Everton 0 - 0 Aston Villa
Half-time: 0 - 0
FA Carling Premiership 1999-2000 Game 16
3pm Saturday 27 November 1999
Goodison Park, Merseyside
The first half was "completely forgettable," with minimal incident from a
pair of lack-lustre teams. Jeffers had the ball in the net after 13 mins
but was ruled offside.
The second half wasn't much better, even though Everton did actually make
some chances. Tony Grant made a very rare appearance off the subs bench
his first for Everton since he came on as a sub against
Coventry City in April but
to little effect.
A critical 2 points lost as Everton stretch their winless streak to TWO
Subs Not Used
Gerrard; Dunne, Gough, Weir, Unsworth; Barmby (77' Grant),
Hutchison, Collins, Pembridge; Campbell, Jeffers.
Unavailable: Moore (awaiting Work
Permit); Watson, Williamson (injured); Grant
(transfer-listed); Bilic (in limbo); Branch, Cadamarteri, Farrelly,
Myhre, O'Kane, Phelan (on loan); Parkinson (retired).
Cleland, Ball, Xavier, Simonsen.
James, Watson, Southgate, Calderwood, Wright, Boateng,
Taylor, Hendrie, Barry, Dublin, Joachim (66' Carbone).
Merson, Ghrayib, Stone, Enckelman.
Royal Blue shirts; white shorts; blue socks.
Claret & Blue shirts; claret shorts; claret
Taylor (62'), Watson (65'), Calderwood (76'), Wright
(81'), Hendrie (89').
Frustrating, indifferent, downright
The vagaries of the fixture computer saw us gathering at Goodison for the
second time in eight days. Whatever happened to home games on alternate weeks?
We aren't at home again now for a month.
Now that I've got that off my chest, onto the team. No real surprises today
as Walter chose, what I guess, must be near to our full strength side. Weir
was brought straight back after suspension and Collins returned after his
rest, neither decision could really be quibbled with. The two to make way
were Cleland and Xavier. So, it was Gerrard in goal, a back four made up
of our four best defenders on current form, Dunne, Gough, Weir and Unsworth,
a midfield of Collins and Hutchison in the centre with Barmby wideright
and Pembridge wide left. Up front it was Jeffers and Campbell and on the
bench we had Simonsen, Ball, Cleland, Grant and Xavier.
This was one of those frustrating matches that never seemed to get going.
Villa who were on a terrible run came to defend, they were committed, hard
working and organised, they didn't have much spark going forward but by God
did they make life difficult for us. Faced by such obdurate opposition we
were found sadly wanting, and like it had been against Chelsea last week,
the area of the pitch were I felt we were deficient was midfield.
Throughout a fairly wretched first half chances were few and far between
and any semblance of flowing, pass and move football was conspicuous by it's
absence. I had hoped for a little reaction after the Chelsea game, perhaps
an attitude of lets put things right, sadly it wasn't there as we put in
a very lacklustre 45 minutes. Things were so poor that there was only one
moment of excitement that being when Jeffers found the back of the net only
to be ruled offside on what must have been a marginal decision.
Walter clearly had some work to do at half time. There were no substitutions
and there were no blindingly obvious tactical switches, which was right as
that hadn't been were the problem lay. What we needed to do was up the pace
of the game, to get our passing going and to generally sharpen up our play.
We went some way to achieving those aims but nowhere near enough.
During the second half we did enjoy some spells of fairly sustained pressure,
we forced some corners, forced some penalty area scrambles but in all honesty
we didn't really look like scoring. We had a couple of half decent penalty
appeals turned down and Franny managed to lift our best chance of the game
over the bar when he attempted to touch Unsworth's strongly driven cross
into the net. But really I'm struggling to remember much else in terms of
Walter eventually decided to change things when he brought Grant on for Barmby
with 15 minutes to go. I can only assume that Barmby had some sort of a knock
as to my mind he isn't the kind of player you take off unless you need to.
Grant did what he could down the right but really he wasn't going to change
too much from there, and his appearance there really does highlight our chronic
lack of wide midfield players.
