Some thoughts on Roberto’s Blue Army…

The international break seems like a good time to dust down the laptop and reflect on all things Evertonian and footy in general, as well as other random stuff that springs to mind. In what’s turned into a monthly blog this season as work and family commitments have become a priority, here are a few thoughts since our Welsh excursion.

That’s a five game stretch following the transfer window slamming shut on that frenzied evening, with Evertonians going from wanting to stick their head in the oven at about 20 minutes to 11 to mild hysteria half an hour later. Martinez playing the game better than Moyesy, as the Ginger One showed it maybe wasn’t just Everton holding him back from transfer domination as Spanish imposters and late deals missing the deadline made him and his new employers look like dithering amateurs. Meanwhile Martinez had Gareth Barry and James McCarthy dogging in a lay-by near Finch Farm until the deals were cut and Kevin Mirallas showing man love to Lukaku in Belgium. And, he’d had the iron to hold onto Baines – and to influence Bill to hold his nerve – whilst screwing a good deal out of United as Moyesy’s 1000-yard stare became blurred with too much curly hair.

Not that Martinez is a total golden bo**ocks as his Moyesyesque changes for the League Cup trip to Fulham contributed to another frustrating early exit from this competition. It seems to us that the vast majority of Evertonians see this cup as our best chance of actually winning something. Silverware and a route to Europe and that. Get with it Roberto.

A few other Moyes-like tendencies have also shown themselves: win the big game against the big 4 team at home; fail to hang on to a lead (and then eventually fold) in a big away game; concede straight after we score – in fact the blue smoke bombs/flares/pyro had just cleared in time to see Negredo score 😉 and we scored at that end, like we always do at City. By the way a proper player is Alvaro – no wonder Blues were excited at the unlikely prospect of us getting him: great first touch, scores goals, really combative/physical – freaked Everton out for the second goal by arguing with (the wholly out of sorts) Seamus. Basically, the opposite to the big pussycat Dzeko.

Now if we could combine our second half against West Ham with the first half against Newcastle we might be onto something big. Unlikely, but these were signs the players are taking the transition in styles in a really positive manner. There’s only so long you can stand to listen to Steve Round whilst Moyesy stares furiously at anyone who doesn’t track back and Phil Neville claps and nods at everything Moyes says. Both these games showed why Chelsea were right to let Lukaku go but also why they were totally wrong. He hasn’t yet been menacing for the majority of a game – maybe why West Brom preferred him as an impact sub – and sometimes his touches are a bit too elaborate. But, where Mourinho is wrong is that what he does bring far outweighs these negatives. It’s great he can only improve whilst he’s playing regularly for the Toffees. If he carries on scoring as he has done then we’ll have a good season, he’ll prove what an excellent player he is and Chelsea will want him back or price him way out of our range. Let’s enjoy it whilst we can.

Seeing what he can do adds an extra bit of anticipation and excitement to the Hull game. As if it needed it – what with the retro theme and all… Let’s hope it isn’t as freakish as the Newcastle game when us Park Enders were over-stimulated to distraction as we hung on to a game we had bossed. All five goals were down our end, the disallowed goal, they hit the post and then the one that whistled over right at the end (as Everton’s defence, particularly John Stones it seemed, all left the defending to each other).

We’ll have some players coming back buzzing from their international appearances as various players will be going to Brazil. Despite the Ing-ur-land thing grating at times, it’s still good to see Everton players in the World Cup. We should have Bainesy, Jags and Ross Barkley heading to Rio for England – don’t think Leon will make it somehow… Although I do have a concern that Jags may end up being a bit of a Phil Neville and not make the World Cup cut. He played well against the Poles, especially when only doing the specialist defensive tasks, but, it may just be me, watching him pass the ball about as left-sided centre back always has me breaking into a sweat.

Surely Baines has nailed down the left back spot? There is still the ‘who would you want against Ronaldo or Robben?’ brigade. Their answer is always Cole but Baines has improved defensively in recent years (not that he was terrible) and is one of the most creative left-sided players out there. In a league setting you’d say he’d done enough to keep his place. Let’s see what Hodgson does. Being involved in England has hopefully been a part of Ross’s learning curve which can only benefit the Blues. Whether Gareth Barry gets back in is a tough one. England certainly need more options in central midfield and he’s been great since he came to us – a real steadying influence. If he can play his way back into contention then it’s only good for us. His form has meant less reliance on Gibson, who looks like he might be out for a while now anyway. Barry and Gibson can both play a first time pass but Barry is better defensively, which, as we were wide open against City – who coulda had six despite Culture Club’s Jon Moss being a massive bell end – is a necessary part of our style. Also, not sure you’d want both of them in the same side.

So, let’s hope we can maul the Tigers – have they changed their name yet? According to last weekend’s rumour mill next season could see Red Bull Everton play Hull City Tigers… Imagine that? We’d have to have a vote on whether the crest was going to be red or not. What? Another crest vote…unless the kit was changed. The fella from Hull just announced the name change, just like the crazy owner at Cardiff who changed their kit. If you sup with the devil you gotta go with what he says. Maybe it was just Bill and Robert Elstone had been drinking too much Red Bull in their 24/7 search for new investment?

Up the Toffees.


Everton – Reflections on Wales and the window

Alright Blues, how’s it going? Feeling a little better than you did at half 10 on deadline day night anyway ay?

More on that soon but a little on our first foray onto foreign shores this season.

There are few things which make grown men act against their own free will but Trainline is one of them. So it was the 0630 from Manchester Piccadilly which proved to be the carriage of choice. The fact that it was subject to a couple of platform changes, half an hour late and then stuck behind a freight train was immaterial really – sufficient beverages were available and to hand.

