Last season, Hannah Myers was one of Salut! Sunderland‘s Everton ‘Who are You?’ interviewees and came second in the annual HAWAY (Highly Articulate Who are You) awards. So we’ve been back to the Myers household and pressganged her old man, Sam Myers*, into the hot seat. Doubtless in years to come, young Oscar will be answering questions to some whippernsapper successor to Monsieur Salut. Sam likes SAFC, believes Big Sam can save us with time to spare but expects Sunday to go to script.
But footballing allegiance in the extended Myers family gets complicated. Life on Merseyside may have made Hannah’s dad, Alan, call Everton ‘us’ and he is doubtless predicting ‘we’ will beat Sunderland. But he’s a Redcar – or more precisely North Skelton – lad and his first footballing love was Boro. He was there for last night’s penalty shootout win at Old Trafford. But who will he be shouting for when Boro (‘us’ last night) host Everton (‘us’ the rest of the time) in the quarterfinals? Sam has passed on his father-in-law’s emphatic response below ..
Salut! Sunderland: So the United and Arsneal defeats apart, a fine season so far with lots of people saying lots of nice things about Everton. Your assessment?
Sam Myers: Ten games in and we’ve already played the top eight sides from last season so you could say it’s been a tough start! Aside from a notable away win at Southampton and beating Chelsea (who doesn’t beat them these days?) though, most of the games have gone the way we would have expected and we find ourselves in 11th going in to this weekend’s fixture. We’d hope to be higher at the end of the season but it’s vital that we start winning the games we are ‘expected’ to win, starting this weekend against Sunderland.
Tell us about the strengths and any weaknesses of Martinez
Strengths: has coached the side to play a more passing game which is great to watch when it’s working (which it doesn’t always).
Weaknesses: the insistence on two holding midfielders is frustrating and we very rarely start with two wide players which leaves the team lacking width. This is especially notable when either Baines or Coleman are injured as they would normally get past the midfield but their replacements do not always do this. Also, he often leaves it late to make a sub which diminishes the effect that they can have on the game.
We associate Everton with outstanding managers and Harry Catterick and David Moyes are up there among them but do you regard Howard Kendall as having been the doyen?
Without doubt, Kendall has a huge place in the heart of most Evertonians. Sadly, I was only born in 1982 so, although I lived through our most recent glory days, I was still a little too young to remember. Heading towards the ground for the Man U game recently, when the news of Howard Kendall’s death had just broken, there was a definite sombre air about the place. During the minute’s applause, you could see a bit of dampness in the eyes of even the more hardened fans around and about me. His service as a player and a manager mean that anyone who is a few years older than me has fantastic memories and he probably shaped some of the happiest days of their footballing lives. By all accounts, a really decent fella too and he’ll be sadly missed.
How do you see the future shape and location of Goodison and Anfield?
It seems our friends over the park are redeveloping their existing home now after buying up the surrounding streets over a long period of time. Your visiting fans will see the cranes on the skyline should they choose to look that way (I try not to!). As for us, the most recent plans involved a new stadium on a nearby park but we take all of these proposals with a large pinch of salt after numerous, well-publicised let-downs in the past. The key thing seems to be funding and we just don’t know where this is coming from. Much as I love Goodison, its “charm” as an older stadium doesn’t make for the most pleasant matchday experience, so a new home would be welcome but I’m not holding my breath.
And what are your true feelings about Liverpool – some say the rivalry is nothing like as intense as that between Sunderland and Newcastle and but I suspect you’d disagree?
Yes, I would definitely disagree! I know fans from both sides up there so I know how deep the feelings run. A friend from the “other” side from your perspective recently had to move house and he was fairly easy-going about the spec for his new house. The only deal-breaker was that it couldn’t have an SR postcode, even though he might have got closer to home than Chester-le-Street which is where he ended up! The difference in Liverpool is that we are a two-club city so there is a lot more mixing between both sides in families and workplaces. This increases the value of bragging rights tenfold as you have to mix with the other lot all the time! Sadly, unlike Sunderland, we have not had the bragging rights as consistently as you for some considerable time.
