There’s something riding on it so don’t pretend you know exactly the outcome.

Yet here you are, again.

Despite this, despite Everton, despite the lack of rest, despite their best player returning, despite the rain thumping the ground outside, despite being unable to plan travels, despite the procrastination when you know you should, despite your doctor saying don’t, despite the trigger hair nature of your sense of well being linked to the outcome of this end of season football game, yes despite that, we will continue.

Think back to where you were on the first game of the season away to Spurs. What were your aspirations for the season before the game? What were your aspirations for the season after the game? It’s between these two markers, this range of expectation, where Everton will probably finish. Some are gonna take heart from many long overdue and deserved away wins at difficult grounds and progressing talent. Others are gonna look at some hideous home losses as shitting what could have been so much more. Neither camp will change their mind but with four games left Everton have already earned more points than in 5 of their last 6 seasons, so it’s progress at least. 

Progression can be provoked by your solutions to underperformance and negating peer or market disadvantages you carry in doing this. With the highest quality of Manager and generous funding available from the owner there are now far less disadvantages to offer as excuses in what comes next. The solutions will be debated across the internet and now pubs again, thank fuck, although I’ll be happier inside as when that sun drops the cold hand on cold glass trauma sends me for scran and home. Grasping the kebab for circulation to return to my fingers as much as out of eagerness or seagull deterrent. We also need to talk about the science of how walking from the bottom to top of Bold Street in mild rain soaks more than the front of a poorly designed 1980s log flume.

Anyway what I’m trying to say is the whole package matters. Fans will focus on new players but the outs are similarly important to facilitate this. Then what we commit to paying both in fee and wages will could hamstring us for years to come so it has to be done precisely and wisely. The preparation of a team to hit the ground running from day one. We need characters as much as quality so aspirations and the whole culture around the club can level up. How could Thursday night be handled best in tandem with domestic? Who will be allowed to play in what tournaments? How can commercial bridge the gap between Everton and those they wish to overtake? When will the Hummel child socks be available to buy? Will the Hot Wok survive? Have club scientists worked out how to reduce pie fillings to less than molten lava? Will the sole shitty elevator that taunts the top balcony after their climb of a thousand steps be working? Who is smoking that doob in the bogs? Why didn’t I bring one? How to stop filthy police horses ruining new footwear around the ground? Where is best post game for a decent pint and quick service? When will biffs stop doing star jumps to Operation Goodison Exercise? Who’s gonna unlock Burnley at home? 

With a multitude of us providing the narration on a minute by minute basis I’m sure summer will be quite the ride. 

The West Ham game was as unexpected as expected, if you permit me the paradox. Of course Everton were gonna drag you back in one last time just to crush your hopes. Of course David Moyes was gonna bruise his head on a glass ceiling only he can see. As proven through the season Everton are better on the back foot than front foot, maybe we will get a solution for this summer too? Carlo’s boys can really defend when they put their mind too it, such bedrocks can lead to decent things, with a little patience. 

Aye right. 

So what better way to acclimatise to Thursdays in moody backwaters with dated fashions than a trip to Villa Park? With attitudes and free thinking reminiscent of trips furthest behind the iron curtain it’s a journey to simpler times gone by. With an authentic yokel feel to locals, or yokel locals, the restriction of attendance has prevented us from morale boosting interactions confirming that the roulette of life could have spun on a much worse number. Shit England tattoos in three quarter kecks, neon Jack And Jones tops aplenty, questionable hygiene and the stench of Brexit pervade this darkest corner of middle earth. In essence the coach that transports Everton down the M62 is fitted with a flux capacitor but without need for a freak electrical storm or necking yer mar. Although that is commonplace there too. 

Despite a smattering of banter ridden cockspanners getting above their station as Martin O’Neill got them around us in the table before they were, yet again, hastily relegated – it is hard to not like Aston Villa. There’s an authenticity around the place fed by a rich history and plenty of notable success. The ground is comforting to those who frequent Goodison and their fans are staunchly into their club for all the right reasons. A competitive Aston Villa could (same as few others, sin Super League) be a bellwether for a healthy English top division. It’s almost nice to see them seemingly stabilising in the same air as us again, and chastened sufficiently by recent failure to once more know that were considerably more relevant than they are. A preemptive Harry Enfield strike there on the most hideous of the calm down merchants, just send them a truck full of Lux and force them through the car wash one by one. 

Dean Smith put one over Ancelotti just over a week ago so no excuse for not knowing what they’re all about. They’ve good legs around the pitch and although they’ll be missing the suspended Watkins this could be, typically, the return-from-injury game for Grealish who despite screaming stag-in-Malia is a tremendous player. At the back they’ve that big wooden skip Mings to get past and a decent keeper. This won’t be an easy game and there’s every chance the final whistle may commence your summer holidays unless Everton turn up with much vigour. 

For Everton due to the tight schedule it’s likely to see some changes despite Ancelotti’s reluctance to change winning teams. I would imagine a prioritising of talent for this game with two **easier** home games on the back of it. This task may be helped with the return of some prominent players. 

Up front the tall sleek handsome Sheffield slotter is in the goals again, wrapping up what has been a real step up season for him. Finding strikers scoring in excess of 20 goals is difficult and expensive enough, never mind convincing them to come to Goodison. Marry that with his athleticism and seriously impressive hold up play and Everton have saved themselves a huge amount of money on someone who cost £1.5m, and gets what the club is all about. There may be a handful of doubters left but they look increasingly silly and probably still reminisce about Marcus Bent. We potentially got the whole package in Dominic, now go get him the service. Richarlison hasn’t had a particularly good season but if he did then it’s likely we wouldn’t be keeping him next season, he’s got a point to prove too so at least up top it looks promising for the blues next season even if I’d be hoping for another face there to provide more competition than the ghost King.

James is out and there’s some concern with his injury record. I share the frustration but if he was turning out 40 times a season he probably wouldn’t be at Everton, the reward outweighs the risk at the moment as for those 20 games he plays he’s mostly magical. When we outgrown Jame Rodriguez then we’re making real progress. Having Davies sitting deeper than Allan seems to the wee favela tackle hound for the better, he’s a beautiful disruptive ball carrying force when playing that role too. Davies has done well since Christmas, even if someone better is playing in that midfield next season he’s very useful to have in the squad and still improving so who knows. Paying wedge for players happy play a bit part would be much riskier. Would be nice to see Doucoure back for this too, but who knows with formations rotations etc. 

The bad Bogotá sick note curse hits Mina again so that’ll be a selection of the usual, with Keane and Godfrey in pole if it’s a back four, with Digne and Coleman at right back as there’s no one else really for a game like this. Everyone’s noted Pickford’s progression of late so not gonna jinx it. If all of them can reach the levels of that West Ham performance consistently then Everton will be sound, there’s your benchmark, stick at it.

So while the end of just another season feeling is undeniable, there’s still the chance of Europa League and finishing above Herr Hollywood teeth’s one season collapses. A fifth placed finish would be definite progress, even if tinged with some what ifs. It’s on offer though so may as well chase it. Despite everything. 

 

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