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Season 2011-12

Editors' Blog

Occasional thoughts from the ToffeeWeb Editors

No shortage of 'big game' experience

I'm still not sure how to explain Saturday's disappointment at Wembley ? was it managerial instruction to sit back after taking the lead; a consequence of years of David Moyes's conservative footballing philosophy; the players just lacking self-belief...? ? but Phil Neville's assertion that the Blues "lacked big-game experience" doesn't wash with me.

Neville himself has played at the highest level for Manchester United, represented England and played for Everton in three cup semi-finals and the FA Cup Final.

Leighton Baines, Tim Howard, Leon Osman, Marouane Fellaini, Tim Cahill and Sylvain Distin ? the latter two were both FA Cup Finalists for other teams before joining Everton ? have all had similar domestic experience, including playing for Everton in Europe.

Cahill has been at the centre of some of recent World Cup Finals' most dramatic moments, Howard too is no stranger to the Champions League or international football's biggest stage.

Granted, he hasn't played in a final but Darron Gibson has played in the Champions League and scored against German giants, Bayern Munich.

John Heitinga played almost impeccably for all of Holland's 2010 World Cup Finals campaign, including the Final itself. It doesn't get bigger than that.

Yes, it's true that as a unit they have not played together in a showpiece game but there was more than enough experience on that Wembley pitch to have risen above a Liverpool side that was as jittery at the back as they were against Cardiff City, a team with almost no top-level experience, in the Carling Cup Final a couple of months ago.

The difference on that day was that the Championship side gave as good as they got, scored a dramatic equaliser after going behind and, with more composure from the penalty spot, would have won the trophy.

Everton retreated within themselves and got punished.

I'm fully behind the skipper's assertion that the team needs to respond with a strong performance at Old Trafford, though. Everton haven't won there in 20 years so there's nothing to lose from going out there and trying to give United something to think about from the first whistle.

I, for one, would not hold defeat against them if they just gave it a damned good go.
Lyndon Lloyd     Posted 16/04/2012 at    Comments (34)

Distin not solely to blame for semi-final defeat

A despondent Distin fronts up to the Everton fans at Wembley [Getty Images]

It takes a certain type of character to walk the pitch in front of 35,000+ crushed supporters and own up to helping destroy their dreams of an FA Cup Final.

Sylvain Distin's awful error may have provided the fulcrum on which Everton's semi-final destiny tipped away from them but he is wrong to blame himself for the defeat to Liverpool.

Everton made it to Wembley as a team and they lost as a team, a collective that failed to scale the heights they reached in the previous round's replay at Sunderland.

That they hardly looked like adding to Nikica Jelavic's first-half opener, nor were particularly roused from their torpor by Luis Suarez's equaliser, was more down to a general lack of belief and drive than Distin's momentary lapse of concentration.

His gesture to the fans at the final whistle was laudable ? it's typical of a man who just gets on with the job of, 99% of the time, being an incredibly dependable defender whose fitness and pace belie his years ? as was his despondent mea culpa on Twitter, but Distin should not overlook his contribution in helping turn this season around and getting the Blues into the semi-finals in the first place.

How many times were he and John Heitinga the leading candidates for Everton man of the match this season? The pairing have been magnificent for much of the last few months, to the point where Phil Jagielka has been unable to regain his place after recovering from injury.

We're all devastated, naturally, but that backpass happened early enough for the team to respond positively to regain the lead. That they didn't speaks to what was just a poor display all around today, one made more depressing by the lack of options from the subs' bench.

"Stand together" is the slogan du jour, I believe.
Lyndon Lloyd     Posted 15/04/2012 at    Comments (35)

Ken Buckley

Many people have asked recently what has happened to Ken Buckley's regular match reports at ToffeeWeb. Ken's "From My Seat" accounts have been a popular staple on the site for the past few seasons but, if I recall correctly, we haven't received one from him now since the QPR away game.

