Sometime around lunchtime I was offered some tickets for the Dixie Dean lounge and so passed on the Lower Gwladys Street tickets I had to a mate. Thus my father-in-law, visiting from Germany, borrowed a suit and accompanied me for the evening.

We arrived around 5.45pm and took the opportunity to take a look out over Goodison Park. Its quite the view from the corporate area, and with not too many opportunities left to take in the beautiful arena, its always great to take a minute and do just that.

On turning around to head back towards the lounge, I saw Matt Dawson there with his two young lads. My wife is a big fan of his and so I had to take the opportunity to get a selfie and say hello. In doing so I suddenly remembered that Matt's wife is also from Germany so I introduced him to my father-in-law, only to find that Matt's German is about as awful as mine.

Into the lounge and it was nice to catch up with a couple of people I hadn't seen for quite a while. Nick Chadwick and Mark Higgins were both guests and stood up to talk glowingly about the club. Mark was particularly dismayed at how Wolves sauntered into Goodison Park following the World Cup and were allowed to come away with three points, but also that he was glad the players made up for it with the draw at Manchester City. He was optimistic of a good performance against Brighton. He also spoke lovingly about his time at Everton and the standards they used to set, referencing Mick Lyons as a real fighter. "Yerry Mina, look at the size of him" he said, or something to that effect. "But he wears pink boots. We'd never have got away with that". It was great to see some passion, as that was about as much as I was going to see from anyone in blue all evening.

We got the team news an hour or so before kick off and there was a palpable sense of apprehension throughout when we saw the team shape had been changed quite radically from the brilliant draw at the Etihad Stadium. Frank couldn't resist switching to a 4-3-3 to have more of a go at home to Brighton. Ben Godfrey removed and Amadou Onana suspended; Dwight McNeil and Tom Davies recalled.

The Brighton supporters, though not in huge numbers, made quite the noise and fair play to them, even if their songs were a little tedious.

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We sat down in our allocated seats. I'm pretty sure it was Alan McInally sat a bit to my left, and there were a few fellas I recognised a bit across and to my right though I couldn't for the life of me put names to faces. A bit ahead of them Bill Kenwright, Denise Barrett-Baxendale, Kevin Thirwell and Graeme Sharpe were sat.

Anyhow, the game began, Everton attacking the Gwladys Street in the first half, and an encouraging start we made too. We were on the front foot, pressed and got into Brighton. Alex Iwobi forced an excellent save from Robert Sanchez; Dominic Calvert-Lewin couldn't get his header quite right and then Tom Davies shimmied and shot though straight at Sanchez. It was an encouraging start.

Which didn't last long of course, and Brighton soon began to exert their dominance. We'd been warned once or twice before Nathan Patterson hopelessly misread, and Kauro Mitoma calmly brought the ball into the penalty area, made a mockery of Connor Coady's international footballer credentials and calmly slotted past Jordan Pickford. Brighton a goal to the good.

Everton were soon let off the hook shortly afterwards when Evan Ferguson struck the outside of the post with a great opportunity. Still, Everton came back and had a bit of a go before half time, and at the break I wasn't too downbeat. Brighton were probably deservedly ahead, but we were in the game at least, and I felt we could improve in the second half and make a game of this.

I was very wrong of course, and was literally numb at what I witnessed between the 51st and 57th minutes as Brighton effortlesly and ruthlesly pulled the rug from under Everton. I knew the defending was poor but only now having watched the highlights back have I realised quite how bad. I have to sympathise with Frank on that one, he must have been befuddled by what he was seeing. There were mistakes throughout, though one thing I would say about Brighton is how impressed I was with their composure in such situations. We'd have fluffed our lines with plenty of them chances, they just have this assurance of knowing what to do.

The fourth goal took the biscuit. How do you concede like that from your own free kick deep into enemy lines? It was atrocious. What Idrissa was doing I don't know. 

It was at this point that Frank Lampard rang the changes, Tom Davies and Dwight McNeil both hauled off and booed in the process by our own supporters. I really wish we wouldn't do that.

The remainder of the game was a daze. I was still trying to encourage them, hoping for something, anything to cling onto moving forward, and did at least get to see a consolation penalty, and was pleased that Demarai Gray took and scored it as he deserved a goal more than any other Everton player. 