From some distance out this match looked to be petering out into a scoreless
draw, Villa looked toothless and seemed to lack any real ambition, we just
seemed to be unable to string more than a couple of passes together. We then
had a moment of madness from Richard Dunne which was horribly reminiscent
of last minute events against Chelsea last week, and also the last time Benito
Carbone appeared at Goodison for Sheffield Wednesday. Within the last two
minutes Dunne was moving back, under no real pressure, to deal with a horrible
high, hanging ball. Instead of controlling it and then dealing with the matter
he attempted to hit it first time back to Gerrard. Carbone had seen what
was coming and anticipated where the ball was going to go, Dunne mis-hit
it horribly and the ball went straight to Carbone. The way we keep gifting
possession to Carbone like that he must love playing us, he now had the ball
and was one-on-one against Gerrard, Gerrard came out but Carbone tried to
curl it round him, he succeeded only to see the ball come back off the post.
It was an amazing let off.
After that it was a case of lets get out of here with a point. The match
soon ran to a completion, the players left the pitch to indifference from
the terraces and we left muttering about another two points squandered.
This was undoubtedly our poorest home performance of the season, a day on
which too many players seemed to lack sharpness. It's frustrating to watch
but at least we are still picking up points and there's certainly no need
just yet to start looking nervously over our shoulders, but it would ease
my worries if we could put some serious distance between ourselves and the
Gerrard 7 Not called on to do too much but what he did he did competently.
To my eyes he is growing in stature as the season continues.
Dunne 7 A sound capable performance right up until his Carbone moment.
It was a shocking mistake and such lapses of concentration are something
he has to cut out of his game.
Unsworth 7 After a slightly shaky start he got better and better.
Don't think he put a foot wrong defensively and also got some decent balls
into the opposition box.
Weir 8 Continues his run of impressive form. Defended impeccably,
used the ball well when he stepped out of defence with it and also posed
an aerial threat in the opposition box. I'm coming to the conclusion that
he could be the best defender we've had here since Martin Keown.
Gough 7 Not quite at his commanding best today but still an OK
Barmby 7 Typical energy and commitment but with the side not functioning
at it's best Barmby was always going to struggle slightly.
Collins 6 Struggled somewhat today. Tried to make things happen but
it just wasn't really happening.
Hutchison 5 Another below par performance from Don. Don't know whether
it's the transfer speculation that is affecting him or what, but it is looking
like we need to get his future sorted out soon. Personally I hope he stays
as I think he has a lot to offer us.
Pembridge 6 Not overly impressed with what I've seen so far of Pembridge,
has his qualities but can't help thinking we need a better attacking force
down the left (not sure where that's actually going to come from, Barmby
I suppose but then what do you do down the right?)
Campbell 6 Just given scraps to feed on today. Did what he could and
there was the usual selfless running but was never going to look his best
in a display like this.
Jeffers 6 Had his moments but didn't really look sharp today.
Grant 6 Not quite sure what the thinking was behind putting him wide
right. Still got his touch and awareness and got involved in a few promising
Team 6 Distinctly below par today. Invariably second to the ball and
lacking the guile to break downhard working opposition.
Man of the match: David Weir.
The only good thing to come out of today's game was the fact that we are
still undefeated at home. Well that, and with the pairing of Weir & Gough
at the back, I feel that they are our best centre-backs. Dunne at right-back
is on a learning curve. It's good that he is being given the time to learn.
Unsworth at left-back may not have the ball passing skills of Ball, but has
stamped his mark in that position.
The first half was a bit dire to say the least. Jeffers did have the ball
in the back of the net. OFFSIDE? I would like to see that on the tv replay...
The second half was a bit brighter. Jeffers brought down. Penalty I think.
James did get to the ball, but took out the player afterwards.
The young Jeffers did have the clearest cut chance. Unsworth fired in a
shot/cross at 90mph, Jeffers from 6 yards out put the ball over the bar.
