Welcome to a San Francisco summer!

That was my greeting tonight to a small group of Everton staffers and photographers who looked a little shocked by the cold breeze that accompanied the Everton and Juventus practice sessions at AT&T Park. They obviously hadnt been briefed on the fact that a July evening on the water here is no day at the beach. (Mark Twain once wrote that the coldest winter he ever experienced was a summer in San Francisco.)

I have no vital information to share in this column, just the sheer pleasure of seeing my team for the first time in person. Thanks to a teammate with a sponsors connection at Guinness, I was one of a couple dozen Everton fans admitted to the closed practice sessions, and the only one to stay through both. It was a very special evening for a Yank whose only exposure to his team has been on TV. I enjoyed it hugely.

The young Everton staffers had time to chat during the Juve practice, and they couldnt have been nicer. We talked about the wind, Alcatraz, Kevin Sheedy, and how impossible it was to find Everton kit in the US, and the young lady handed me an Everton scarf as a gift. Shortly thereafter, a cheerful-but-chilled photog from the Liverpool Echo named Colin asked me to pose with my new swag, probably because I was the only Evertonian in the stadium at the time. (If you see a really goofy photo in the morning Echo of a bespectacled doofus holding a blue and white scarf over his head, thats me.)

Juves practice was surprisingly intense. It was great to see an old man like Buffon flipping back and forth like a youngster in the save drills. Juves listed roster was 27 players, including four keepers, but they had a 28th player on the field Carlos Tevez has joined the side. He was all over the place during a 12-on-12 half-field scrimmage, and he was the only player on either side tonight to come over to the fans in the stands, signing autographs and posing for photos with a couple of kids. My friends teenaged son, who had somehow snuck onto the sideline during the scrimmage, bagged a Tevez #10 autograph. A great score, and very classy by Tevez.

(I thought another kid had actually snuck into the scrimmage itself, but it was Sebastian Giovinco, all 5-ft 4-in and 130 pounds of him. This is one guy Osman could beat up.)

The Everton fans had filtered into the stands by the time our boys took the field, and I got to hear an accent I had never before heard in person. Watching the practice was a huge thrill, tempered only by the fact that Martinez conducted his half-field scrimmage on the opposite side of the stadium from where the supporters were. I was wishing for binoculars.

Some observations:

RM really, really emphasizes quick passing, and the players are really enjoying it, no-one more than Coleman. There was a lot of noise and banter. Kone looks really fast, but the quickest guy on the pitch was... no kidding... Naismith. Over 20 yards he looked as quick as young Deulofeu. The kid Stones also has some serious acceleration.

I hadnt seen Barkley shoot. Wow. The ball just screams. He missed one and hit the wall, and it echoed through the stadium like a sonic boom.

Baines got a haircut.

Robles is an amazingly accurate kick. He side volleys his punts with backspin, and in a save-and-kick drill he was dropping them right on target from 60 yards.

Because tied games will go to penalties in this tournament, the whole team took PKs at the end, with the keepers alternating. Howard stopped just about everybody except Jelavic. And the two guys you definitely wont see taking PKs tomorrow night will be Fellaini (scuffed past the post) and Hibbo (soared majestically into the seats).

As promised, nothing useful... just a longtime fans giddy pleasure. Cant wait for the game tomorrow night.

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Reader Comments (51)

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David Ellis
1 Posted 31/07/2013 at 07:37:18
The report is not useless at all - thanks for that. I have been to that stadium once for a base ball match about 12 years ago - beautiful location next to the sea. It was called something else then (Bell something ???)

You will have the English wondering what you mean by "scrimmage". In rugby there is a thing called a "scrum" and a skill called "scummaging" - essentially a lot of large men shoving each other around in a contest for the ball.

I had assumed the American word "scrimmage" meant something similar. But I guess not.

