Everton 1 - 2 Luton Town

It’s interesting the path we all take to become Evertonians. My son, who is now 7, has always shown a placid interest in Everton, but has never really been incredibly interested. Over the last year or so he started playing for a football team, and I’d get frustrated as he would often lark around with one or two of the other lads, and not pay attention or get involved with the game, and wasn’t really improving like some of the other lads. I was actually wanting him to tell me “Daddy, I don’t want to play anymore,” so he could do something more of interest, and perhaps what he was more suited to doing. But when asked, he would reply the opposite. He really wanted to carry on.

I’m no coach or expert but having watched football for a heck of a long time now, I was at least able to guide him on a few things that could benefit the team, and get him more involved. Hard work being one. He would never get the weekly Man of the Match award, though by putting in the hard yards, and at least running hard, making it difficult for the opposition and retaining possession, he became more involved in the team and has since won that coveted trophy a few times.

Simultaneously, his interest in Everton has blossomed significantly, and whereas when there used to be an opportunity for him to come to the game, he would often decline, now he can’t wait to go. He’s forever asking questions. As many of you will understand, it’s a very proud thing seeing your children develop that interest in the team and the game we have grown to love, and I was very proud to take him to the game yesterday, and for the first time, have him recognise players and comment on their capabilities... or there lack of. “Why does Beto get into the box a lot but never shoot?” was one that made me chuckle, as he stood on his seat next to me in the Gwladys Street.

Obviously it’s a shame he didn’t get to see a good Everton performance this time out. Luton Town certainly seem our bogey team this season, though I have optimism we’ll give them what we owe them at Kenilworth Road come May. While I applaud how well they work with what they’ve got, and have made an amazing effort at staying in the league with what they have at their disposal, their limited ability when up against established Premier League opposition is clear for all to see. And while we have been poor in both games we’ve played against them at Goodison Park this season, we very easily could have drawn or won both, and definitely shouldn’t have lost either. How we’ve managed to concede four goals against them, all from set-pieces, is criminal really and is certainly something to work on. But a few general observations from the game…

Formation. Well, 4-4-2 doesn’t work. The players seem lost in shape and struggled to affect the game, particularly from the flanks. Though one player who I thought got clear benefit from the system was Dominic Calvert-Lewin. It’s another game without a goal for Dominic of course, though with more support in attack and more space to operate in, he was on the ball more and seemed to play with more freedom. We don’t have the luxury of giving him that extra body up there permanently of course, the rest of the midfield suffers way too much, and this only emphasises how crucial Abdoulaye Doucoure is to this team. Sods Law isn’t it that he neglected the opportunity to play at the African Cup of Nations… though then spends the time he would have spent there on the treatment table.

Injuries. A big factor and with such a small squad and a manager who only seemingly trusts a certain number of them, it perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise that we have struggled without some important players. The absence of Abdoulaye Doucoure, Idrissa Gueye, Seamus Coleman, Ashley Young, and to a lesser extent purely because of long-term lack of availability – Dele Alli (even if just for six games) and Andre Gomes makes life difficult and options limited. Plus Dwight McNeil may still be struggling with what looked a very serious injury at the time. Our lack of squad depth compared to almost everyone else in the league is clear for all to see.

Luck. Not that this was the biggest hard luck story of the season, there’s been a few more of them, though I can scarcely remember a game when every bounce of the ball seemed to drop in favour of the opposition – it even happened for their winning goal. Couple that with tough calls on a few decisions, and the game could have been a different story. Sometimes you can not be at your best, especially at home, but come away with this win. It’d be nice to do that once in a while. Luton Town’s first goal shouldn’t have stood. It was strange while it happened as everyone seemed to stop afterwards. Luton Town celebrated – and this may be because it was an own goal – sheepishly, and Everton appeared very confident that it would be overturned on review.

Compare it with say, the goal we had taken off us at Tottenham Hotspur, and you can understand the frustration. Having now seen it back, I can’t quite fathom why it wasn’t overturned – it’s a clear two-handed push on Dominic which impacts his ability to clear the ball. Quite ridiculous actually. Factor in also, Dwight McNeil played in on goal but a flag going up for a non-offside (inconsistent calls are my biggest VAR frustratiion, by the way), and Beto pushed and held inside the box and not given a penalty, but then given a free kick once he steps out of the box, particularly as we still await a penalty this season, I couldn’t help but feel we could have done with a slice of luck here or there. Again, sometimes you're not at your best but you have enough. We don’t get a lot of that these days.

Composure. It comes with confidence I guess. When you’re going well things go in, when you’re not, they don’t. Sean Dyche alluded to as much in his post-match comments. And it’s important to note that Luton Town had other chances too, but good first-half chances for Dwight McNeil, and second-half ones for Jack Harrison and Beto, did go begging. The fine margins in sports are so interesting I find, on another day, we’re leaving buoyant, the goals scored at the right time mask an average performance and everyone is buzzing. It’s all about being clinical with opportunities, I suppose, and if you have a limited squad, it’s more difficult to have that because the quality isn’t always there.