Cardiff City Centre – which boasts a city centre castle and a city centre stadium is pretty impressive really. In addition to several drunken Evertonians and presumably some moody Cardiff Soul Crew, a Gay Pride march thrown into the mix. Loads of flamboyantly dressed locals with whistles and rainbow symbols everywhere just added to the surreal feeling of being drunk at 10am.

After the vexing issue of snapping up a spare for one of the group was resolved, it was time to relax and soak up the atmosphere on a very pleasant day. The Ninian Park Pub will no doubt have had quite a reputation back in the day but proved to be a friendly enough environment, any sinister edge removed by the fact that it’s now called Maverick’s Steak Ranch. In fact the only limited sense of menace was coming from a ‘team’ of young Blues, all hoodies and attitude. Fair play to one of them, when deciding to wear his grey hoodie with grey jogging bottoms, his decision to go with grey trainers looked inspired.

The game itself was a bit of a disappointment with The Blues dominating for the entire match without necessarily looking like scoring. Clearly Baines should have had a pen and Marshall made a great save from Jelavic’s header but there was a lot of possession without many chances really.

One surprising aspects of the Cardiff trip was the fact that they really seem to make an effort with away fans. Token gestures maybe but pretty impressive. First of all there’s a twitter account CardiffCityAwayFan (@CardiffCityAway) with bits of info and also the excellent idea of allowing away fans to graze in the compound outside at half time. Not the first to do it but good for dissipating anger and frustration and allowing people to smoke (rather than forcing them to turn the toilets into a carcinogen-fest). Granted, this was a sunny day in August not a January hailstorm.

Also, certainly on one side, the away fans are next to a Family section. This posed a challenge for the stewards but they managed to handle it in good grace. ‘Where were you when you were blue?’ was a regular enquiry made to said section.

As for matters on the pitch, you could kinda see what Martinez is trying to do. Possession and patience are the watchwords, but the team are definitely missing a cutting edge. In some ways it was the perfect away performance, with the Blues totally dominant and the home side nullified. Ross is now the fulcrum of the side, with most things going through him. Baines remains the spark. Jelavic actually had a couple of decent touches but looks a shadow of his former self. Kone seems to have picked up Victor’s baggage and is prone to criticism. That said, he doesn’t look the marauding stuff of Johnny Heitinga’s nightmares as yet.

And what about the Belgians? (as convicted paedo/weirdo Stuart Hall didn’t used to say). Fellaini played within himself in a deep lying role, long balls up to his chest on the edge of the opponent’s box just not Martinez’s kind of caper. As for Super Kev, he looked pretty disengaged out wide and squandered his only good chance by insisting on checking back onto his right foot. It really makes you wonder whether a more central role would suit him – as evidenced in part by his goal against Scotland.

Anyway, talk of Belgians and lack of cutting edge brings us nicely onto to that pesky transfer window.

Ian Marshall’s Matters was committed to watching it on Twitter but finally succumbed to the lure of Sky…..and then immediately regretted it. Jim ‘I’ve got Ian Holloway on the phone right noo’ White is a prick, almost as much as Dave ‘not quite so matey with Stuart Hall now’ Whelan. Pleasingly, a disastrous, some might say Moyes-esque, transfer window was averted and The Blues did quite nicely thanks. Lukaku would appear to offer more than Jelavic, Kone, Vic or Mirallas (often seen sat on the end of Lukaku’s bed) as a battering-ram target man and McCarthy has looked the part in the past. Barry is a true pro and although not spectacular he’s very steady. The Battler from Hastings (like that?) always made Villa harder to beat (especially at Goodison) and there was one particular occasion when The Blues had just taken the lead, he got the ball from the kick off, picked out (big) John Carew and Villa were back on level terms.

Whether Gibson and Barry can play in the same side is debatable. What they will both do is increase the passing tempo – one of the things that was needed against both West Brom and Cardiff.

As for Fellaini and Big Vic, it’s always sad to see players leave but you’d have to say we got top dollar for both. One of Fellaini or Baines was always going to go and we’ll miss the big Belgian less. Vic, who loved a goal against the Baggies, was a bit of a hate figure at Goodison. This was probably a bit harsh but he did allow his head to drop too easily. One correspondent likened him to Emile Heskey and there’s something in that; powerful, unplayable on his day, rarely had his day, didn’t score enough. Hope he does great though.

Of course, we haven’t actually signed Barry or Lukaku beyond this season but that’s the modern game kids. You take what you can.

Naturally, not one single blue can have failed to take some comfort from the notion of ‘Dithering Davie’ over at Old Trafford. The attempt to sign Herrara sounded really clumsy, with release clauses in Spain apparently taking weeks (rather than hours) to sort out.

Martinez has conducted himself with an air of calm and class throughout – we just need three points on the board now.

The attacking options of Jelavic, Kone, Lukaku, Mirallas, Barkley and Deulofeu (who put a fantastic ball across the six yard box at Cardiff) gives us more firepower than we’ve had in a long time.

Now we just need to beat Chelsea (without Lukaku presumably).

Come on you new look Blues.

Out with the old, in with the new – Everton preview

Alright all, how’s your summer? Any good ?

It felt a little less stressful than normal as a Blue – a handful of (albeit exclusively DW/Nou Camp based) early signings – you still bezzie mates with Stuart Hall, Dave ? – and as yet no major departures. And that’s despite the best efforts of the papers, most notably the Mirror Group. What is it with them? They’ve not only gone ‘all in’ on Baines to United, they’ve also lined up new clubs for Evra and replacements at left-back for Everton.

