Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas everyone!

I would like to wish everyone who reads this blog a merry Christmas and a happy new year! I haven't written an article on here for nearly 3 weeks. It's been a busy 3 weeks, mainly because of work and, boy, it's good to have finished for the Christmas break!

Now I can have plenty of lie-ins, relax and do what I want. I've already been Christmas shopping (again), been to a great work's Christmas party, played and watched some festive footy, visited extended family, had extended family round here and been to a fantastic pantomime. And I've only been off for 4 days!

Christmas is very nice in our house. We wake up early as if we're still 7 years old at about 7:30am and have a look at our stocking fillers, take the dogs out quickly and then go downstairs together as a family to begin opening the mountain of presents under and around the tree.

There's no holding back at Christmas for us, we buy each other loads of stuff and it's all good stuff! I'm still like a big kid at times when it comes to Christmas, I love opening the presents and then eating my favourite meal of the year: Christmas dinner. Roast turkey, sausage meat stuffing, pigs in blankets, cocktail sausages, sprouts, roast potatoes, carrots and gravy- lovely!

Then there's more present opening along with walking the dogs again and eating Christmas pudding (not literally for me, I have a cake or something). Then there's the Strictly Christmas special and having a lovely Christmas night in watching something one us might have got for a Christmas present (last year it was "The Amazing Spider-Man"- still one of my favourite films).

It is a lovely time and I even enjoy the Boxing Day to New Year time when there's plenty of football to watch and go to (including Everton v Sunderland on Boxing Day).

Seasons greetings and best wishes for Christmas!

Love from your favourite blogger,

Tom (@TLGooner)

Friday, 6 December 2013

I want my apple back

Last night was an excellent and very memorable night at Old Trafford. After getting stuck in traffic in Manchester city centre (cheers, Sat Nav) and then desperately hailing a taxi to just about get to the stadium on time I was greeted by the usual search. After informing the steward of what it was he was feeling in my coat pocket was an apple, he confiscated that off me. Proper dangerous weapon that, my devious plan to throw apples around the stadium was thwarted.

We literally got to our seats smack bang in the middle of the very boisterous away section just in time for kick off. I have to say I loved the atmosphere around us. I’m sure most pundits and journalists are there scribbling away as we speak about how ungrateful and disgraceful Everton fans are for having the cheek to give Moyes a negative reception. But those ignorant, out of touch jobsworths can do one for me. I can’t help but admire and respect Everton fans for the reception they gave Moyes.

I had a conversation earlier in the day with a colleague about Moyes and the reception he “should” get. He was of the view that Everton fans should politely applaud him and appreciate what he need at the club. I disagreed somewhat. I’m sure even the most aggressive, pissed Everton fan at the game last night would admit he appreciates the job Moyes did at Everton. He did improve the fortunes of the club by making them a more regular finisher around about the top 6, or at least top half. He also guided them to European qualification a few times.

But things don’t stop there; he didn’t get booed or chanted at for that. Think about it, last May he was applauded and cheered after his final home game by the Everton crowd. A few months later in the first meeting between Everton and Moyes’ new side he was jeered and chanted at by Everton fans. So what changed in that time? The derisory bids for Baines and Fellaini, the classlessness of going for them in the first place added to by the insulting and disrespectful bids in terms of value were enough to stir up Evertonians, who felt betrayed by their former manager. Then his comments in the media afterwards didn’t help. Neville Southall was right when he said:

“If you’ve got a good relationship with the club and you’re supposedly best mates with the chairman – and Moyes was always saying how they were when he was at the club – would you go back to your mate’s business and try to pinch them off him knowing that the business is skint? It’s really despicable behaviour towards Everton and disrespectful towards the fans.”

Moyes did unsettle the players after Everton had said they weren’t selling for any price. So why go in with below-value bids for them when they’re obviously going to be rebuffed? This is a disgraceful comment by Moyes:

“If I’d been Everton manager and Sir Alex had come asking for Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini, I’d have found it very difficult to keep them because I always felt the right thing to do was what was right for the players.” And he continues “But the transfer window is open and we can make bids and you can say ‘Yes or no’, it’s as simple as that. You are allowed to bid.”

It was just out of order and disrespectful. It was as if he’s never been manager there and if you can’t understand why Everton fans are upset then, well I don’t know what to say. His constant choking when playing against Liverpool or in the latter stages of the cups with negative tactics doesn’t help either.