It's not the worst thing. I wanted to go through to the Fifth Round, no doubt. Though in the final 10 minutes or so, with Luton Town having made five substitutions with their midweek game against Brighton their focus, they had given up. They were in the mindset of – well, we either lose, or we win it on the counter-attack. I don’t think they wanted the replay and nor did I. So while I would have welcomed a win on the day, I didn’t want a replay at Kenilworth Road a few days before we have to play Manchester City away. Our limited squad could do without that game.

I’d rather have lost yesterday than have a replay. As sad as it is, let’s face it, winning the FA Cup would have been highly unlikely. Other than the Sky favourites, only Everton, Portsmouth, Wigan Athletic and Leicester City (and that during Covid) have won it once each since 1988. It’s become a near impossibility frankly. With the best will in the world, this season was unlikely to be our year. Getting the points to stay in the league has to be the priority.

And as we slowly trudged off through the crowd, an older gentleman rubbed my son on his head and said “Never mind lad, you’ll see better days”. My son turned to me and said “Daddy. When you’re old, I will take you to the game when I’m playing for Everton.”

Dream big, my boy.

Player ratings

Joao Virginia: He made a couple of good saves but surrendered possession often with poor kicking. Still, it’s been helpful to see Joao play a few games in the FA Cup, it’s good to know we have a reliable deputy should Jordan get an injury or suspension. 6

Vitalii Mykolenko: Not at his best. Began poorly with a mis-control that nearly allowed Luton Town in, and suffered an own goal of course, albeit one that should have been disallowed. 5

Jarrad Branthwaite: Also not at his best, hopefully just a rare blemish and he’s raring to go for important upcoming league games. 5

James Tarkowski: Was up for the challenge of Carlton Morris and distributed well. One ball out to Dwight McNeil for a first-half chance that was cleared just short of the line was brilliant. I don’t know how he conceded the corner for their winning goal, that should have been put into the Luton Town fans though I suppose he was trying to keep us going for the win. Overall, pretty average, I’d say. 6

Nathan Patterson: He had a relatively good game, though it was poor positioning with letting the ball go over his head from the throw-in in which led to their corner kick. A relatively minor complaint though as it still should have been dealt with. Overall, I thought he had an alright game. 6

Amadou Onana: He grew into the game and towards the end was really driving us forward. He, and James Garner, were asked to do a lot in a 4-4-2 and both didn’t do badly, though the system certainly highlighted how much more you get out of them both with an extra midfielder in there. 6

James Garner: I find that James really grows into games and his desire to win, especially in games in the balance, is clear to see. I love his tenacity and he showed more intent and ability than most to drag us over the line. A shame we couldn’t do it. 6

Dwight McNeil: Also suffered from not having another body in midfield, I think, and perhaps he’s still not quite fully fit either but he kept on going. Will rue his missed first-half opportunities. 5

Jack Harrison: Well, he scored, and you can’t fault his effort, but there was a high number of misplaced passes and he lost possession countless times. 5

Dominic Calvert-Lewin: He was very effective knitting together midfield and I think he enjoyed the freedom of having someone up there with him, even if it didn’t suit the midfield. We can’t get Abdoulaye Doucoure back to support him soon enough. My Man of the Match. 7

Beto: He did well with the goal set up, and his effort isn’t in question, though he does frustrate. He should have a crack at goal more when given half a yard I think. When he clumsily tries to take a player on in the penalty area, he gets a bit panicky, and the end result is seldom pretty. But we are where we are. If we can’t spend any money, this is what we’ll get, so we have to make do, and at least he puts the effort in. 6

Arnaut Danjuma: Couldn’t really affect the game and was a bit unlucky with their winning goal. 5

Youseff Chermiti: Not a bad cameo and he got on the end of a few things, though you can see he still has plenty of development ahead of him. I like how he stood up for himself amidst all the pushing and shoving. 6

Reader Comments (54)

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Jonathan Haddock
1 Posted 28/01/2024 at 08:56:35
The straws that we keep clutching at are getting smaller and smaller, Paul!

David Bromwell
2 Posted 28/01/2024 at 08:57:37
Good to see you back, Paul. Nice story about your son: been there, done that! Have to agree – a draw would have been an even worse result but, on the day, we were very poor. Yes, the 4-4-2 formation was a disaster, and will hopefully be changed for Tuesday.

In respect to your ratings, although I am a big Calvert-Lewin fan, I think you have flattered him. My Man of the Match was James Garner, who I thought worked like a trogan and, with another player alongside him in our usual 4-3-3, we would have won the match. So I am hopeful that, on Tuesday, and assuming we will still be without key players, Ben Godfrey gets an opportunity.

Finally back to your son, and all other young supporters. This is a sorry Everton team to watch when they play as they did yesterday. Yes, they work hard, but they do the simple things so badly: passing, throw-ins, and dead-ball situations are all basics that we need to do much better. And if things don't improve soon… the immediate future looks bleak.

