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COLUMNIST KEVIN SPARKE

The Times They Are A-Changing

By Kevin Sparke :  22/02/2010 :  Comments (23) :

This will be my last piece for this site; for reasons I’ll not go into here. [Webmaster's note: off-topic comments related to this have been removed from responses below]. It’s been a rocky ride and on the way I’ve learned more than I’ve forgotten, so thanks for the positive comments... and the negative ones.

All things must end and with endings come new beginnings... and this will be the theme of this the last bit of nonsense I put here before you.

I’ve been watching the Blues since 1972 as a regular follower — though my first match was 1963 carried by my old feller as a 3 year old to watch us batter a Manchester United side (5-1). I don’t remember anything about it apart from the sound of the crowd being the loudest and most enticing noise I’d ever heard. I’ve been in love with football and Everton ever since.

In my time of watching the Blues there have been many false dawns and even one or two real ones. I remember being at Filbert Street when we played a Leicester City side with Gary Lineker playing up front for Leicester and watching a midfield master class conducted by our team and thinking ‘Blimey... we look pretty good here’... I remember us beating Manchester United 5-0 at Goodison a few months later and thinking ‘We’re not just pretty good — we are bloody fantastic!’ We had four really good seasons and if not for events largely beyond our control we probably would have had four more.

I got that glowing feeling again a few weeks ago when we should have beaten Arsenal, it was even stronger when we beat Manchester City. Defeat by Birmingham and Liverpool tempered my imagination but after Chelsea and Manchester United were both deservedly put to the sword by our lads, that feeling is back again — it is a feeling that the winds of change are blowing through football and at last we might just be on the brink of something very special indeed.

For too long the ruling elite of football known as the ‘Sky Four’ have treated the Champions league as their own personal fiefdom. There is a sense of entitlement at the top of the football tree; a swaggering arrogance about ‘big four’ teams and their supporters, fed by excessive hype and monetary reward. They strut about their business as if success is theirs by right and ‘small’ clubs should know their place and that place is playing cameo roles to their star turns. The latest evidence of this is pronouncements by no less than three different sports journalists that Jack Rodwell needs a ‘big club’ (Manchester United) to continue his development. They treat success as if it were a divine right.

Well... not any more, the times they really are a’changing– Everton are back.

We have the best squad since 1987 and barring the lure of filthy mammon leading our more cultured players to greener pastures — we should fear no other team

Best of luck to all of you... and enjoy the ride... the future is bright... the future is Ginger.

Reader Comments

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David Chait
1   Posted 22/02/2010 at 20:34:26

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Can’t disagree with you.. I just phoned into a football discussion show here is SA to say just that.. probably got carried away a bit in saying only 3 Man U players would have walked into the Everton side this weekend (which I believe btw)....

I don’t think Liverpool or Man U can spend money in the summer... so I think we have a great chance to keep our players... the future is bright.
Steve Hogan
2   Posted 22/02/2010 at 20:38:49

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Kevin, thanks for your comments and contributions in the past, lets hope your feelings/predictions about the future bear fruit.
Stefan Tosev
3   Posted 22/02/2010 at 20:32:07

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Kevin, as Shaun said, you should lay off that single malted you are on. Being away doesn’t help, believe me; this is pretty much the only reasonable place you can go and vent your frustrations or joy about Everton and throwing the towel is not an option.

Evertonians are so starved of success that every single failure is triggering wide range of feelings and emotions and in the end we have to accept that.
Brian Wilson
4   Posted 22/02/2010 at 20:19:55

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Kevin good luck fella. I was wondering what TW might serve up next. Though very welcome I didn’t expect an evocative piece in tune with the times.
Brendan O'Doherty
5   Posted 22/02/2010 at 20:55:25

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Have to agree with that Kevin; things seem to be levelling out at the top with certain clubs unable to cope with any more debt. Maybe we won’t need the ’elusive billionaire’ after all, and just a few more additions will do the trick. Future looking brighter - glass ceiling being seriously tested.
Dave Lynch
6   Posted 22/02/2010 at 21:27:02

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Whatever your reasons for leaving us Kev, the best of luck mate. I have read your postings and articles for a good few years and have always thought of you as one of the more reasoned contributors.

