Firstly we should start by paying tribute to Howard Kendall, who is laid to rest in Liverpool today.
Everyone in football was saddened by the news of his death which seemed to come out of the blue and the tributes that have been flooding in from all sides of the football world and media have been magnificent. Be it stories about meeting the man himself, seeing him play with his Holy Trinity team-mates or watching the great Everton team of the 80’s (he was just 38 years old when he won the league in 1985 remember) they have all had one sentiment. He was a great man. RIP Howard.
Unfortunately since Mr Kendall passed away we’ve not seen a performance from the recent team worthy of him (unless you add in a few performances from the 1997-98 season of course!). We thought things couldn’t get much worse than the United pitiful display but last night the first 45 minutes was some of the most gutless and scrappy performances from Everton footballers that I’ve ever seen. And that’s saying something.
Roberto Martinez was, not for the first time, culpable of putting a starting XI out in a cup game that made us feel that he’d rather not be in the competition. That in itself is just stupid. He talks about wanting to challenge for a trophy and take it all seriously and then plays a number of players who have barely played for months and expects them to be on their game??
I really like Leon Osman but he’s not played at all in the league all season (he’s played twice in the league cup now) so he was bound to be rusty. Fair play to him in that he went on to score what was described as the ‘most Leon Osman goal we’d ever seen’ to level things up, but we should have had more regular first teamers playing. Oviedo, Kone and Mirallas all looked equally poor – although they shouldn’t – whilst Darren Gibson looked okay in parts. He can still pass a ball even he has lost the ability to drive forward (so to speak).
Martinez then made a series of weird substitutions including moving Gibson to centre-back and John Stones out to the right hand side leaving the crowd scratching their heads as the match turned into an elaborate ‘Norwich City versus the Everton defence’ training session. Apart from a barrage of chances for Everton towards the end of the 90 and then 120 minutes I’d say that Norwich were the better team and probably deserved to win. Big shout out to their defender who scored against us with his first goal in three years. First time since… oh, against us. What a surprise.
Thank goodness that Joel Robles found it pretty easy to get himself mentally prepared for the match. His head must be all over the place at the minute with fans clamouring for him to play and the manager pretty much ruling that ever happening out.
In truth he didn’t really have to do anything that Tim Howard would not have – some good saves from shots that were pretty much straight at him and a good penalty save that Howard may have got to – but I’m sure the defence felt a little more comfortable having Robles behind him. Although I have no way of knowing that for sure, obviously…
I write an article last week about the Arsenal game and highlighted Howard as the issue but I was too kind. He is a liability and Martinez seems to be sticking with him for reasons unknown. Maybe all this talk of a US takeover is true and he’s an important part of it?? All I know is that in the big games so far with Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal he has been the reason we’ve come away with only one point.
It feels that Martinez has a tactic in the League Cup this year to play rubbish, go behind and see what happens. Strangely it seems to be working. We may see one of our worst cup runs ever take us all the way to the final. I mean, it won’t, but it could.
In the next round we play Middlesbrough away, which in the light of day could be worse. It does bring back memories of Wally Smith’s last game in 2001 but it should also bring back good memories of our 3-1 win against them on the way to the cup final a few years ago. It’s an opportunity to reach the semi’s in a competition that we’ve been to the Quarter-Finals of twice now in 28 years. Pathetic really.
We also have the small matter of Sunderland on Sunday. They were rubbish last week at home yet still beat Newcastle 3-0. A similar result would be appreciated this weekend please Blues. A decent performance would be nice too. Big Sam will load up the defence and make it hard for us, so let’s get some wingers on, spread the play and knock the ball low across the 6-yard box a few times. COYB!!