgate header. It wasn’t an easy chance for Oumar and he was a little unlucky. Otherwise we had the ball in the penalty area often enough but just couldn’t quite work the opportunity to get the shot away. On the counter attack Jordan Pickford twice kept us in the game with a good save from Paul Pogbl, and a superb one from Jesse Lingard.

At 1-0 you always have a chance of course and Manchestrer United had quietened us down after our little flurry of attacking. We were now having much less of the ball and with Dominic Calvert-Lewin ready to come on we won a throw in, and a chance to get the substitution made. Unfortunately we took the throw too quick, quickly giving the ball away and on broke Jesse Lingard who ran at us and finished superbly with Jordan Pickford no chance. He’s improved vastly that Jesse Lingard and now looks a very good player. We then made our substitution. 10 minutes left on the clock and we bring off a striker for another one. The locals weren’t happy, and let Sam Allardyce know it.

We were beaten by now and couldn’t offer much other than a late Michael Keane header which he may have done better with. At full time you trudged away with no complaints of the result. We were truly second best throughout.

The inquest? Just for the sake of a quick rant, I think things will never change with the ‘big’ clubs coming here and getting things their way. While I’ve no complaints with the Wayne Rooney and Mason Holgate yellow cards, the same should haver been distributed for similar challenges by Manchester United players but predictably enough nothing was done. It feels like an inequality every season. Though that’s not why we lost of course.

There’s never any shame in losing 0-2 to Manchester United. They have a vast pedigree of success and our lead by one of the world’s best manager’s. They have huge resources and are clearly head and shoulders better than us. No shame in the scoreline. What I find more difficult to stomach is, seemingly as I’ve no idea what was said pre-game of course, going up against them at home just to contain. I don’t expect us to go all guns blazing, but get up the pitch, get into them, press them and make it difficult for them. This gets the crowd off their seat, boosts our players and worried theirs (David Moyes was always good at instilling this at home). It’s not rocket science. We sat back way too deep and invited Manchester United onto us, and with no plan other than giving it to half-fit Yannick Bolasie, we were far too easy for Manchester United to defend against us. I don’t really blame the players for this. I felt they tried, but I have issue with the tactics employed.

It was only when James McCarthy was introduced as we chased the game were we finally getting into them, making tackles and forcing mistakes. They were rattled at that point. It’s a shame we didn’t do more of it. While Big Sam basked in the glory of his early impact, in our last four games our stats read:

Won: 0

Drawn: 2

Lost: 2

Goals scored: 1

Goals conceded: 4

Shots on target: 3

It isn’t good enough, especially against the two relegation-threatened teams. I am grateful for the league position we are in compared with late-November. Relegation is not a threat, but surely the plan has to be to attack better than that? The above stats are not pretty reading for any team.

Seven changes was a lot to make, and I get the reasons why at this time of year. I do think that Sam rested players against Manchester United as he sees Friday evening’s match at Anfield as more important. He would be right with that judgement. I hope he judges it right on Friday, otherwise it’s season over in the first week of January.

Player ratings:

Pickford: I’d like to see the goals again to see how much, if any, blame should be apportioned to Jordan for the two goals as they were both from distance, but my gut is that he was beaten more by good strikes than poor goalkeeping, and his second half save from Jesse Lingard in particular was top drawer. 7

Martina: I thought he did quite well defensively and showed good willing further up the pitch but a right back at left back can only influence the gamer so much. As usual for me, did his best but found lacking out of position. 6

Williams: Not bad, some good interceptions and tackles. 6

Keane: In the second half when we were chasing the game he was particularly good and was the pick of the two centre backs for me. 7

Holgate: Presumably Jonjo Kenny was rested for Friday which is why Holgate played at right back. He did OK but square peg round hole springs to mind. Much better off at centre half. 6

Schneiderlin: Battled albeit in vein. 6

Rooney: Did OK in spells but gave the ball away a bit also, though was missed when not on the pitch. Maybe taken off with an eye on Friday. 5

