Friday, 7 December 2012

The Season So Far: Looking Forward

Originally from
It would be fair to say that this time one year ago, no Evertonian would have expected the iconic royal blue of our football club to symbolise such a positive, determined and free flowing style of football. As I write this during another inconvenient international break, however, it is fact- no longer fantasised fiction – that the Toffees are deservedly situated among the giants of one of the world’s most watched, high quality leagues.
On the back of an entertaining, battle-like 2-2 draw at Wigan, both Phil Jagielka the warrior and Leighton Baines featured for England’s completely one-sided affair against the rather lowly-ranked San Marino; the magical left-back‘s place in the starting eleven suggested that finally, the mist is rising to reveal Ashley Cole may not be exactly all he is made out to be. Finally and deservedly, Baines appears to be confirming his place as an international regular.
With European football looking a realistic target this season, yet more positive energy surrounds the club as it appears ‘likely’ that fluctuating centre-back Johnny Heitinga will be signing a new contract. As David Moyes picked up September’s – and his ninth – Barclay’s Manager of the Month award, the only thing playing on the Blue minds of his loyal followers will be whether or not Marouane Fellaini will be fit in time for the Merseyside derby; a thought that is already tying a moderately confident knot in the stomachs of Evertonians, myself included.
Dwelling on the past may not be recommended in every situation, although with a week off from club football, looking back upon Everton’s season so far is a pleasing thought. I would liken this stage in the season to the first half-term of an academic year: whatever the start to the course may be, it will be impossible to accurately predict the result of the exam. In Everton’s case, this week is the perfect marker to sit down, analyse and reflect that yes, we have made a fantastic start to the season; however, it is a long, exhausting road until the end product of the collective, relentless efforts are revealed to all.
David Moyes will undoubtedly know this better than anyone and will therefore be devising exactly how to continue the devastating, building momentum that (hopefully I speak for every Evertonian here) to put it plainly, I could sense from the moment I left Goodison Park after the final match of last season and even beforehand. The fans’ expectation was not wrong, and that near-indescribable feeling of confidence translated into an unforgettable 1-0 ridiculing of Manchester United on the opening floodlit fixture of the season.
Memorably, the subsequent fixtures further boasted Everton’s sublime all-round ability, as they defeated Aston Villa 3-1 away from home. Furthermore, when Leyton Orient visited Goodison Park in the Capital One Cup, they left with nothing but a feeling of being outclassed after full debutant Kevin Mirallas scored two of the five goals on the night. September followed, bringing with it a 2-0 defeat to West Brom at the Hawthorns. It was a performance uncharacteristic of David Moyes’ side lately, and therefore an afternoon to forget.
Eventfully, the ninth month of what has been a memorable year for the Blues so far continued; and in a controversial fashion when an incredibly fortunate Newcastle United over-confidently arrived and stole a point. I am not one to usually criticise referees, however Mr. Jones and his officials were abysmal on the night, disallowing a perfectly legal goal for ‘offside’and rejecting claims that Anichebe’s later attempt had wholly crossed the line. The Magpies should have returned to the North-East suffering a second Goodison Park humbling in the space of a few months. A solitary point, nevertheless, was what frustrated Evertonians had to settle for.
Once the drama of the Newcastle match had stopped playing on my mind, I turned my attention to Swansea City. Away from home and without Nikica Jelavic, my instincts told me to be wary of what damage the Swans could inflict upon us. In contrast to my thoughts however, the 90 minutes at the Liberty Stadium were a living nightmare for Michael Laudrup and his men in white, as they succumbed to defeat, rolling over easily for Victor Anichebe, Kevin Mirallas and Marouane Fellaini to breach the defence’s lacklustre efforts.
I was the not the only Evertonian who then predicted us to beat Leeds in a comfortable manner due to the recent performances. Despite my confidence, Everton’s first-half performance was one they would later live to regret. Even Sylvain Distin’s late goal could not motivate the Blues into rescuing them from Capital One Cup oblivion – a trophy which will elude David Moyes and Everton for another year (the team selection originally suggested the Scot was not overly eager to progress to the next round, as priorities lie elsewhere).
In quick succession, both Southampton and Wigan were unable to triumph over Everton, with the former crumbling and surrendering to a 3-1 defeat thanks to a deadly 20 minute first half spell (I would relive it repeatedly if I could) in which they shipped three well-crafted goals. Nikica Jelavic’s first goal was artistic; his finish into the bottom corner of the goal rightfully exhibited why he is a classy nightmare for defenders. One week later, the 2-2 war at Wigan was, in retrospect, a well earned point which featured a bucket-load of yellow cards and an annoyed Johnny Heitinga. The admirable desire to win was there; unfortunately however, for spells, the cutting edge was not.
In little over 900 words, that is Everton’s season so far. To do it real justice, I could go on forever – and that might not be a bad thing. It is, although, the right time to look forward to the nerve-shredding climax of October and beyond. If a European place is to be achieved, mass amounts of further hard work will have to be invested from everybody at Everton Football Club, including all of us loyal fans. A harsh winter is no longer on the horizon – it is nearing reality – and will, in my opinion, be the months which determine what exactly this current, fantastic royal blue squad are made of, and whether or not they beautifully play their way into the history books against all odds.

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