Change or No Change?

by   |   16/08/2021  11 Comments  [Jump to last]

Travelling to Goodison Park for the match on Saturday, I pondered on change. A new manager, a new season. Change for the sake of it? Or change for the better?

The first change I didn’t like is that my parking of choice in the car park of the Elm Tree was no longer available. Indeed, The Elm Tree was no longer available. A large hole in the ground where the pub once was, surrounded by steel fencing, made me scout around for alternatives. The garage next door was handy and so I parked there.

The usual £5 was paid but I was hemmed in after the game, and it took 30 minutes for the dozens of cars to move, allowing me to exit. To be fair, that was pretty much the experience with the Elm Tree car park, so no change there.

Making my way to The Brick, I discovered it completely packed, with 5 deep to get to the bar. Loud Everton-themed music and lots of banter. Friends I hadn’t seen for a long time and many stories to tell and respond to. The big change here was the payment system. Last time I was in this pub, cash was king. Credit cards were rare. That had all changed.

There is a favourite story of Victoria Wood in which she recounts the tale of modern morals and attitudes by pointing out the many people thronging the counter of a convenience store on a Saturday night, shouting out orders for condoms: “Three packs of the Strawberry flavour” – whilst a chap in a dirty raincoat with his collar pulled up whispers “Twenty Benson & Hedges please.”

I felt like that chap at the bar. The barmaid was waving around a contactless terminal, and it appeared everyone was paying by card. The man next to me looked worried. “I don’t have a card,” he said. “Will they take cash?” (They did.)

The price of a pint of Guinness seemed to be the same however at £3.50, so I ordered two. I wasn’t going to stand in that queue again.

We watched the Mancs thrashing Leeds, with hopes being raised when Leeds equalised, only for them to be dashed. No change there.

My mate Paul and his lad had had difficulties getting their Everton season tickets on a card, so the club had asked them to get there early with ID to get paper replacements. They had arrived at 9:30 am but were seen immediately and were in the pub for 10. It was now 1:00 pm and they were talking broken biscuits. No change there.

Lots of talk about the missing isolators, but no mention whatsoever of the 31-year-old helping police with their enquiries... When the team came through, it was felt it was the best Rafa could field, and we must hope.

The queue to get in to Goodison Park at my Main Stand entrance was a hundred yards long but moved quickly enough. My season ticket was on my iPhone and, at the turnstiles, I showed it to the chap and despite pressing it down every which way, it wouldn’t beep. He looked at the screen said, “Sod it!” and let me in. Everton with technical difficulties? No change.

Nice to see the couple who sit next to me; we chatted about everything except the pandemic itself. You don’t like to, just in case... For the record, I hardly saw a mask in the whole stadium.

Rafa was announced to the crowd and – despite the Guardian writer referring to it as ‘polite applause’ – he was received with a long, sustained ovation.

Everton started out well and the wingers had plenty of the ball but without any end product. Then Keane’s cock-up. A fair amount of despair and head-in-the-hands moments from the faithful. Armstrong took his goal well and nearly had another a few minutes later, Pickford warming his hands for the first (and thankfully only) time in the match.

Whatever Rafa may do with his defence, only time will tell... but I’m clear on one thing. If Keane and Holgate are his defensive pairing of choice, I’ll show my arse in Lewis’s window.

There were a few boos at half-time and the talk was of what needed to be done. The last time Everton had won a match after being behind at half-time was six years ago. Change was coming...

Rafa did change things around, swapping Gray's and Richarlison’s roles and (I think) swapping Holgate and Keane around. The big revelation for me was Doucouré. Last season he was a shadow of his Watford persona, clinging to the coattails of Allan with hardly an original thought in his head.

Today, he strode around the pitch like a latter-day Galloping Gourmet. Sharp, peppery tackles, simple side courses and a spread of passes like I’ve not seen for a long time. Then his pièce de résistance. A magnificent turn and volley into the top corner. A goal to win Goal of the Season for this and many other seasons. Easily my Man of the Match.

Cross after cross produced near misses and of course goals, with Match of the Day pointing out that Everton had 17 crosses in this match against an average of 12 last season. Change there then.

Richarlison was moody and magnificent. When Rafa subbed him late on in the match (a good man-management decision), he made his way to the touchline in typical fashion, head down, shoulders hunched like a lovelorn pigeon, trudging off whilst milking every second of a thoroughly deserved ovation.

Iwobi, Mina and Gordon came on and did their bit, with Iwobi ignoring the snipers and putting in a decent shift, getting involved in two of the goals. He got applauded! Change there as well.

Let’s all hope the changes are sustained for the next match.

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Reader Comments (11)

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Barry Hesketh
1 Posted 16/08/2021 at 18:30:28
This seems to have come out of the blue - Sasha Ryazantsev is leaving the club at the end of August, due to a reorganisation of the board. Not a change that I would have expected.

Everton can confirm that Sasha Ryazantsev will be leaving his position on the Club’s Board of Directors as of August 31st.