Given how fortunate we were to have such an incredible view of the game, and with precious little to look at on the pitch, i did spend a fair chunk of time during the game observing the two managers. Frank, pretty much throughout was stood arms folded and perplexed, almost sulk-like. Roberto De Zerbi in comparison, though a touch irritating, was bouncing up and down, in constant communication with his team, whistling instructions at players.

Admittedly as a conseqeunce of how the game went, there was always going to be a big contrast in management styles, but my was it palpable. And then at one point, I think it was still the first half, a Brighton player went down in a heap feigning injury and the game was stopped while he received treatment. In no time at all about half a dozen of Brighton's backroom team were up at the touchline with their iPads out dishing out instructions and information to some of their players. That club is head and shoulders above us. Brighton that is. Brighton! Fair play to them on the night, they were exquisite.

Such was the gloom we didn't hang around for too long after the match though couldn't get a cab straight away so dived into The Winslow Hotel for a quick pint. I got chatting to a fellow sufferer in there who was saying "Frank has to go, we should get Wayne Rooney in". "Here we go" I thought, crudely expecting an angry tirade, though the gentleman's response was measured and made a lot of sense, even actually bringing me along to his way of thinking. 

In a nutshell it was...

"Yes we like Frank. No, we don't want to sack another manager. But is he making good decisions? Was it a good decision to revert from something that worked against the champions? Of course not. Like it or not Brighton are better than us. Take the draw against Brighton, and go for the kill against Southampton. Five points from Manchester City, Brighton and Southampton isn't too bad. It's not rocket science. I don't mean necessarily get exactly "Wayne Rooney in", but someone like that. These players won't run. We need someone who can make them run."

And you know what, I've always been behind Frank, but I can't disagree with any of that. There are problems throughout the club, we all know that. And I don't WANT Frank to be sacked; he's been dealt a bad hand for sure, though is playing it badly. And while this wouldn't be the ending for Frank I want, it might be the one that we need to squirm our way out of this mess...

For one more season at least.

Reader Comments (26)

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Phil Hamer
1 Posted 05/01/2023 at 07:33:22
Thanks for sharing Paul, always fascinating to get glimpses from the posh bit. And the fella makes a good point about the players not running. They are hopelessly slow and unfit.

The team needs legs, that's why I was gutted when I heard Davies and McNeil would both be in the side. They just can't run. Teams can, and do, slice through us at will when Davies is in midfield so adding McNeil into the mix too is perplexing.

Godfrey and Onana should be fixtures in the eleven as they can actually get about the pitch and close gaps.

David Bromwell
2 Posted 05/01/2023 at 08:22:32
I too always enjoy your reports Paul, and you perfectly summed up my feelings after Tuesday night. We travel to the games as four old guys who have thankfully seen and remember some very good Everton sides, sadly as we know that was a very long time ago. At the moment our immediate future looks very bleak and I fear that we don't have a single player who can lead by example and restore some confidence and a winning mentality.

Whatever happens with the Managers position those in charge can only work with what they have available and I fear that means a five man back line and bodies behind the ball. We desperately need to get some points and with a poor midfield, and no reliable forward options that's our only option.

I think we need to be cautious in the current transfer market were our record by successive managers is appalling. I also hope we suspend any contract negotiations with all the existing players at least until it becomes clear were we will be playing next season and who will be in charge. We all know that for too long Everton have freely given over generous contracts to very average players who we are then stuck with.

It's all so depressing, but that's were we are and in the present circumstances we will need some luck and loads of endeavour to survive another season. Let's hope we get some Devine inspiration from somewhere.

Tony Abrahams
3 Posted 05/01/2023 at 09:00:31
I thought that was a very enjoyable read Paul, and much more interesting than watching Everton, the other night. I also thought the first half was pretty even the other night, but I wasn’t confident because of what you wrote in your second to last paragraph.

The home team, which was Everton, incredibly never played with any real intensity, and the only player who really ran, was actually at times just running for the sake of it, imo. (Iwobi)

Sometimes we go the game and get caught up in it, (if only - if fuckin only) but sitting back to analyse and take everything in, definitely has it’s merits, so it was very interesting what you wrote about the Brighton bench’s reaction, once their player had gone down feigning injury.

This brings me back to something I said at half time to someone the other night. If your opponents are at it, going down like they’ve been smashed, when nobody has really touched them, then the most obvious thing to go and do, is go and properly fuckin smash one of them. It’s that obvious, it’s actually very worrying, and just showed the complete lack of leadership and professionalism, imo. (Although maybe I’m being a little bit harsh on Tarkowski?)