The front two had a better half but, with no forwards on the bench, Walter
has not much option to change things round. If you look at the squad: who
is on loan, who is left at Bellefield fit to play? I worry that if Campbell
or Jeffers get a knock which puts them out for a few weeks, what the hell
are we going to do?
Tony Grant was on the bench, he was not even on the team photo at the start
of the season! We play Man Utd next. Let' s just hope that they have a severe
bout of jet lag.
Gerrard 7 played well, worthy of No 1 status
Gough 8 strong at the back, always talking to the back four
Dunne 6 what was he thinking of with that back pass?
Collins 5 did not have any spark today
Barmby 6 may have been better to have switched flanks to give himself
some more space
Campbell 7 we all look for him to put the ball in the back of the
net, not many chances for that today
Hutchison 5 I have seen him play a lot better
Pembridge 5 had a quiet game
Weir 8 the Scottish pairing with centre half Gough, by far our strongest
Unsworth 6 another player who did not have his best performance in
a blue shirt today
Jeffers 6 let's hope that he does not have another off day like today
and that during the periods of when there is no game, Walter and Archie get
the boxes of cotton wool out to pack him in.
Absolutely dire in
Saturday would have slotted into last season's spate of nothing-nothing draws
perfectly. It was absolutely dire in places.
Highlights were few and far between, although Richard Dunne was fantastic
for 89 minutes. But it only takes one mistake, and I found myself celebrating
a point at the end, rather than bemoaning the loss of two. We almost threw
everything away as Dunne casually toed the ball in Gerrard's direction, only
for Carbone to latch onto it. Fortunately, with goalie beaten, and nothing
but an empty goal ahead, the Italian went for style instead of certainty.
He tried to curl it around to the right, and by some miracle, it hit the
post. Point saved.
Franny's finish in the first half was exquisite, but unfortunately the linesman
had already flagged for offside. That said, everyone apart from the referee
had spotted the Gough handball on the edge of the box as Jeffers was set
up, and we wouldn't want to be scoring jammy illegal goals now, would we?!
I felt we should have had a penalty in the second half when James brought
Jeffers down. Watching Match of the Day, I noticed more inconsistent refereeing.
The Watford-Sunderland game saw a penalty appeal less convincing than ours
granted. Then St. Michael of the RS was booked for diving for a penalty.
Our ref obviously thought Franny was diving too, as he didn't award the penalty,
so shouldn't he have booked him? It gets madder every week....
The flying bag was hilarious. The ref stopped to glare at the Villa bench
as an embarrassed assistant scrambled the various scattered contents back
into the bag. David James' comedy own goal was good - somehow the only ball
he managed to drop all game - yes, that's a grudging compliment! He was about
to take a goal kick, dropped it, and the ball rolled back into the net.
However, the highlight of the day had to be when the players came out onto
the pitch. The mascot usually "helps" a player to warm up, and on Saturday
this little lad was helping Paul Gerrard. He was taking shots, which Gerrard
was scooping up easily as they slowly bobbled towards him. Until the lad
decides to try out something a little different. He lobs him! Gerrard's face
was an absolute picture as he turned to pick it out of the net.
We definitely need some good ideas for Utd. away. Otherwise, we will be punished
in midfield. Severely.
It is now Panadol time
Mikey Blue Eyes
Might have known we'd get this kind of game sooner or later. Might have know
it'd be against Villa too. The only thing you could say about it is that
at least it's out of the way.
All these might-have-knowns came together in a set of circumstances that
kept me away from the Black Horse before and after the match. Straight in,
straight out. It was as much an enema as the match was. A few more of these
and it's back to potty training...
So Abel was out and John Collins in. I could see the logic before the game
but it grew less appealing by the minute as it went on. Cleland was out,
Dunney went to right-back and the Gough-Weir partnership was restored in
the centre, while Unsie stuck at left back. I use the pejorative deliberately.
Nicky played on the right, Mark Pembridge on the left, with The Don and John
in the middle. KC-Big Ears had another game to strike up the Sunshine Band.
Play was so staccato, so muddled, almost every comment herefrom has to be
counted as strictly relative. Relative to a bowl of steaming poo, that is.
