Many of the strongest feelings in football come from the gut. Rather than – perhaps more rationally – churning through the abundance of data showing how your team and players themselves are performing against others, there’s a place deep inside which senses on a scale between ecstasy and dread. And all the bits in between, on a continually fluxing scale.
Take Everton for instance, they’re just one win from seven in the league and languishing in the lower half of the table and, yet, there’s a feeling of optimism and assurance amongst it’s fans on nothing more than “this feels alright this”. This is born out of watching the team and management scratching out a win against following struggling West Ham in which the width of a post and last gasp tackle from a key player who’s now injured were the finest margins between victory and an seven game winless start to the league season. Evertonians however have been feeling, sensing something happening that gives them confidence that the immediate path head might be alright. When conditioned to last season and indeed the few years before that, the notion of “might be alright” induces giddiness and confidence akin to one’s very first gary experience.
Confidence is perhaps the most precious commodity in modern Evertonianism as it flies in the face of Evertonthatism – the protective self depreciation we condition ourselves with and project to others, to help us deal through weekends of watching Everton do truly ghastly things to our nervous system.
And yet I sense widespread confidence. Which we all know is absolute torpedoed in the first half against Southampton and next week’s preview returns to all manner of snark and outright resentment for the entity once called St Domingo’s.
The West Ham game was gigantically important in the context of the season and our proximity to them in the table. Sure, Lampard and some of you tried to play down the importance of the game before it but they knew and you knew it was an early six pointer. That they got it over the line has provided two weeks of settled nerves for both staff and fans alike, and less anxiety to do some might be alright stuff to foul detestable opposition clubs in the weeks ahead. The goal being surely that when the World Cup interrupts the season that Everton have at least a little daylight between them and doom.
Lampard has done well to identify things missing with the squad and brought in appropriate players to try remedy that, players who are more relatable to Evertonians than the six years of sausages before. There’s tenacity and will at the back, cohesion and intent in the midfield and up front are probably playing catch-up. Hopefully remedied by the return of DCL but at least Maupay is on the sheet and works away in a pleasing L’Naismith kinda way. Evertonians sense a bit of backbone which after years as an invertebrate must feel a little empowering.
Fuck you Everton making me fall into the delusion of positive thinking, I know this all an elaborate trap.
This weekend takes the blues on a long trip to the very southern anus of the island. A sphincter so foul that no one really knows where it is and pretends to ignore it, except for passing a turd through it twice a year. We call this part of the anatomy “Southampton”.
It’s at this point we have to interrupt normal transmission to do the right thing. Any unfortunate reader of these previews is aware that the author can sometimes take one on a journey of scorn and resentment about the teams Everton face, the places they’re from and the assorted scruffy try hard behaviour of their much lesser humans. The Premier League truly is a cesspit where Everton somehow have to keep their heads above the surface in and in doing so occasionally swallow a mouthful of shit. I pray to an indeterminate God for the Premier League to go bust overnight as a penance for what it has turned into and having to witness other fully grown adults act like the baddest fucking Texans around. It’s an ordeal isn’t it, dear reader.
Naturally it’s all satirical and truth be told I do go to these places and find a lot of joy in the culture and humanity I find there, it’s just that so much fucking commentary or opinion I read around football is so sterile and superficial. Laden with superlatives and hysteria. You turn on the telly, you read a paper, you click on a link and you’re presented 99% of the time with a mash of inauthentic dullness from a wide array of people cosplaying pundits. I don’t give a fuck about Southampton’s XG, I just want to know exactly how fucking cringey their fans are and how the Red Army should invade this island through their place first, adopting a scorched earth policy because their behaviour, appearance and entire community is inferior to ours. So how fucking dare they look us in the eye, never mind make banners and do all sorts of wacky things designed to irk us? You degenerate rag dressed nit ridden tragedies, you’re not Everton so it down and shut the fuck up.
In doing the right thing I have to place on the record that this week Southampton dockers refused to unload boats from Liverpool in solidarity with the striking dockers there. This is really sound and a great reflection on those people and their area, and in times that seem like everyone has got either mad or callous, or both, it’s a refreshing reminder that there’’s far more than joins us than separates us. That the small things in life, connectivity, support, belonging, empathy, compassion, are the very important things. In the midst of this callous hegemony the Tories and latter day capitalism has bukkakied on us it is heartening to see one group of humans feel for another group of humans and do a small gesture to stop them and their families exploited into hardship or pain, by other humans who should know better. Sure there’s two sides to every story in any dispute but right now it seems, feels like the system is cattle prodding the masses into a dystopian gig economy future, to eat their own shit out of troughs to survive.
So well in Southampton, you’ll do for me.
Back to normal programming.
The fucking state of your fans. Stone Island badges all over the show, pints pints pints lads lads lads join the WhatsApp group and laugh at disturbing videos whilst calling everyone nonces to show everyone how non conformist and not arsed by anything, ever, you are. Assimilate or isolate. Wanna a few cheeky shots? Fancy spreading your arms our wide to opposing fans offering them to place outside neither the stewards nor police allow, and you wasn’t gonna turn up anyway? Just the lads bring lads. On a bus at 0730 in the morning doing lines of shit that makes you act an even bigger twat because the superior show of confidence prevails in the little mini bubble your tribe have created for themselves as they’re too fucking terrified of acting the real them. I wish a plague upon you, some fucked up neurological one that makes you just piss yourself any time you attempt bravado. Yeah we’ll fuck these on the weekend. Psss. It’s Friday o’clock fancy a cheeky one? Pssss. Yeah mate, shagged her over in Ibiza. Psssss. Seen my latest tattoo? Pssssss. That arm bar in the UFC on the weekend was sick. Psssssss. Wanna line? Pssssssss. Seen this video of a lad falling front of a truck ahahaha. Pssssssssssss. Lad. Pssssssssssssssss. And once your ego is depleted through humiliation and despair then hopefully someone can get in behind it and try fix you.
