Salut! Sunderland wishes all readers a happy Christmas and fabulous new year
Everton under Roberto Martinez are, on their many good days, one of the teams of the season. The victory at Old Trafford was just one of a string of excellent results and they reach Christmas in fifth place. That makes Paul Dargan*, an author, journalist and broadcaster, as happy as you’d expect an Evertonian to be and he believes with a touch of wishful thinking that the club will finish one position higher. I hardly dare mention where he thinks we’ll end up …
Salut! Sunderland: Great win at Old Trafford but wasn’t David Moyes booed by a section of your away support (as well as by disgruntled Man U fans)? If so, was it not a bit below the belt?
Paul: I think what people have to remember is the way David Moyes has spoken about the club he was manager of for 11 years, before they start having a go at fans of a club who will ALWAYS support through thick and thin. While the vast majority will have fond memories of David through the most part of his time at the club, they also have to help defend the honour of Everton Football Club. There was no requirement for the new manager of Manchester United to really turn the knife in with the way their club as a whole went about the pursuit of what many outside of Goodison Park thought were two of our most sellable assets. The fact that one half of the pair, Marouane Fellaini, went for £500k less than what was offered for both the Belgian and England left-back, Leighton Baines, is quite ridiculous. Either that was a great bit of business by Bill Kenwright et al, or United really were taking the mick initially. I suppose we will never know.
But the early signs are Martinez will be a winning manager for you. What’s his secret and how far can he take you?
Yes, aren’t they just. At the time of writing, we are just two points off top spot (before Arsenal played Chelsea at the Emirates) and if you would have guaranteed that to Evertonians when Roberto Martinez joined on June 6th 2013, they would have bitten your arm off…cue Suarez joke. After proving in the FA Cup tie in March last season that he could expose Everton’s weaknesses on the pitch, he leapt to the top of the list of potentials to take charge of the Blues. This is a huge reason why he has been able to hit the ground running since taking the reins from the outgoing Moyes. As soon as I knew that Moyes would be leaving for Old Trafford, I was looking forward to us really having a go at taking three points there and Anfield – one down, one to go on that front. Many Blues may have been looking for cover when Bill Kenwright announced to the world that Martinez would guarantee him and Everton Champions League football, during the summer. But that promise is a joke no longer and the challenge for Top 4 has been well and truly realised. As for what his secret is, do we really want to give that away…
A continuation of that question and you may have dealt with it, but do you sense the club is on the brink of a return to the glory days of 30+ years ago – or does the silly-money competition from Man C, Chelsea etc limit your ambition?
Our ambition will always be limited at some point, mainly due to the reasons you have given in the question. Our better players may leave and our constant challenge is always to try and unearth the rough diamonds from the Academy ranks, such as Wayne Rooney, Ross Barkley and another one waiting in the wings, John Lundstram. But the reason we are where we are now, is down to the fundamental work done by David Moyes after taking over from Walter Smith and making sure we were hard to beat over time, before trying to finish as high as possible. Go back to the 2004/05 season, where the top three in the league were miles clear and Everton, Bolton and Liverpool were fighting it out for the coveted fourth spot. We grabbed it, but couldn’t qualify for the Group Stage after being drawn against the eventual semi-finalists Villarreal in the qualifying match (which a few Evertonians still see as a bit of a fix for a couple of reasons), but should it happen this time, I think we are in much better shape to take the opportunity with both hands. Both there is a long way to go, yet.
You must have come to expect a routine three points, or cup progress, whenever you play Sunderland. We finally beat you again at home last season; is it our turn to match you at Goodison or are you already licking your lips at the prospect of a Boxing Day goals fest?
Sunderland’s travelling support always give as good as they get, regardless of the fact that we always seem to give you a pasting at Goodison so huge respect for that, in the least patronising or condescending way at all. It has been interesting to see the Paolo Di Canio debacle, coupled with the arrival of Gus Poyet and how Sunderland have dealt with it. It seems that Di Canio did try to get the squad fit in the summer and it certainly helped during the extra-time period against Chelsea, which now sees you in the semi-final and having a chance of really transforming your fortunes. I will of course be looking for three points as your side sit at the bottom of the table, however, this season has shown that anyone is capable of beating anyone in the top flight.
Who are the best players you’ve seen – or wish you’d seen – in Everton colours?
I have a few favourite former Blues and been lucky enough to interview them as a former journalist for the club: Graeme Sharp, Kevin Sheedy, Neville Southall, Kevin Ratcliffe, while my most recent favourites are Nigel Martyn and Leighton Baines. One player who I wish I had seen in Blue (for longer) is Wayne Rooney.
And who should have been allowed nowhere near them?