For those of you old enough to recall Spitting Image, just imagine the pigs in pork pie hats. For the rest of you, ask your dad or just imagine pigs in pork pie hats. Thanks.

Of course, Baines or Fellaini may go (the latter seemingly more likely and more tolerable really) but it certainly isn’t nailed on.

Anyway, enough about them (and you), let’s talk about us for a while. A bit like The Blues, Ian Marshall’s Matters are having a bit of a makeover too.

We had a bash at writing match previews/match reports but there are plenty doing that (almost as well as us) so we want to broaden things out more this season. Look out for our different angles on all things Everton and beyond.

You can follow us on Twitter @immatters_efc where we will be doing only ONE tweet per day. Just one. So if you want to disagree with us, fine, but midnight is the earliest you’ll get our witty and pithy rejoinder.

So there you have it, we’re taking instant, social interactivity and turning it all pigeon/telegram – it doesn’t get any more radical/cutting edge than that.

Back to The Blues.

Most of the questions in Evertonian minds will relate to Martinez and whether he can build on what’s gone before. He’s taken a similar recruitment process route to Mike Walker really – come to Goodison with a smaller club and give The Blues a proper grubbing. Many are concerned about the fact that he took Wigan down (Joe Royle took Oldham down we think) but buoyed by the fact that he won the cup (shades of Big Joe again)

If thinks go well, we are promised sexy football – elegance to match the sartorial style of our new manager. And let’s face it we’d all prefer Roberto’s smart, fitted shirts to Moyes (sh1t cardie), Smith (invisible cloak of dignity), Kendall (beer jacket), Royle (big jacket) and Walker (speedos).

Some big questions face Martinez, some of which fall into the category of ‘nice problem to have’

1. Jelavic, Kone or Victor……or any two or all three of them ?

2. How big a part will Ross ( Scottish goalies pah), Deulofeu and Stones (great pen by the way) play ?

3. 3-5-2?

4. Will we continue to be over-reliant on Darron Gibson ?

Possible answers 1 probably Jelavic 2 big, as sub and only if there are injuries 3 hmmmm 4 less so if we borrow the annoying but effective Gareth Barry

Kone was fasting due to his Muslim faith and it’ll be interesting to know if that makes a difference. Ian Marshall’s Matters vaguely recalls an interview with (big) John Hartson when he stated a preference for a ‘big fry-up’ as his pre-match meal. He later abandoned the approach as it made him nastier if he was literally and therefore metaphorically hungry. Pretty sure big John isn’t a devout Muslim like.

Turning to the game, it’ll be pretty tough today against a handy but unspectacular Norwich team. Last season’s trip was memorable for three things really

1 there is a pub in Norwich called ‘The Murderers’
2 yes, we know where we were when the first player from Sierra Leone scored in the Prem
3 the inevitable last minute winner from that dog Holt after we surrendered the initiative

The bouncer were pretty friendly in Norwich that night and they have a new one in the shape of one-time EFC target and horse trader Leroy Fer. Splashing the cash nicely in Norfolk, so where’s the TV money Bill?

Ah, some things don’t change.

Three points please Blues.

Everton FC 2012/2013 – Alternative end of Season Awards

‘Moyes lines up Barcelona midfield ace’ screams the headline. Must play for the third-team or something you think and then suddenly it dawns on you, he ain’t our manager any more. Takes a bit of getting used to.

We wouldn’t really want Fabregas anyway, his best Goodison moment clearly being the time Tim Cahill ‘old manned’ him into getting sent off.

Anyway, we’ve got Roberto Martinez now and hopefully things will improve. The maestro of the Goodison Quarter Final has a tough act to follow but has said all the right things so far. The Everton Board have got many things wrong over the past but the appointment of managers has been sound. Even Mike Walker seemed like the right choice at the time.

So anyway, after one obligatory month on the mythical football beach and just a few days before the fixtures come out, we’ve decided to muster some awards based on last season. Leave us a comment if you like, we’d be interested to hear your views. Well read ’em really. Here goes

Mitch Ward Player of the Season Award

A few candidates here; Baines, 2nd half of the season Howard, Jags, Fellaini but our vote goes to Sylvain Distin. He’s barely put a foot wrong since he put a massive foot wrong to let old rat-face in at Wembley and this season has been imperious. His qualities? Well…..Outstanding in the air, consistent, very athletic for a big (and above average age) man, loves a last-ditch tackle and is cool as fck on Twitter.

Tobias Linderoth (that one against Charlton) Goal of the Season Award

Leighton Baines….Newcastle….Woof. Evertonians in St James’ and all round the world beseeching him to ‘just tw@at it’ and just tw@t it he duly did. Superb.

Pablo Aimar Favourite Opposing Player

The way Ki of Swansea strolled around Goodison made him the player we all want to be but the standout display had to be Christian Benteke for Villa. He tore Johnny a new one and although the Dutchman was below par in this Benelux clash (and against Kone and Long), the big Belgian did it to quite a few other defenders last season. It left you (and the fans of most other clubs) musing, how good could we be if he played for us?

Steve Finnan Least Favourite Opposing Player Award

There are a few for consideration here. Gabriel Agbonlahor seems to love a goal against Everton and virtually no one else. If ever you watch a game and you’re rooting for Villa (presumably only for gambling purposes as they are to be loathed) he’s awful, but against the Blues he’s transformed into some kind of world-beater. Fat Frank Lampard is to be admired and hated at the same time; oh and Wiltshire is a snidey little get, as all Arsenal’s players were in both games. But let’s face it – merely on the basis of his Goodison display; cowardly tackles and his hilarious goal celebration, it’s Luis Suarez.