We certainly enjoy featuring Ken's reports and we've not received any negative feedback from him that would suggest he no longer wants to contribute to the site so we're hoping that he is well and still watching the Blues even if we're not benefiting from his regular insight.

We emailed Ken a couple of weeks ago to check that everything is alright but received no reply so, Ken, if you're out there, drop us a line to let us know all is well and when and if you'll be back writing reports for your fellow Blues' entertainment.

Addendum: It should be noted ?: and I hope he won't mind me disclosing this ? for those who might ask around for him at the game that Ken uses a pen name for his reports on ToffeeWeb; Buckley is not his surname.
Lyndon Lloyd     Posted 10/04/2012 at    Comments (27)

Pissing Matches; Activation Problems

An appeal for some restraint

This may or may not have the desired effect but some of the exchanges in some of the discussion threads recently seem to have gone downhill, with a minority among our readers more keen on scoring points off each other and indulging in pissing matches, rather than exchanging reasonable views on recent results and on other club matters.

We can't and don't want to tell you what to post, and it would probably not be worthwhile to try and construct any more new rules that might curb some of the excesses. However, one thing that seems common is the tendency to both question others' or boast of one's own Everton credentials. Granted, this approach is used by many as a means for judging the value of opinions; however, we think it goes against the spirit of a public forum for dedicated Evertonians... That you are posting here should make your credentials a given ? we weed the real Kopites out pretty quickly.

So we're both appealing for a little more restraint, with emotions understandably running high as we approach a critical make-or-break point in the season.

Thanks for reading and contributing.

Activation Problems

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Michael Kenrick & Lyndon Lloyd     Posted 25/03/2012 at    Comments (93)

Iceberg, dead ahead!

For his series of surprisingly optimistic articles concerning Everton's prospects for 2011-12, Dave Prentice took plenty of flak last summer from Evertonians who, both at the time and in hindsight, seemed to have a good deal more prescient view of the grave state of the Club than the Echo's chief EFC correspondent.

It's worth acknowledging and supporting, then, the awakening that his latest article appears to represent. If Dave was below-decks on the metaphorical Titanic a few months ago ? many will argue, though, that he's had a pretty good view from the captain's deck for a very long time ? it looks as though he has now joined many of the rest of us leaning over the bow pointing at the iceberg looming ahead.

Given the pervasive impression that the vocal "Internet" Blues are in a minority when it comes to the fanbase at large and that the ordinary man-on-the-street match-going, Echo-reading supporters remain unfailingly loyal to the Bill Kenwright regime, the power of Prentice's words should not be underestimated. They could ? and hopefully will ? be the beginning of a more open and analytical approach by the local press to the alarming decline underway at Goodison Park.

Whatever your views of Kenwright, it's clear that the path Everton are on does not square with continued membership of the Premier League. A business that is losing £5m a year with no obvious plans or ability to arrest that downward spiral is in very serious trouble and no one, not even a Trinity Mirror-owned local press with an uncomfortable conflict of interest, can keep sweeping that under the carpet.

Lyndon Lloyd     Posted 13/01/2012 at    Comments (30)

Maddock draws some twisted parallels

One of the last times Mirror columnist, David Maddock, was moved to write about Everton beyond last October's controversial Merseyside derby, he very clearly nailed his colors to Bill Kenwright's mast. I'm not sure what moves journalists like him and Martin Samuel (whose pro-Bill adoration piece on the eve of the Blue Union's first march was easily the most transparent and nauseating piece of football writing that I had the displeasure of reading last year) to such sycophantic myopia ? I suppose there are forces related to power and influence at work ? but I greeted it with the shake of the head and shrug of the shoulders it deserved.

His latest "blog" piece did not elicit the same sigh of resignation; instead it left me with my blood boiling, not only at the crass premise but also at the sheer deceit and mis-representation at work. Maddock inexplicably segued a poignant reaffirmation of Gary Ablett's character, one that enabled him to play for both Liverpool and Everton and yet remain cherished and respected by both, into a dressing down of fans from both clubs for their respective "abuse" at the weekend.

