I couldn’t bring myself to watch this one, and settled instead for a large glass of red wine and back to back episodes of Brothers and Sisters on catch-up TV. Even though Rebecca and Justin almost split up, Kitty was diagnosed with a serious illness and Ryan was double-crossing the family business, it was less heart-rending than watching our match. Malcolm Dawson is made of sterner stuff and reports here on our latest defeat.
I don’t watch football with the analytical purist’s eye of Pete Sixsmith. I watch it from a purely emotional perspective. Which is not to say that Sixer is the Mr Spock of football supporters. Anyone who has seen him at footy will have experienced his animated side. But me? I am either jumping up and down or sat back in my seat resigned to 90+ minutes of frustration.
I can’t say my memories of Liverpool, the city, are of the particularly positive variety. My first ever visit there was circa 1976. The Ford Fiesta was the future of the city’s motor industry and looking for my first job, I managed to get an interview for some sort of trainee management post with Ford, to be held somewhere near “Paddy’s Wigwam”, the local name for the Catholic Cathedral. Trouble was, the only train from Durham that would get me there in time for the 3 o’clock interview, got into Lime Street at 11.30. What to do with a couple of hours to kill? Obviously a pint of Guinness and a sandwich in the first pub I came across would settle the nerves. I got talking to a bloke who had just returned from working the rigs in the Persian Gulf and the talk soon turned to footy. He bought me a pint – I bought him a pint – he bought me a pint – I bought him a pint and probably a couple more. Finally I staggered off, stopping off at some police station to ask the local bizzies for directions, so drunk I still thought I had a chance of getting the job!
Another time saw me stuck on the back row of Anfield with a ticket stamped “restricted view”. Luckily it was the back row because at least I could stand on my seat and by craning up as high as possible, see the near goal and by ducking down under the overhang from the stand above, could just make out the far end of the pitch. I had seen a certain Emile Ivanhoe Heskey score his last goal for Leicester against us at Filbert Street and a week later I was to see him make his debut for the Scousers, going down under an innocuous challenge from, I think, Mickey Gray to earn the Reds a penalty and another Sunderland defeat. No wonder his nickname was Bruno as he went down so easily.
So this game at Everton did not give me great feelings of good things to come. I’ve been to Goodison several times. Fortunately I wasn’t there for the 7-1 drubbing a couple of seasons back, but I was there on Boxing Day 1999 when we lost 5-0!
Although Saturday’s defending had been abysmal I wouldn’t have predicted a change of personnel quite so complete. Kilgallon making his debut was an unknown to me. I had heard good things though so I was hopeful. Mensah who seems to be, as his name suggests, an intelligent player would do ok in the centre of defence. My worry again was with the fullbacks. McCartney isn’t the force he was during his first spell with us and the phrase headless chicken could have been invented to describe Nyron. Whole hearted, committed to the cause certainly, but Premiership quality attackers soon pick out his shortcomings. The familiar strains of the Z Cars theme brought back memories but then I watched as the lads lined up with Nyron in the middle, next to the debutant and closed my eyes and groaned inwardly.
I have a soft spot for Nyron – the padded bench at the foot of the stands. Not at the centre of our defence. I settled down for the match with an ominous air of foreboding, fearing another show of defensive naivety. But looking on the bright side, Richardson was in his better position, just behind Darren Bent and the return of Cattermole might just have meant that we could create and, God forbid, convert some goal scoring chances.
However, it didn’t take long for the Toffees to break through. A cross from Fellaini over the head of Nuggsy and an easy header for Cahill. And that was it. The resignation that we would be outplayed. The knowledge that we wouldn’t be in the game. A second soon followed. Cahill was unchallenged again and an American for goodness sake scored against us. OK. Claudio Reyna was class but it’s like an Italian scoring a hundred at the Oval.
No prizes to those of you shouting Ted Dexter at this point.
That was that. I sat and stared as the miasma of despair settled around me. The tumble weed drifted across the arid grass of Goodison as the bells tolled from the church on the corner of the ground. It would take something special to rouse me and that never looked likely.
Our first chance came in injury time at the end of the 1st half when Kenwynne’s miskick was so wide that I just raised my eyes to the heavens. Howard never made a save until the fourth official was getting the board ready to show time added on at the end. Zenden’s shot at least made me think that we had something to give, even if it was too little too late. A Jones’ headed effort and that was that. Two attempts on target in 94 minutes.
Truth is once again we failed to compete. Not enough possession and little idea how to retain the ball once we had it, never mind ways to break down the opposition. We are sadly lacking in ideas and we are left to ponder the necessity of 6 points from the two forthcoming home games. Less than four and relegation will be a real threat.
But let’s finish with some good news. At least I turned down the offer of a lift to Merseyside in a car load of Everton season ticket holders. And the subsequent return trip!