From a long list, who are the true greats of Everton’s past, which of the stars you’ve seen have given you the most pleasure and which of the older ones do you wish you’d seen? Dixie Dean might be a good start!
Names from the past are numerous and often come with nicknames like “Golden Vision” (Alex Young), the “Holy Trinity” midfield of Colin Harvey, Howard Kendall and Alan Ball, the “Cannonball Kid” (Dave Hickson) and the club itself being hailed the “School of Science”. It would have been great to have seen all of them and more but, sadly, the only nickname of note from my era was the “Dogs of War” which was the mid-90s midfield consisting of John Ebbrell, Barry Horne (“Who needs Cantona, when we’ve got Barry Horne?” was the ironic chant of the time) and Joe Parkinson!
It’s always tough when you haven’t seen these players so you have to rely on stories passed down and sewn in to the club’s history. However, someone like Dixie Dean has the stats to back up the legend and it would have been fantastic to see him in action. From those who I have personally witnessed in more recent times, Big Dunc in full flight was a sight to behold but one that we didn’t see often enough due to injury. A young Wayne Rooney had the crowd draw breath in anticipation each time he picked up the ball. Kanchelskis was a shining light in what was a fairly grim period in the mid-90s (notwithstanding the FA Cup win in ’95). Sadly, the best players don’t stick around as long anymore so their legacy isn’t as strong.
And which players should never have been allowed into Goodison?
Anyone who is wearing the Royal Blue jersey will always get my full support but, I must admit, this loyalty has been tested many times over the years! These occasions have thankfully been fewer and further between more recently and I wouldn’t like to single out any one player from the past.
Your highs and lows as a supporter?
Highs: winning the 1995 FA Cup final against Man U (and all the odds). Also at Wembley, beating Man U on penalties to make it to the 2009 FA Cup final. Other highs from my earlier supporting days sadly revolved around staying up on the last game of the season!
Lows: losing to Liverpool in the semi-final of the FA Cup in 2012. We went in to the game as slight favourites on form and we even managed to get ahead. Sadly, after half time, we froze and allowed them to get back in to it and win the match (thankfully they lost in the final…). It was also massively disappointing to not make the group stages of the Champions League when we were controversially knocked out against Villareal in the final qualifying round.
Stones, Lukaku, Baines and Barry are obvious contenders but who do you see as the real strengths in the current side?
We have the spine of a very good and potentially successful side and many of the players in our first 11 would get in to most other teams in the league. The likes of Baines, Stones and Coleman in defence; McCarthy and Barkley in midfield; Lukaku and Mirallas up front, are all players who would fetch decent fees if sold and (with the exception of Baines) are relatively young. We’ve also seen the emergence of young Brendan Galloway at left back this year who has been a revelation in what, to him, is an unfamiliar position.
And back to any remaining weaknesses?
We lack a bit of depth and this has come in to focus this year in defence as both full backs have been injured so we have played with young lads in those positions. Galloway has been a stand out performer at left back, despite the fact he’s a centre half by trade. It shows that perhaps Martinez was comfortable with what he had when he left it so late to recruit defensive cover in the summer.
And what is needed to make Everton truly great again?
Investment! We regularly have net spends lower than teams further down the table (Sunderland included) and it would be nice to open the chequebook a little more to sign real quality when required. We also need a new/refurbished stadium to increase match day revenue.
On a player level, Tim Howard has been great for us but we need to recruit a long-term replacement for him.
Tell us about your family’s Boro connections – mentioned to me by Salut! Sunderland‘s John McCormick, who introduced your wife Hannah to us?
