Monday’s very premature unofficial big fourth place decider was a bridge too far (pun intended) for this season’s Everton juggernaut, as Chelsea eased past the Ambers in a routine two nil as you’re likely to see.
Now maybe your inner dialogue went a little something like this….
“Well that’s it now isn’t it, all gone to absolute shit hasn’t it? Told you we were a million miles off, all these flukey wins and then we play real opposition and find out how good we really are. Eighth at best. At very best. Carlo’s got a lot of work to do, need at least six big signings in summer and that’s just to be competitive. No leaders in this team, wouldn’t get onto Catterick’s bench. Frauds stealing a living. Need a full clear out this summer and if Moshiri doesn’t want to cough up then he can get out too pronto. NSNO lad.”
In which case try enjoy that pint of mild and are those Sambas new? Thought so, they are quite similar to the last twenty three pairs you bought before them. Is it time for your nap yet?
However if your inner dialogue went more like this….
“Tough to swallow defeat when there’s so much daylight between the team we’re chasing and us, but that could just be that we didn’t turn up on the night, had too many players out or are just simply not as good as a team more expensively assembled than ours, who are on a great run and playing on home soil. There’s still 11 left to play and by jove Everton are in a fine position to at least have a go.”
Then that would put you in about 98% of all Evertonians which doesn’t mean that you’re not special, or a sheep, but can handle disappointment, have a propensity for adult relationships and don’t wake up on Sundays to shout at Hold Your Plums playing on the wireless.
Everton had been winning without playing well which, they say, is the sign of champions. Everton have long forgotten that notion so would be happy for it to extend to “champions league” but reality is that if you’re not doing to oppositions what Chelsea done to us with ease then it’s likely one of those tight margins you’d been benefiting from will flip the other way. And so it proved with an obvious step up in quality from the three relatively piss poor sides we’d beat before them.
With eleven games to play and a cup quarter final being one of them, being sat in sixth place and only 8 points behind second with a game in hand is quite the rosier season than any of us were expecting when Blackpool raced into a 3 goal lead in just 11 minutes of the penultimate friendly before season start. It’s obvious we’re still a few players short but as much as three or four injuries make Everton look decidedly average it more so looks like three or four signings can turn this team into a serious proposition. And achieving European football is only gonna help lure the talent we crave. So there’s the prize, go chase it.
Standing in the way of that this Saturday teatime shall be Burnley & Brexit Albion. Managed by an amicable scotch egg with larynx in desperate need of fresh tarmac, the Lancashire club have won one game in twelve and on the surface would seem just what Everton need. Everton of course never quite working that way will be aware of the threats that Burnley will bring to Goodison this weekend, albeit without the public hygiene issues usually brought by a few hundred of their travelling orcs.
That would usually be the fulcrum to spurn much cheap satirical stereotyping of Burnley and their perceived customs but it’s made always more difficult when you’re fond of the opposition you’re looking to preview, as I am of Burnley.
You see Burnley knows what Burnley is and is quite comfortable in its own skin. A pint of Carling and steamboat chasers at one forty five on a Friday afternoon? That’s your Burnley. Nobody look at each other’s feet because everyone’s wearing steel toe capped Lonsdales anyway? That’s your Burnley. Bottle of Paco Rabanne being passed round the pub as poppers? That’s your Burnley. Nothing on the telly tonight shall we set the garages on fire for something to do? That’s your Burnley. Sun’s out sofa in the front yard cans of Skol blasting Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff on repeat until someone throws a half brick at your head because they’re on night shifts and they seen it mistakenly rumoured on Facebook that you’re a nonce. That’s your Burnley. Week’s pay packet in the fruit machine now got nothing to take home to her so sell my Casio and get my cousin pregnant round the back while vomiting shish kebab over a passing mongrel? That’s your Burnley.