The change forms part of a reorganisation of the Board.

Mr Ryazantsev joined the Everton Board as Owner’s Representative in 2016 and became the Club’s first Chief Finance and Commercial Officer in 2018. He also became Managing Director of Everton Women in 2020.

Everton Chief Executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale said:“On behalf of the Board of Directors I would like to thank Sasha for his work with us over the last five years.

"During his time with us Sasha has always acted with integrity, professionalism and commitment. His professional experience proved to be instrumental in arranging various finance and commercial initiatives for the Club, while his work on the new stadium has created a good base for us to move forward with as we embark on this exciting project.

"We all wish him every success as he moves on to his next project.”

On departing from his post, Sasha said: “It has been a great honour and privilege to serve on the Board of this special Club and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Board and Mr Moshiri for their unwavering support. I feel proud of what we have been able to achieve on the various projects and wish Everton the success the Club truly deserves in the future.”

Mr Ryazantsev has also left his role as Managing Director of Everton Women – an announcement on his replacement will be made in due course.

Jerome Shields
2 Posted 18/08/2021 at 16:44:08

I thoroughly enjoyed your account of the first match of the season, in a Covid context. It brought back a lot of memories.

Interesting your perspective on players' performances, highlighting what appears to be a great performance by Doucouré. I know Keane is up against it under Rafa pushing forward. Was there any hint of Holgate possibly being better with another pairing, maybe Godfrey?

Barry #1

Directors at Everton are similar to an offshore company, where they are whatever Secretary available. The Secretary is more interested in getting the shopping right for the kids' dinner after school, normally.

Paul Kernot
3 Posted 19/08/2021 at 06:01:21
Great stuff Tony. As Jerome mentioned, it brought back a load of memories. I live in NZ these days & really miss everything about going to the game. The pub, the whole day. I came home 3 Christmases ago & saw all 3 home games. Sadly, they were under Allardyce so the footie was average & the crowd muted but I still loved it. One highlght was the bacon butty & mug of tea round the corner before the Saturday game. Could have been 1980. No change!!
Dennis Stevens
4 Posted 19/08/2021 at 11:08:44
The Elm's gone, that's a bit sad.

It'll be a big change for my next visit, whenever that may be.

Andy Crooks
5 Posted 19/08/2021 at 13:09:21
Love your report, Tony. I imagine that many supporters like me, who can't get to the match, enjoy threads like yours and Paul Trail's. Keep them coming!
Danny O’Neill
6 Posted 19/08/2021 at 13:39:35
It was great to be back wasn't it Tony? Doesn't happen often enough for me these days, and in the current circumstances, it made it all that bit more special.

Apart from sitting down, the Goodison experience has changed since 1980 Paul! You've just reminded me of one of my worst Everton experiences. Watching an Allardyce team on a dark, wet & miserable evening at the Emirates.

Jerome, unless we somehow manage to find room to manoeuvre and bring in another centre back, first choice for me has to be Godfrey and Mina.

Dave Abrahams
7 Posted 19/08/2021 at 13:57:23
Great report, Tony, both before the game and the game itself.

By the way, Richarlison did that walk, when he was subbed, twice!

He started it when Gray was being subbed by Mina. Richarlison had started that “humble walk” off the field with loads of supporters jumping up to clap him off, then he realised he wasn't the one being taken off and stopped walking.

The second walk he put his heart and soul into it, brought tears to my eyes!!

Jerome Shields
8 Posted 19/08/2021 at 18:29:08
Danny #6,

I would agree, but I do think that Mina has problems like Keane defending on the turn. Like Keane, he likes the play infront of him, and passing round the back. I think that Benitez will want more movement and pushing forward. Holgate pre-injury was ideal, so I am hopeful he will turn himself around. Just had to ask Tony since he shows a lot of awareness in his observations of play.

Tony McDonald
9 Posted 20/08/2021 at 12:15:15
Jerome and Danny.

Not sure who the best centre back pairing is right now, but it’s definitely Godfrey and a.n.other.

It could easily be that Keane will play better with Godfrey alongside him, or Holgate with Godfrey or Mina with Godfrey. It seems to me that Holgate and Keane have no understanding of each other’s position or how the other will react. Let’s see Rafa’s take on it Saturday.

Danny O’Neill
10 Posted 20/08/2021 at 12:45:59
Ideally, I'd like to see Godfrey plus someone else as first choice of a centre back two.

But I appreciate where we are and that's unlikely. So Godfrey and Mina for me.

Could Holgate play sweeper in a back 3? I think so, because then he's not marking or attacking the ball.

Don't get me wrong, I believe our 4 centre backs are good. Keane worries the life out of me too often, but he's not the worse I've seen. In an ideal world, I'd like an addition. which in reality would result in one of the current 4 leaving. But if that's what we have this season, it's not the end of the world.

Martin Nicholls
11 Posted 20/08/2021 at 21:23:11
Tony - great article/report. Like you, I was impressed that price of Guinness (in Saddle) had not rocketted! Keep up the good work!

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