York City away Best Game of the Season

The Goodison derby was off its head really, two down in no time, Mirallas mesmerising and the Blues back to 2-2 and then a weird second half when not too much happened, apart from the ‘goal’ at the end. The change was no doubt down to King Brenny’s amazing tactical acumen. United at home was great, as were Villa and Swansea away in that crazy start to the season. But, just because it epitomised so much about Moyes’ Everton, we’re going for Man City at home. A thoroughly deserved win for a team who ‘wanted it more’.

Clive Thomas Best Refereeing Decision

Dead simple here….injury time…Goodison…..Suarez….not offside (possible foul by Coates, pronounced coats)…….the pockets of reds going nuts…..the knee slide…..the laughter. Great stuff. The first repayment of a massive debt of fate and karma and that.

Alan Robinson Worst Refereeing Decision

There’s a lot of love for Victor’s disallowed goal against Newcastle, partly because of just how frustrating that draw was. This was the match in which Everton’s inability to hold on to a lead hit its nadir. But we’re going for Mark Halsey failing to send off Fellaini at Stoke… least once.

Alan Harper Heart-throb of the Season

Man love is a curious thing. Bainesy’s indie vibe is endearing and female Blues have the hots for all from Hitzlsperger to Hibbo but our choice for his ‘just the right amount of product’ hair, just out of the office three-quarter sleeves, the way he spells Bryan and his Human League song…’s got to be our favourite Costa Rican Bryan Oviedo, baby.

Operation Goodison Funniest Moment of the Season

There has been some hilarity at times, mainly people back-tracking furiously over whether Big Vic is any good. The knee-slide was a classic and apologies but our choice is one of those ‘you had to be there’ moments. The mood at the Old Lady was super ugly after the Wigan defeat and an early start to the following home game against the richest club in the world did not augur well. The expectation was that Goodison would be littered with empty seats but our little enclave of the Park End was absolutely chocka. The reason……and infestation of Asian (possibly Chinese/Thai) tourists. And to paraphrase Paul Calf they looked like they’d ‘Covered themselves in superglue and rolled around the club shop’. Everyone had a scarf on, most had hats and to a man (and woman) they wore Fellaini wigs. It’s not unusual to get a whiff of ‘greenery’ in that corner but all the regulars thought they were hallucinating that day. A feeling further enhanced by the fact that Jelavic scored.

Gary Speed Revelation of the Season

The renaissance of Victor was a candidate along with the ability to get good money for Jack Rodwell. Another was the universal acclaim for Moyes as he left, despite it always feeling like there was a underbelly who didn’t really appreciate him. But we have to, sadly, go for just how ordinary Nikica Jelavic is. Or has become. Temporarily we hope.

Muller Saga of the Season

Moyes will he/won’t he was the obvious choice here, with many still surprised that United wanted him. The subsequent arrival of Pelligrini and Mourinho may make his timing awful, especially as they are managing absolutely minted clubs. Latterly the badge has been saga-tastic, U-turns all round. But, because it is still rumbling on as we speak, we’re going for the transfer of Leroy ‘The Bouncer’ Fer. It’s easy to say he would have been the difference between 6th or higher, but he probably wouldn’t. Would still quite like him though.

And there you have it……a little look back before we all look forward from Wednesday at 9.

Cheers Blues.

Chelsea review – some manager thoughts

That’s it then, Moyesy signs off with a defeat. In true Moyes style it was a game the Toffees could have and should have done better in – a big away game where they faded and got rolled over by a Chelsea team who should have been the ones to slow down and feel the effects of a long season in the second half.

It was a bit depressing really – so near yet so far to mixing it with the proper top teams. It confirmed our sixth place was about right and we were never really up to getting in the Champions League slots. For all those having a go at the way Arsenal celebrated confirming their fourth place position, just imagine if we’d finished there and stopped them lot from getting in ahead of us. If only.

Moyesy commented about how during his time at the club he hopes expectations have been raised. He’s right, they have. Feeling down about a narrow defeat to Chelsea is a lot different to what we were served up at the end of Walter Smith’s time. Chelsea just about deserved their win – they took their chances and made less mistakes than us. Maybe that’s what you get with the level of players at Everton. Time will tell if it’s the way Moyesy sets his team’s up or all down to the quality of players on the pitch. Putting Heitinga into midfield and pushing Fellaini up front isn’t the most subtle of tactics. It’s the type of thing he’s done over the years to leave a minority of Evertonians not too upset over his departure. Maybe the new fella will take the opportunity to really have a go in those situations and win the odd away game at Chelsea and such places. Moyes’ conservative nature is to try and protect what he’s got and snatch a winner in such circumstances. He’s got it right more than wrong in all his time with us. He’s put down some great foundations and it’s only a pity he never had the chance to buy the extra player or two to really give us a chance. Anyway, good bye and good luck Davie – hope you’re only on half pay this week with all this time you’re putting in at United by the way.

So, who’s going to be the one to try and build on Moyesy’s team? They’re highly unlikely to have too much cash – this new TV deal – surely everyone else will have a similar amount to splash? Maybe it’ll take the selling of Fellaini (let’s try and keep Baines eh?) for around £20m to help the new man bring in some fresh blood. If it’s Martinez it’ll likely mean some Latin American type who flashes the odd great performance but ultimately doesn’t do it consistently enough to improve us. If he was to come and bring one of the James’s from midfield – McArthur or McCarthy – one of them is really good, that would help. Instead we could be putting out the Finch Farm welcome mat to Ronnie Stam or someone equally memorable.