Stooping so low as to use the Ablett tribute to make his point was bad enough ?James Thomas at called it a "cheap point scoring" exercise ? but Maddock compounds that questionable tactic by equating a Liverpool fan's racial abuse of Oldham Athletic's Tom Adeyemi with the benign questioning of Kenwright by a group of Evertonians outside Goodison before the Tamworth FA Cup tie.

It's one of those instances where you wonder if you're inhabiting the same planet as some people. Bending the truth to breaking point so as to paint a handful of committed Everton fans as a baying mob waiting to attack a vulnerable, defenceless sexagenarian, Maddock sets the scene:

"A small group of Everton fans laid in wait for their chairman ... as he arrived at the ground."

He fails to acknowledge, because it doesn't fit his narrative, what anyone who has seen the YouTube video could tell you, namely that the "abuse" is so bad ? sarcasm alert ? that our victim spends almost a full minute deliberately standing by his car staring at his smartphone listening to it all before ill-advisedly marching over and accusing the gathered fans and the Blue Union of betraying Everton Football Club.

"What unfolded though, was yet another example of how football supporters seem to have lost their sense of what is morally acceptable when it comes to dealing with other human beings ... Kenwright was essentially subjected to some serious abuse..."

Serious abuse? Have a word with yourself, Mr Maddock. There was no abuse of Kenwright at all. He was not called a name, not a four-letter word uttered. Indeed, those fans have been praised by fellow Blues for their restraint, for their lack of verbal abuse, and for asking the questions that no Evertonian is able to ask of the club hierarchy because of the removal of the AGM process by Kenwright's Board.

To equate some shouted questions to the racial abuse of an opposing player ? a far more egregious incident but basically glossed over by the Kopite Mr Maddock at the end of his article ? is at best disingenuous and at worst blatant sensationalism. That much should be obvious no matter on what side of the Kenwright debate you stand.

Update: Following complaints from Evertonians, Mr Maddock or The Mirror have changed the paragraph cited above to read: "Kenwright was essentially subjected to a volley of aggressive complaints..." Just had to use the word "aggressive", though, didn't he.

Lyndon Lloyd     Posted 12/01/2012 at    Comments (24)

Defending the indefensible

I hate Liverpool with a passion. I don't even like talking about then, but this Suarez issue, and the astounding way it is being polarized, has got me to break that rule.

There have been surprisingly few comments on here, and maybe it's something we're content to watch unfold without getting ourselves embroiled, but the issue is somewhat unprecedented, and could potentially have reprecussions that go way beyond the Liverpool-Man Utd battleground some seem determined to characterize it as.

The racist aspects have some relevance to us, both in terms of our history as a supposed 'racist' club ? now thankfully the dim and distant past... although I recently read this slant repeated in that Soccernomics book (How Everton were the last club to get a black player in Amokachi), up to the recent past and David Sibson's three-year ban from Goodison Park for calling Louis Saha a "useless French lazy bastard", justified in racist terms.

Listening to 606 this weekend, it was refreshing to hear Liverpool getting well and truly hammered for their very dubious "support" of the "innocent" Suarez, but not everyone agrees, of course... As regular readers will know, this is more of a human condition: no matter what the issue, no matter how clear or how divisive, there are those who stick to their contrary view, no matter what evidence is placed before them.

The much hated FA seem to have acted well in this case, and I think publishing a detailed report on how they reached their decision was both surprising and correct. I think Liverpool taking this to court, as some kopites are suggesting, would be a huge mistake; but maybe we should keep silent on that and hope that they go ahead, and really make total arses of themselves.

Maybe it's not an issue we care to comment on, and in this case, I think that would be a fair assessment, but I'm throwing this out there to see what people think....