Peter Warren
3 Posted 28/01/2024 at 09:32:49
Feel sick with that defeat. Deflated.
Mark Murphy
4 Posted 28/01/2024 at 10:07:43
Absolutely, Peter – I'm the same. I can't find any straws to pick up from that shambles.

Just very poor, overrated players who were beaten again by a team of lesser-known players. Be honest, how many could name the Luton first eleven?

Dave Lynch
5 Posted 28/01/2024 at 10:13:28
Do you not think it's down to poor management?

We have a supposedly Premier League savvy manager, they have (with all due respect) a Premier League greenhorn who out-thought our fella with regards tactics and could motivate his team more effectively.

Danny Baily
6 Posted 28/01/2024 at 10:28:42
Win this week and all is forgiven.

Back in the Moyes and Martinez days, when, for the most part, we weren't looking over our shoulder in the league, I used to be equal parts furious and gutted when we went out of the cups.

I remember Martinez putting our second-choice keeper in against Arsenal. Why? We were never going to win the league and were desperate for a cup.

Now? Well, odds were stacked against a cup win. I'm happy to see the squad rotated and not too disappointed to see us out. Losing narrowly yesterday wasn't the worst outcome; the worst outcome was a replay, followed closely by a heavy, morale-sapping defeat.


Trevor Bailey
7 Posted 28/01/2024 at 10:28:49
Have to agree, Paul, in fact, I think it's a good thing. We were never going to win it anyway so we can now concentrate on the one thing that matters, staying in this corrupt Premier League.

It might not even be the end of the world if we go down, which is a distinct possibility unless we get some points reimbursed. It would be an opportunity to completely overhaul the club from top to bottom.

New owners? I don't know don't care… they can't be worse than the present incumbent.

If we do go down, probably a lot of the present players will depart meaning an opportunity for younger players maybe, the likes of whom lots of posters are currently screaming to be given a chance.

My lad, who is in his thirties, supports Tranmere and says he wouldn't swap places with me for a gold clock.He says he has had "exciting" times watching Tranmere: Wembley appearances, a League Cup Final, playoff encounters, promotions and, yes of course, relegations.

If I'm honest, 'excitement' is not a word I could use in relation to Everton. The club is a joke: mismanaged and run in an ameuterish way for years … hence where we are.

I don't have any answers to the myriad questions of what should or shouldn't be done, I'll leave that to the experts in the know. All I do know is that I want my Everton back, our Everton back, and if that means losing to Luton and even a relegation, then so be it.

Just a note to the Eds and anyone who thinks I'm being defeatist or whatever: I'm not. I'm being pragmatic and realistic.

My dad took me to Wembley for the 1966 FA Cup Final and I've supported Everton ever since. That will never change —irrespective of whatever league they end up in.

Andrew McLawrence
8 Posted 28/01/2024 at 10:37:53
I'm with Trevor at #7. The football is turgid and dour and every week and every match is just adding to the stress. Maybe a relegation and a reboot would be kinder to us all.

It might be refreshing to play in a league minus the VAR and the corrupt agenda-driven Premier League. Then again… tomorrow I might think the opposite.

Mark Murphy
9 Posted 28/01/2024 at 10:40:54

if you're asking me, yes – I don't think Dyche is all that tbh. He's probably the only option for us at the moment but I don't see a tactical Plan B or C when a vital player (Doucoure in this case) is out.

4-4-2 is as out of date as my three-star jumper and penny round collar and has no place in the Premier League.

I'd be interested to see a 4-3-3 but without the flank players being told to cover the full-backs, as in our usual 4-5-1.

We need goals.

Dave Williams
10 Posted 28/01/2024 at 10:46:22
Funny how when we were on that run of four wins the players were all great and the manager one of the best around… all of a sudden, most players are crap and it's Sean's fault!

Doucouré has been a huge loss. His workrate is phenomenal and he scores goals. Losing Gana and Gomes strips us of midfield cover, and what on earth are the coaches doing with our young players that none of them are worthy of at least 20 minutes from the bench???

Allowing PrIce, Samuels-Smith and Small to move elsewhere without being given a chance here is neglect of the highest order.
Where is Onyango? What happened to Whitaker? Was Dobbin not worth 30 minutes at least?

Sean has a very weak squad which isn't his fault but our brighter young players seem to have moved on or disappeared!

Gary Mortimer
11 Posted 28/01/2024 at 10:51:08
Mark #9,

I am with you regarding Dyche.

Playing 2 big lads vs Luton, whose centre-halves have been used to playing against long-ball football for years, was tactical ineptness par excellence!

Why didn't Dyche try Dobbin alongside Beto (or Calvert-Lewin)? – I just don't get it. Bringing Chermiti on for Calvert-Lewin just continued the turgid hopeful long-ball tactics.

I'd give Dyche a 4 out of 10 for his team selection, tactics and substitutions.

Colin Glassar
12 Posted 28/01/2024 at 11:03:29
It's called cost cutting, Dave. The Moshiri - Kenwright combo have left us skint, broken and abandoned.

We have players on huge salaries, eg, Alli, Gomes, Keane etc, who are not in this manager's plans or any others but we have to pay their (3) weekly wages (£400k estimated) while they grow callouses on their arses.

