Two more Who are You?s to go, including this one, and the judges are already busy choosing the best of the season for our annual awards. Can Lyndon Lloyd*, our Everton hot seat occupant, gain late support from our panel? Have a read of his interview, with thoughtful comments on his team and ours – as you’d expect from someone who runs ToffeeWeb.com – and then pray his prediction for the game turns out to be correct. After all that, settle down if you can for what could, just could, be a great Wednesday to be a Sunderland supporter…
Salut! Sunderland: Poor old Roberto. Just when some were thinking he was as good as managers get, Everton fans started baying for his blood, or some of them. Where do you stand?
I wasn’t alone in believing during his first season in 2013-14 that we had the man who could take us to the next level that had eluded David Moyes for so long. Martinez seemed to marry the defensive solidity that was so important under his predecessor with a fearless attacking philosophy that almost took us into the top four.
Since then, unfortunately, things have unravelled pretty spectacularly to the point where a sizeable — perhaps overwhelming, if online fans are an indication — majority of Evertonians have “crossed the Rubicon” where Roberto is concerned. Defensively we’re too often a shambles, the mentality of the team is all wrong and Martinez’s refusal to deviate from his rigid playing style means that we’re easy to stifle and boring to watch now that the goals have stopped flowing.
There must have been a fair amount of optimism at the start of the season. What went wrong and what is needed to put it right?
I think fans actually had more optimism going into 2014-15 than we did last summer be- cause back then we had secured Romelu Lukaku on a permanent deal, had just finished fifth and had the Europa League to look forward to. At the start of this season there were very real concerns that Martinez had failed to address in the transfer window the biggest problems of last term — namely a reliable back-up or partner for Lukaku up front and a creative midfielder.
Those concerns have been realised in depressing fashion, although for a few months it looked as though the right ingredients could be there if Martinez could sort the defensive side out. Unfortunately, it’s an area where we have consistently been found wanting, throwing away precious leads or too often having to chase games and just one league win over a team outside of the bottom four since September really speaks for itself.
The only way the majority of Evertonians can see things being put right now is a change in manager. Martinez appears to have lost the players and nothing illustrated that more than our last two away games — a 4-0 humiliation at Liverpool and Saturday’s 3-1 humbling by Leicester.
Baines, Stones, Barry, Lennon, Barkley, Cleverley, Lukaku … looks a pretty strong squad on paper. Who has performed and who has let you down?
Baines has had his injury problems with a recurrent ankle issue disrupting much of his season but even when fit he has suffered from a lack of any kind of partnership in the absence of the perenially-injured Steven Pienaar. Martinez’s insistence on playing the likes of Arouna Kone, Tom Cleverley or Ross Barkley out of position hasn’t done any favours for Baines, those players or the team as a whole.
As Everton’s defensive weaknesses have been exposed, Stones has struggled for confidence and direction, and the same could be said of Barkley further forward. Both are young players in need of guidance and proper coaching but it doesn’t seem to have been forthcoming.
Only Gareth Barry and Lukaku have really performed to any acceptable level this season — it says something when a 35-year-old veteran is your clear player of the season! — but after notching 25 goals in all competitions, the latter’s form has fallen away dramatically since his star turn in the FA Cup quarter final against Chelsea in March. His heart doesn’t look in it any more and it seems almost certain that he will leave this summer unless we can tempt a big- name manager to replace Martinez.
What about us? Do you expect to come good for our game and be the team that keeps going down a possibility?
Based on those last two away games at Anfield and the King Power Stadium? No, I don’t. Even the one before that at Crystal Palace was an insipid goalless draw.
The Toffees are just drifting aimlessly to the end of the season and you Black Cats should be rubbing your hands with glee at the prospect of grabbing the win that will secure your safety at Newcastle’s expense!
Did you see your troubles coming?
Sadly, yes. The writing has been on the wall since Christmas 2014 when we lost all four festive games to Southampton, Stoke, Newcastle and Hull and Martinez didn’t seem to have a clue how to arrest it. Everton gradually improved after the players had a heart-to-heart with him in the New Year begging to allow them to play with more tempo and get the ball up to Lukaku quicker but it never felt like Martinez had truly got his arms around the problem.
What have been your highs and lows of supporting Everton?
I’ve been fortunate enough to see Everton lift the league title in the 1980s and the FA Cup in 1995 so those are my obvious highs, ones that I desperately hope to see again in my lifetime. Since then, we’ve had some great experiences from some memorable isolated victories and cup runs but silverware has always been just out of reach.
There have been far more lows, unfortunately, with the last-day escapes from relegation in 1994 and 1998 probably the worst of them, followed by the final days of Walter Smith in 2002, the 2009 FA Cup Final and the 2012 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Liverpool that really was a punch to the gut.