Michael Kenrick     Posted 01/01/2012 at    Comments (82)

A Sad Day for the Blue Fraternity

"Unbelievable." "I can't believe it." "Shocked."

There's a common thread to the tributes and reactions following the death of Gary Speed; no-one can quite believe it. Aged just 42, with a wife, two teenage children, a lauded playing career behind him, and all signs pointing to a promising managerial adventure ahead of him, he appeared to have it all.

The football world is stunned at the unfathomable loss of one of the game's true good guys. "Model pro" is another recurring theme running through the quotes from fellow managers and players, past and present, and as Evertonians we can attest to the fact that Gary was a genuine professional and a terrific ambassador for our club.

I'm sure I wasn't alone in being deeply envious of Leeds United in the early to mid-1990s, watching Gary at the peak of his powers at Elland Road. A combative, goalscoring midfielder and leader by example both on the pitch and off it, he was a manager's dream.

And when he pulled on the Royal Blue Jersey of his boyhood team in August 1996 after Joe Royle had brought him to Goodison Park for £3.5m, it seemed as though all our dreams had come true.

Of course, though he would make 65 appearances and score 17 goals, his Everton career ended on a sour note with his abrupt departure for Newcastle in 1998. Though plenty of rumours have done the rounds, the exact circumstances behind his decision to leave the Blues remain a mystery and while a confidentiality agreement was part of the terms of his transfer to St James' Park, given the dignified manner in which Gary always conducted himself, it's likely he'd have taken the details with him to his grave anyway.

In the absence of those details, some fans chose to brand him as Judas but for many of the rest of us you just had a sense that he must have had his reasons.

My abiding memory of Gary will always be that headed winner he scored against Tottenham Hotspur in April 1997, the only goal in a game that provided the impetus to keep Everton, then under the temporary stewardship of Dave Watson, in the Premier League that season. That epitomised everything he meant to us at a difficult time.

The comparisons to Tim Cahill are not misplaced ? like the fearless Aussie, Gary Speed was a shining example of commitment, dignity and desire to win, and I'm proud both of his association with our club and the knowledge that he was a fellow Evertonian.

We at ToffeeWeb extend our sympathies to his family at this sad time. May Gary rest in peace.
Lyndon Lloyd     Posted 27/11/2011 at    Comments (23)

Changing Hearts and Minds

The polarization that has occurred around the Blue Union since it surfaced is nothing new. Evertonians seem to go with their gut feelings on any and every issue ? no matter how big or small ? as we have seen on ToffeeWeb in countless discussion threads. And looking at the comments from our regulars, the division follows fairly well-established lines in terms of pro and anti...

As I see it, the particular challenge the Blue Union appears to have if it is to reach a critical mass sufficient to achieve something (and who knows what that critical mass might be... if they're not already there?) is to significantly increase their level of support. Fundamental in this effort was to reaffirm their support for the team... and ? by extension ? for the manager, in order (I believe) to clearly focus their efforts on challenging the Everton Board of Directors (ie, Bill Kenwright) to do things differently.

Perhaps naysayers like Brian Harrison are right in claiming that they don't have a big enough support base yet, although I think he is being disingenuous to deny the substantial numbers present both on the march last month and at Zeligs on Saturday.

But the BU seem to know that they must do what they can to change the hearts and minds of a number of those whose natural first response is to reject what they are doing, to question the support they have, and to denigrate what they are perceived to stand for.

The latest effort, at Public Meeting No 2, seems to have been one of further education on the financial issues, oddly mixed with a dose of 80s nostalgia... presumably designed to bring in some fresh eyes and ears of fans who otherwise may not have attended? [It remains to be seen what sanctions the club will impose on Howard Kendall, or indeed the Echo... and whether he will mention the Blue Union in his next newspaper column.]

The basics are simple: the club has supposedly been for sale for years (or not, some will argue) ? well pre-dating the global financial crisis, and spanning an incredible period when most Premier League clubs have seen takeovers and/or substantial injections of money. But for Everton? Not so much...