Oh yes; it was that bad.
Might have known within the first ten minutes, actually. Alan Wright snuffed
Nicky with three terrible tackles the thick ref didn't even finger-wag the
little bastard for. So it started badly... and fell away. Doesn't much matter
that Wright went on to be man of the match because that's not dissimilar
to a medal won at Stalingrad. You'd rather you didn't have to...
Villa had slightly more territory and possession for almost all of the first
half. But so did the Texans at the Alamo till the Mexicans got over the walls.
Yes, yes. I KNOW these are cheap analogies. it was that kind of game. Made
you think of other things, see below...
Big Ears got one sharpish but had it disallowed in the Park End. Couldn't
really see from where I was though it looked pretty close. Nice to see his
instinctive sharpness is still there. KC did everything required of him but
nobody else was on heat so he mostly wasted his time, including when he got
blatantly tripped on the edge of the box in the first half and the ref naturally
didn't even cough...
Where DO they get these arseholes from? This was yet another wanker who might
be better doing time in an English restaurant somewhere around Runcorn. The
sooner we get pro refs the better.
Naturally The Don got booked for a disgraceful kick on young Hendrie's right
ankle. Every time he does this sort of crap he diminishes in my eyes. Not
just mine either. One lad went flying out of his seat at this and shouted
"WHY DON'T YER JUST FUCK OFF HUTCHINSON!!!???" Yes, he got the name as wrong
as The Don got his "tackle" wrong. Up to that point Hendrie had done the
odd useful thing...which is why he presumably "deserved" to be kicked. Get
it right or get off for a reasonable sum, Hutch.
Meanwhile, there was a lot of pushing and shoving, jostling and hassling
which was, I think, supposed to represent midfield "play." It was pure crap
of course. You could tell what the fans thought of it because there was an
endless stream of pasty-buyers and bladder relievers. At least I THINK it
was the bladder. It might have been the aesthetic pain they were going through.
Joachim looked reasonably sharp for them and nearly broke through on a couple
of occasions. But Goughie and Weir were steadfast for most of the game.
The fact is, we were two almost identical sides. In our case, the hassle
and hustle game works well against pat-a-cake teams. But put us against someone
who plays the same way and, when you think about it, the result is fairly
predictable. Yes, that's right. Aggregate crap. No wonder the midfield was
Xavier gave way to John Collins because the Jock can tackle rather well and
puts it about much better, despite being about half the size. But Collo's
passing was woeful in this match. He just kept putting it through the middle
to someone who was invariably stuck to a marker... and it came zooming back
into a midfield where....ah forget it........
Sadly, Mark Pembridge's modest talents were shown up in this game. Usually
the case when everything else is turning sour. Nicky wasn't intimidated by
Wright but I think he should have been switched to the left where he might
have done more damage.
Dunney had a good game except for This Week's Dunney Howler more later.
Unsie had a marginally less bad game than last week. Which is to say he was
only bloody terrible, except for one second half hard cross from the left
which should have brought a goal in the Street End. Naturally Big Ears deflected
it over. Yes, it was getting more unbearable by the minute.
All in all, it was a bit like watching a kid's game in the park on Sunday.
Bodies everywhere, flocked around the ball. You know all it needs is someone
with a bit of nouse to do something unusual.....and you've got a winner.
The more the game went on, the more I kept watching Carbone warm up on the
touchline. "Little twat," I thought, "Sit down, just SIT DOWN!"
John Gregory spent most of the second half out at the dotted line shouting
instructions, most of which got ignored. It'd drive me mad. It drove HIM
mad... he either kicked or threw a bag of tackle on the pitch when the Villa
defence failed three times to clear an easy ball and The Don just clipped
one over. I didn't see the actual incident because I was following the ball.
By the time I turned, Gregs was back in the dug out, presumably fuming like
the rest of us. Well, the Street End weren't gonna let THIS opportunity slip,
and...."Sacked in the mornin'....You're gonna be sacked in the MAAAWWWWWNINNNN!"
wafted melodiously around the ground. It was the only bit of entertainment
we got all afternoon. That and the rednecks' result.