Bolasie: He’s a box of tricks and got down the line to good effect a few times, even if there was nobody in the penalty area to get on the end of one of his crosses. He then tired quickly in the second half and was replaced. He may have been better off being an impact substitute, but maybe Big Sam is thinking of Friday’s game and preserving Aaron Lennon for that. 6

Vlasic: Good in spells though largely anonymous in others. Usually uses the ball well and it was good to see him play. 6

Davies: Not everything he tries works, but he offers intelligence. He has good ability to find space and has a good idea when to press and chase. Why his team mates don’t see this I find baffling. My man of the match. 7

Niasse: Full of effort but that’s more or less it. A touch unlucky with that header. 6


Lennon (for Bolasie): Didn’t really effect the game. 5

McCarthy (for Rooney): Was key in our efforts to get back into the game as we finally then got stuck into them. May come in handy on Friday night. 7

Calvert-Lewin (for Niasse): Had a bit of a go and showed some nice touches and willing running. A definite starter on Friday. 6

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Reader Comments (34)

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John Boon
1 Posted 01/01/2018 at 22:44:25
I have read a few other reports on this game and your report was the best by far. Your basic analysis of really saying that it is hard to blame the players is really the most sensible observation. They are just not capable of beating a far better team.

I also thought Davies really put in a maximum effort despite what some viewers thought. Martina also tries hard but he just cannot use his left foot. Now that he seems to have got his confidence I would like to see him play at right back. At lest at the present time. Also seeing that Schneiderlin offers nothing going forward I wonder if he could play left back.

I do expect criticism for what may be viewed as ridiculous. However I am just as confused as our new manager and most Evertonians. After seventy years of watching I feel I should be able to have an opinion, or of late, a medal for fortitude. Always "Blue", but lately this is sooooo hard.

James Flynn
2 Posted 02/01/2018 at 02:36:36
Thanks Paul.

Rarely comment on your OPs, but always read them. Keep them coming.

Peter Fearon
3 Posted 02/01/2018 at 03:53:33
I would rather have gone down 2-0 or more scrapping for the ball and going foot to foot with Manchester United than the usual Big Sam display of defending a deficit. That's the third abject performance in a row and this is the manager who was boasting about how he had organized simplified and tightened the defence. And did anyone pick up on what he said about Friday? He dismissed it with, “as soon as we can get Liverpool over with we can get back on the training ground and remind the lads how to go about their business.” Not an important match to prepare for then? No plan to win that one then? He is fulfilling all my deepest misgivings about him. Sam Out! We Want Football!
Mike Gaynes
4 Posted 02/01/2018 at 05:08:00
Excellent report, Paul. Agree with your rankings except for a marked generosity to Rooney, who in my view put in his worst performance in an Everton shirt. Martial's goal was the direct result of a Rooney giveaway, by my count the last of his NINE rank turnovers in the middle of the pitch.

I thought Vlasic played exceptionally well considering his lack of recent activity, and Keane produced his best performance since joining us, marred only by being easily turned by Martial on the play that resulted in Rooney's yellow. Nice to see Davies return to form, and I think Pickford was excellent, and blameless on the goals. I particularly enjoyed watching him lecture Rooney after one of his turnovers resulted in a shot by Martial.

I also agree with your critique of Sam's tactics, but I do believe he picked the best lineup he could, and I'll hold my hand up on his substitutions, because I thought bringing on Macca and Lennon was stupid and negative -- then watched them electrify the team for the next 15 minutes. You don't rate the manager, but I'd give Sam a 6 for this one.

Nitesh Kanchan
5 Posted 02/01/2018 at 05:52:00
Mata easily dictated the play as Schneiderlein was no where to be seen. Gana was missed.Niasse looked better in second half the moment they got forward after Macca came on to win the balls against Mata and Herrera something which Schneiderlein failed to do. They were targeting his space in the first half as well with long range efforts from there.Lingard did nothing before getting into that space of Schneiderlein. If we can't get rid of him then send him on loan somewhere.