The lads who are called up week-in & week-out try their best but with limited (skill-wise) ability and an uber-conservative manager (who's terrified of giving the kids a game). It's a long, hard slog to turn effort into goals and points.

I think we'll stay up but it won't be pretty and it won't be without drama – thanks to the above-mentioned crettins who destroyed this club.

Mark Murphy
13 Posted 28/01/2024 at 11:05:11

I never thought once during that good run that, all of a sudden, our players and manager were as good as the results. We were fuelled by spirit and anger but that all “popped” with that Onana penalty in my view.

Even though I agree that the players Sean has at his disposal aren't top notch and we are missing 2 key players in Doucoure and Gana, we should still have enough to beat Luton Town at home!

Dave Lynch
14 Posted 28/01/2024 at 11:37:13
Dave @10,

Never have I said Dyche was a good or decent manager.

My opinion of him has always been that, as far as footy is concerned, he's old school in regards tactics; that won't cut it in today's game.

He has imo some good or decent youngsters who have been brought up on the modern game – not his circa 1990s or the like way of playing.

Robert Tressell
15 Posted 28/01/2024 at 11:56:01
Thanks for the article, Paul. Makes a lot of sense to me.

Brave move for recognising what Calvert-Lewin brings to the side even when not scoring. That's not really on-message for ToffeeWeb.

Anyway, it's interesting how, when things start to go badly, a few recurring themes emerge on ToffeeWeb:

1. The manager is incompetent and / or a dinosaur.

2. We should switch formation (usually to 442).

3. We should try a particular player in an entirely new position (often Ben Godfrey midfield or Michael Keane up front).

4. We should be using players from the youth system (last season, it was Simms, who has now scored a grand total of 3 in 28 for Coventry).

If only this were all the case, it would be an easy fix.

Unfortunately, the reality is that our First XI is weak (about the 15th best / 5th worst in the division) and our squad depth is extremely limited. That is why we are losing matches.

The quality and depth is not there purely down to the poor recruitment strategy and mismanagement of the club largely between June 2016 and June 2021 (and most acutely the Koeman - Allardyce period). After that, the money ran out which explains why we've been replacing the likes of Sigurdsson and Richarlison and Gordon with more limited players.

But for Dyche, we would be in the Championship already. But for Dyche, we would be sitting bottom of the Premier League following our points deduction. So we won't win the FA Cup this season; well… big surprise there then.

As for the use of youth, I can only think that comes from people who have never seen these kids play or maybe just fail to appreciate what a low standard U21s football is. The reality is that our current best academy players are miles behind the standard of Davies and Kenny at the same age.

Christine Foster
16 Posted 28/01/2024 at 12:00:58
Nice to read, Paul, I appreciate and agree the loss yesterday was not great but not damaging either. Currently we have as much hope of getting to the final as Maidstone...

But I have seen Everton managers sacked for better performances than that. It was devoid of a plan, dreadful tactics, but just God-awful individual performances.

Put two big men up front but don't hit any crosses in from the wingers, or full-backs, or free-kicks, or corners. Let them drop back looking for the ball because messers Harrison, McNeil, Patterson or our friendly Ukrainian don't give them anything, even our keeper kept hitting long balls... to their keeper.

Midfield duo of Onana and Garner, totally overrun, gave up trying to mark 4 players – after 10 minutes. Until we start lobbing crosses into the box, neither Calvert-Lewin or Beto will score.

We looked short of 5 players yesterday – I bet they were glad not to be involved. Dyche may have got everything wrong, but that's only half of it; Luton we're poor, but we were dreadful.

We need players back and Dyche needs to play a game with what he has got, not what he thinks they can do, because they can't.

Ray Roche
17 Posted 28/01/2024 at 12:35:52
I can't be arsed reading all the comments on different threads but a couple of observations.

Their five substitutes meant half the team were fresh. If, as Dyche apparently said, he doesn't like substitutes because “the best team is on the pitch at the start”, then we're doomed with that attitude.

Why can't a master tactician vary corners or free kicks? Try a short corner or an astute pass to someone on the edge of the box, anything but the predictable ball into the keeper's hands.

As Christine said, the excellent Virginia was no doubt following orders with the hoofball but, Christ on a bike, someone help the lad and occasionally vary it.

Les Callan
18 Posted 28/01/2024 at 12:48:14
Good god, Paul. Calvert-Lewin as Man of the Match?

What game were you watching? He stunk the place out.

John Raftery
19 Posted 28/01/2024 at 12:52:35
Most certainly yesterday's defeat was not the worst outcome. The extra fixtures in December are partly responsible for the current injury toll. An extra midweek game would have added to the pressure as would a midweek fifth-round tie.

I was surprised Dyche opted for 4-4-2 but it was an attempt to try something different in the absence of Doucouré and Gana. Unfortunately it made the pitch bigger than our midfielders could cope with. I doubt we will see it repeated.

In the short term, the next couple of weeks could be really difficult. To eke out a point or two in the next few games will require the players to dig in.