Steve Carter
4 Posted 05/01/2023 at 09:40:25
Well, Paul, did you enquire of Matt Dawson whether he could hit up his mate Martin Johnson to give a talk to our lot about how one acquires a bit of backbone?
George McKane
5 Posted 05/01/2023 at 09:54:37
The question is "What is seriously wrong at Everton, what is the problem?" Well, we the fans seem to be the only ones asking the questions - - and other questions such as "why they don't run or pass or shoot or tackle or control the ball" - - and seem to be the ones looking for the answers - - what about the whole collection of "staff/consultants/advisors/assistants/specialists" at Goodison earning wonderful gravy train fortune - - what are they asking or answering?
Steve Shave
6 Posted 05/01/2023 at 10:27:52
Bielsa would get them running. He represents a risk though. Calls for Rooney are deluded in my opinion. One could say he is the romantic choice, yet Rooney's Everton story is far from romantic (sold early, acrimonious relationship with fans, brought back too late and sold again against his wishes etc). We don't need an inexperienced manager.
Danny O’Neill
7 Posted 05/01/2023 at 10:49:15
Good read and personal account as always Paul. I know many of us agree and disagree on where the club's problems lie, but that summary of your conversation with the guy in the Winslow was a balanced opinion.
Brendan McLaughlin
8 Posted 05/01/2023 at 11:07:35
Good read as always Paul.

It really is dumbfounding how having gotten a very good point against City...Lampard changed the formation against Brighton so drastically.

Shooting yourself in the foot doesn't even come close to describing it.

Dave Abrahams
9 Posted 05/01/2023 at 11:13:53
That Mike Higgins you were talking to wouldn’t be Mark Higgins, who once played for us, by any chance?
Lynn Maher
10 Posted 05/01/2023 at 11:36:05
Paul, we were at the game too,( unfortunately), and I also commented to my husband on Lampards demeanour.
I said, “Look at their manager, screaming at them and they’re 4-0 up! Look at Lampard, arms crossed and silent!”
As far as I’m concerned, that is not what was required at that time. Sometimes a good rollicking is called for.
Steve Hogan
11 Posted 05/01/2023 at 13:13:35
Something will happen at Goodison in the next 48 hours. We have half a season to stay in the Premier League.

I like Frank as a person, but one win in 10 will 100% see us relegated and disaster will hit the club, despite the development of the new Everton Stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock.

Doing nothing is not an option.

Paul Traill
12 Posted 05/01/2023 at 15:02:42
Dave #9 - yes, Mark Higgins. Thanks 👍
Paul Kernot
14 Posted 05/01/2023 at 21:46:49
Hi Paul. I'm in NZ and last night watched a fascinating docu movie about Eddie Jones. He took over coaching the Japan rugby team (he's half Japanese which just about made his appointment acceptable to the straight laced decision makers). Started in late 2011, admittedly a bit over 3 yrs out from the world cup, time we certainly don't have but my god did he get them fit & running.

They drew Sth Africa in their 1st game, he'd had them training 4 times a day for almost 2 years! Last time out to Sth Africa the points difference was over 100. They won that game by 2 points in an epic battle. My god they were fit and their belief was immense. I remember watching it. At one point their pack actually pushed theirs over their own line to score a try.

It can be done, but not with the attitude of our current board which has poisoned Lampard in such a short time. Remember how enthusiastic he was when he arrived?

Tony Abrahams
15 Posted 05/01/2023 at 22:06:58
Just imagine Goodison Pk, if someone could get our players super fit? The only boos, would be because the referee had blown the final whistle, and nobody would be wanting the game to finish, which is the complete opposite of how it currently happens to be.
Will Mabon
16 Posted 05/01/2023 at 22:34:17
Well since the Brighton fiasco there has certainly been huge discussion of about every aspect.

I'm glad to see more attention being given to the overt lack of fitness which has bothered me for years now. It's even more highlighted by the fact that there is an occasional surprise game where the team look almost like every other team in the league physically - before reverting back to the norm.

One really has to wonder how this is even remotely possible.