Even though Niasse was poor in first half,a completely different Niasse showed up in second half who won headers and not just won them but directed them really well into spaces but no one was there to take it forward. I didn't expect he had that in him and once Macca came we started playing on deck rather than hoofing and Niasse linked up well to bring full backs into it. He is the only one who had shots towards goal, one in the first half which would have been a goal had Rojo not blocked it and then in the second with the header and only one who looked like scoring yesterday,couple of more chances and he would have scored.I want to see that second half Niasse more.

The two reason we lost yesterday, one was Holgate's ability to deal with Pogba,who was easily putting crosses across the box from the right, which can't be blamed as it is not his natural position and often made forward runs.Big Sam made a big mistake their by making the team sit back and allowing Pogba to take on Holgate. Either he should have brought on Kenny or Lennon for support and the other reason was Schneiderlein. I don't understand why Allardyce is playing him after Unsy ditched him. Even Besic is the better option than him at the moment.

Christopher Timmins
6 Posted 02/01/2018 at 07:48:26
The period between the start of the second half and the McCarthy and Lennon entrance was the worst I have seen from the team in a long long time. We were dreadful.

The only plus points I can take from the game are that we got another 60 minutes into Bolasie and 30 or so minutes into McCarthy.

We have very little prospect of an upturn in the coming weeks and I will be a happy man when we hit the 40 point mark.

Jim Bennings
7 Posted 02/01/2018 at 08:40:45
We were lucky we were playing a United team that's pretty blunt and missing strikers , it could have been 4-0 again.

Play like that Friday night and Liverpool will not make the same mistake twice against us.

I hope to God that Salah and Coutinho are missing because they are going to cut us up and just the sheer gusto with the way Liverpool play the game in general, lets be honest we only got in 1-0 down at HT last month because Mane had an act of greed when he broke clear, it was four red shirts against one blue should have been 2-0 and game up.

I've never seen a central Everton midfield where I just can't see any great redeeming features.

Over the years we've had tough guys like Carsley, creators like Arteta and Pienaar, goalscorer slime Tim Cahill, handfuls like Fellaini...

But you at this midfield, what does Davies do , what does Schneiderlin do, Gana Gueye hasn't been much better but about the best of a bad bunch.

None of them can shoot, weak in marking men, weak in tackling, not going to win headed duals , none of them are quick and their passing is pretty abysmal.

Rooney has been the only shining light but at his age a decline in form or fitness could only be around the corner .

Sigurdsson has in the main flopped.

You wouldn't back our midfield to ever win a physical battle against any Premier League side, the games at West Brom and Bournemouth have shown that.

Jim Bennings
8 Posted 02/01/2018 at 09:00:03
#correction like Tim Cahill, not slime Tim Cahill, I'd never call our Timmy slime shame on you predictive texting!!😡
Pat Kelly
9 Posted 02/01/2018 at 10:11:36
Apart from Pickford, I'd gladly consign all the Everton squad to the attic with the Christmas decorations. We've done our gifting over the last four games. The New Year is just begun but the season was over weeks ago. Scrape together a couple of players this window and limp on to the close season. Then another exciting season with Sam. Happy New Year !

Clive Rogers
10 Posted 02/01/2018 at 10:26:23
Lennon didn't look interested to me, especially after BS told him to get down the pitch. He much prefers to stay back and help the full back nowadays.
Brian Harrison
11 Posted 02/01/2018 at 10:57:12
First half wasn't bad ;didn't create much but I was surprised given our recent performances how much possession we had especially in their half. But the second half we reverted back to the way we have been playing 7 or 8 of our players sitting in and around our 18 yard area. You could tell that a goal was coming and sure enough a great strike by Martial, from outside the box. They certainly grew in confidence after the goal and you knew it wouldn't be long before they scored again and sure enough Lingard scored from the same spot that Martial had scored from.