We've been assured by the club that it's NOT the asking price that is the problem. This, despite Keith Harris himself quoting a figure of £120M which is just laughable under the current circumstances.

Then there's the accounts: We're assured by Mr Elston and others that most of the money earned is ploughed back into the club (and especially Finch Farm!) yet we have no spare cash, despite comparable and lesser Premier League clubs with smaller stadiums and smaller crowds having far more disposable income than us.

The financial management of Everton FC Co Ltd has been variously characterized as anywhere from brilliant under the dire circumstances... to almost criminally incompetent. But that, like most other judgements of the BU and their work, seems to depend on your state of mind going in, rather than any dispassionate analysis of the figures.

Getting a significant number of match-going Evertonians not only interested in the off-the-field issues of club finance, but sufficiently concerned to support intervention in a process that has gone precisely nowhere in the last 12 years, and now reeks of stagnation, is indeed a massive uphill challenge.

My inclination is to be supportive of their efforts, and to give them the benefit of the doubt when decisions seem questionable. But do I afford the Club the same privilege? No; one is a group professional (if temporary) custodians of whom professional competence is a minimal requirement, a group that earns its crust off the hard-earned income of the committed life-long Evertonians who form the other group.

One group has a history of incompetence and obfuscation extending to downright lies when it comes to dealing with the wider Everton public, the pathetically petty bans on journalists being just the latest in a long line of poorly judged and executed PR gaffs that we feel duty-bound to expose.

The other group are rank amateurs, struggling against the established power and media savvy of the club and the traditional media it has tamed, determined to do what they can for the club they love.

Which one do you really think you should put your weight behind?

This final note of criticsm may be seen as self-interest but I believe it's where the potential power of the internet can play its part to change the current imbalance. BU are using Facebook to an extent, and websites marginally in their campaign for visibility with the mainstream media... and the Oldham Echo(!)

However, another key meeting has passed by with little to no meaningful internet coverage. I think this is might be a bit of an oversight.

I think it is letting down the core group of Blue Union supporters who have committed themselves vocally behind the group and its aims. For the sake of these individuals and to help ensure their continued support, I believe the BU should try to do a better job of feeding material to the internet supporters, timed so that it is available during or immediately after meetings such as these.

Yes, the prime target is the mainstream media; but I think it is also important to give the Blue Union supporters who can't get to these meetings a better idea of what is going on. And with the internet, three are plenty of ways this could be done.

Michael Kenrick     Posted 10/10/2011 at    Comments (45)

Where are your repercussions, Mr Atkinson?

The most infuriating thing about Martin Atkinson's disgraceful decision that effectively decided the derby is the complete lack of recourse, both for the players and their manager at the time and for the Club and fans alike in the game's aftermath.

What will happen to the referee? A player can be fined for bringing the game into disrepute for making some ill-advised comments on Twitter. A manager can simiarly be monteraily penalised for criticising the performance of match officials. But for a referee who can materially affect the outcome of a match with such a decision so obviously wrong that it's almost impossible not to question his neutrality, nothing will happen at all.

Maybe in a discrete phone call from Lancaster Gate FA HQ, some Football Association bureaucrat will say, "Good grief, Martin old boy, be a bit more careful, will you?" Or, perhaps: "Bloody hell, Atko, did you have to make it so flippin' obvious?"

But any ramifications of any substance ? a public admonishment, perhaps or a suspension for gross incompetence on the job? You must be joking. It's a disgrace that Jack Rodwell will probably serve a suspension ? I'll be floored if the entire red card and three-game ban is rescinded ? and the referee will get away scot free for such an awfully wrong decision.

I have to say, I would feel a good deal better if there had been some outburst of outrage from Everton after the game, though. David Moyes's dignity, no doubt brought on by the fine he incurred the last time he dared speak out about the same official a year ago, is all well and good but it's at times like these that you want to see the manager really lay into Atkinson on camera and let the country know that we're tired of getting fucked over like this at least once a season.

