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A Funny Thing Happened Down Goodison Way…

By Nick Entwistle :  08/02/2009 :  Comments (0) :
A usually expectant Goodison crowd would be tinged with the worry of dropping points. Knowing that this Everton team can easily bring on a win, lose or draw in equal measure at Goodison this season, this delivers a certain level of diminished expectancy, if unchallenged hope.

But when the Goodison faithful start with the Oles, then you know something is out of kilter with the way the world turns on the Blue side of Liverpool. When does a David Moyes team ever come near to the cause and effect of inciting such a reaction from a crowd? Normally the cause and effect is knowing that at any moment shit will be hitting the fan.

Saturday though was different, for something has changed in the minds of the Blues on and off the pitch. Before and during the game this effect was like nothing I have ever witnessed with Everton. Everything had reached a new level. The atmosphere was akin to being champions elect and the formality of victory, to be earned sure, was coming this way all the same. Everton were going to win, they were just a better team than Bolton and everybody, including them, knew it. When was the last time Goodison had this feeling? The 80s?

Five games against Europe’s elite and we were their equals in all of them. This transcended Everton’s reputation from European hopefuls to their re-emergence as a force in world football. That is without irony. It was in the air. You could sense it, you could touch it, you could breath it in, let it fill your lungs and permeate throughout your body. And all this from my laptop! What it was like to be there, I can only imagine. This may just be an in house belief presently but it spread through to the opposition camp as well.

From The Concise 48 Laws of Power by Robert Green it is said about reputation:

‘Reputation is the cornerstone of power. Through reputation you can intimidate and win. Make your reputation unassailable. A solid reputation increases your presence and exaggerates your strengths without your having to spend much energy. It can also create an aura around you that will install respect, even fear’.

The Bolton players today showed what reputation does to the opposition. Everton were no longer a top half team, they were on another level arrived from a victory Bolton will have witnessed on their TV sets. Everton had proved to be of a calibre they could only dream of and in their eyes this new found reputation gave the Blues an increased presence, and allowed them to exaggerate their strengths. Bolton were giving Everton this allowance of time and space through the sheer aura that was resonating from Goodison. This energy was in the stands and it was in the players. It may only be fractions of a second or a half step away but that’s enough. How many people believe Ronaldo would not have the effect he delivers every game if players actually got stuck in? They stand away from him, scared of his reputation as he receives the ball and then wait for his choice of action and only then do they react.

Those who believe the ‘Big Four’ is just a myth that can be beaten with a change of attitude, this was your defining example. But the example showed the power of the myth cemented through reputation. Not only did Everton have the capabilities to play joined-up football, pass and move football, total football (steady there…), they were simply allowed to by Bolton. Everton’s reputation demanded they do this. Even the referee in an otherwise outstanding performance felt our new big-team reputation and did what referees do in such circumstances and allowed a Ronaldo style dive to be worthy of a penalty (but please Jo, stay on your feet!).

All of this though would not have happened if not for one moment. And if it did not happen, if that effort did not go in, if Fellaini had played better, had television screens not been graced by minty fresh Tic-tacs, it would have been a season where sixth position became Everton’s only possible reward. History can change on such moments.

It is certainly possible that Dan Gosling’s goal will have an effect similar to that of Kevin Brock. Who now feels, like I had submitted after the Arsenal game, Everton are not possible contenders for champions league qualification? And who now feels the impossible is nothing? This could be that moment in David Moyes’ tenure that Blues have been waiting for. From top 6 hopefuls to Everton FC, Nil Satis Nisi Optimum.

The time has come to refocus efforts from a five game mini series against the Big 4 teams and to take on the point deficit and fight for that top 4 target. It is a big gap to over come and it is not going to be easy, but nothing worth having ever is. And that people, that is sport.

Everton lifted themselves on one moment sent from the footballing Gods to play the following match with a performance of guile, flair, professionalism and prowess. It is up to the team, the management and the fans to run with it until triumph is assured.

Football Focus mentioned Everton twice on Saturday. Once as the team Liverpool had lost to in midweek, and the second being the team Bolton were playing. What they have overlooked, with their editorial decisions to focus on Mascherano and Kean’s return to Spurs is that Everton have created the perfect storm allowing this cash-strapped, unfashionable, ignored, fallen giant to make those untouchable realms of Champions League possible.

Be it by fault or by design Everton have a solid starting XI that can be assured of levels of performance needed to play and beat the best. Everton have had David Moyes (for good or for bad) enter into the field of media mind games with cunning, and success. Add into the mix a kid from a small fishing port in Devon whose name was sang out, echoing through Goodison Park in celebration. A salute to, not a hero of the hour, but to someone already close to legend status.

We have a born and bred Blue in Rodwell, who at 17 could be making Everton appearances for 20 years. There is the gradual and as yet highly successful reintroduction of a once talismanic Andy van der Meyde who not yet 30 brings with him the wild card option and a potential of wing play not seen since Andrei Kanchelskis.

Watch out for the official website soon to be quoting David Moyes with ‘They’re like new signings’!

Everton also have an all English back four who are making a mockery of the world’s finest attackers. The overlapping skills of Baines, the colossal partnership of Lescott and Jagielka nullifying all that come their way. And Hibbert, the much maligned Tony Hibbert. Not since the days of Stuart Pearce have I viewed anyone who takes personal offence to any man who believes he can get past him to deliver a cross. That is what he does, that is why he is in the team, and that is why Ronaldo changed wings.

Credit must go to Moyes for this defensive unit. In addition Everton have a Brazilian forward, quick, skillful, industrious (I swear with that hair and making tackles in midfield, I thought Fellaini was on for the first ten minutes), marking his excellent debut and leading the line with two goals. It would have been very much Everton for the Jo’s penalty to be missed, but dispatched it was. Of course it was! Arteta is back on form, Cahill our true talisman raising every player’s game, players coming back from injury and now a run of league fixtures on paper as easy as the last five were difficult.

The fixture list once again is playing into Everton’s hands in more way than one. This Sunday sees the return on Aston Villa to Goodison in the cup. This game will not just be about the FA Cup, but the competition for 4th spot. To play this team off the park could make a profound shift in league form for the team from Birmingham. Wednesday saw Everton severely dent Liverpool’s season with cup victory, now is the time to dent Villa’s too and finish ours with aplomb.

In my last article A Season in the Sun, I was wishing for a special time to be enjoyed before, during and after it has happened. I think this could put a stop to those years of waiting. Everton are raising their game and I can’t wait for the ride!

To finish I would like to again quote Robert Green’s The Concise 48 Laws of Power. Why don’t you see if you can guess whom I may be referring to?

'The mighty lion toys with the mouse that crosses his path — any other reaction would mar his fearsome reputation. Once it is solid, do not let yourself get angry or defensive… that reveals insecurity. Never appear desperate in your self-defence. You must not engage in petty vengeance. If you do not break your enemy’s reputation cleverly, you will inadvertently ruin your own'.

Una cerveza por favor!

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