This was now game over, yes we huffed and puffed a bit before they got the second but once that went in there was no way back. Watching us at Goodison is a bit like watching a lower league club playing a Premier League club, were every free-kick and corner won is cheered as we know that's our best chance of a goal. I had hoped that the leopard would change his spots and play a more attacking game than in the past. But if we go to West Brom and Bournemouth 2 teams struggling and play 10 men behind the ball then I should expect the same against one of the top 6 at home.

Like everybody else I shudder to think what might happen on Friday and don't hold out anything different for our next away game at Spurs. Has this team that is missing Lukaku, Barry and Barkley but has added a further 5/6 players has disintegrated so much that we have to play in such a negative way. Our shots on target are as rare as hens teeth, yes we are desperate for a striker but he cant do it on his own. We need to be more positive and have players supporting the striker not 25 yards away when he receives the ball

Jim Bennings
12 Posted 02/01/2018 at 11:22:53
Friday will all be about the Alamo again , we will be under seige in the blind hope we can hold out for a replay and if Liverpool score we need to hope we can hold them
down to one goal then get another bit of luck to equalise or something.

It's a sorry state of affairs and it feels like there's more chance of Shrewsbury shocking West Ham on the televised game on Sunday than us beating Liverpool.

It's been very predictable and boring to be an Evertonian for years now.

John Raftery
13 Posted 02/01/2018 at 11:53:29
'Has this team that is missing Lukaku, Barry and Barkley but has added a further 5/6 players disintegrated so much that we have to play in such a negative way?' The answer Brian, is a resounding 'yes'. Quite simply the players we have brought in are not up to the job. Despite his lack of inches only Pickford can be said to be an upgrade on what we already had. Even he gets away with stuff for which Tim Howard would have been pilloried. The rest of the major 2017 signings belong in the lower reaches of the league.

In the last two matches we have reverted to the Koeman/Unsworth modus operandi of conceding goals sloppily by giving away easy possession. On Saturday we had Kenny on the halfway line ready to support the attack when McCarthy gave the ball away. Hence there was nobody at the far post to defend the cross from which Fraser scored. Yesterday we had Holgate more often nearer to the opposition corner than his own.

We need to get back to what we had in the unbeaten run: full backs playing first and foremost as defensive players and the strongest available defensive shield in front of the back four or five. Anything else is just asking for trouble given our pitiful use of the ball when we are in possession.

Tony Abrahams
14 Posted 02/01/2018 at 12:17:26
Agree with you about the ref Paul, but it's very rare you get consistency against the biggest teams. No-one has mentioned it, but when the ref was tripped, why did he blow-up, for a foul, when we had broke, and Niasse had a chance to go in on goal?

Was it for a foul on a United player, or was it for a foul on the ref? He gave them a free-kick, but with Niasse having just beaten the offside trap, I was fuming at the time.

Ian Hollingworth
15 Posted 02/01/2018 at 12:23:10
How does Niasse get a 6? He runs about a lot and tries hard but he is absolute shite.

We need much better players than him if we wish to progress.

Tom Bowers
16 Posted 02/01/2018 at 12:39:27
Never rains but it pours.

Honestly, very few players have earned good marks in most games this season.

Niasse is not what we expect but neither any of the other so-called offensive players are up to snuff.

Yesterday Bolasie did okay for a while and the team played in spurts a little better than they have been doing but even this Man Utd side were in a different class.

New signings have to come quickly.

Dave Abrahams
17 Posted 02/01/2018 at 12:43:01
Jim (7);

"Rooney has been our only shining light, but at his age a decline in form or fitness can only be around the corner."

Jim, I'm not trying to be funny but can Rooney really get worse than he is? I'm grateful for his goals but his all-round form hasn't been up to much and last night he must have been relieved when he was substituted.

Kevin Tully
18 Posted 02/01/2018 at 13:09:26
Even if we were to hold out for 90 minutes against the RS on Friday, what hope would there be back at Goodison?