It made the atmosphere way better, the away end never really shut up and the passion and pride was there for all to see and admire. It was the best Everton away atmosphere I’ve witnessed since the FA Cup quarter final at Sunderland. It helped give the game that extra edge and did make it feel like a really big cup game.

Everton deserved the win, if anybody; the game was quite even in terms of chances but I thought Everton probably dominated the ball more. I said before the game I thought Everton would win and big reason was for that was because I could see their attacking midfielders and Lukaku having the chance to run at Man Utd and cause them problems, and that happened a lot. The wrong decision was made a lot of times on the final ball but Everton certainly attacked them well in that regard.

I don’t know if it came through or not but I was hinting at the fact I thought Everton were now a better side than Man Utd in my preview to this game, and that was backed up last night. Your initial reaction to that will probably be “don’t get carried away mate” but I genuinely believed that before last night. Why aren’t they a better side? A more tactically astute manager, a stronger defence, a much better midfield- defensively and offensively, and with firepower up front now since Moyes left. Yes Rooney and Van Persie are better strikers than what Everton have but overall I think Everton are a better team.

It’s no coincidence Everton won at Old Trafford for the first time last night. It was Martinez’s first game there as manager, and Everton’s first game there without Moyes in charge for 11 years. It wasn’t just because Everton’s players gave it the big ‘un against their old boss either. Moyes recently spoke about how when he went to Old Trafford with Everton his aim was “to get out of there alive”. Which is an awful and despicable attitude quite frankly that makes you question his mentality as a manager.

Whereas, now, Everton have a better manager who didn’t go there with an already beaten attitude and genuinely had a go and attacked Man Utd, whilst also keeping his tactical nouse and remaining solid defensively- a very good balance. He believed in his team to have the ability to win at Old Trafford.

A much deserved and sweet victory for the Toffees. May I additionally point out the irony of the left back scoring the winner?

I’m still waiting for my apple.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Man Utd v Everton preview

I’m really looking forward to Man Utd v Everton tomorrow night. I think it’ll be a cracking game and it’s so well poised. Everton are, all of a sudden, on fire going forward with 7 goals in their last two games, including a 4-0 win over Stoke. Whereas Man Utd are also scoring goals but conceding a fair few too and not getting the required results. So the pressure is on Man Utd to win this game. They have to do so.

Everton, in contrast, are going into this game with much higher confidence than Man Utd- and much less pressure. I think that will benefit the blues, but what is also exciting is that Lukaku, Barkley, Deulofeu, Pienaar and Mirallas are all playing really well and linking up together. It’s a real selection headache. Less than 2 weeks ago I wrote on here about how Everton needed to improve their wide play and that their wingers were underperforming. But not now, since then they’ve all stepped up and had a big impact on Everton’s attacking play. Hence going from two 0-0’s in a row to scoring 3 and then 4 in the next two games.

Man Utd have a lot more pressure on their shoulders and less in-form attacking players. Only Wayne Rooney is on fire for them; none of Kagawa, Valencia, Fellaini or Welbeck strike fear in you at the moment (if ever anyway). Van Persie has a chance of returning so obviously would be a big threat, but even still I think Everton have more creative power in their side and have more in-form attacking players in the team as a whole.

I’m an Arsenal fan and Arsenal of course play Everton on Sunday. In that Everton side I will be fearful of Lukaku, Deulofeu, Barkley, whichever one of Mirallas or Pienaar plays and even Coleman provides a concerning threat. Whereas when we played Man Utd a few weeks ago, it was just Rooney and Van Persie. Yes, two special players and better than any of Everton’s individual players currently, but when you look at who’s getting the ball to them there is no concern there.

Yes Man Utd won but they only had two shots on target the whole game, they won because of their defensive organisation, not through creating chances for Van Persie and Rooney or any great attacking threat. Man Utd won’t have that park the bus mentality against Everton, they’ll open up more. So I think the likes of Barkley, Deulofeu and Lukaku will have more room and more opportunity than Arsenal’s attacking threats to cause danger and create opportunities. The opportunity is there for Everton, I really hope they go for it and attack Man Utd to seize that chance.

Of course it’s not all about attacking but is Man Utd’s defence even better than Everton’s? Smalling, Vidic, Evans and Evra. Really? They can be got at and aren’t as reliable at centre back as Everton’s Jagielka and Distin are. I think what stops teams from getting positive results at Old Trafford more is fear factor and Man Utd’s reputation as winners. It’s not all about player quality of course, there’s tactics to consider as well. But I think Martinez has proved himself to be every bit as tactically astute as David Moyes is, if not more.

Prediction: Man Utd 2-3 Everton