There’s no outstanding candidate for the position – the internal candidature is gaining a lot of ground on the rumour mill. We’ve had Howard Kendall extolling the virtues of Big Dunc and now Ian Snodin is praising Alan Stubbs’ credentials. If we work on the basis of it being an internal candidate then the sooner he’s in the better as Moyesy would probably have spoken up for them and would do some kind of handover – like Alex Ferguson seems to be doing for him. I’d imagine Moyesy will have a folder for each player that’ll he want to talk over and then ask the new man to sign the file to confirm he’s had all the relevant information provided. Maybe a Stubbs / Weir dream team with Stubbs bad cop to Davie Weir’s more thinking good cop might be the answer. Big Dunc to be first team coach to rouse the players from the touchline and kick the sh1t out of them at half time if needed?

Maybe not. Kenwright would have done that by now surely? It seems Martinez is planning to speak to Long John Whelan next week and that could account for the delay. Tony Pulis suddenly being available better not tempt Bill. An increase in baseball cap sales from the club shop is no way to run a club. Klinsmann can do one too. That Porto fella is popular because nobody knows anything about him. The betting odds are fluctuating all the time – last time I looked Malky Mackay had come back in again.

Clubs are starting to look at players now – it’s a pity we may miss out on Kolo Toure isn’t it? Those swivel-eyed loons* from across the park can have him all day long. The sooner we get someone in – all have a moan about it to get it out the way – then get right behind him, the better.
* © some uber-posh Tory

Ian Marshall’s Matters will be throwing out the odd article over the close season. We’re going to sign off the season with some end of season awards. Possibly at some point over the Bank Holiday weekend. Some of us are still recovering from last weekend.

Chelsea Preview – more of a Moyes Best XI

Last day of the season is usually a cliché-ridden cringe fest and we don’t want to miss out…the end of an era for Everton with Moyes final game as manager. All the emotion and tributes were done last week at Goodison. Three points to finish things off nicely would be brilliant and allow Moyesy to chalk off one of the outstanding black marks of his time at Everton – winning an away game at Chelsea.

Having won the Europa League on Wednesday it’s to be hoped they’ve been drinking each other’s p1ss from it ever since – John Terry probably has. They still have a little something to play for to make sure they guarantee third place – some Champions League qualification issue or other probably. They’ll also want to win as it’s Rafa’s last game in charge…oh wait, the beauts will probably be raining on that particular parade. In one way, who can blame them as he’s got a snide, moaning ego which isn’t very endearing. Chelsea fans would rather have Jose Mourinho’s snide, moaning ego instead…

And Rafa isn’t ruling out the Everton job! No, that’s all wrong – take note Bill. And Gus Poyet suspended from Brighton and someone (not him) shat in the Crystal Palace changing room…where is Steve Harrison these days? Glenn Whelan at Stoke seems to be trying to take the mantle as chief prankster in the league. Pity Kenwyne Jones never snotted him one. To take our mind off the Everton manager rumour mill – inside candidate anyone – we’re going to join the fun and have spent a bit of time, well five minutes, picking our all-time Moyes at Everton XI.

The simple criteria used are: playing for Everton under Moyes (!) and choosing the players based on their best Everton season – not what they’d done before or since. We’re a team at Ian Marshall’s Matters so it’s a bit of a ‘chosen by committee’ but we reached a consensus.

First thing to agree was the tactics – it had to 4-5-1 under Moyes. A system he fell into with Marcus Bent proving so adept as the spearhead in 2004/5. It’s one he’s stuck to mostly ever since, although the odd 4-6-0 has been effective. The system has subtly evolved over time to a 4-4-2 come 4-3-3 depending on the opposition and when we’re attacking but basically it starts out as a 4-5-1.

So, let’s crank up the tannoy for the team:

Nigel Martyn. It had to be Big Nige. Our most consistent keeper since Big Nev. It’s a pity we never signed him years before. He provided stability for the defence that Tim Howard doesn’t consistently manage.

Right Back – Seamus Coleman. He’s added defensive solidity this season to his marauding runs. Those runs are more controlled too with a more consistent outcome, ie the cross goes somewhere near its target. Our other main contender was Tony Hibbert. He’s been there since the start of Moyesy’s time. From a purely defensive point, Hibbert would get the nod although he has his limitations (Wembley 2009) so overall we’re going Seamus.

Left Back – Leighton Baines. No debate here. He’s gotten better and better over the years. He’s a shy lad it seems which reflected early on as he seemed to lack a bit of confidence. Remember Lescott at left back? He was decent. Other good left backs we’ve liked include Pistone and Nuno Valente but they’re a distance behind Baines.

Central Defence – Phil Jagielka & Joleon Lescott – chosen separately but they also formed a great partnership. Jags is a superb tackler and blocker. He’s probably improved his distribution a bit this season but that’s not his strong point. He never gives up and backs-to-the-wall defending is his forte. Lescott was our debating point. The other serious choices were for Yobo and Distin, not forgetting Weir and Stubbs who were strong and a part of a rock solid defence in 2004/5. Lescott edges it with his goal-scoring return which was decent – not Degsy Mountfield like – but enough to edge him in the team.