After that, with the return of key players such as Doucouré, Gana and Young and a one game per week schedule, I expect performances and results to improve.

Stuart Sharp
20 Posted 28/01/2024 at 13:48:38
Bit easy to criticise 4-4-2 after the event. Some people had been asking for it. Dyche has been surprisingly reluctant to play it.

I assume that the injury to Gomes, who had been tasked with linking midfield and attack in Doucoure's absence, forced his hand. It really didn't work - so what will he do on Tuesday?

I was interested to hear Dyche say he thought the goalie went too long too soon and too often. I'd assumed it was the plan.

Dale Self
21 Posted 28/01/2024 at 13:57:10
Robert 15, please don't overlook the latest strawman: ‘clutching at straws'. It's making the rounds.
Kevin Edward
22 Posted 28/01/2024 at 14:51:24
Only the next 3 games will tell us whether this was a blessing in disguise.

I desperately wanted Everton to get to another semi-final at least, but alas we were just not good enough in very winnable cup games (yet again…).

I'm less concerned about formations, we have limitations clearly, but at least be as effective as you can be wherever you are on the pitch.

Let's see at Fulham, no doubt the fans will get behind them and drive them on; away from Goodison, we might look a bit better.

Rob Jones
23 Posted 28/01/2024 at 15:06:05
I'm gutted we lost.

But honestly, I couldn't give a shit about the cup. We just need to survive, and any extra games hamper that effort. We need to get to the end of the season, when a lot will be trimmed from the wage bill (Alli, Gomes… maybe Keane, even if Dyche does have a semi for him).

Dyche is still the man for the job for me.

But we badly need our full complement of players back. The back five are fine, but the midfield are running on fumes,.Calvert-Lewin is… honestly, I don't know what to make of him at the moment. Beto is shit, and our wingers currently give about as much benefit as an Iain Duncan Smith led Work and Pensions Department.

Any points from the next fortnight will be a bonus. Because we are beyond bare bones at the moment.

Jim Bennings
24 Posted 28/01/2024 at 15:20:52
Sad really when people couldn't give a shit about the FA Cup.

This club will probably never win another trophy now in the lifetime of anyone over the age of 50.

We can't buy success now due to the way it's gone and the shit we've put ourselves in (not that we did very well with the money when we could spend it).

So, in all likelihood, we will never see this club lift silverware again.

One Cup Final in 29 years we've had, absolutely embarrassing that is. But we are meant to scratch off every season with the same old excuse.

To be honest, even if by some miracle we did get those deducted points back, I still don't think this is a good Everton team. I'm still bored tolerating shit football, shit players, strikers that look like they've just fell out of the Farmers Arms.

But what can we do, it's Everton Football Club in the modern era, isn't it?

Rob Halligan
25 Posted 28/01/2024 at 15:30:24
Luton draw Man City at home. Doesn't make things any easier though.

I really thought Luton were going to get Maidstone, seeing as they were two of the last four balls left.

Mike Doyle
26 Posted 28/01/2024 at 15:59:10
Such is the low profile of the FA Cup these days, I find it hard to be disappointed about going out. I suspect Dyche isn't either.

Luton were poor – we were as bad if not worse. Hopefully that's the last we see of 4-4-2. Meanwhile, our passing remains terrible.

I'm more concerned about the chances of getting something at Fulham on Tuesday. Good luck to those like Rob H who'll be making the long return trip.

Christy Ring
27 Posted 28/01/2024 at 16:01:53
Good article, Paul, looking at the draw earlier, we would have got Man City, so softens the blow. 4-4-2 doesn't work when we're totally overrun in midfield, and no crosses whatsoever for two big strikers.

I thought Beto and Harrison should have been substituted first, and Patterson's position play in the 2nd half was baffling. We need 3 in midfield against Fulham, or they'll destroy us.

Dave Ganley
28 Posted 28/01/2024 at 16:07:28
Hi Paul,

I enjoyed your report, especially about your son and being excited going to the game. Reminds me when my dad first started taking me as a kid in the mid-70s. I would cheer for Everton no matter what the score.

I remember the Mancs beating us 6-2 at Goodison, they were 5-0 up before we scored. I think I was the only blue who cheered when we scored; all the Man Utd fans ironically cheered as well!!

Anyway, I digress.

Yesterday was just poor and the standard of play seemed to infect our only consistent performers this season in Mykolenko, Tarkowski and Branthwaite. Nobody came out with any credit.

We are lazy, second balls are given up to the opposition, I thought Onana, again, looked pretty disinterested, more looking for a free kick than actually playing the game. I guess I'm being unfair singling him out – the midfield in general were awful.

When McNeil and Harrison have off games, it's not just average, they are awful. No energy, no control, losing the ball time and again. May as well not be on the pitch for me. To get to this level, you allegedly have to be very good.

You get the big bucks for allegedly being able to perform on the big stage, to be able to be composed and be at least able to play a pass that reaches a teammate. None of that was on display yesterday, or for that matter, in a lot of games this season.

