Luke’s World: hailing Everton, opponents of the season

Luke Harvey

Almost to rival the series of end-of-season reviews just begun – and to which others are free to contribute – Luke Harvey, having described the impact of our signing of the season, James McClean, gives special attention to another specific aspect of the football he saw at the Stadium of Light. Step forward Everton, Luke’s opponents of the season …

It seems a slighthly bizarre notion to want to celebrate an away team’s performance at the Stadium of Light. In fact it is not so much a celebration of a performance but more an acknowledgement that losing will always be part of the game, certainly ours, and that sometimes we just have to hold our hands up and admit we were second best.

I do not suggest we should simply accept that a team can come to our ground and beat us comprehensively. Nor am I implying that we should just sit back and watch it happen or get emotional because someone like Thierry Henry scores a goal for Arsenal in the last match of his return to the club.

However it is the mark of a strong willed fan to grit teeth in the face of defeat and recoognise that you can’t win them all.

Even Brazil, even Barcelona, even Manchester United – all are fallible; they have lost before and they will lose again. We manage it more often, of course, and there was no denying that when the blue half of Merseyside came up for an FA Cup 5th Round Replay, we were well and truly beaten.

Claims have been made that we didn’t show up to the match, that we bottled it, and in some regards this could well be true – part of me definitely thinks there was a nervous disposition among our team before and during the match. Why wouldn’t there be? It is a big night for us as fans and it’s also a big night for the players in our colours down on the pitch.

Jake urges you to have your say

They may not lose sleep over the defeat; they may all still pick up handsome pay cheques at the end of the week and live lives of luxury. But they are where they are today because of their competitive instinct and some of the players who succumbed to Everton that night will have been as torn up as many of us. On top of the pressure and nerves, some knowledge of our long standing tradition of not being able to beat this perpetually annoying opponent will have lingered, too.

Our performance in the match will have led to much disappointment having battled so bravely for a 1-1 draw in the initial match at Goodison Park. A Phil Bardsley special was cancelled out by an either very fluky or very skilful header from Tim Cahill, a man who is no stranger to causing us misery; of course it was Cahill who scored the Millwall goal against us in the FA Cup Semi Final in 2004.

In the replay, however, things never really got started for us, and not for the first – or last – time, Marouane Fellaini cut an imposing figure in the centre of the field for Everton. Seemingly as adept in his defensive duties as he is capable in his attacking ones, Fellaini requires close attention from every opponent whose zone he enters, but the presence of Cahill and Osman, two very talented players in their own right, makes this easier said than done.

The towering Belgian‘s performance also highlighted a problem with our team’s ability, or lack of it, to deal efficiently with powerful yet skilful central midfielders. Later, Stephen N’Zonzi of Blackburn similarly dominated the centre for Rovers’ 2-0 win at Ewood Park.

Another Tony Roffe/Jake collaboration

Back to the cup replay. There was no real surprise that Nikica Jelavic opened the scoring for the opponents and even less that he did it with just the one touch of the ball. Jelavic is fast establishing himself as the most lethal fox-in-the-box in the Premier League and on his day the Croat can be unplayable. And Jelavic has the added physicality and presence in the air that perhaps Phillips and Bent did not have in abundance.

Everton were even able to double the lead. When David Vaughan inadvertently, and rather comically, managed to put the ball in his own net the 6,000 travelling Evertonians knew they were on their way to the semi finals, and they certainly let us all know.

It was a deserved trip to Wembley whether it is right or wrong that the penultimate matches of the tournament should be held there.

At least we can look back on a fun FA Cup ride and know that one day our Everton hoodoo will end – although the 4-0 drubbing in the league, with the pain of the replay defeat still gnawing at us, gave little reason to hope that day will come soon.

Join the Salut! Sunderland Facebook group – click anywhere along this line

And follow us on Twitter: @salutsunderland … click along this line

Click anywhere on this sentence for a glance at the home page – and highlights of all the most recent articles …

Click here for the Martin O’Neill ‘Team of all Talents’ mug: £9.50, post-free for UK buyers, from the Salut! Sunderland Shop

10 thoughts on “Luke’s World: hailing Everton, opponents of the season”

  1. A definite issue was how there was no inclination of what was to come at half time, a defeat maybe but I didn’t anticipate a 4-0 drubbing. I was there and I can’t recall much endeavour from our own players except for an over head attempt from Sessegnon. By the end of the second half McClean was playing centre forward I think.

    That said I didn’t really see much as my view was very obscured by a roof/giant pillar/giraffe man TWO rows in front of me and still blocking my sight. Darn my 5′ 9″ stature.. (and even that’s debatable!)

  2. The 4-0 loss at Everton was about as bad as it gets really Luke, particularly in the wake of the no show in the cup replay. It was a test of character, which I have to say was failed miserably by the majority that day. Jelavic is one of the signings of the season, without a doubt.

  3. I’ve always found Everton quite likeable despite the horror showings against them. It’s that Yin-Yang sort of thing, when they and Villa were the fifth and sixth teams in England we were good against one and terrible against the other. Shockingly Everton have only improved themselves by actually going out and signing a striker in Jelavic, and I bet there are a few teams out there kicking themselves in hindsight.

    That said, Jeremy, at least I wasn’t writing about the 4:0 loss at Goodison not long after! Now that was a horror show if I ever saw one.

  4. Good article, which I could have done without reading as I am sick and bloody tired of losing to Everton. They have an amazing record against us. I wanted them to win the FA Cup, much like Bill. Maybe a sign of real improvement is when we have a team which can compete consistently and win against Everton. That may be the benchmark we need to use.

  5. As you gave me the chance of an easy reply Phil I’ll opt for it: Yes, I was there. Thanks for asking.

  6. I don’t know why iI have a soft spot for Everton, what with the beatings they constantly give us. Maybe I’m perverse.

    Let’s be honest, we choked big time. Any player who sees himself playing for a club that attracts 40’000 a week shouldn’t encounter this problem, I bet their agent’s leave this trait defect out of their verbal c’v’s on demanding their salaries. But, hopefully they will learn from it and I suppose a lot of them need to go through this first.

    I’m just happy we finally have a manager who takes the cup seriously. Wouldn’t it be great if the club threw in the first home tie of the cup onto our season ticket cards?? We can dream.

  7. I must say that when Everton knocked us out of the cup, I wanted them to go on and win the whole thing. They’re a club very similar in many ways to Sunderland. This season it was their turn to best us, next season it may well be ours. As Luke says, swings and roundabouts. Unless, of course, you’re one of the Brandchester clubs and their rotten-with-money ilk. In which case, you simply buy the swings and roundabouts.
    Speaking of money, handsome pay cheque or not, I like to think that any footballer worth his salt would lose a bit of sleep over a defeat. Especially if he knows in his heart of hearts that in that particular game, he hasn’t pulled his weight.

  8. A simple question, Luke, were you in the SOL when we replayed our FA Cup tie?

    A yes or no will suffice.

Comments are closed.

Next Post