So we were reduced to thinking of other things....The First Law of
Thermodynamics... Entropy... James Joyce... What IS the policy difference
between that twat Blair and that twat Hague?... Did Bacon really
write the Shakespeare plays?
The Street End did it's level best to bate James but he had next to bugger
all to do and even that didn't work.
We came out of the reverie just in time to see Gregs send on Carbone. Within
two minutes he skinned Unsie on the right and got a cross over, only to find
the rest of his team blinking sheepishly at him from the half way line. If
I'd been him I'd have gone there and then. We told him to often enough.
Then, the bloody ref's got his whistle in his mouth, and some crappy Villa
player hit a hopeful ball down our right. Dunney went back for it and casually
side-footed it back to Paul... who'd had absolutely sod all to do all
afternoon... except that he naturally took his eye off it at the last second
and it hit the top half of his inner left ankle and dropped dead in front
of guess who pursuing Carbone. He had a clear run in from the
left with only Paul to beat. He could have done anything... chipped, lobbed,
almost HEADED the bloody ball. Instead, he tried to swerve it into Paul's
left side. Mistake. It hit the face of the post and came out and the ref
blew his whistle with Carbone laying stretched out on the park and Dunney
wearing a relieved kipper.
For a successive week the Street End air was PURPLE.
We had to win this, people. It is now officially Panadol time. Don't empty
the bottle though. We'll be needing them all.
Gregory's relief at Goodison stalemate
Colin Malam, Electronic Telegraph
EVERTON laid out party hats and crackers in the press room at Goodison Park
yesterday. Goodness knows why, because there was precious little to celebrate
before or after this disappointing draw.
After seeing his side stop a run of two successive defeats with a gritty
away performance, perhaps Aston Villa's beleaguered manager, John Gregory,
was the only person in the ground who might have been tempted to pull a cracker.
He was hardly in the mood to do so, however. Shortly before the end, infuriated
by something that his side had done or not done, he booted his physiotherapist's
bag on to the field of play, where it spilled open. Given the 28-day touchline
ban Gregory begins on Dec 13 for verbally abusing a fourth official, this
was not really the way for him to behave.
The match was played against a curious background in that, while Gregory's
job was supposedly under threat, his Everton counterpart, Walter Smith, was
talking about walking away from Goodison when his contract expires in 18
months' time because of the continuing uncertainty about the ownership of
the club. In the meantime, both men fiddled around with their line-ups in
the hope of breaking a long run without victory in the Premiership.
Everton, who had not won a League game since they beat neighbours and arch-rivals
Liverpool at Anfield two months earlier, restored John Collins and David
Weir to the side, Collins after a rest and Weir following suspension, at
the expense of Abel Xavier and Alex Cleland. Villa, whose previous win had
come against Bradford nine weeks earlier, also made two changes.
Gareth Barry was recalled after suspension to play in a back three and Steve
Watson was picked to make a rare appearance as right wing-back. Barry replaced
Steve Stone, one of the questionably-expensive signings who have taken Gregory's
spending on new players to nearly £35 million during his 21 months in
charge. Watson, another of those signings, took over from Mark Delaney, one
of the manager's cheaper acquisitions.
In the circumstances, it was hardly surprising that the match was slow to
offer any fluent and entertaining football. When Nick Barmby and Mark Pembridge
did string a couple of passes together, it enabled Francis Jeffers to test
the Villa goalkeeper, David James, with a shot of only moderate strength.
With Everton doing most of the early pressing, Jeffers was also unfortunate
to be caught fractionally offside as he drove Don Hutchison's pass across
James and into the far corner of the net.
For Villa, it was largely a question of seeing what they could get from counter
attacks, and it proved to be very little.