Ben Dyke
2 Posted 31/07/2013 at 07:57:10
Great report Mike! Thanks for that. So pleased the Blues are in this tourney and over there in the States for you!
Peter Mills
3 Posted 31/07/2013 at 07:55:58
Mike, I enjoyed your useless report, and hope you enjoy the match. You had me on "doofus" so looked it up - "one who lives in ignorance of the world, has no knowledge of social skills, lacks personal hygiene". Good man.
Adam Carey
4 Posted 31/07/2013 at 08:14:18
Mike, echoing the sentiments above thanks for the training report and your observations on how the team are reacting to Roberto. Any chance of a 'useless' match report to follow..?
Peter Anthony
5 Posted 31/07/2013 at 08:35:20
That's a superb appetite whetting training review, here's looking forward to more 'useless' stuff from 'Doofus'!
Get in there Mike and if you can keep all us green (with envy) bluenoses updated they will be a pleasure to enjoy reading.
Up the toffees!
Carl Reid
6 Posted 31/07/2013 at 08:59:39
Great report thoroughly enjoyable.

I remember a American Cricket writer for the Guardian. Brilliant
Alan Humphreys
7 Posted 31/07/2013 at 09:22:50
Another enjoyable read whilst sipping my coffee. Interesting to hear how they train, every club should have an open day training session, went to a Barnsley one once with a mate and was fascinated watching the keeper drills. Couldn't have done half of them which explains why I was so shit in between the posts !

Re Giovinco, like Messi he proves you don't have to be a 6 footer to survive the modern game if you have the skill. Osman shows it too in patches, but sadly not often enough.

Mike, maybe you'll grab an away shirt if you bump into the staffers again when it's released.

Jim Potter
8 Posted 31/07/2013 at 10:26:52
Mike - it sure beats a lot of the guff I write on this site.

Please do a match report mate (buddy) - especially on how many Blues / Juve fans turn up and who you think looked good for us.

How did you come to follow God's own team?

Adam Fenlon
9 Posted 31/07/2013 at 10:43:54
Wish I had a mate who worked at Guinness - and it wouldn't be for the football connections.
Chris Keightley
10 Posted 31/07/2013 at 10:51:51
I found the part about Naismith quite interesting... I think he may have a big part to play this season. His injury and his adapting to the Premier League last season may have been the reason for some sloppy displays.

If he's looking sharp, then this could be down to his full fitness returning and confidence. As an Everton supporter, I wish him a good season. Hopefully other ToffeeeWebbers will give the lad a chance; clearly he was not right last season.

Sam Hoare
11 Posted 31/07/2013 at 11:13:27
Mike, could you give us anymore about Deulofeu? Did he look classy. in my head he's doing fancy little tricks on the sideline while Hibbo boots balls up and down the pitch to Jags.
Peter Webster
12 Posted 31/07/2013 at 11:17:52
Great report, not useless at all. Thanks Mike. Although. like a previous poster, I'm a bit confused about scrimmage. Is it like a 'Who huddle'?
Barry Rathbone
13 Posted 31/07/2013 at 11:23:04
Well done Mike, such enthusiasm ..... sure you weren't born in walton?
Kev Johnson
14 Posted 31/07/2013 at 11:22:49
Sam, I don't think that would tell us anything, would it? When I used to play Sunday League, it used to always check out the opposition in the warm up. (I was captain, since you ask.) There'd always be one or two who'd be doing fancy tricks. I would immediately write them off as potential dangers to my team, there being no connection whatsoever between being an effective team player and the ability to balance a ball on your nose like a seal.
Alan Humphreys
15 Posted 31/07/2013 at 11:45:04
There's always an exception to the rule Kev... I give you one Diego Armando Maradona...


Alan Humphreys
16 Posted 31/07/2013 at 11:49:57
That said he didn't pass much, but then he didn't really need to...
Guy Hastings
17 Posted 31/07/2013 at 11:37:22
Ah, my old stomping ground. Jolly nice report and anyone who wears shorts in SF in July deserves what they get - cold legs. Jury's out on whether Twain actually said it but whoever it was, he/she were damn right. Hope you get a win at ATT tonight - which is more than can be said for the lamentable Giants right now.
Craig Walker
18 Posted 31/07/2013 at 11:56:17
I remember an anecdote told by Steve Bruce when they played Barcelona once at the Nou Camp. Stoichkov and Romario were doing keepy-uppys with their shoulders in the tunnel. Bruce told Pallister "I think we might be in trouble here". I think Barca thumped them about 4-0. Think United had Cantona in the team as well.

Biggest thing you can gleam from a team in amateur football is what foot they kick with. You can then work out which foot they'll shoot with and defenders can just wait for them to shift it onto their stronger foot.

