Is there a cushier tie in the Everton fixture list than Sunderland at home? Will Jermaine Beckford score two against anyone else at this level? How worried should we be after a gutless surrender bringing the losing streak to four, with three tough games to come? Pete Sixsmith joins up the dots to offer some thoughts …
My first visit to Goodison Park was in January 1966 for a Fourth Round FA Cup tie (which kicked off at 3pm along with the other 15 games that day).
I travelled on a coach from Shildon with, if memory serves me correctly, Phil Younghusband and Robert Newton. It was an uncomfortable day in the footballing cathedral that housed England’s then finest team as we lost 3-0 mostly due to turning in a performance that I would have described as supine had I known that word then.
Forty five years on, some things have changed and some haven’t. Phil and Robert have long departed the North East, Everton are no longer among England’s elite and to describe Goodison as a cathedral would be akin to saying that North Africa is a haven of peace and political stability.
I am, however, still travelling by coach and, more relevantly, witnessing performances that make me continue to use the word supine and question why on earth I part with hard earned money to watch utter dross like this.
Were I an Everton fan, I would scan the fixture list in June, look for the home game with Sunderland and either pencil it in as three certain points or pass my season ticket on to the man next door and take my wife (or better still someone else’s wife) for an exciting weekend in Llandudno Junction.
They did all they had to do. They grabbed hold of midfield early on, ran at our hopeless back four and rejoiced in Jermaine Beckford notching his first, and I would warrant, only Premier League double.
He had two tap ins courtesy of defending that would shame Brandon and Byshottles WMC on a Sunday morning. Ferdinand’s feeble header for the first was bad enough, his being bullied by that Iberian man mountain, Mikel Arteta for the second may well be the final act of his ultimately disappointing Sunderland career.
However, there was still a chance of avoiding a game winning second had John Mensah managed to guide Arteta to the by line. Here was a man who has played international football at the highest level and who is looking to stay at Sunderland and he goes to ground. Against Artetea!! So he pulls it back and lays it across to Beckford while Big John is sliding on his arse in the general direction of the running track. Hopeless!!!
We had had a couple of chances earlier on. Richardson had shot wide from a good position as early as the third minute and Howard made a good save from Sessegnon. And that, comrades, was it. Nothing else, other than a team performance that wouldn’t have burst a wet paper bag.
This is worrying. We have now lost four in a row, two to Champions League teams and two to teams who lie below us in the league. The general consensus is that we will lose the next three and then we have an “easy” run in.
No we don’t. The teams we play in April and May will all be scrapping for something. We have nothing to play for other than a decent league position. The Europa League dream of Bate Borisov at home on a Thursday night has gone and we could be on the edge of the relegation zone by the time those “easy” games against Wigan, Fulham et al arrive.
Why are we slipping away? Injuries have certainly played a part – losing Cattermole, Meyler and Wellbeck at the same time has reduced options and taken the youthful zest out of our midfield. We are very light up front as well. Gyan struggles without support and Richardson had an absolute stinker yesterday, confirming the view amongst many, that he plays four decent games and then slides back into obscurity.
The two January imports are finding the cut and thrust of the “world’s greatest league” difficult. Muntari was frequently caught in possession yesterday and Sessegnon was forced up blind alleys by the excellent Osman, Coleman and Neville.
As for Henderson, he tried to get us going but the instructions are clear: give the ball to Muntari – he will do the business. That needs a rethink.
And what about Everton and their oft repeated problems?
They fill their venerable old ground with proper fans who find a visit from Sunderland impossible to get excited about. They do have a problem with Goodison though. The area where visiting fans are situated is well past its sell by date and the fact that they charge a staggering £37 for a 1960s experience with wooden seats, exposed brickwork and toilets that would fail a health and safety inspection in Benghazi is something that the FA should investigate.
About as much chance of that happening as there is of us ever turning in a decent performance at L4 4EL.
* I know we promised Pete’s view for The Observer, too. Unfortunately, the paper costs far too much down here in France and they don’t seem – or didn’t whenever the site was checked – to have put Tim Rich’s match report online, let along the fans’ verdicts. Let us know if it has appeared and you feel like tapping it out for use here.