Ha ha ha. This could be a bit harsh, but Claus Thomsen, Carl Tiler and most recently Jan Mucha should never been handed first-team shirts.
What have been your own highs and lows as an Evertonian?
Highs are obviously the FA Cup win in 1995, the only time I can really appreciate Everton winning a trophy, being 34 years old. Lows are any defeat at Wembley and unfortunately, I can remember a few.
Has Sunderland’s woeful start to the season surprised you, or did you see it coming?
As I mentioned before, the Di Canio situation was never going to end without tears, but he did seem to really want to achieve something and him striving to get the squad in the best shape possible proved that he was serious about the job and not just a random appointment, following his time at Swindon in League One. But with Wigan’s defeat at Arsenal and the timing of the game after their Cup Final win over Manchester City just a few days earlier, saved your lads from the drop with one fixture remaining. With Steven Fletcher’s goals seeming to dry up, Stephane Sessegnon leaving for pastures new and Lee Cattermole almost guaranteed a red card every match, I did fear for Sunderland. Bringing in a change of manager so early on gives you hope of getting to 40 points as soon as possible, but even Mr Poyet admits that it is now going to be a tall order. Failing to beat Norwich at home before visiting Goodison will be a huge disappointment given that it was an early season six-pointer. But I think you have enough experience to guide you and it always takes time for a manager to fully get his intentions across to the players, as well as prove to them that he has their trust.
Any good, bad or amusing memories of past encounters between our clubs?
I haven’t personally, but here I could fit in a stat if that’s okay. Bizarrely, we have played each other no fewer than 10 times on Boxing Day; three times in the Premier League era alone. Everton have lost only twice in that time, but one of those defeats was a 7-0 thrashing by one of your best sides ever (sadly, this was also nearly 80 years ago – ed) or so I am told. As recently as 1999, we beat you 5-0 when you were third in the league. A player familiar to both clubs, Don Hutchison scored twice.
And before we forget, bring us up to date on the future of where football will be played in the city of Liverpool and what you think of it?
Pass. I don’t think we will get to the bottom of this in the near future, despite our chief executive saying two years ago that he expected Everton to have a new home within the next five years. So, unless he knows something that he is not letting on about, I don’t believe him.
What will be this season’s top four in order and who – being as brutal as you must – is going down?
I think anyone who predicts the four clubs, never mind the order in which they finish, filling the Champions League places, deserves a medal and a pint! But, I will certainly have a go: 1 Manchester City, 2 Arsenal, 3 Liverpool, 4 Everton. That is wishful thinking on my part. 18 Norwich, 19 Crystal Palace 20 Sunderland. Sorry lads.
Brazil 2014: getting excited or too concerned about Everton to care?
I do love the World Cup, I like international football. I just get frustrated watching England. But it seems that now Everton may provide at least three of the squad for next summer (Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines and Ross Barkley) I will be a more interested spectator. My semi-finalists are: Brazil v Germany and Uruguay v Argentina. Not sure who will win out of those four, yet, but with Brazil being hosts, I have to have them as the potential ones…
Tell me what most inspires – and appals – you about the modern game
Besides ever-increasing ticket prices, poor refereeing standards, too much focus on the big clubs, celebrity fans, some clubs still playing music after they score, and people not supporting their hometown club, but instead watching them go into administration while they give their money to clubs who don’t need it. Nothing appals me. What inspires me is the young players who still want to play the game at a lower level and not the spoilt-brat Premier League “stars”. Play the game because you love it, not because it’s an easy way to make money.
Will you be there on Boxing Day and what will be the score?
Unfortunately, I will not be there as most of my time is taken up working on the radio broadcasts of most Merseyside games, but I will be there in spirit as ever. The score is hard to predict, but we are attempting to go a whole calendar year unbeaten at home for the first time since 1962-63 and have two games left. We won the league that season. Omen? I will go 3-1, Everton.
* Paul Dargan on himself:
I am a freelance journalist/statistician turned author of almost 15 years who has written a book and spends free time with my son (who seems to know more stats than I do) when I’m not on local radio, although sometimes he comes with me! My book is called ‘No Doubting Thomas’ and can be found here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/No-Doubting-Thomas-ebook/dp/B00E2P6D2S/ref=pd_rhf_ee_p_t_1_16P9
There is a sequel on the way and in actual fact, it will be a trilogy. My history of supporting Everton involves me working for the club for a season as a journalist in 2009/10, as well as beforehand as a freelancer writing the official match programme and the two official club magazines. But I am a lifelong Evertonian and have been attending matches since my debut (and Tony Cottee’s) on August 27 1988, when you will be glad to know we battered Newcastle 4-0!
Interview: Colin Randall