It's really soul-destroying how far we have fallen over the last 10 years. Don't forget, when Moyes left, we were a Top 6 club, ready to make the push onto Champions League places. Now look at us!

I'll never think it's a good thing to go out of a cup competition. Before the game yesterday, I shook my head at one of the Everton songs played on the tannoy, "We're after the league and we're after the cup", bloody hell how dated is that now!

I don't know where we go from here. There is no desire, no urgency, it's as though the players just don't care that much anymore.

To go back to your story of your son playing football and about hard work, the old adage sprang to mind: "The harder I work, the luckier I become." It's been a long time since I've seen that kind of attitude on the pitch from an Everton team, Tarkowski, Branthwaite and Mykolenko excepted, apart from yesterday.

I was speaking to my mate who I've sat next to for years at the game, wondering was it any better in the 90s? He replied that probably not but we knew we were rubbish then, the players were rubbish but at least they tried.

Today's players are technically better than the 90s versions, but they just don't seem to try as much for me and it shows as to where we are at now. Shambles of a club.

I'm not Dyche's biggest fan but I accept that maybe he is the best we can get… any young managers out there?? But blimey, this ale-house football is horrible to watch even when we've managed to win.

As if we haven't got enough with the VAR, premier League and referees sucking the life and joy of watching our beloved Everton, the quality of football we put on show is just horrible to watch and we are getting what we deserve — nothing.

I feel that the cup defeat against Fulham, a game we should have won, has depleted any kind of will left in the club. Dyche needs to be kicking some backsides in the dressing room as the current effort is just really unacceptable for me.

The only part of the club now with any standards left is the fans as far as I can see… and that is waning fast given how many people see it as a positive getting knocked out of a cup competition.

Rob Jones
29 Posted 28/01/2024 at 16:07:50
Jim, I get where you're coming from. I really do.

But... it's hard to feel anything for the lustre of a competition which "big clubs" disrespect, and which is now showing matches on a Thursday night.

I'm not really sure how the FA can further bastardise their own competition, but I've no doubt they'll plumb new depths of shitness.

Barry Rathbone
30 Posted 28/01/2024 at 18:47:35
I was beginning to think I just don't care anymore as I never believe we will win any game and Luton is no surprise. But, no, it's just a longstanding grasp of nagging reality.

Bar one or two fortuitous seasons, we've been utter cack since the '90s, Moshiri accelerated the race to the abyss with what looks a monumental confidence trick.

He did buy similar numbers to the challenging clubs but only one player over £40M - Sigurdsson. Arsenal signed 11; Liverpool, 14; Man Utd, 17; Man City, 18 and Chelsea, 21 in the same period.

Always wondered what it felt like to be conned…

Finn Taylor
31 Posted 28/01/2024 at 18:52:37
I do wonder, at what point, not just Everton fans, but football fans just go... "We've had enough"?

Same clubs winning trophies, in finals etc, unaccountable refs, dubious governing bodies, Cup replays scrapped because the elite don't fancy it... I don't celebrate a goal anymore because I am paranoid the VAR will rule it out.

There were days when you could just turn up, watch a game, enjoy two committed sides going at each other, walk out of the ground, and forget it till the next game. Now, days are filled with dread and existential anxiety over whether we will survive another season, and survive as a club.

Raymond Fox
32 Posted 28/01/2024 at 18:59:11
The manager's an easy target when things are not going well; let's see… how many managers have we tried? Don't forget also we have earned enough points to be sitting nicely in 12th with 27 points.

There's only one target this season and that's staying in this league. Yes, we lost this game but once again there was a glaring foul on Calvert-Lewin for their first goal. Do we ever get an important decision our way!

Jim Bennings
33 Posted 28/01/2024 at 19:01:55

My sentiments exactly, mate.

It's even got into most supporters' mindsets nowadays that we can do without the Cups and it's better to be out of them.

Football should be about glory and about winning, that's why the game used to be great.

Did anyone think it would be better to be knocked out of the Third Round of the Cup in 1995, despite the spectre of relegation looking large until early May?

No, if anything the Cup was a massive welcome boost for the fans and I dare say a welcome distraction for the players too. Heroes were found that otherwise wouldn't have made it into Everton folklore such as Daniel Amokachi and Paul Rideout.

These days, and it's not just amongst Evertonians by the way, but I hate the attitude that survival in the Premier League is be-all and end-all.

Why can't you have both?

Mark Murphy
34 Posted 28/01/2024 at 19:18:38
I'm looking forward to the derby and shutting up the red horde's taunts that we haven't won a trophy since 1995 by pointing out that we don't mind really cos mid-table security is our ambition.

I'm sure they'll struggle with a witty comeback to that.

Dave Ganley
35 Posted 28/01/2024 at 19:18:47
Yes, Jim, I agree entirely, when did it become a bad thing to win cup matches and dream of a bit of glory in case players may get tired for league games?

That's not the football I grew up with and loved.

Brent Stephens
36 Posted 28/01/2024 at 19:21:26
Jim #33,

“Football should be about glory and about winning, that's why the game used to be great.”