You’re a shithouse, mate, a mental fucking midget and my God I sleep soundly at night knowing the self loathing that goes on in your tiny fucking mind when the curtains are drawn and you’re all alone. You’re hooked on three points from a sport, you’ve attached your entire self worth to, you’ve build your identity around it, and where your whole weekend depends on its attainment. The state of you. You’re Southampton but could be so much more if you gave yourself permission to live. Seriously though, calling yourself “Saints’ is a hate crime in my view, you’re not a Rugby League club grow the fuck up. There’s a bunch of Southampton fans I speak to online who passionately follow their club and yet choose to drink with the opposition fans rather than their own, as it inhibits the overwhelming cringe they feel for their fellow “Saints: fans doing performative supporting rather than just shutting the fuck up, drinking their beer, watching the game and catching up with their mates.
Both those hardy few fans and Southampton’s dockers give me hope that one day I can stop vividly willing foreign, hostile troops landing there. Maybe I can move that invasion in my mind to somewhere like Newcastle if Southampton are just willing to act 20% sounder. It’s really not that hard.
Make a start by showing us a goodwill gesture. That current Manager of yours, the ski chalet stalking BMX gloves wearing predator, get rid of him. He serves no purpose other than making normal kind hearted decent folk wish your entire city was razed to the ground. If the club’s owners won’t do the right thing then take it into your own hands and storm the the dugout to hold him hostage until your demands are met. Just keep any young emotionally vulnerable females away from him please, he feeds on their souls. If they swab test his gloves then i can guarantee Interpol are gonna hit all their annual bonuses as quick as the computer can process the sample. Buried everywhere. What a truly seedy individual bet he stinks of Jazz and not the eau du toilette stuff but the premium parfum which he slaps onto his groin after shaving them with a Stanley blade. He fucking reeks of be back now mate I’m just going the toilet to climb out the windows, escape your company and secure my future. With him there can be no peace.
Also can’t preview these lizards without making clear that James Ward-Prowse is one sneaky fucking prefect. It is also a fact that he is a slum landlord. Make no mistake he’s watching the news and urging Truss on right now. The rest of their players are alright and work well as a unit. There’s every chance that if they’re up for it on home soil this weekend they’ll probably beat Everton and feel rather pleased about themselves. Good luck to them.
Onto Everton, and Manager Lampard won’t be presented the opportunity to name an unchanged team after a ridiculously irrelevant UEFA competition – please cull in season internationals NOW – messed up the ankle of young, agile, skilled, domineering, handsome, alluring Nathan Patterson. There’s also DCL and Pickford nearing fitness so one bad and two good probably ain’t so rough but, alas, my current playing crush is Patterson. Reminds me a touch of Gary Stevens, as the rules state that every single Everton player must be compared to one in the past. So he’d be mine, and that’s favourable indeed.
Irregardless if DCL is fit to start or not I can see Lampard maintaining faith in Maupay – who has now broke his Everton duck and puts in some serious hard miles along that frontline to benefit the team. Over time if this is enough to validate not just inclusion but building a forward line around him is probably doubtful, but we’re talking here and now so that little impish garlic enthusing shithouse has another go at forming something alright with those around him up front. Although Gray played well against West Ham and Gordon has slotted a few goals, it still feels like we’re waiting for something more from Everton’s front three. It hasn’t really clicked yet and we will need it to soon if any notions of the aforementioned confidence we seem to have gained are to be sustained.
The midfield trio of Onana, Gana and the lad who’s from nowhere near Botswana seems to have a nice balance from early viewings. Snapping into tackles and playing through the lines with intent is lovely really, although more than one game will be required before you catch me enthusing. Onana in particular just seems a potentially ridiculous player doesn’t he? An benefit of Lampard’s that I hadn’t considered was attracting young midfielders to the club because he was a decent one himself not so long ago. Seems more authentic to me than “big club always wanted to play here” and “supported Everton as a boy” anyway.
For someone who can only play in a back five Conor Coady seems to be getting along well with Tarkowski and two others. I’d forgot completely about Mina, Holgate, Keane and Godfrey in just two quick, free signings. Patterson being out means Coleman in, as the alternative would probably be Iwobi as right back and no one wants that really. Perhaps Vinagre there? Mickey Lentils (pssssssss) will play on the other flank and we will see who’s in goal all in due time. I’ve typed way too much here so time to close.
I wrote before last game about after turning defeats into draws, the need to turn draws into wins. The next stage of “something we can feel” would be turning a win into a run. Are Everton ready for that? I don’t have an almanac from the future, mate. It would be nice though.
All I want is Everton to do something something tangible that makes me feel like this godforsaken sports team I’ve invested too much of my life into – at great expense of my potential and relationships – makes me sense, feel, something in my gut that weekends in the near future may be pleasurable.
And sometimes it doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.