My father-in-law, Alan, hails from North Skelton, near Redcar, and came to Liverpool as a university student and never went back. He is a Boro fan by birth but, having had a season ticket at Goodison for the last 20 years, he has a very soft spot for Everton (who he refers to as “us”). Of his three children, the eldest, Sarah, has agreed to carry the Boro burden and, his son, Tom, is unfortunately a Liverpool fan. My wife, Hannah, was the only one who saw sense! Sadly he hasn’t had many opportunities for split loyalties in recent years but they’re ticking along nicely this season so who knows? He does still go to the odd match when the Boro play more locally and will be at Old Trafford for the Capital One Cup match on Wednesday.
Stop Press: Hannah’s dad on Wednesday’s visit to Old Trafford:
Original message: ‘Yeeeeeeessssss!!!’
Morning after reflections: ‘The Boro were very well organised and composed. We were strong and stifling in defence, whilst moving the ball around accurately and effectively as we worked forward. United had an experienced side but it was hard to tell which was the Premiership side. This result was no fluke and well deserved.’
A ‘who to support?’ dilemma when Boro play Everton? ‘There are no divided loyalties when Boro play Everton as the team you supported as a lad on the terraces stays in your heart.’
Did winning a prize in our Who are You? awards change Hannah’s life?
She was delighted to be recognised by your readers but, as I pointed out, second place is the first loser so hopefully I can go one better! (We’re not competitive…)
What thoughts do you have of Sunderland – the club, fans, city, region, Big Sam?
I’ve never been to Sunderland so wouldn’t like to judge the place based on hearsay. I can say that one of the nicest people I know is from there (who sadly suffered a serious stroke earlier this year and is still recovering) though, so if she’s a reflection of the place then it must be fantastic (although she did move to Liverpool many years ago…).
I’ve visited the wider region a few times although mainly a few miles north of Sunderland I’m afraid. A very beautiful region with some fantastic coastline.
Big Sam is one of the game’s pragmatists and I don’t think there was a better available manager for the job.
Is our time up or can Allardyce save us?
Well he’s certainly made a good start! There can be no better way to endear yourself to Sunderland fans than beating the Barcodes 3-0 in your second game in charge! It will certainly buy him a bit of time and, as long as fans don’t get bogged down with playing “the right way”, then I think he can get you out of it. We’re only a quarter of the way through the season and I think he’s the right man for the job.
What will be this season’s top four?
Arsenal, City, United, Everton (obviously!)
And the bottom three, with our clubs’ finishing positions if not mentioned?
Norwich, Bournemouth, Newcastle (obviously!) with Sunderland to finish 14th-ish and be safe before the last match. (Brazenly makes a play for readers’ votes)
Diving – too prevalent to still care about or worth stamping out as harshly as it takes?
Very annoying but seemingly being picked up more and more. I think it’s tough for the refs (and I’m no apologist for them!) given how fast the game is now but they seem to pick up the worst ones. A little help from the linesman wouldn’t go amiss now and again either!
More annoying than diving for me though is grappling/wrestling/fighting between centre halves and forwards generally but especially at corners. Almost without exception, either nothing gets given or it is in favour of the defending side (who are normally the culprits). Give a spate of silly penalties for this and it would soon disappear.
One step the football authorities should take to improve the lot of ordinary fans?
Upper limits on ticket prices, especially for away fans
Guess the Score – whoever you support – and maybe win a prize: https://safc.blog/2015/10/everton-vs-sunderland-guess-the-score-can-we-build-on-derby-joy/
Will you be at our game and what will be the score?
Yes I will and I think that we can win. Let’s go with 3-1. (There go those votes)
* Sam Myers on himself: I’m 33 (so now have to be careful when I declare players to be past it!) and have had a season ticket at Everton with my dad for 20 years now. I’m mainly a home supporter but tend to get to one or two away matches each year, which has included a couple of forays on to the continent for Europa League matches. As you know, my wife Hannah is also a Blue and we have a son, Oscar, who won’t have any choice in the matter! I was born and raised in Liverpool and continue to live and work here as an investment manager.
Interview: Colin Randall
* Why not bookmark Salut! Sunderland‘s home page with its neat layout showing all we’ve been up to in preceding days? the link is salutsunderland.com.