Colin Calderwood had a shot charged down by his fellow Scottish international,
Weir, in the scrimmage that followed Alan Wright's short corner from the
right and some clever work by Dion Dublin nearly set Julian Joachim up for
a scoring header until David Unsworth's head intervened just in time. But
there was not much else by way of a scoring threat from the visitors in the
Equally, there was no denying that by the interval Villa had drawn Everton's
sting and were beginning to dominate proceedings. And if George Boateng's
cross from the left, after he been sent running clear by the influential
and hard-working Dublin, had been more accurate, they might well have gone
in at half-time with a lead. As it was, neither Joachim nor anyone else was
able to get a touch as the ball flew across the face of the Everton goal.
Thankfully, the second half brought some relief from the tedium of the first
45 minutes. Within six minutes of the restart, Dublin had driven Joachim's
pull-back a couple of feet wide of the far post and Everton had been refused
a penalty. It looked a good claim, James appearing to bring Jeffers down
as the young striker chased the ball diagonally across the penalty area.
However, the referee, Peter Jones, thought otherwise and awarded Villa a
goal-kick, much to the disgust of the home support.
As if eager to gain some consolation for that disappointment, Jeffers nearly
scored twice in the following 14 minutes. First, he tried to control Unsworth's
driven centre and succeeded only in deflecting it over the bar from close
range. Then, found in space to the left of goal by Richard Dunne's raking
pass, he forced James to palm away his sudden shot.
The best of the excitement was crammed into the last couple of minutes. Villa
looked certain to snatch victory when a mistake by Dunne allowed Benito Carbone
a clear run at goal on the left. But Carbone, who had been brought on by
Gregory for Joachim to renewed chants of "You don't know what you're doing!"
by the Villa fans, threw himself to the ground in despair after rolling the
ball past Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard and against the foot of the far
Gregory treads fine line
by Louise Taylor, The Sunday Times
JOHN GREGORY will not care to be reminded that managerial careers can hinge
on the width of an upright. Aston Villa's manager was a horror-struck spectator
when, in the 89th minute, Richard Dunne's error sent substitute Benito Carbone
clean through with Paul Gerrard stranded. The Italian seemed certain to score
but his shot somehow hit the base of a post.
Such slapdash finishing denied Villa a first win in eight games and did little
for their boss's tenuous job security. A first clean sheet in six Premiership
matches probably ensured that he will not be sacked this week but evidence
that Gregory is presently engulfed by tension had earlier been manifested
when he ill-temperedly hurled a holdall on to the pitch its contents
spilling higgledy-piggledy across the turf as his defence permitted
Don Hutchison a shooting chance. "I'll probably be reported for the incident
with the bag," later, ruefully, admitted a man who begins a 28-day touchline
ban, imposed for abusing officials, on December 13.
Blaming referees and their assistants for defeats invariably masks deeper
ills. Indeed it was perhaps significant that Carbone proved one of three
high-profile, jaw-droppingly well remunerated, Gregory signings the
others being ex-internationals Paul Merson and Steve Stone who began
on the bench, thereby prompting awkward questions about the manager's
Villa might be doing rather better if David Unsworth still wore claret and
blue. Everton's left-back who enjoyed the briefest of spells in Birmingham
during the summer of 1998 defended admirably here, even if some of
his distribution was found wanting.
Unusually Unsworth who Kevin Keegan could do worse than contemplate
selecting was one of 21 British players in the starting line-ups,
George Boateng being the sole foreigner. Unfortunately for those anxious
to reverse the flood of overseas players presently overwhelming the Premiership,
the opening 45 minutes largely provided a shocking advert for indigenous
virtues and lacked a single decent passing sequence.
Goalmouth action? Well, Francis Jeffers had the ball in the back of the net
but the Everton striker was so blatantly offside his teammates did not even
bother contesting the referee's decision. At the other end, Paul Gerrard
made a solitary save from Dion Dublin's long effort.
Admittedly the second half began with Dublin shooting fractionally wide of
the far post with Gerrard looking beaten, but, all in all, there was plenty
to provoke Gregory into anxiously pacing the outer perimeter of the technical
He had reason for relief when David James appeared to fell Jeffers in the
area but, despite clamorous Evertonian penalty appeals, the referee adjudged
the forward to have contrived the situation by running straight into the
On a day much more about destruction than construction, Villa's Gareths
Southgate and Barry deserved credit for keeping Jeffers and Kevin
Campbell well suppressed while Richard Gough belied his advancing years by
coping admirably with Julian Joachim's daunting pace.