Tony Abrahams
17 Posted 05/01/2023 at 22:37:19
The answer is usually in Jerome’s posts, Will, when he claims there seems to be a massive air of complacency at finch farm?
Will Mabon
18 Posted 05/01/2023 at 23:25:09
Whatever it is, Tony, how can it be? Surely a modern Premier League club (or any pro' club) couldn't have a wholly inadequate approach to fitness?

And yet, how often are we outrun by teams, looking noticeably off the pace and tiring early. Flat, lethargic.


Lynn Maher
19 Posted 06/01/2023 at 08:04:10
Perhaps it should be renamed Flinch Farm. I suspect that's what the players do, at the thought of anything more physical than popping their headphones on!
Tony Abrahams
20 Posted 06/01/2023 at 08:28:51
That's what Jerome sort of alludes towards, Lynn. He claims that, rather than putting the hard work in, many of the players hide behind a system in place, called rest & recovery, but I wouldn't know if this is true. (Lazy/Easy farm, might be more appropriate, if this actually the case?)

Maybe something along these lines, was behind the fallout between Benitez and Donaghie? Because it seemed that quite a few players seemed to back Donaghie, but this might also have been because he was a good physio?

I keep repeating something I read what Peter Reid said only last week. The game has changed but the fundamentals haven't, but we don't tend to sign many fast and athletic players, who look like they have got an appetite for hard word, and this imo, is the area where the game has definitely moved on.

Robert Tressell
21 Posted 06/01/2023 at 08:59:22
Ralf Rangnick when at Man Utd described it as being physically present. Similar thing. Man utd, due to fitness, motivation and physical attributes of the players, were not physically present - unable (or possibly unwilling) to match the hard running of the opposition.

We're very much in the same boat, and very much operating like a bargain bin version of Man Utd since our respective long standing managers left.

I've seen this as being a result of both clubs being in an identity crisis post Ferguson and Moyes with no clear vision as to what comes next (while each club spends big money on the sorts of players who wouldn't have been a success in the years of stability).

A good start is recruiting players with advantageous physical attributes. Speed, height, stamina and strength. As you say, Tony, this is where the game has moved on.

John Raftery
22 Posted 06/01/2023 at 10:39:56
Badly organised teams generally seem to look unfit. On Saturday at City our players looked fit enough despite facing some of the best players in Europe. That was because they were organised in a compact shape which made the best use of the resources available.

Most fans would have been happy to retain that shape against Brighton who currently have better, more confident, more capable players who are well organised by a new manager who has slotted seamlessly into the role. For reasons known only to himself and his coaches, Frank decided to switch back to a formation which has failed miserably to deliver any positive results. Will he learn? I hope so but have doubts.

Tony Abrahams
23 Posted 06/01/2023 at 10:49:43
If he doesn’t learn John, he’s got to go very soon, otherwise both him and Everton, will be finished. We will still keep going, but Lampard would be unemployable to anyone who has got a real understanding of the game, imo.

I’ve changed my stance, I want us to win the cup, get new owners and then get relegated.

Call me mad, but I’d sooner our last season at the “Great Goodison Pk” was spent gaining promotion, rather than once again, ambling around near the bottom of the premier league.

Paul Cherrington
24 Posted 06/01/2023 at 13:21:49
Football is a running game 100% - that's very true. I know it sounds blindingly obvious but most of our players seem to have forgotten this! If you don't run in and out of possession, you have got no chance. Maybe we are not fit enough and thats the problem. Bit annoying if so as a) that is easy to fix and b) there's no way pro footballers should be unfit this late into the season
Tony Abrahams
25 Posted 06/01/2023 at 13:29:42
It’s all about the MBS, Paul, (powerful stuff) it’s all about the mind, body & soul!
Paul Cherrington
26 Posted 06/01/2023 at 15:43:50
yes Tony, I think you're right. Even if the players are fit enough to run all game, it still depends on if they can be bothered!

have seen too many not making the effort to close down/track back recently or not hunting the ball down when they lose it. it's like that last Brighton goal - Gana passed it straight to them and just ambled back like he didn't care after. as you say mind, body and soul need to be committed to the cause when playing for best results.

Tony Abrahams
27 Posted 06/01/2023 at 17:17:17
Or when you know that your manager is killing the team with his tactics, Paul? We made the pitch smaller and tighter for Man City, but we made the pitch bigger for Brighton. We had one system against City, but I thought the system against Brighton, just seemed like it put to many of our players, into no man’s land.

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