Leon Osman, Mikel Arteta, Marouane Fellaini, Tim Cahill, Steven Pienaar

We’ve gone for the classic Moyes – two wide players capable of swapping over; an attacking player who can support the striker; and two midfield sitters who can tackle and use the ball. Our unanimous choice out wide was Steven Pienaar – on the left. His close control and ability to retain possession sets him apart – he does have his weaknesses such as a lack of pace and his shooting is generally poor. How many times has he been in shooting positions on the edge of the box and passed it to someone else? Saying that, he’s had his best season for goals. He’s generally involved in our best passing moves and can change direction with great close control to compensate for lack of pace.

The other wide player was more of a debate. Kevin Mirallas has made a big claim – certainly with his recent run and some great goals. We’ve also had early-stage Mikel Arteta on the right. When we needed to be more robust in the middle, and before he got used to mixing it a bit in there, he was great at creating half a yard to get a cross in from out wide. So, to balance this team we’ve put Leon on the right. He gets his fair share of goals and gives this team the ability to be flexible – he can swap with Pienaar or drift inside behind the striker or even in central midfield.

The centre of the park has Arteta’s close control and possession and ability to take the ball off the defence. He’s great at set plays too – although his corners were terrible for the last few years – so let’s make that great at free kicks. He has the ability, along with Pienaar, of buying a foul just when we need it. Partnering him in there is Marouane Fellaini. Another who is able to take the ball off the defence – he’s better to then lay it off – but his main strength is winning the ball and keeping hold of it. Using his chest he is imperious. Once he’d got the hang of tackling properly he’s been really effective. He can also play up front or behind the striker and be a threat. Getting on the end of set plays is also a big part of his game.

The attacking midfielder to drift in behind the striker had to be Tim Cahill. At his peak he was brilliant at it. He also had a passion for the game and the club which gave him a never-say-die attitude. He was someone who could mix it up with even the biggest players. One of the best compliments we can pay him is the Kopites hated him. Nice one Tim. He scored a lot of important goals, mostly with his head. One of the best ‘jumpers’ for a ball we’ve ever seen.

Aiyegbeni Yakubu – Maybe we should have called this position Centre Forward but our man isn’t the traditional Everton no. 9 in the mould of Dixie Dean, Joe Royle, Graeme Sharp or Duncan Ferguson. In the Moyes era we’ve only had one player who scored goals regularly over the season. The Yak’s first season was his best when he got 21 in all competitions and 15 in the league. We finished fifth and qualified for Europe. Imagine having ‘that’ Yak this season? Although, imagine having last season’s Jelavic? Jela wasn’t selected as, although brilliant last season, it was only half a season. There was also a big shout for Wayne Rooney. During his time at Everton he was great but didn’t score a load of goals – he developed that at United. We’d have him as sub. His first season when he’d come on as sub with Goodison chanting “Rooney’s gonna get you” was spine-tingling. It helped produce moments like his goals against Arsenal and the one at Elland Road.

So, that’s our team. Pick away at it if you like. If you can do better by all means let us know.

Everton 2 West Ham 0 – Goodison shares the love

The King is dead! Long live the King! As Man Utd fans proclaim David Moyes as the heir to Alex Ferguson. Meanwhile the motley bunch on the bookies’ list for next Everton manager isn’t the most inspiring. There’s no one universally approved or admired candidate, with most people being clearer on who they don’t want. Early bird season tickets might turn into dead ducks with the number of people threatening to tear them up if Neil Lennon even thinks of being the next Everton manager.

The current Everton manager signed off at Goodison with rousing acclaim from Evertonians who recognised what he has brought to the club in his time: pride in the team and respect from the other sides in the Premier League is a starter; no longer pushovers with players who scrap for every point; a team who are genuinely disappointed at not getting into the Champions League, never mind Europe. He was allowed time to build and Sunday showed what a team in Royal Blue he has moulded. Of course he has his faults – his Evertonian detractors point to a conservative style of football, his poor record in big games and too many blown opportunities in the cups – but the football on Sunday showed what might have been if he’d ever been given the chance to add one or two more players at crucial times – like the last January window. Everything comes to an end and maybe it was time and it felt important that Everton did the right thing on Sunday.

They did and it was done in a typically classy Everton manner. Moyesy came out and gave a modest wave to all four sides from the touchline at the beginning as the main focus was on getting the three points. The Goodison crowd was at its best too – singing Moyesy’s name regularly and loudly to tell everyone how highly he is regarded at the club by the vast majority of Evertonians. The crowd was also affirming the club is bigger than any one person with the chanting for the team as loud as has been heard for many a year. It’s been compared to the Fiorentina game. That 15-20 minute spell in the second half was reminiscent of the semi at Wembley in 2009 when the Everton end was a wall of noise for at least 20 minutes – hair standing on end moment – when pent up pride in being an Evertonian washed over the whole of Wembley. We still had to wait until penalties before getting through that one though (change it Moyes!) but this time, on Sunday, the whole place was lifted – West Ham wilted – and Super Kevin Mirallas claimed his second goal. Joyous scenes as Goodison relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon.

We played some great stuff – the first goal was as good a team goal as you’ll see – and we could have had two or three more only for Jussi Jääskeläinen and James Collins. The keeper made some important saves and Collins was winning the Phil Jagielka blockers award as he threw himself in the way of loads of shots. Just as Jags-like was the deflection he put on Mirallas’s second to loop it over his keeper.

The full-time whistle led to the final acclamations as the players formed a guard of honour as Phil Neville rightly took his plaudits for his time at Goodison and then Moyes walked into the centre circle to share one of those moments when Goodison – the manager and crowd – was at one. It felt like he was inducted into the Goodison Hall of Fame there and then. And to top it off Tim Cahill came to get his share of the limelight but also to show what Everton means to him. It was a day to say you were there.