Jim, as much as I'd like to have the glory of winning a cup, I don't want that in the trophy cabinet of a club that's been relegated. Survival in the Premier League comes before cup glory for me. The league below us is littered with clubs once “gracing” the top tier but now with years of struggling to survive behind them and in front of them; some of them with a past cup to boast about.

Winning for survival first. Glory later.

Danny O’Neill
37 Posted 28/01/2024 at 19:57:19
I'm gutted we went out of the cup. Really gutted. It was a long journey home.

But now we go to Fulham on Tuesday and focus on the task at hand.

Finn Taylor
38 Posted 28/01/2024 at 20:00:33
Brent #33... Survival in the Premier League — that's all it is now, for any club other than Man City, Chelsea, that lot, Man Utd, Spurs, the Geordies.

The true ebb and flow of sport should be a team comes good for a few years, the bubble bursts, they come again... new teams are competing – and that should be healthy, but it doesn't seem to work like that.

Survive to survive to survive... if that's the best we can hope for, is there a point?

You want to see exciting moves, great goals, great saves and devilish trickery — footy is none of those things now.

My thinking about Everton has always been on the new stadium and new revenue streams etc. Thats' my hope.

Of course, we need to survive as a Premier League club this season, next season and the 1st season in the new stadium to lay a foundation to do this. Everton only have to take one hit of relegation (and that's if the PSR deductions don't get us) and I reckon we're done.

Brent Stephens
39 Posted 28/01/2024 at 20:17:36
Finn, yes, survival in the Premier League through the next three seasons or so. Then let's see.
Jim Bennings
40 Posted 28/01/2024 at 20:19:18
I think the moment many of us lost hope was January 2020.

Carlo Ancelotti at the helm yet we go to Anfield and lose to their kids team and not just lose but get absolutely schooled.

I think that was the day when subconsciously I knew Everton weren't getting anything back anytime soon.

Finn Taylor
41 Posted 28/01/2024 at 20:34:17
Good point Jim – at what point did we lose hope...? Actually, for me, it was when Man City got took over — no one can compete with them financially, no one. Even by 2009-10 Chelsea were showing signs of normalizing in that others could compete with them and beat them.

Something I was talking to a friend of mine about the other day: what is the analysis of a team – that lot – that is successful? What's the mindset, approach? Take the jealousy out of it, what makes a team successful, for a period? Why them, not us? But what is it they do, that others don't?

Dave Ganley
42 Posted 28/01/2024 at 20:39:16
Brent, whatever happened to the old adage "winning becomes a habit"?

We lose a cup game, people go it's no big deal. Do you really think our players can turn it on and off whenever they feel like?

A lot of us on here have probably played at some level. When you win, you can't wait for the next game; lose and it's picking yourselves up all over again.

Yes, there have been anomalies when teams have won a trophy and been relegated but are you suggesting that we lump ourselves in with Wigan and Birmingham et al? If so, then we are truly fucked.

Can you imagine the 95 squad thinking the same? Me either. We carry on accepting this and we may as well all give up now!

Brent Stephens
43 Posted 28/01/2024 at 20:44:58
Dave #42. I respect your view.

The way I see it is we have a wafer-thin squad in quality terms even before injury. With injuries and the likes of Afcon, we have a bench that would struggle in the Championship or lower.

Winning does become a habit – if you're winning in the first place.

Paul Smith
44 Posted 28/01/2024 at 20:50:54
Really noticeable after 15 minutes the groans at Goodison with every miss hit or stray pass. It happens every game unless we're quick out the blocks.

Not sure it does anyone any good but it's understandable with the shit served up week-in & week-out. Passion and frustration, I suppose.

Joe McMahon
45 Posted 28/01/2024 at 20:55:20
Fully agree Jim, for me it was the semi-final v them at Wembley and they were on the ropes and we still lost. Phil Mcnulty summed it up, the headline of his report was "Always the Bridesmaid, never the Bride".

Then the numbness at Goodison after Everton 0 Wigan 3 with a semi-final vs Millwall waiting pissed down the drain.

Dave Ganley
46 Posted 28/01/2024 at 21:07:28
Don't get me wrong, Brent, I understand where you're coming from, but as I pointed out in an earlier comment, the Fulham cup game, which we should have won, seems to have done a lot of damage. We were getting results, we should have won in normal time and blew it in the penalty shoot-out with a half-arsed kick.

We've properly struggled since. Players are not interested, Onana, instead of looking to make amends, looks like he can't be bothered, and the three most consistent players at the back in Tarkowski, Branthwaite and Mykolenko have been dragged down to that level.

Losing begets more loss. Fans were consoling themselves that the RS would have beaten us anyway but that's not the point. We'll never know, will we?

I'm just sick of the loser attitude that's infected our club and sick of everyone thinking it's okay to lose to Luton at home in the FA Cup as though it really doesn't matter.

The players aren't available for a quick one-to-one for a few home truths that is vastly overdue, so this is one of the few places where we can say our true thoughts. Every defeat matters to mei

Brent Stephens
47 Posted 28/01/2024 at 21:26:02
Well, Dave, I suppose that's all water under the bridge now.

