This Week: 7 Years Ago

Back when we could actually beat Aston Villa

David Hardman 03/03/2023 10comments  |  Jump to last

Back when we could actually beat Aston Villa.

As Farhad Moshiri’s takeover was being finalised, Everton made the mid-week trip to Villa Park.

While Everton themselves weren’t having the best of times in the league, their cup form was a cause for excitement. Having already reached the semi-finals of the league cup, where they suffered a narrow aggregate defeat to eventual winners Manchester City, they were also still in the running for the FA Cup, having set up a home tie against an out of sorts Chelsea in the quarter final.

And they did a professional enough job at Villa Park that night, winning 3-0 against the relegation bound side, with goals from the rare sources of Fumes Mori and Aaron Lennon, along with the more familiar provider Romelu Lukaku. The result put Everton 10th in the league. It would be their last away win under Roberto Martinez.

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Any hopes of a late rally for a European place in the league looked to be dashed a few days later, when West Ham, themselves challenging for a Champions League spot at the time, won at Goodison. Everton were actually 2-0 ahead with about 10 minutes remaining, missed a penalty that would have iced the game, and then proceeded to lose 2-3. Gutting outcomes like this maybe happen once or twice a season, but in 2015-16 it seemed to happen every other game – this was also the season in which Everton took the lead in stoppage time only for the opponents to equalise with the last kick of the game. Not once, but twice! The two games in which this happened, at Bournemouth and Chelsea, were only about 6 weeks apart. So the collapse against West Ham was depressingly symptomatic of Everton’s league season and only added to the growing sense of unrest towards Roberto Martinez.

However, the following Saturday, their league woes were put to one side as a victory against Chelsea, capped by a superb solo goal from Romelu Lukaku, meant Everton would reach Wembley that season after all.

It would prove to be Martinez’s last “amazing” moment as Everton manager.

They wouldn’t win again until the last day of April, when a victory at home to Bournemouth wasn’t enough to dissuade fans from staging a sit-in protest that had been planned before the match. By this time they’d also lost their other semi-final, again to a Manchester club, again to the eventual winners, and again by a single goal.

After the Bournemouth game, two more heavy league defeats followed, including one at Sam Allardyce’s struggling Sunderland side.

Despite reaching both domestic semi-finals for the first time since 1984, the continuing decline of their league form, coupled with increasing dissatisfaction from their fanbase and possibly the new owner wanting to ring the changes, saw Roberto Martinez depart the club. David Unsworth and Joe Royle took over for the final match at home to Norwich – with no pressure on this game and many fans only too happy to see Martinez gone, an old-fashioned last-day-of-the-season atmosphere prevailed, and the carnival feeling was amplified by an Everton win.

Just 18 months later, Unsworth (backed by Royle) would once again be in charge of first team affairs, in far less pleasant circumstances. And, most ironically, Sam Allardyce, who’s victory over Martinez proved the final straw for the Spaniard, would be put in charge of Everton as a “fire-fighter” manager after things had gone so wrong for Martinez’ successors (both permanent and caretaker!).

That game against Norwich, and the summer that followed, optimism was high – new, seemingly ambitious owner, money to compete at last, the prospect of a big name manager, and having just witnessed Leicester win the Premier League, anything seemed possible.

7 years and hundreds of millions later, and the club finds itself in a far far worse situation. While 2 semi-finals and an 11th place finish still isn’t good enough for a club with Everton’s history and fanbase (and spending over the last few years), it would be considered a huge leap forward if it were to happen now, and it could take years of rebuilding before even having a season like that again.

And let's also look at the striking similarities between Everton and the opponents from that night 7 years ago, Aston Villa.

About 10 years earlier, Randy Lerner took over the club, Martin O’Neill replaced David O’Leary, money was spent, and the next few years followed a pattern of looking like Champions League contenders in the early part of the season only to fall away to finish about 6th. They also reached the League Cup final in 2010.

Then, everybody seemed to get frustrated after years of hitting their heads on a glass ceiling. The tap seemed to be turned off, Martin O’Neill left, and after a less than successful season under Gerard Houllier, their brightest prospects moved on (Ashely Young to Man United, James Milner to Man City etc), then they seemed to appoint a different manager every season but none of them were able to arrest the slide – in fact, they got progressively worse, culminating in their relegation in 2016.

And one of the other opponents I’ve mentioned, Sunderland – money spent, another succession of big name managers, ironically including Martin O’Neill, before eventually having to hire a “fire-fighter” every spring in the hope that the new manager bounce would be enough to fend off relegation. Sound familiar?

Aston Villa returned to the top division after a 3 year absence, and at the time of writing are in a position of mid-table respectability, while Sunderland spent 4 years in the 3rd tier, but are now in with a shout of returning to the Premier League via the play-offs, and you do feel just it’s a matter of time before they do come back.