Now if only we could sign off with a win at Chelsea… Then it’s over to Bill to pick the manager who is going to carry on Moyesy’s good work. That’s reassuring then… Well, he got it right last time. Whoever is chosen will be a risk – just like Moyes is for United. Each of the candidates has their weaknesses. Current favourite Roberto Martinez may have just won the FA Cup but he’s also just been relegated with his team. More rubbish defending against Arsenal. Would we take a new manager who’d been relegated with his current team? Big Joe Royle went down with Oldham in 94 and then a few months later he rescued us from the Silver Fox.

It looks like we’ll wait until the season is over before making a move. It’ll need to be swift after that so players don’t get too restless and start looking elsewhere. We’ll keep our eyes and ears open like all other Blues and, prior to the Chelsea match, play the new Evertonian parlour game – name your best Moyes XI.

West Ham Preview: Good Luck Davie but we’re Forever Everton

Alright Blue? How you feelin’? While other clubs are always looking for the latest footballing philosophy or Mr Motivator, we Blues have been totally monogamous over the past 11 years.

It’s a strange old feeling to be back on the prowl – looking for a new catch.

So very sudden too really. It’s hard to blame him for going but probably more regrettable for the older Evertonian. 25 years ago there was no real difference in size (or trophies won) between the two clubs – now it’s a yawning chasm. Back then the move would be unthinkable; now, it’s inevitable.

Moyes’ legacy will be a largely positive one. He wasn’t perfect by any means but you’d have to accept he went some way to restoring the Blues to a more respected position in football.

The best thing he’s done is make us the proverbial ‘difficult to beat’ really. As his reign has developed, nobody would see a trip to Goodison as an easy one and United, City, Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea and even ‘them’ on occasions have found it difficult. The team used to be pretty direct with no frills but over time has developed into a good footballing side. We’ve got the likes of Pienaar and Osman instead of Carsley and Kilbane now. Despite seasons of ‘two halves’ on many occasions, there have been plenty of great memories.

Everybody will have their own…but Ian Marshall’s Matters has special memories of Nuremburg away, United at Wembley and at home, Chelsea away in the Cup, the Carsley Derby, just about every trip to City, finally winning at Elland b@stard Road, winning penalty shoot-outs, Big Dunc night v United and all those last minute winners…a sign of a well-run club with committed, disciplined staff.

There’s loads more too. For a man who was preceded by someone supposedly famous for his dignity, and ultimately lampooned for it, he’s been truly dignified in the job.

Of course there have been some bad times too: the last Rooney season, Wigan of course, Kroldrup, Anfield, Emirates and Old Trafford. Questionable selections, signings and substitutions are inevitable over 11 years. He’s had his share but no more than many and less than most.

With all these memories, Sunday is going to be a little strange. No clean break in our relationship, Davie’s hanging around the house for a couple of weeks before he moves on to his richer, more attractive but garish lover.

Hopefully, he’ll be afforded the reception he deserves. It’s much easier to blame the likes of Rooney for going to United (once a Blue…) whereas Moyes has given us 11 years and had no affinity with the club at all before that. He’s linked with the signing of Benzema as opposed to the likes of Denis Stracqualursi so you kind of see the appeal.

It may also give the ‘change it Moyes’ and ‘negative Moyes’ brigades a chance to shout at him one more time. The Goodison equivalent of the Monday Morning Quarterback is Saturday Afternoon Gobsh1te it seems.

So, hopefully things will go well and we’ll do what we’ve done pretty regularly under Moyes…and beat West Ham.

Team news wise we look likely to be unchanged after last week’s unfriendly derby it seems – oh and we’ll also get to welcome Mandy Carroll back to Merseyside. Our slim to anorexic European chances will still exist at kick off – so a win is critical for all kinds of reasons.

No man is bigger than the club – but one man has been more significant than any other in the past decade. Sunday is a tribute to him – then we go to Chelsea and then we move on…

Onward Evertonians.

Liverpool 0 Everton 0 – Winner Takes All

Apologies for the Tarby Derby pun – and an even bigger sorry to those who’ve never heard of Jimmy Tarbuck, Geoffrey Wheeler or the now (allegedly) disgraced phrase – press your buttons and gamble away.

This really constitutes a post-derby stream of conscience rather than a match report. Here at Ian Marshall’s Matters we don’t want you to think we just throw things together like. God forbid.

So as they have done in recent weeks, as the difficulty of our away games has ramped up in the final stages of the season, Everton took a point on their travels.  Spurs, Arsenal and now Liverpool.  The performance was creditable but left you wondering what might have been.  And in those three aways we’ve got the same to show for it as we’d have got for getting stuffed twice and scraping a win at one of them (preferably Klanfield like).

If it was the last derby for Moyesy, he’s left us with a strange feeling really.  All that ‘formbook out of the window/anything can happen on derby day’ crap can just….well…..go out of the window.  The Blues deserve to compete on an equal footing because they are.  Simple as.  We do still seem to have a bit of an inferiority complex though. Whether it’s fair to link this to Moyes’ fabled poor away record against the big four (despite the fact that we own City) is open to debate.

The Blues have changed a lot in the second half of the season – as the home games get easier and the away days tougher. The defence has been pretty damn solid recently but also rode its luck a little bit too. Even QPR and Fulham had their decent chances, but the clean sheets keep on coming. Howard has returned to form, Distin has been a rock and Coleman has definitely improved defensively. All this allied to the fact that in last-ditch proper defending situations, there is no one in the game who likes a block more than Jagielka. He was excellent again on Sunday.