However, I cannot for the life of me feel the winds of change at the moment.The big 4 have too much to lose, as does Sky, if they lose their status.

The FA are also up to their eyes in it, remember them backing the shite when they failed to qualify for the CL. I firmly believe they are all pigs with their snouts in the trough. Too many bad refereeing decisions and none of the useless bastards bought to book by the spineless twats at the FA also convince me of this. It’s a conspiracy, believe me!

As for us. The minute our young lads break into the England squad, they will be tapped up by the big time charlies. This to me is illegal and dishonest, but again the FA do fuck all about it.

We all know also that Billy boy will sell off our prime talent at the right price, he has done it before and will do it again. The odds are stacked against us, mate, and a couple of wins over the Sky 4 will not change that. Football needs a major major overhaul to break the monopoly, starting with the FA taking back control instead of cowing down to Sky dictating the fixtures and kick-off times.

I hope you are right by the way, but like you I have been following the blues since the 60s and the bastards have broke my heart and given me more false dawns than I care to remember. But know what... I wouldn’t have it any other way and don’t regret one minute of it.
Best wishes. Dave.

Jason Broome
7   Posted 23/02/2010 at 01:17:03

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Is Berbatov more influential than Saha? Would Fabregas be a better playmaker for us than Arteta? Are Pienaar and Donovan the best wingers in the country right now? Are the improvements in Fellaini comparable to Mikel?

Looking at the United team only Ferdinand, Vidic and Rooney would guarantee a place in our starting eleven. However with Jagielka set to team up with Heitinga… don’t quote me on that!

Man for man we should fear no-one!

At the start of the season new players had to settle, injuries had to heal, confidence had to grow and David Moyes had to tactically evolve. United would have you believe that they were tired… truth is (like Chelsea and Sporting) they played us at the wrong time!

Donovan’s arrival has brought balance to our team. There are many wingers in the world but an Everton winger requires more. Tracking back, fighting, running, tackling and pushing the others. Come summer Donovan is a must!

And then there is Jack Rodwell. Compared to Ferdinand (due mostly to his skin colour) but reminds me of Patrick Vieira. Patient and calm on the ball, composed finisher, competent passer, box to box effective and all contained within a captains mind… this kid could be something special.

Anyway, sorry to see you go mate, good luck in your life, and yes… I’m excited too.
Conor Skelly
8   Posted 23/02/2010 at 01:05:46

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I tend to think its a conspiracy too... but there is nothing they can do if our team is too good. Imagine we took on the evil overlords and won... perhaps football's greatest story!?
Peter Anthony
9   Posted 23/02/2010 at 01:34:10

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Fantastic piece, Kev, not the biggest, but as proved by little curly Alan Ball (none better) and many others (Pienaar and Ossie have had a good crack of late), size ain't everything!

Your brilliant, inciteful and genuinely funny contributions will be missed if you’re off. But all the very best to ya Kevlar....
COYB!

David Ellis
10   Posted 23/02/2010 at 02:39:49

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Nice piece Kevin. We started watching games around the same time so I have been through the ups and downs with you.

I think the glass ceiling may be cracking. And not just because Moyes has finally put together a squad with a bit of depth in almost every department (Donavan will be missed - no real back up for Saha).

Dave Lynch thinks there is a conspiracy. I don’t think so. The Sky 4 oligopoly has been created by the current business model and TV deals for the Champions League and Premier League. But the model may have run its course.

It was a pryamid game that relied on ever increasing revenues which automatically increased the cost base through higher salaries and transfer fees - wiping out any hope of a profit that new investors/owners may have harboured. The only ones who made any money were those that sold to the next fool.

The financial crisis has wiped out the few remaining potential fools. And more important than that, after 15 years, the model is so clearly exposed that even the most foolish investor will realise there is no money to be made as an owner of a football club.

Man Utd and Liverpool are crippled by debts to third party lenders. Arsenal have to repay their stadium development costs and have not made as much as they were expecting on the housing element. Chelsea are in hock to their Russian owner. He has not pulled the plug but appears to have lost the appetite to lose over GBP 100m a year.

Man City are the only ones that can really defy gravity at the moment - but this will only increase the pressure on the Sky 4.