It’s a study in how human evolution could have taken a different course if perhaps our species was zombified by a frontal cortex eating tribe of brief intergalactic visitors perhaps 40 years ago, or just simply being a satellite old mill town cut off from places with running water and internal lavatories for so long that all remains is pride in a dead empire’s flag which has long forgotten them but there’s fuck all else to do so might as well do a protest vote like it’s a big fuck off edition of X Factor but one where you empower Old Etonians and eugenics freaks to deprive not just you but your generations of off-spawn to come.
There’s a good heart in Burnley and that’s what I’m fond of it so. Away from the mutants bestowing some hideous marketing on the town in the widely acclaimed “Danny Dwyer’s Real Football Factories” you will find well intended easy going good folk of this soil. The type that are pleasant natured by default and staunch to the bone. You’ll need not ask for another cup of tea as your coaster is once again occupied as you decline the seventh offer of a sandwich or bite to eat to tie you over until you get back home. There’s a hamster wheeling inoffensively in it’s cage in the corner of the front room. Fridge magnets from all over the world as a proud testimony of cultures consumed and garish swimwear worn. A calendar just as you walk in the kitchen of the grandchildren. A shit ornament or two. An “I kiss better than I cook” sign hanging by tatty rope next to the cooker. Green toilet duck lingering from the basin in anticipation of your visit. A chime on the hour from a substandard device you can’t locate. A drink’s cabinet not closed from the night before. Four pairs of laundered socks waiting at the foot of the stairs for the next person climbing to deliver them. Various gnomes & fairy lights in the garden and a comforting smell of two parts Shake n Vac and one part tobacco all around you. There’s a slightly inaudible scream and the hamster lies dead. A look at you and a smile, slightly raised shoulders in doing so, and another offer tea or coffee. Even though you’ve chosen tea for the past six requests, and for the 32 years you’ve been visiting. Remind me how you take your tea again? That’s your Burnley.
They’re gonna play four four fucking two, big grocks all over the field ready to hit you on set pieces, an elbow in the ribs in midfield and watch, hope, you’re having an off day. For all that is good and holy in this universe they simply must be beaten. Yes this is a football preview.
Onto Everton then and a few of those missing players should be back to bolster, yes bolster, the ranks for this one.
I’ve just realised once more I’ve no inclination of what formation Ancelotti is likely to play. It looks like this may be too early for James to start so perhaps that hints at a front two on the table. Get both Richarlison and Calvert Lewin in form for any period of the remaining season and Everton are in business, although it wouldn’t be no surprise to see Josh King replace one of them of them for this. Carlo’s surprise line ups being an enjoyable mini-plot to following Everton now, especially if you’re gawping at the reaction on twitter. What’s in store in this week I wonder?
We may get to see an Allan and Davies working in tandem that we hope will offset our worst Doucoure fears for however long he is out. While next to them the continuation of Everton’s very own is the dress green or gold debacle manifests itself in how Gomes is perceived to play that week. Since you didn’t ask, I think he’s doing alright you know, but what do I know compared to your inner dialogue?
Holgate isn’t in form but it looks like the gigantic Colombian is back for this – and that’s no bad thing with Burnley’s grocks – so we may see Godfrey at right back or captain Coleman slot in there on his return from injury too. Pickford in goal. There’s your Everton, maybe.
We’re now commencing a sequence of one game a week, interrupted only the once for a midweek game in May, which makes fatigue and rotation not a factor. Time to find a settled 11 and places on merit, save for the odd tactical tweak for superior opposition. Whether that would have made any difference against Chelsea who knows.
I don’t however think the more telling bellwether for our league destiny was Chelsea, I believe it was Southampton and this game. The type of games that have been our Achilles all season. Throw Crystal Palace due next at home in that equation too. If Everton can deliver nine points out of these games then this season may, just may, work out alright. And while “alright” is highly subjective, everyone knows what’s on offer; real progression, and earlier than maybe anticipated. It’s still go, don’t you fret.