And thatâ€™s a wrap for 2013 – as everyone goes far too over the top on beginning and endings before reverting to type in less than two weeks. This happened, that happened â€“ be sure to purchase it on Sunday and get a full 48 page glossy review.
Contrary to modern western civilisation your year may differ somewhat to the Gregorian calendar with it starting in August and ending in May. So at the exact mid way stage of our year, how we doing?
Sorry but this isnâ€™t that glossy pull out. If youâ€™re arsed watch some games or do a league, hell even invent an intricate par system to fool yourself that were better than what we are.
We can look back briefly but only to the last game â€“ for preview sakes. It was a tough game too but with a better outcome as we overcame the crushing gravity of Pochettinoâ€™s planetary head and piped down Southampton with the side bonus of leapfrogging over the Christmas Cup Champions and into fourth place just in time for the new year. Southampton are no mugs but Everton have just got that little extra gear at the moment which all the best teams have. That gear by the way is called Lukaku. Will it last? Probably not, so were best enjoying it.
To complete our trio of games against teams in vertical red and white stripes we are to take a relatively hangover friendly jaunt down the M6 to Stoke, duck, for a 3pm kick off.
With the bottom club in the league turning us over fresh in our memories thereâ€™ll be no complacency in these parts but Stoke themselves are in that transition thing invented by football managers that excuses crap results for a season apparently. On current form however theyâ€™re as daunting as a Smokinâ€™ Lights disco after four bottles of blue label Thunderbird.
Granted its not the most exotic of settings to welcome in new year but youâ€™ll not find many arguments from the locals on that front either. We just got to make sure were polite enough to wipe our feet on the mat before systematically ruining their entire holiday period by inflicting another heavy defeat on them.
Yes there are too many tattoos in Stoke, yes thereâ€™s an underlying current of hostility to different accents and casual violence, yes Joe Bloggs jeans are still the number one brand around town, yes the children playing in the street look a little bit minty but I admire the honesty about the place. Where as the likes of the people of Southampton are snobbishly aspiring to be something theyâ€™re not based on a marina youâ€™ll find nothing like that in Stoke. A middle class income and lifestyle is attained by becoming a taxi driver. â€œGot that extension you wanted love in two years time.â€
Itâ€™s with this possibly misplaced rapport with them that I was disappointed they got the pumpkin chinned Welsh prick as their new Manager in the summer. It was meant to usher in a new era or more aesthetically pleasing togger and no doubt a springboard in Hughesâ€™ mind to royally sack them off in two years time for the vacant Chelsea job. Well its not gone to plan. Like handing your trust for that new extension you had planned, love, to a smiling yet unconvincing Eastern European. How long do you wait before protesting that itâ€™s not quite what you had in mind? You didnâ€™t want a two-foot step up from the main house. And whereâ€™s the skylight fittings? Fair play to the ingenious Stoke fan who hired a billboard and a van to protest before Hughes had even got his foot in the door â€“ inspired fire-guarding that.
Fresh from an eight goal tonking in their previous two away game we shouldnâ€™t get too confident as they donâ€™t give points away too easy at home â€“ indeed theyâ€™re unbeaten there in three months. The Newcastle result was unfair as up to the sending offs they were very much the better team. Theyâ€™ll feel aggrieved and the chance to put that right on their home soil.
They welcome back Amautovic back from illness who should start up front. He will pose more questions to our reserve centre backs (more of that in a bit) than Peter Crouch et al done in the reserve fixture a few weeks ago. Thereâ€™ll be Jon Walters playing too who never forgets his roots and never plays particularly well against. Kopite loanee Aissadi is in the frame for a start as is the fat playmaker Charlie Adam who has a smile like Birkenhead street brass. Hang on, wasnâ€™t he meant to be the new Pirlo? How did he end up here?
Whelan and Nâ€™Zonzi are going to be like worrisome tropical rash over our midfield any time we try to play football and will anchor the midfield. The street smart snide for a modern generation Shawcross should partner Wilson in defence and thereâ€™ll be two grocks posing as full backs ready to attack any diagonal balls which we wont play as Jagielka is injured. Begovic is thankfully out so Sorenson should keep goal, that in turn should make scoring a wee bit easier as heâ€™s utter crud.
The difference with Lukaku going through a relative barren spell to previous strikers is that no one was arsed because we all know heâ€™s too good for it not to last. And last it didnâ€™t. That winning goal was only going in one place wasnâ€™t it? Bammer. Job done. He was by his own admission a bit jaded so hopefully he can go through one of them spells that makes body stunt double Kenwynne Jones look like he swallowed an intergalactic glowing green stick in an ice mountain to become human as a comparison.
The Baines and Oviedo axis of leftness didnâ€™t quite click into gear and I reckon for this weâ€™ll see Bryan get a rest before returning sharpish soon after. So Pienaar will likely start. With the ghost of Pulis still haunting their stadim on set pieces it also may see Naismith get the nod â€“ if youâ€™ll excuse the pun â€“ for his proficiency on set pieces on the other side of midfield. If not Mirallas. Actually Mirallas. James McCarthy covers so much ground that rumour is heâ€™s warming up by jogging down the M6 to their stadium direct. Nice to see more of him getting forward. And Barry is back which as reassuring as a fatherâ€™s headlights lighting up a Wimpey homeâ€™s drive on an unforgiving winterâ€™s night.
Distin is carrying a knock. Its been played down but itâ€™s a knock and as a result there is a good chance we could see an all new centre back partnership for Everton with one league start between them in Stones and Alcaraz. If so thereâ€™s nothing we can do about it but hope it goes sound.
Really good debut for Alcaraz last game out where It was nice to see such composure on the ball in bringing it out of defence and a calm assurance in snuffing out danger. All that could be forgotten as Walters shoulder barges him and squares to Aissadi to score their third but for the time being its all good. Baines will probably start at left back and I could dedicate an entire paragraph to the aceness of Seamus Coleman but Iâ€™d be telling you things you already know. If ever a player was Everton though its him.
Martinez has a decision to make in goal with Howard returning from suspension and while there were some question marks aimed at his big Spanish galoot replacement it was not enough to warrant dropping him. The problem for Robles is that Howard is in splendid form of late and thatâ€™s why I believe heâ€™ll regain his place for this game.
A win here and its been a very satisfactory holiday period with nine points out of twelve. As I covered thatâ€™s no easy thing though so it would take the latest instalment of the all-new ace Everton show.
Iâ€™ll raise a glass to that. Happy New Year, Happy New Everton.