Early in the season the league standings were topsy turvy. Hull were playing with passion and exuberance: They had made the Premier League! Their momentum carried them through games which I didn't think they should have won. Several teams were in unexpected positions — including Everton. We just couldn't seem to get it together.
A demoralizing Off-Season – helped along by a bad ending to the League after a sickening defeat to Fiorentina, transfer troubles and a manager that just kept pushing off signing his contract — was apparently dragging at the hearts of everyone involved. The players just didn't have the pep that I was used to seeing, fans were frustrated with several things and vocal to max about them, even Moyes seemed disinterested. Nothing seemed to be going right.
I sat here and tried very hard to encourage optimism. I pointed out positives from even the most dreadful losses. And most of all, despite having my own moments of gloom, I said “It's a long season, things WILL change.”
I feel now, more than half way through the season, that I am being proven correct. The top contenders, “Sky 4”, are at the top, as expected, and Everton are about where I figured they would be. I admit I didn't see Aston Villa pulling off some heroics to get to third, and wasn't thinking it would be Wigan in 7th, chasing us. Yet for the most part, the table is a pretty accurate representation of the teams skills — including maybe most importantly, the ability of the manager to get his lads on the same page.
David Moyes has proven himself time and again a great manager. He has had financial limits no “Big 4” manager would ever live with. He fights to find players that will come to our club, and yet somehow he manages to find guys who love the Royal Blue. He has found gems throughout his tenure, and made managerial decisions — moving guys to new positions etc. — with such success I cannot even dream what type of team he would put out with more money and resources!
On top of that, he and the rest of the coaching staff seem to really get how to bring the youngsters in, without overwhelming them. I admit to having issues sometimes with the players he turns out, but at the end of the day Moyes sees these lads day in, day out in training. We don't know what is going on and so I trust he's putting the strongest, most dedicated team on the field.
We may not be a contender for the number 1 spot just yet — as much as it hurts to admit, but our class, our camaraderie, our loyalty and our passion don't seem to be rivaled by any other team. I would love, as much as anyone, to win the league, seal a spot in the CL and have a good run there, and be consistently on top. I just want to do it the 'right' way. The Everton way. You can buy a talented player, but you can't buy loyalty. See Robinho for proof. We have a group of gifted players, exciting young guys, and a gaffer I'm sure most clubs would love to lure away. We are one of the top teams in the league and we deserve to be where we are. We can't go back and undo the mess we made at the start of the season. We can only go forwards.
Right now we have 13 league games and 4 possible FA cup games to go. I want to see our confidence and form continue. Guys like Baines have taken the chance given to them through injuries to others and they have shined. Arteta and Lescott have been magic since returning to their preferred positions, and everyone has stepped up in the face of overwhelming injuries to get things done. The cohesiveness of the team is something to be envied by others.
I cannot stress enough how impressed I was with the overlapping play I saw today — If Baines went forwards, Arteta or Phil Neville dropped back, when Ossie came inside, Cahill or Jo went out wide, Hibbert, Neville and Gosling switched off and covered each other and Jags and Lescott well... 'nuff said!
The entire team went out there for each other, no one acted superior, no one was a diva, and with that friendship, respect and trust we are playing the best football I've seen in a while. A flowing passing game, where every time I shouted “NO MORE LONG BALL!!!!” at the screen it was at a Bolton player.”
They say it takes time to settle, but in the end cream always rises to the top. We certainly took our time, but I have a feeling the next couple of months are going to be filled with some of the most exciting football our lads have ever played.
So... Bring on Villa next week — sure I'll be nervous, but I'm also sure I'll be damned proud of how our boys in blue perform. Let's make a run for the Cup, and a great league finish. It is certainly a great time to be a Blue.
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