These factors alone mean that the glass ceiling for Everton, Villa and Spurs is cracking (or at least rising a bit). Perhaps we can bless our good fortune that we might, just might, have the team and squad (even without Rodwell) that can take advantage of this opportunity - if not this season then next.

Large forces are at work off the pitch. The ice is melting just as it did in the mid 90’s and Everton need to get themselves up the pecking order before it freezes again and a new model replaces the old.
James Flynn
11   Posted 23/02/2010 at 04:05:56

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Kevin,
Best of luck to you in the future.

As a new on-board Blues supporter from America, I’m very excited for the near and future fortune of the Team. We’re talented everywhere from back to front. Imagine if we started the season with this side? OK, we’re past that.

My point is we just look terrific. Not just the wins, but the fact that the wins were so well-earned against top teams that were trying their best. Obviously, ability and confidence are meshing perfectly.

No complacency. Big European match mid-week. FInish that off then back to surging up the Table. Top 4 is there to be had. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? Hell no!!

By the way, American soccer reporters are starting to wonder in print and on-air if it wouldn’t be better to keep Donovan in Everton leading up to the World Cup. It’s obvious to everyone over this side of the Atlantic that Donovan wants to stay until the end of the season. MLS worked out such a deal with Beckham last year at AC Milan. Don’t see why it can’t work the other way around. Especially as Donovan clearly wants it.

Up Everton.
Peter Anthony
12   Posted 23/02/2010 at 08:58:35

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Brendan, Yes Freudian slip, insightful it should be. Thanks for pointing that out, with wit thrown in too, taking the michael indeed, boom boom..
Ken Buckley
13   Posted 23/02/2010 at 14:31:20

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Sorry to read you are leaving us. Thanks for your contributions over the years, always a good read. Whatever you will be doing I wish you all the very best. As you say times change so who knows... you may be back. You would be very welcome.
UP THE BLUES
Christopher McCullough
14   Posted 23/02/2010 at 16:29:04

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Thanks and good luck, sir. I hope your final TW predictions are soon realised.

Ray Burn
15   Posted 23/02/2010 at 16:30:50

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Personally I’m sorry to see someone whose opinion almost always tallied with my own feel the need to do this, and I’m sure it will come as no surprise to hear that I completely agree with Kev in his final posting.
Jon Cox
16   Posted 23/02/2010 at 19:59:49

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Hi Kev,

Sorry to hear this news. I dont post as much as i should but I,ve been reading TW and your excellent posts for quite a few years now.

As an Evertonian for over 40 years I knew that when I eventially had my two boys which was the Leeds game were we drew 4-4 that the volume of the gwladys street would for ever be inprinted on their sole.

Good lock for the future and I cant help but think in terms of the great Arnie

"I'll be back"

Jon
Martin Berry
17   Posted 23/02/2010 at 20:43:00

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Good luck mate

Don’t let the bastards grind you down
James Flynn
18   Posted 24/02/2010 at 02:41:53

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First, 100% agree with what Andy Peers said above. There really is nothing left for Landon in MLS. Nothing. MLS well knows this. So, we’ll see. Please keep in mind that Landon is not paid a fortune in salary in MLS; EPL chump change.

Landon is done in MLS. He does not want (which means he will not) spend his prime years in MLS while Everton is calling. I can’t be the only one to notice that Moyes immediately plugged Landon into the starting team and has left him there. Something’s up between EFC and MLS. By the way, I hope all Toffee supporters in England understand that Landon has never played in the positions Moyes has assigned him. Never! Wait until next year when he has an Everton training camp under his belt.

Anyway, forget all the "SKY This or That". For one, whatever the finance is, those teams have produced on the pitch when it counted. Money aside, the players earned their place. Has this developed into some mythical "Sky 4, plus us" attitude? That’s too bad and, by the way, serves no good purpose.
I followed the Toffees since you signed our boy Tim in goal, but not closely. I just kept up on Tim. Then Donovan was signed and I had to follow our #1 player. What I see that that EFC is a loaded gun packed with talent.

