This week... 1 year ago

David Hardman recalls the tumultuous recent history of January 2022

David Hardman 21/01/2023 8comments  |  Jump to last

I’ve not written one for 2 weeks so it’s only fair that I cover a two week period now.

On Saturday, 15 January 2022, Everton travelled to Carrow Road with manager Rafa Benitez under increasing pressure – since beating the upcoming opponents, Norwich, back in September, Everton had won just one of their 12 Premier League games since then. An extra-time victory at Hull in the FA Cup the previous weekend had maybe allowed his tenure to continue for another week.

The Canaries were in an even greater predicament – not only had they only won 2 matches all season, they’d also suffered 6 straight defeats without scoring.

Even if you didn’t already know, you can guess what happened. No problems for Norwich finding the net in this game – they were 2-0 up after 18 minutes, and you just kinda knew Everton weren’t going to get anything out of the game.

And you can’t even say it was down to a lack of quality because, while they weren’t having the best of times, there was still enough talent in that squad to manage 3 goals against a team cut adrift at the foot of the table. It was more down to a lack of confidence, character and fight – the game was over before we were mid-way through the first half.

The only surprise was that they did pull a goal back, care of Richarlison in the second half but, having already ended Norwich’s scoreless run, it was inevitable that Everton would also end Norwich’s losing streak and winless run – they’re just the gift that keeps on giving to any side that needs a break. 

The next day, the club announced Rafa’s departure. I had Sky Sports News on that afternoon, and several ex-players took turns to appear via video-call. The pick of the bunch was Alan Stubbs, who seemed to imply that the issue was with those running the club, saying words to the effect of It’s all well and good sacking the manager, but who keeps appointing these managers?!

I jokingly said at the time that he won't be working on the club’s coaching staff again. From what I’ve read on this site in recent weeks, it seems the board’s hostility to his perceived criticism has gone well beyond that.

Duncan Ferguson was put in temporary charge for the visit of Steven Gerard’s Aston Villa on 22 January. Just over 2 years earlier, Big Dunc’s presence as manager galvanised the Goodison Park, with fans roaring the players on as a new-found edge and energy saw them beat Chelsea, then managed by a certain Frank Lampard Jr.

It was all set up for it to happen again. Another unpopular manager gone. Another Saturday lunchtime game at home. Another team managed by a “golden generation” England midfielder. Sadly that’s where the similarities ended for Duncan and Everton – Villa, featuring Lucas Digne (more on him in a minute), won 1-0 to push the Blues into further trouble. When Everton won the reverse fixture against Norwich in September, the win put them 5th in the table. This home defeat to Villa saw them drop to 16th.

There was then a 2-week hiatus before the next game. Everton used this time to appoint Frank Lampard and, with the transfer window about to close, he had no time to waste, drafting in Donny van de Beek on loan from Manchester United and signed Dele Alli from Tottenham Hotspur.

Normally, I’d do a bit of an epilogue here, but I’m sure everyone will remember those frantic and emotional last few weeks of last season, so instead I’m going to look into January 2022 a little more.

While Rafa’s departure seemed inevitable even before the trip to Carrow Road, the timing could not have been worse, the month of January coinciding with the transfer window being open.

In addition to being without a manager for those crucial last 2 weeks of the window, Rafa had been allowed to spend £25 million on two full-backs – Mykolenko and Patterson – shortly before the axe fell. Furthermore, Lucas Digne was sold just 2 days before the Norwich game, reportedly the main reason for his departure being a breakdown in relations with Rafa Benitez.

It seems strange to sanction all these moves with the manager one defeat away from being dismissed. While I appreciate that blocking these transfers would cause no shortage of awkwardness between the board and manager, surely the more sensible move would have been to have made a decision on the manager’s future one way or another before the January window opened.

This edition wasn’t so much a trip down memory lane as an observation that the club are in an even worse predicament 1 year on. As was the case with Norwich a year ago, teams at the wrong end of the table continue to end their droughts, their losing streaks and their winless runs against us, easing their problems and deepening ours in the process.

And just like a year ago, there’s now a 2-week break before the next game –  you have to wonder what, if anything, is going to happen during that time? 

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Reader Comments (8)

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Andrew James
1 Posted 22/01/2023 at 13:30:47
Ah, how things have changed in a year. Frank came in and seemed to have a plan, there was much optimism and he walked the walk and talked the talk. Like in that video of him greeting Dele Alli. We beat Brentford in the cup and it all seemed to be coming together.

Roll on a year and no Dele Alli, Richarlison gone and Frank yesterday seemed to be doing an impression of Benny out of Crossroads. Or maybe Frank Spencer. He looks worn out and dishevelled. The team look bereft of confidence and spirit. We have essentially found ourselves back in exactly the same place as last January but maybe with an even more unbalanced squad.

Robert Tressell
2 Posted 22/01/2023 at 13:43:23
All very sad. I can't really get my head around it all yet somehow it's all so predictable too. When you look at other clubs recruiting to stay up, it's hard not to conclude the club has now accepted its fate. Personally I think we'll exit the Premier League now as bottom or 2nd bottom club.

Frank Lampard will leave once relegation is confirmed and Baines (maybe Rooney too) will oversee our last few matches.

Our next move now is to get in place club management that can successfully oversee a promotion campaign.

Dave Abrahams
3 Posted 22/01/2023 at 16:12:05
David (O/P), I don’t think Benitez has said much if anything since the day he was given his P45 and comics, but I heard stories, hearsay, of things that went on between the Thursday before the Norwich game and on the day of the game itself.

Maybe in the future Rafa might elaborate on what went on at the time, it would be very interesting to hear his version of events in the background on those days.

Jason Hewly
4 Posted 22/01/2023 at 17:35:18
Dave @3, Oh man, you can't leave us hanging like that! Spill the beans!
Dave Abrahams
5 Posted 22/01/2023 at 17:44:23
Jason (4), Wild horses couldn’t get that out of me, just adding a bit of intrigue to the post,it would have shown one person in a very poor way, but it was hearsay although I think it was true and that wouldn’t have been any good to Lyndon who runs this sight.
Brian Hennessy
6 Posted 22/01/2023 at 17:50:16
Ahh come on now Dave, that's just teasing us. I second Jason @4. Spill the beans, we need something to keep us going while we wait on news from our fantastic Board of Directors.
Tony Hill
7 Posted 22/01/2023 at 17:55:00
Dave @3, Benitez was ruined by Kenwright (whom he threatened but simple minds couldn't see that), the players and the fans.

If we go down, the Everton Blob will be to blame.

Tony Hill
8 Posted 22/01/2023 at 18:00:06
Ditto, of course, with Allardyce. Don't trust experts and the science.

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