As is so often the case, Everton didn’t really show up in the final third at Anfield. The rapier like thrusts from Seamus were replaced by hesitancy and Mirallas was pretty anonymous. More on Big Vic, who generally did OK, in a moment.

And despite their patchy season, LFC are pretty tough opponents really. Pleasingly Sturridge, who can look amazing or totally disinterested at random it seems, had one of his off days. Gerrard – Sky Sports darling and predictable man of the match – was pretty imperious as ever. And a special mention for Jamie Carragher, who refereed the game pretty well and got most of the big decisions right.

Of course, The Blues had a perfectly good goal disallowed. There’s a lot of crap talked about body language but you can’t help but wonder if Victor has approached the ref in a Gerrard style ‘I’m telling you how it is’ as opposed to his own ‘Moaning and about to burst into tears face’ – maybe things would have been different. Something to ponder for the big Scouse-Nigerian there.

As ever, there’s been quite a lot of media/social media fallout after the derby, including the colour of the smoke in the Anfield Road end. It looked pretty blue to be honest. Note to flare carriers, it looks loads better in the daylight. The Elland Road experiment (in the black of night) didn’t work quite so well.

King Brenny, who in all honesty (Sturridge style) seems to alternate between seeming pretty reasonable and completely irrational, suggested that LFC were ‘lacking a bit of quality’. There is more talk of a couple more world class players once again completing the planet’s longest running and largest jigsaw. His mood probably wasn’t helped by chants about his son, which are preferable to the Gerrard one in all honesty.

The strangest bit of post-match reaction was linked to a former Liverpool striker.

Turns out that John ‘Aldo’ Aldridge is neither ‘sound as a pound’ nor ‘in touch with reality as he somehow equates an Everton chant with some anti-Hillsborough sentiment. Where you been John? There’s been quite a lot of stuff (including a Kop tribute of all things) clearly stating the opposite.

Maybe it was all a storm in T(witter) Cup really. He seems to clarify by talking about the timing of songs. Som maybe it was a bit of a non-event really. Like the game in many ways.

Anyway, two games to go and we can all go and spend time on the metaphorical beach that all football people go to for a month at the end of the season.

We have one minor thing to play for – hopefully that can get wrapped up on Sunday. No mention of Moyes to United (odds on currently but still can’t see it – time will tell)

Cheers Blues.

Liverpool Preview: Cry God for Davie, Everton, and Saint Domingo

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more… It’s that time of year again to ready our troops and attack the tin mine – the citadel they’ve held fast from us for 14 years.

In some eyes, the telling fact about David Moyes’ time in charge of Everton is his poor record at Anfield, Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal. There is a counter debate which puts forward his record at Spurs and Man City. It seems from this angle the latter two were roughly on a par with Everton when Moyes took over and his language – verbal and body – is different, more aggressive, as he seems to understand we can get into them. Their relatively recent increase in status has only proved to increase his, and the team’s, motivation. He is well inside Mancini’s head at least and doesn’t seem intimidated by Villas Boas’ pixie boots. Everton supporters are of similar thinking – we know we can ‘do’ Man City and get up for their games accordingly. And Spurs just wind everyone up.

The other four were established Champions League sides – with all the resources that suggests – when Moyes took over and he’s always been acutely aware of the massive difference in financial strength. He has planned his team’s approach accordingly. Let’s face it; we’ve been rough and ready for a lot of that time. We’ve been progressing though and within the last two or three years our football has developed again to another level. Such that, there’s extra frustration when we don’t push on – and perform miserably in last year’s semi final and this year’s Wigan debacle.

Our cuddly neighbours always delight in pointing out the conclusion of all this – we haven’t won anything under Davie. The truth hurts. Moyesy’s mindset is still at its most conservative when we play these sides. To compound this, there is also another effect which influences events: supporter-driven anxiety. Evertonians have our own gallows humour – it’s often been the safety valve we need – and it’s part of Evertonian folklore, that helps make one Evertonian worth 20 Liverpudlians as Brian Labone observed. In the opinion of this correspondent, there’s too much doom and gloom when we go into this particular game. We can all reel off the times they’ve benefitted from dodgy decisions against us (and foam at the mouth whilst doing so), however, this leads to an anxiousness which is self-fulfilling as it spreads from the stands to the players. If we could only think we were playing Man City then our chances would increase accordingly.

Results on Saturday make this one even more of a parochial scrap. Never mind that Stevie G has stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest with his comments – the fact is he was right. This is minor fayre. If they finished above us but we’d won the FA Cup who’d care? The thing is though, we massively need to win this game to finish above them. The psychology of it for Evertonians is probably more important than anything. They’ve got an arrogance that constantly needs pricking and we need to do it more regularly. Gerrard, and especially Carragher, always celebrate wildly if they win (which we see much too often). It’s that helium-voiced scruff’s last derby today. Please Blues let him want to forget it ever happened.

Team news and tactics will have their say. Fingers crossed Gibson plays and Fellaini is up for it – as Moyes said, he’s done well in big games. The main worry is where our goals are coming from. Maybe Jelavic will knock one in off his backside or Vic can slot in front of the Kop? Despite his improvement, Vic is still not at the level we need to get into Europe. At least one striker should be a priority in the summer – whoever is in charge. If only we’d been able to match Liverpool’s spending in January…we’d probably be top four. Wishful thinking. For today, all that matters is we win. Believe in yourselves Blues.

And so, we’ve gone all Uncle Bill and, with apologies to Billy Shakespeare:

And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in Everton, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Davie, Everton, and Saint Domingo!’