So they'll fine you, big bloody deal. You earn more money in a week than most of us earn in a year. To hear that the players and the boss feel the same way we do would make those of us with no outlet for this pent-up rage beyond a few words on the Internet feel a lot better about another derby defeat inflicted on us by someone other than the bastards in red.

There was talk on this site recently about the attempts at equality and checks against unnatural dominance by certain teams that have been put in place by the NFL across the Pond, and while very few of those fiscal measures would work in the diverse, global sphere of football, plenty of the steps they've taken in American Football to keep the actual action on the field fair could easily be adopted by FIFA.

At the very least, the ability for managers to challenge controversial decisions based on video evidence from a dedidated official upstairs ? think more along the lines of snap decisions made in tennis than the finger-drumming, drawn-out booth gazing that NFL "umpires" indulge in ? could be considered so that this billion-pound sport isn't reduced to farce by ridiculous decisions from the imbeciles in black.

Even a modicum of dialogue with these cosseted officials would be a start. Again, the States can set an example: Major League Baseball, while not being quite as top heavy and inequitable as English football, is still a sport where money talks, the big teams have the edge, and there is no recourse to video replays. But the coaches can get into the faces of the umpires and vent their spleens (more often than not ending up dismissed from the game, but at least he gets it off his chest!) at perceived injustices.

And when an official does royally screw up a decision, sometimes they'll come out and have the guts to admit it as one umpire did a few months ago when he denied a pitcher the career-defining achievement of a "perfect game" (throwing a complete game without a single opposition batter getting on base) with a poor decision at the end of the game. Practically in tears in an interview, he admitted that he had one huge decision to make in that game and he'd "kicked the shit out of it" (translation: I fucked up and I feel terrible about it).

Would you get any such remorse from the majority of England's referees? Would you bollocks... and even if they might admit it, it wouldn't be until a few years down the line from the comfort of Graham Poll-style retirement when none of it matters any more. Except Evertonians have long memories and for some fans, at least, the name Martin Atkinson will be synonymous with some very unsavoury expletives for many years to come.

The FA should make an example of this incident and make whatever moves they can to rectify it, starting with rescinding Jack's red card and chalking off his suspension. Then they should start putting measures in place to make referees more accountable for their decisions through docked wages and suspensions. Yes, it's a pressure-filled job made difficult by the speed of the game and the size of the stakes but the kind of travesty we witnessed yesterday went beyond the pale and should not be repeated.

Lyndon Lloyd     Posted 02/10/2011 at    Comments (31)

Everton's Union Blues

Here's an interesting ? and presumably independent ? view of Everton's Union Blues... from Mark Murphy at the TwoHundredPercent website.

Moyes? sticking plaster was ripped painfully away (taking plenty of proverbial body hairs with it) by chairman and major shareholder Bill Kenwright?s revelations, to supporters umbrella organisation ?The Blue Union? (TBU) last month. In a controversially transcripted and published interview, he admitted Everton?s financial situation was as dire as critics, including the four supporters? organisations under TBU?s umbrella, had been claiming, especially since the club?s 2010 accounts were published in February. TBU has been born from Everton?s inability to ?compete? with clubs with which supporters believe Everton should be competing, especially in the transfer market.

Supporters? complaints were as much about Everton?s communication of its situation as about the situation itself ? a topic prominent in TBU?s manifesto, which referenced a ?lack of transparency and accountability?, and in published correspondence between E4C and CEO Robert Elstone. The club?s reactions to Kenwright?s ?revelations? suggested these complaints had merit. But the most crucial evidence was Kenwright?s performance in the transcripted meeting. He was arrogant, defensive, contradictory and downright ignorant. And even amid the headline revelations, these attitudes leapt from the transcript.

Read the full article at TwoHundredPercent and post any comments below.

Michael Kenrick     Posted 08/09/2011 at    Comments (21)

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