Raymond Fox
19 Posted 31/07/2013 at 11:59:20
Thanks for report Mike, its good.
As Sam asked, any more opinion on what you saw Deulofeu do?
Bye the way, your no doofus if you have the good sense to support Everton!
Kev Johnson
20 Posted 31/07/2013 at 12:02:50
Craig and Alan - yeah, well, I never actually played against Maradona, Stoichkov and Romario, I must admit.
Peter Mills
21 Posted 31/07/2013 at 12:11:07
Mike, If you're the guy in all black, Everton baseball cap, specs, scarf, you've made the Liverpool Echo website.
Niall MacDiarmada
22 Posted 31/07/2013 at 12:32:06
A 'scrimmage' is a practice game.
Simon George
23 Posted 31/07/2013 at 12:30:20
I was over in the States last year and had a chance to watch a baseball game at the stadium. It was September and after a long fairly warm summer's day I couldn't believe how cold San Francisco can get in the evening. My girlfriend and I almost froze to death!

Amazing city and an amazing country and so cool that my team are over there now.

Anyway, thanks for the report, I enjoyed reading it and cant wait for the match.

Guy Hastings
24 Posted 31/07/2013 at 13:04:29
Kev - you didn't miss anything. As they say, they might be good in La Liga but when it comes to the slope on pitch 23 on the Purley Way playing fields on a post-pub February Sunday afternoon can they hack it? Romario had to borrow someone's boots, Maradona had a row with his girlfriend on the touchline and Stoichkov went home early because his mum had an early tea,
Stuart Gray
25 Posted 31/07/2013 at 13:26:58
Hi Mike, many thanks for this.

I'm guessing this might be you?


Gerry Quinn
26 Posted 31/07/2013 at 13:54:20
Mike, that is an excellent summary and report - you should get a job on the Houston Chronicle as you can at least string proper sentences together :) I'm sitting in the hotel lobby with my coffee yearning for this match to kick off tonight. Hope you find the time and reason to write a "winning" report for that too
Julian Wait
27 Posted 31/07/2013 at 14:06:47
Not useless, nice reporting from a personal p-o-v. Sitting in my office in Texas and wishing I had planned to go to SF and to Saturday in LA and to Florida. But life got in the way (job changes for my wife and I, and a very recent family vacation right after changing jobs).

Please keep the reports coming, I can live vicariously and rationalize by putting the money 'saved' toward a trip home to see the two old ladies in my life, i.e. Gladys and me ma.

Sing loud, we will be watching ...

Dan Parker
28 Posted 31/07/2013 at 14:16:33
However we do this season, this is the most excited I've been pre-season for years, can't wait for the first game. Roberto Martinez has ticked all the boxes so far, hope it continues into the season. Bill did good.
Drew O'Neall
29 Posted 31/07/2013 at 14:33:20
Nice article.

"Scrimmage" - LOL

Julian Wait
30 Posted 31/07/2013 at 14:44:30
Drew - welcome to the world of scrimmages, players who "dove" (that's the past tense of dive, not some weird fetish) and of course the ubiquitous plural "offsides". The last one I fight against, the rest I just live with ...
Kev Johnson
31 Posted 31/07/2013 at 14:39:23
I've looked up "scrimmage" and it's derived from the Old English world "skirmish" - which is still in use, of course - which then became altered by dialect to "scrimish" and then ended up as "scrimmage".

At least, that's what the Oxford Dictionary says, but I reckon it's a cross between a "scribble", a "mammoth" and a "cabbage".

Mike Gaynes
32 Posted 31/07/2013 at 14:35:35
Hey all...

Sorry about all the Americanisms, like scrimmage and doofus... I don't speak enough English english. Believe me, I needed some translations of what I was hearing near me from the... scousers?

Jim Potter, it was watching Kevin Sheedy at the World Cup that made me an Everton fan, around the time English League games began appearing on TV here. That's why he came up in the conversation last night.

Sam Hoare, sorry, can't tell you any more about Deulofeu because I had so much trouble spotting him. As I mentioned, the players were a long way away and usually facing away from us, and of course no numbers on shirts.

Peter and Stuart, yes, that's me. (Cringing). My only excuse is that Colin the photographer asked me to pose like that. No wonder he was laughing all night.
In fact, from the photo series on the Echo site, you can see there was lots of laughter last night. Fellaini was particularly funny, ripping off his shirt and slamming it to the ground after he missed the pen.