How on earth do you let THREE forwards leave the club in one summer (Lukaku, Valencia & Kone) and not find a single replacement? Toothless, hopeless and hapless describes this unbalanced pile of shite we currently have to endure. Koeman & Walsh have ruined this club with their ' transfer strategy.'

No doubt others are culpable, but the buck stops with the owner, chairman and CEO. All untouchable. I know one thing, that 8,000 waiting list for season tickets will be down to 7,998 come renewal time.

Steve Ferns
19 Posted 02/01/2018 at 13:29:46
Kevin, maybe we will have a new team by the time we get back to Goodison!

Yeah, I very much doubt that too. Walsh has his best mate, who he help get the job, in charge now, so there's no excuses for him now.

As for blaming anyone but Koeman for the lack of strikers (and left backs whilst we are at it) I do not get it.

If I hired a manager and made him the 7th highest paid in the world, then I wouldn't be trying to do his job for him. It's best the board stays out of transfer policy, and when the bad run was going on and he was sacked, no doubt the transfer fiasco was one of the things that made him get the sack.

Everything going wrong with the team since the start of the season is Koeman's doing. He's paid the price and let's hope Allardyce can put it right and get us back to 8th or better. It'll take until the summer to fully repair the damage done though.

Jim Bennings
20 Posted 02/01/2018 at 13:38:28

Rooney is the only player who can see a pass though and the only midfielder who has excelled at scoring goals.

He hasn't got the legs anymore no , you are going to see more messed up passes like the one that started Martial's goal yes, but the simple fact is there is nobody doing a better job out there than Rooney at present.

John G Davies
21 Posted 02/01/2018 at 13:52:08
Sad to watch Rooney last night. His body won't allow him to do the things his mind tells him.

His goals have contributed a lot to our season no doubt, but that apart he is struggling. I wouldn't start him on Friday.

Steve Ferns
22 Posted 02/01/2018 at 13:56:15
He needs a rest John. He can still get around the pitch, so physical fitness is there, but perhaps he is mentally tired as well.

Also, it could just be the occasion got to him. I was chatting to a manc over Christmas and he reckoned Rooney was always crap against us. I pointed out the goals he scored, but he reckoned Rooney always let the big games get to him and rarely performed in them. I would disagree, but he watched them far more than I did.

Kevin Tully
23 Posted 02/01/2018 at 13:59:29
Steve, as far as I'm aware, Koeman & Walsh had equal say in any transfers. He is on record as saying both him & Koeman had to agree to any player joining us.

He also said this: "Walsh, towards the end of last season, went on record and he made it clear that he would not sign a player he had not seen live in action and how 'you just need a few more pieces, then you have a top four side.'

Asked about his role, he seized the opportunity to champion his credentials, saying: 'You would have to be daft to think I wasn't brought in for my recruiting talents. I'll spend money as it was my own. I won't waste it.'

John G Davies
24 Posted 02/01/2018 at 14:02:10

I wish he had stayed and gone missing in games for us Steve.

Steve Ferns
25 Posted 02/01/2018 at 14:02:33
No Kevin. Koeman had the final say. No-one was signed for the club without Koeman approving it.

Case in point: Sandro. He is a Walsh signing. Walsh really liked him, but Koeman had to go over and watch him, and his indecision almost cost us the transfer.

Walsh had no say in Klaassen or Sigurdsson.

Allardyce has said something like it will be a joint decision but I think this is due the short-term nature of his contract. Also, it might be as the club intends to pay him off in the summer and so want someone (Walsh) taking a long-term view over transfers.

Steve Ferns
26 Posted 02/01/2018 at 14:04:37
That's what I thought, John. All I recall is misery and him kissing the badge! United fans seem very bitter towards him, and as their record goalscorer, I just do not understand it.
John G Davies
27 Posted 02/01/2018 at 14:07:16
The proper fans know what he is, Steve. Did the away section sing his name last night? I heard the chant go up as he was taking a corner.
Kevin Tully
28 Posted 02/01/2018 at 14:26:53
Steve - you may very well be interested in this thread, and especially comment #50.