Honestly, though, the last few weeks have been as low as anything I’ve experienced, if only because we have such a talented squad that could now break up in the summer.
And who are the greatest players you’ve seen, or wish would see in your colours?
I’ve always been enamoured with wingers so Trevor Steven and Andrei Kanchelskis are probably the two best I’ve seen play for Everton. Peter Beardsley was a special player whom we sold too soon and we’ve had some good players in the 2000s like Mikel Arteta and Pienaar.
Lukaku could join that list if he can be persuaded to stay and we find a manager who can play to his strengths but, if I’m honest, his attitude has been awful lately.
In terms of who I would love to have in Everton colours, ignoring the obvious ones like Messi, a midfielder playmaker like Miralem Pjanic or attacking players like Antoine Griezmann or Alexandre Lacazette would be high on my list, but they’re all well beyond us in our current predicament!
Anyone who especially didn’t deserve to be allowed anywhere near Goodison?
Oumar Niasse. Quite what has gone on there with that transfer is anyone’s guess but some- one, somewhere signed off on a £13.5m outlay for a player who looks woefully short of Premier League standard. Watch him score the winner against you lot on Wednesday now…!
Speaking of the grand if crumbling old stadium, how do you see the future panning out (for the two big Liverpool clubs if you like) in terms of where you’ll be playing a few years from now?
Our new major investor, Farhad Moshiri, has pledged to make finally resolving our long- standing stadium issue a priority so there is hope — at last! — that we could see movement on that score.
Whether it’s to a different site — a proposed move a mile up the road to Walton Hall Park looked dead in the water prior to his arrival and would face massive local opposition — or whether he will green-light the redevelopment of Goodison Park remains to be seen.
Personally, as logistically fraught as it would be, my preference would be for redeveloping Goodison if we aren’t able to wangle something spectacular on the ever-improving Liverpool waterfront.
Can you you see Everton recreating the glory days of two or three decades ago, or would it take a kindly multi-billionaire at la Citeh, Chelski, PSG?
With the right amount of investment in players from Moshiri and the right manager, I don’t see why we couldn’t return to the glory days. The club has magnificent support and huge po- tential. And, as Leicester have shown this season, it doesn’t take ridiculous oil or gas billions to achieve success in the Premier League. I think there’s hope for all of us!
Is there a single player you’d take from us for your squad?
Maybe not now that he is getting on in years but Jermain Defoe is one player we were once very interested in signing but never did which I think is a shame because he’s a natural finisher. And despite his past Liverpool connection, Fabio Borini looks a decent player.
But of the lot I’d probably say Duncan Watmore based on his potential. I haven’t seen all that much of him at Premier League level apart from when he was first given a chance in your first team a few months back but he was a constant menace to our Under-21s team when he played against us.
Any other thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city and region, Big Sam?
Unlike your northeast rival Barcodes, I can honestly say I’ve never actively disliked Sunderland and have even had a soft spot for your lot because we’ve had a pretty good record against you. We Evertonians have never had much time for Big Sam, unfortunately, but he seems to have mellowed these days!
The appreciation your fans showed when we played so well to beat you in the cup quarter finals a few seasons back was really gracious and a measure of your club. And, of course, we have quite a few links with past players over the years.
Diving: everyone’s at it (I will eventually get that Osman fall-over-and-win-pen out of my system!) so do we just try to do it better – or is it still worth stamping out, along with other forms of cheating?
I’m all for doing everything we can to stamp it out and I think the only way is with retrospective bans based on video evidence. That will stop the diving, simulation, wrestling in the penalty area at set-pieces, the lot, I would think. It’s all got a bit out of control and the rules are applied so inconsistently that it’s become a bit of a joke.
Best ref, worst ref?
It’s honestly very hard to separate them at times but, at a push, Michael Oliver for best ref and Jon Moss is easily the worst!
Much may be decided by the time we play but your top four and bottom three?
Yes, this past weekend’s results — yours against Chelsea in particular — really have made things much easier to predict. I can’t see past Norwich and Newcastle going down along with Aston Villa at this point.
Will you be at our game? What will be the outcome?
I won’t, unfortunately, but assuming we don’t suddenly decide to show up and your players don’t succumb to nerves, I’m pretty sure you’ll get the win you need on Wednesday to secure another season at least in the top flight.
* Lloyd on himself: I’m an Evertonian of 30 years who emigrated from South Africa aged 12 and fell in love with English football and the Toffees in the mid-eighties. By trade I’m a designer for print and the web, currently working freelance which allows me to run ToffeeWeb.com, write for its sister site 1878Magazine.com and take care of my two young daughters during the day when they’re not at school or doing their myriad extra-curricular activities!
Interview: Colin Randall