In truth Joachim was rarely permitted to properly accelerate and, even when
he did, Everton's defence tended to shepherd him safely wide. It was thus
no surprise when Gregory replaced him with Carbone.
"We should have won I couldn't believe Carbone missed that. Our season
just seems to be unfolding," groaned Villa's manager afterwards. "But I was
delighted with our overall performance. We maybe lack a bit of self- belief
but everyone rolled their sleeves up and got on with it. Contrary to all
the rubbish being talked, we have a good dressing-room spirit. I'm particularly
pleased with the back three they were exceptional against Everton's
attacking pace, particularly Barry."
Although Jeffers might have scored from a couple of second-half chances,
Everton were less than inspiring and it was not hard to see why this was
their seventh successive Premiership match without a win.
Part of the problem seemed to be that Nick Barmby was disappointingly deployed
out of position wide on the right. Even so he still supplied many of the
afternoon's superior touches and consistently ran intelligently off the ball.
The mystery was why, late on and much to the chagrin of Goodison Park
season-ticket holders, Walter Smith, Everton's manager, withdrew Barmby when
the under-achieving Mark Pembridge on the left was a more deserving candidate
A victim of his ability to play in several positions, Barmby is really best
deployed on the left and could yet do a job there for England during
Euro 2000 next June. It would certainly be intriguing to see what odds might
be offered on Barmby summering in the Low Countries. Or, indeed, on Gregory
still being Villa's manager seven months hence.
Gregory gagged by
by Tim Collings, The Independent
Pressure grows for two managers badly in need of a win
How times change. Everton may be unbeaten now in eight home Premiership games,
but they have not won at Goodison since 19 September or anywhere since their
famous triumph at Anfield at the end of the same month. That win took them
to sixth, but this result yesterday served only to confirm it was a false
On an afternoon of scrambling mediocrity, it was John Gregory's visiting
Aston Villa who looked the more likely to secure a victory made out of little
more than effort and industry as he attempted to stop the rot which has plunged
his club into a minor crisis and brought calls for him to lose his job as
manager. On New Year's Day, don't forget, Villa were Premiership leaders.
Given his tendency for abusing the nearest official, it was a surprise to
see Gregory taking immediate advantage of the technical box, from which he
will be banned for 28 days starting on 13 December. He was busy whistling,
gesticulating and shouting at regular intervals throughout the first half
but none of his efforts succeeded in raising either his team or Everton to
levels which could stimulate the senses.
Without a win in their last seven Premiership outings, and beaten at Coventry
last Monday, Villa were in dire need of a result. But Everton, struggling
as badly to put their game together, were in no mood to offer any charity
in a first half riddled with misplaced passes and barely a worthwhile shot
The only notable event came after 16 minutes when Don Hutchison was cautioned
for a late tackle on Lee Hendrie. It appeared to be a challenge made out
There were, remarkably, 21 British players on the pitch at the start, and
worryingly the match fell into a sleepy and rhythmless shambles as both teams
attempted too many ambitious long balls. Hutchison's midfield partner and
Scotland team-mate John Collins was the one notable exception, but he saw
too little of the ball in the hurly-burly as so much of the play passed over
his head or whistled around his shoulders.
Even Walter Smith was prompted to jump from the dug-out and give vent to
his feelings. Having threatened before the match to quit Everton if majority
shareholder Peter Johnson did not soon sell his holding and move on, the
question was when Smith might decide to throw in the towel. Everton's dismal
first-half display prompted thoughts that he may leave at any moment.
The lively Francis Jeffers provided some movement alongside Kevin Campbell
at the focal point of Everton's attack but, like Collins, also received few
accurate balls to feet. He did, however, fire in one shot after five minutes
which rifled into David James' midriff, and saw another after 12 minutes
beat the goalkeeper only to be ruled out for offside. Alas, they were all
Everton had to show in attack in the opening period.