It clearly defines the role of Walsh & Koeman, pre "shit hit the fan."

John Guy
29 Posted 02/01/2018 at 14:49:48
Thanks Paul for the usual quality report. I was able to watch this one at home, shown on Romanian TV, only because of the opposition, of course. A rare 'treat'. All I can say is that was difficult to watch, and I can understand everyone in the stadium just not being able to get excited about what they're watching.The feeling is one of despair and frustration at so little creativity. I've seen some poor Everton teams and displays over the years, but never before have I felt the chasm between the best and the also-rans is so wide. It seems like damage limitation is the main aim just now, not sure I can bring myself to watch on Friday but of course, I shall. Regards to Gaz & Dan.
Dave Abrahams
30 Posted 02/01/2018 at 16:30:32
Jim (20), I loved Wayne first time round, didn't hold it against him when he went to United, didn't want him to come back but wanted him to do well when he did.

Scoring the goals he has is a big bonus to Everton but for me they they are the only real positive, I've watched him all season give the ball away, lose possession too easily, and giving the other team chances to score started as early as the Stoke game when a very poor pass gave them a great chance to equalise and only a great save from Pickford stopped them,the exact same thing happened in the Bournemouth home game, in the WHU game his slackness in defending started the move for their penalty, I could go on and on the goals he has scored a lot of them have come when he has been up front, and if he has to play that is where I would play him he has not lost the power in his shooting, he can do more damage to the opposition up front, he does as much damage to us in midfield.

Hope he scores the winner on Friday Jim. !!!!!

Brian Harrison
31 Posted 02/01/2018 at 16:38:59
I thought the Man Utd fans were excellent regarding Rooney, I sit in the Upper Bullens quite close to the away supporters. When we won our first corner they were singing his name as he walked over to take it. Then they sang you fat ******* and laughed while singing it. I have to say of all the visiting supporters they are probably the best, never stopped singing. I also like their humour admittedly they were 2 up before singing were Man Utd we park the bus.
Paul Tran
32 Posted 02/01/2018 at 17:05:38
Big mistake putting Holgate as full back. He's a centre half who should be pencilled in there straightaway.

I thought it was a good move bringing on McCarthy. Something to prove with a bit of energy. I hope his fitness can hold up.

I'm not sure there was an effort to be 'negative' in the second half. It looked to me as though the better side went up a couple of gears and were too good for us.

The team needs a spark & presence, the kind that comes from a bit of new quality. And a decent striker. I got the sense Sam was looking at a couple of players yesterday, to see who he wants to keep/move on.

Should be an interesting month, though I'm not expecting more than two in, if that.

Joe Green
33 Posted 02/01/2018 at 20:41:33
Seemed to me that for both goals, Williams stands off too far, which allows the striker to curl it around him. Same with Salah's goal for Liverpool. Also for United's second, Lingard went past Keane very easily.

Elsewhere on TW it says Moshiri has lent the Club 𧵎 million, in addition to the 䀆 million he spent buying his shares. Even for a billionaire this is serious money. He wants a stadium too - good, but that date has now slipped. Who wants to sponsor a new stadium for a Championship team?

It looks like money spent on Klaassen and Sandro has been simply wasted, while money spent on Bolasie, Keane, Sigurdsson, Williams and Schneiderlin has been far too much for players who are competent for a lower half team.

Can't see much more money being available for some time, so Sam and team have their work cut out to get to 40 points both this season and next.

Andy McNabb
34 Posted 03/01/2018 at 00:31:44
Thanks for the report, Paul. Must admit, this is the first time I have dared look at the site since the result.

In one of the threads, someone mentioned Sam getting a '6' for his managerial skills. Rating the manager each game would be an interesting addition to your reports. Keep them coming.

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