So I suppose if there is a positive note to finish on, it’s that, if the worst happens and we do follow the same fate as these clubs, there is a way back. It might not be immediate, it might get worse before it gets better, and it might take a few years in the wilderness, but big clubs come back.

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Reader Comments (10)

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Jim Bennings
1 Posted 04/03/2023 at 08:53:36
Around about this stage, the wheels fell off for Bobby's dream.

We always had goals in the team mind you with Lukaku, Barkley, Deulofeu, Lennon, Mirallas, Naismith etc etc.

What we'd do for those attacking options now eh?

Pete Neilson
2 Posted 04/03/2023 at 09:29:40
Has Moshiri followed Lerner's lead and had a club tattoo on his ankle? If so, what is it?

Questions for the next FAB meeting.

Danny O’Neill
3 Posted 04/03/2023 at 12:20:25
I've had many memories of Villa and Villa Park.

Those semi finals against Luton and Sheffield Wednesday. I couldn't make the one against Norwich as I was elsewhere.

My son's very first match was at home to Villa alongside the wife (Villain) in the Enclosure on the first day of the season. A pretty unspectacular 0-0, but it kept the peace in the O'Neill household.

Unlike the one at Goodison when we thought Lescott had rescued us a point only to concede in what felt like 10 seconds later. I went into a rant that led to me being put on probation.

I'm not sure why, but she won't take my offer to go the Villa Park to watch Villa v Everton and sit amongst the home supporters with her. I don't think she trusts me. even though I'm friendly and mix well.

Paul Birmingham
4 Posted 04/03/2023 at 19:09:17
Frightening where time, has gone, and the reality of the situation with Everton, across this time span.

It’s Biblical, but it does bring Everton fans together, and respecting each other’s opinions, rightfully so, it’s galvanised in kryptonite, the spirit and resolve of Evertonians.


Mike Gaynes
5 Posted 05/03/2023 at 05:33:12
I remember that game because of the ice cream.

I was very ill, just out of the hospital, down about 30 pounds, and eating vanilla ice cream for breakfast at my wife's suggestion.

I'm pretty sure Funes Mori's goal was off a corner kick, and I flipped the bowl of ice cream onto my lap and into the recliner cushions. The chair smelled of vanilla for weeks.

Funny the moments you remember. I needed a morale boost that day, and the Blues gave me one.

Lee Courtliff
6 Posted 05/03/2023 at 07:27:13
I'm finding it hard to see anything other than repeat of what happened to Villa finally happening to us this season! Everyone else seems better than us, even Bournemouth gave Arsenal a real test before conceding late on whereas we just capitulated against the league leaders.

But then, only seconds later, I convince myself that everything will be fine and the Old Lady will save us, just like last season.

Peter Warren
7 Posted 05/03/2023 at 07:42:52
It was a shock to be in position we were last year and I think we underperformed and other teams were worse than us.

However, this year we are worse without Richarlison and DCL continues to be injured. Maupay looks awful. The promoted clubs all look better than us aside from perhaps Bournemouth. Unfortunately, we look odds on to me to go down. The only positive is Dyche seems to know what he’s doing unlike Lampard.

Jim Bennings
8 Posted 05/03/2023 at 19:51:00

I'd say Dyche marginally seems to know what he's doing.

I'm not over hyping him really to be honest and bear in mind Lampard won 3 of his first 6 games to start with, and recorded wins against United and Chelsea in Spring.

Dyche for me is another caution first manager however.

Joe McMahon
9 Posted 05/03/2023 at 20:06:45
Jim B, you are not kidding. I go to Turf Moor a few times with the Mrs (she's a Claret). I have witnessed some very cautious drab football, and too late to make changes resulting (most of the time) with a loss. I made no secret of my reluctantance to have him as Everton manager.

Yes he did get Burnley back after relegation to the Prem. A young goal getter called Danny Ings and a shrewed move with Joey Barton in midfield were pivotal.

The timing of the substitutions today was baffling and I agree with what has already been stated I feel that cost us the win.

Tony Abrahams
10 Posted 05/03/2023 at 21:13:44
I never watched the second half Joe, but I heard we would have won only for a bad Doucoure pass, but then another person in the same house, told me he could sense the Forest equaliser.

I never enjoyed watching Onana, during the first half, and although Godfrey wasn’t that good, he was at least trying, and I thought he was also putting himself about physically.

I thought everyone was doing very well, and also think that when a manager is reluctant to make a change it’s usually for at least a two fold reason.

He’s happy with how his team are playing and he must not really want to change anything because of a lack of trust in the players he has sitting next to him on the bench?

It sounded like McNeil, wasn’t having a good game according to Barry Horne (I think?) on radio Merseyside, and although he agreed with bringing off Gray, he thought Iwobi, had been our best player, and couldn’t understand this decision.

He was saying that we had stopped getting players up and a stat about how wasteful we had been in the Forest box, was very significant because it showed we just never had enough quality in the final third?

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