Given the pressures on Gregory's future, it was no surprise to see Villa
lift the tempo of their game after a tongue-lashing at the interval. Almost
immediately Julian Joachim escaped on the right and, from his reverse pass,
Dublin fired a first-time shot narrowly wide. Everton, too, looked more in
the mood at this stage, with Jeffers unlucky not to earn them a penalty after
51 minutes when he appeared to be brought down by James in the area.
Spurred on by the directions and vocal chords of Richard Gough, a remarkably
sprightly 39, Everton pressed forward to take the initiative for a short
spell during which they almost snatched the lead. A close-range shot by Campbell
was charged down by James and on the rebound David Unsworth hit a cross-shot
which ricocheted off Jeffers and arced over the bar.
Soon afterwards Steve Watson followed Ian Taylor into the referee's notebook
as the challenges became increasingly scrappy, and Gregory boldly responded
to the needs of the moment by sending on Benito Carbone as a substitute.
The little Italian added some much-needed vim and almost snatched the winner
when he latched on to a misplaced pass-back by Richard Dunne and then guided
a low shot from 20 yards against the foot of a post. A few inches to the
left and Gregory's day would have been made and, perhaps, his scalp saved
for the time being.
Gregory has no head for
by Kevin McCarra, The Times
JOHN GREGORY was ungrateful for small mercies. The Aston Villa manager will
not be fobbed off with a draw in an away match when larger chunks of
encouragement are required for a hesitant team. In the 89th minute, a mistake
by Richard Dunne, the Everton full back, granted Benito Carbone time to weigh
up the position and adjust his stance. The Villa substitute still rolled
the shot against a post.
Someone remarked that the Italian had looked distraught. "He should be,"
Gregory said. That brisk candour gives him charm. Emotions, as well as opinions,
are expressed freely and he had booted a kitbag on to the pitch when George
Boateng missed an easy clearance and put Villa in trouble late in the match.
Kick-starting the team is harder to achieve.
Villa are just two points behind Everton, a club deemed to be enjoying a
plucky season, in the FA Carling Premiership but more exacting targets are
set for a squad that Gregory has gathered at such expense. In a stultifying
contest, supporters did recover consciousness long enough to shout for penalties
in the second half when, in separate incidents, Francis Jeffers and Kevin
Campbell went down. On each occasion, David James, the Villa goalkeeper,
had reached the ball before the collision with the man. It was only while
defending, however, that Villa made such fine calculations. In attack, they
were merely guessing at the answers.
Gregory was reduced to praising Dion Dublin for closing down opponents. Julian
Joachim, also, was tireless in pursuit, but never in command. To observe
authority, eyes had to flick to the other end of the pitch, where Villa had
reverted to the system of three centre backs.
While Colin Calderwood and Gareth Southgate impressed, Gareth Barry, returning
to the side, was the key to the stringency.
Everton's main, and virtually sole, ploy was the flick from the head of Campbell
towards the feet of Jeffers. Five minutes into the second half, the teenager
appeared to have been put through but Barry, lunging from behind, executed
a clean interception. Entertainment was confined to the sight of excitement
being stifled expertly, although Jeffers, immediately after the second penalty
appeal, did brush a cutback from David Unsworth over the bar.
Everton's concerns lack the prominence of Villa's, but the unbeaten record
at Goodison Park that Walter Smith's team hold contains its own cause for
disquiet. Five of the eight matches have been drawn. At least Smith can take
comfort in the soundness of his team and await afternoons when the sprightliness
of Don Hutchison returns.
Villa's sequence without a win extends to eight matches in the Premiership.
Gregory was dismissive of "statistics", as if they were recorded only by
trainspotters in peculiarly neat notebooks. Chairmen, alarmingly, also keep
an eye on them. It is statistics that usher a team into European competition,
statistics that drag it off to the relegation zone, statistics that cost
a man his job.
Villa need victories and, over three competitions, have their next four matches
at home, with Southampton arriving on Wednesday. Gregory is one of the few
managers in England to sound eager for a Worthington Cup tie.
Times Newspapers Ltd