I read so much back and forth about Moyes’ tactics lately. It seems to me that he demands the total game be played, which is correct. He’s conservative? Is that what the complaints are about? Michael Kenrick certainly went off about it after the ManU game and was attacked over and over. Whatever. I’m going with what I’ve seen. With that, thus:

• If Moyes is holding back his attackers, they’re certainly ignoring his instruction.
• Toffee ownership generally satisfied with “Top 6” generating funds has been met over the last couple of years.
• There’s a lot more money to be made.
• I love the EPL game.
• Kenrick is an EFC fanatic above and beyond (actually, those around him might help him discover other interests).
• He’s right in demanding the Toffees apply the pressure instead of only planting (correctly) firmly and resisting it.
• It’s crystal clear Everton is packed with talent everywhere.
• 2011. What will this be like when Moyes has everyone in camp for next season?
o Who will stop us?
o Multiple pieces of silverware lifted
• I’m American. Landon Donovan changed things at Everton. (Say I’m wrong, but prove it).
• Right now, EFC is the best football club in England.
• 4th place is right there for the getting and why not 3rd?

Up the Blues!!

Alan Rycroft
19   Posted 24/02/2010 at 09:49:27

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Dear james,
Hold horses a minute. I agree with all of you and well done that lads. But footie is a very fickle game and you re only as good as your last result. Defeat in Lisbon getting shafted by a next premeier team, maybe Hammers? ..and the glory will be a fading memory. Don’t want to be a JOnah but keep things in perspective. Manure went straight back and slaughtered Ham! They had an off day don’t mean we are going to win the league! But hey, keep it coming Blues maybe even beat Benfica now! Europa our last chance for success this season, maybe 5th or 6th in league. Remember Vialla and Brummie Spurs Shitty all pretty strong.
Best to all.
Al
Dave Lynch
20   Posted 24/02/2010 at 10:25:23

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James.
Let them horses run buddy.
But be prepared for more than a few falls along the way. As you stated, you are new to the Everton family and we all welcome you with open hearts.
But as Alan said. " Footy is a very fickle game."
You will find that out along the very rocky road that is supporting Everton.
James Flynn
21   Posted 24/02/2010 at 16:53:28

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Thanks guys. But I have to go with what I’m seeing. And what I’m seeing is the better team winning against other top clubs that were not "off" their game that day, but did pretty well themselves and certainly were trying to win. Everton was just better.

Mostly, beyond Everton’s obvious talent all over the pitch, was the imposition of the team’s will on opponents such as Arsenal, ManU, and Chelsea. Arsenal’s goals were both fluke deflections. The Blues were clearly the better team that day.

Speaking of “Footy is a very fickle game.", I’m still pissed-off about the Liverpool result. Of course, there will be disappointments along the way. That’s competitive athletics. Maybe my newness to the team also comes "baggage-free" from not suffering the various frustrations over the years.

So, I’ll say again, thanks guys for the welcome and what I’ve seen with my eyes since following closely is that Everton is currently the best team in the EPL. Wait until next season when everyone is in camp together, injury free (fingers crossed) and the team comes boiling out the chute for a whole season of playing like they are now. Silverware raised in 2011, I’m telling you!!! We ARE that good.

Up Everton
Nick Entwistle
22   Posted 25/02/2010 at 15:53:15

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That’s a hell of a declaration Kevin. Still, its not the break-up of the Beatles!

I remember your comment before it was deleted, but when I saw it had been I couldn’t for the life of me remember what it said. Bit strange.

Not sure why you’d take this stance though. Straw that broke the camel’s back?
Larry Boner
23   Posted 25/02/2010 at 17:49:22

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Kevin, I was at the 5-1 Man Utd game with my Dad in the old goal stand, I am sure it was 5-0 at half time, also at the 5-0 game when I witnessed possibly the best performance by an Everton team in my 50 yrs of support.
Why is the gap narrowing between the original cheating G14 group (Liverpool, Man Utd etc) and the rest of us also rans ?
Well there are only so many great players available in the world and if a lot of them come through a youth system, or the manager works on TEAM rather than reputation then you can get a narrowing of the gap.
What it needs is for Everton, Villa etc to stand firm and not sell at the first chance. Villareal did it in Spain, a tiny team but sticking to principals.
The situation now is that apart from Man City there is no money around, but they have a very average manager and average squad at the moment, so in my opinion for them to be successful they will have to start all over.

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