Gerry Quinn, thank you. Actually, for many years I was what you folks call a journo... sports reporter for American TV stations around the country.

I will definitely file a game report, and a report from the pre-game gathering of Everton fans at Pedro's Cantina, where I hope to have the honor of meeting Lyndon himself.

David King
33 Posted 31/07/2013 at 15:10:38
Thanks Mike, great article, looking forward to your match report
Dave Lawley
34 Posted 31/07/2013 at 16:17:10
Quality Mike, cheers.
Peter Truin
35 Posted 31/07/2013 at 16:46:04
Mmmmmmm Leighton Baines has had his hair cut..........stop the press.......
Jim Lloyd
36 Posted 31/07/2013 at 18:53:09
Nice report Mike, enthusiastic and good observations. I'll look forward to a reprt on the match, Interesting to hear about Naismith, Also about Tevez too. Hope our players copy his example.
Consider yourself an honourary resident of Kirkdale, which is next to Walton and about 200 yards from the ground!
Well done mate.
Andy Crooks
37 Posted 31/07/2013 at 19:46:46
Great stuff, Mike. Your report reminds me of the first time, many years ago, that I saw Everton in Belfast. You really capture the feeling of excitement, pride and sort of ownership.
Peter Mills
38 Posted 31/07/2013 at 20:24:57
Dear Editors - Thanks so much for changing the headline on this article from Mike's original "Useless article.." headline. It now makes my post #236 look a real beaut!

Enjoy your night Mike, and also Terry White, formerly of Crosby now of San Jose, getting the chance to watch his beloved Blues.

Eugene Ruane
39 Posted 31/07/2013 at 20:59:32
Very enjoyable pre-season/pre-Juve game piece.

Glad 'scrimmage' has been explained though (I was a little nervous for a moment).

Jay Harris
40 Posted 31/07/2013 at 14:04:59
Mike many thanks for your (less than ) useless report.

It's good to know we are cultivating a following on this side of the pond.

Like Gerry I am sitting here like a schoolboy waiting for the match to start.

Unfortunately it's not on Fox Sports until 23.00 Eastern time so I have to decide whether to watch Everton TV or wait till later for the big screen there again maybe I'll watch both.

I guess that's why they call it the blues.

Eugene Ruane
41 Posted 31/07/2013 at 21:07:19
Mike Corcoran
42 Posted 31/07/2013 at 21:01:06
Martinez out! Hang on I thought it was Thursday already
Mike Corcoran
43 Posted 31/07/2013 at 21:01:06
Martinez out! Hang on I thought it was Thursday already
Jon Withey
44 Posted 31/07/2013 at 21:18:06
That was great, especially the gutsy defence of Naismith and sticking it out as the only blue in the crowd. Blue heart methinks.
Andrew Cutler
45 Posted 31/07/2013 at 21:18:37
'scrimmage' = point of breakdown where possession is (re)contested. The term is used in Rugby Union and League - and possibly gridiron (not certain about that).

And very enjoyable report

Andrew Cutler
46 Posted 31/07/2013 at 21:20:56
Doofus = plonker in English idiom
Mike Gaynes
47 Posted 01/08/2013 at 00:23:26
Thanks, Andrew! I called my dog a plonker and he promptly plonked on the sidewalk, so it looks like the translation is precise.

Jim Lloyd, thanks for the honorary citizenship of Kirkdale and Walton. Hope to show my Blue passport and visit in person someday!

Well, off to the game to beat up an Old Lady.

Harold Matthews
48 Posted 01/08/2013 at 01:00:07
Smashing report Mike. Have a great time.
Erik Dols
49 Posted 01/08/2013 at 07:07:40
Thanks for the report, Mike. Just one thing, you got the name of our new CB wrong, it's Alcaraz, without the T.
Niall MacDiarmada
50 Posted 01/08/2013 at 15:25:45
Gutted I'm missing these games.

Heading to San Fran in a few weeks!

Oh well, guess I'll just go to Goodison instead.

Moira McDonough
51 Posted 01/08/2013 at 22:45:35
Thanks for this , you get a bit complacent when you can see the blues at every home game and forget that there are people around the world who would love to be able to see the team, good or bad as often as everyone in Liverpool and the UK can. Hope you enjoy the rest of the tour.

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