The big one now is the appeal; a few points back from that, alongside a decent league run.

Onwards and upwards.

Dave Ganley
48 Posted 28/01/2024 at 21:39:08
True enough, Brent, true enough.

I just wish the club and all who play for it would care just a little bit and show it, that would be a decent starting point.

I could forgive all that's gone before if I saw players have given their all on the pitch. Sadly, it's been a long time since that's happened

Finn Taylor
49 Posted 28/01/2024 at 22:01:27
I think the people at the club do care – the players aren't good enough.
Don Alexander
50 Posted 29/01/2024 at 01:21:25
Dave Ganley (# various, but with a few others of a certain owd vintage!) you hit the nail on the head, repeatedly.

Never mind the disaster we've been inflicted with for decades courtesy of self-serving Kenwright and his various puppet-masters, but the chronically bad failure of our players for years to control the ball, pass it accurately, shoot accurately and work cohesively as a professional football team is bewildering.

What actually goes on at (rented) Finch Farm (courtesy of self-serving Kenwright) has long mystified me.

In my youth I had nowhere near the pace or talent to win a football career (but in my twenties was regarded as a good player as an amateur) and everyone identified my deficiencies beyond pace.

As a Iad I trained hard to improve them, for years. I forced myself to become two-footed. In my twenties I took all the threatening free-kicks because I scored from them with a degree of regularity (and spare me the piss-take on being Everton's "lost genius" please).

I'm now nigh on 70 but I know that other amateur lads in my youth did exactly what I did to improve in their own time, for no money.

So why are so many of our £millionaire squad so regularly inept at the basics, for many years, as are plenty more fabulously wealthy players at the level of "small" clubs, which many of my vintage understandably have disdained for decades to be part of, despite the obvious truth of life under Kenwright and beyond?

Brian Dagnall
51 Posted 29/01/2024 at 06:36:53
Lots of opinions above to agree with. Quite a few to disagree with. One view that DCL was man of the match, another that he stunk the place out. Ah well you pays your money

The one that gets me racking my brain to understand is that Dyche has no plan, and his tactics are always woeful. Maybe that opinion is perfectly valid, who knows? But it seems to me that to have a successful tactical plan in the Premiership, it presupposes that your players can keep the ball, play speedy one-twos, and play accurate passes in terms of line and length. From my observation, regrettably none of these is being achieved at present. The two upfront failed because they couldn't locate each other either with passes or headers. Our wingers lack the pace to take on their fullbacks, (McNeill is the slowest winger I have seen) thereby making pullbacks to onrushing players something we can only dream about.

As I say, not sure what tactics could be used to combat this skill shortage, but maybe there are wiser heads on here to help me. For sure Mr Dyche could sub players rather more quickly to demonstrate he is at least trying to mix it up a bit. But does anyone really think we would have beaten Luton if we had not gone 442, used some other system instead but with the same personnel?

One last thing. I don't see any sign of a lack of desire in that team. If you recall our super run of results last year was put down to the amazing team spirit. I think the guys are giving whatever they can.

Sorry, one last last thing. Our defence has been just great, clean sheets galore. But honestly if you let the opposition have 70% possession every game, the pressure will tell eventually. Keep the ball, give your defenders a rest.

Mike Dolan
52 Posted 29/01/2024 at 13:22:36
Great article Paul. I agree that being dumped out of the cup as a result of the inability to take chances is both a consistent Everton them but also probably good news given that our pathetically inadequate squad could benefit by not having anymore cup games.
Our missing Doucoure so much proves for me that this team needs a number 10 to create space for the midfield and forwards.
Sean Dyche will keep us up this season with his pragmatic style of play. He will suffer if Doucoure, Young, Gomes and Seamus don’t heal quickly we are missing a lot of experience at the moment.
It’s a total bummer that Everton who are a lower mid table team have to to be put into another survival drudge but thanks to the corrupt management of the League through Richard Masters it is what it is.
We should never lose sight of the fact that despite the horrible performances of late we are an improving club and team and have been put into this precarious position only by idiot bureaucrats.
Keep the faith lads.
Stephen Vincent
53 Posted 29/01/2024 at 14:11:06
Well, I have got my ticket for Fulham and a hotel room at the Putney Bridge Premier Inn but I find myself this morning half hoping that tomorrow's rail strikes will stop me getting there!!

But, as Neil said in the Harlech on Saturday, the away games are far more enjoyable than Goodison these days — no negativity in the away end.

Great article, Paul. Coincidentally, I took my Grandson to his first game when we lost to Luton in the league. When Luton scored their first he asked me 'Grandad, why weren't we marking the centre forward, didn't we think he was any good'. Out of the mouths of babes hey!

Mark Murphy
54 Posted 29/01/2024 at 22:22:44
Stephen, I'm beating the train strikes by dossing on my eldest son's couch in Ealing.

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow evening – the Eight Bells will be rocking. I suppose I should go the match as well though….

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