Filed: Friday, 21st November 2014
By: Preview Percy
Here at kumb towers we love international breaks. Not for the football of course. That would be silly, although we do, of course, enjoy beating Scotland as much as the next man. No it’s the fact that we don’t have to visit Preview Percy to pick up his copy that cheers us up. *Sigh* only March until the next one….
Next it’s up to Merseyside for a Saturday 3pm kick-off against the less up their own backsides half of Liverpool where Everton will be our hosts. No engineering works are scheduled on Branson Rail but Greater Anglia services into Liverpool Street will be right up the pole with nothing operating between Stratford and Liverpool Street. If you’re coming that way you’ll probably want to leave a bit more time for the trip to Euston.
It’s been a bit of a stutter so far this season for the Toffees. They sit in 10th place with 14 points from played. That lot includes no fewer than five draws – a number that the work experience girl with an inappropriate number of rings through her lips informs me is only exceeded by Sunderland. Unlike Everton the Mackems will probably be pleased at their lot. Everton’s draw tally includes their last two matches, 0-0 at home to Swansea and a 1-1 draw away at, inevitably perhaps, Sunderland. So all in all it's not been totally plain sailing for Roberto Martinez. However, despite the apparent ups and downs, the latter of which included letting in six at home to Chelsea, they are in fact unbeaten in their last six, form that suggests a slow return to consistency is taking place despite the rigours of Thursday Night League football.
Martinez has joined the rest of us in querying Roy Hodgson’s selection policy, pointing out that any number of out of form players in struggling clubs seem to have a free pass into the England set up irrespective of how badly they or their clubs are performing on a week to week basis. Gareth Barry was the focus of Martinez’s comments this time around. Described by his manager as “the best English defensive midfielder in the country, Barry arrived in the summer on a free transfer that oddly cost Everton £2.5m, the fee arising as a consequence of the loan deal that saw him spend 13/14 at Goodison. The work experience girl with an inappropriate number of rings through her lips tells me that last season Barry became the 10th player to make 500 Premier League appearances. If you ask her nicely she might tell you who the first nine were, but I doubt it. I’m certainly not going to risk it. In Hodgson's defence (well sort of) even if he had picked Barry for the humiliation of that chippy lot North of the border, he would have had to withdraw due to an ankle injury sustained in the Sunderland match.
International injury withdrawals have been an issue of late. The irritating Roy Keane recently accused Everton of overstating the nature of injuries to Seamus Coleman, Darron Gibson and James McCarthy. The irony that someone who played for the worst club ever for that sort of thing seems to be lost on Keane. As Everton chairman Bill Kenwright put it “I'm a big fan of Roy Keane but he does say some stupid things”, a sentiment with which I agree, apart from the being a fan bit.
All three of the Irish contingent face fitness tests this weekend along with Leighton Baines – often our dead-ball nemesis in the past – who has a hamstring injury.
Blue-eyed boy at the moment is 20 year-old Ross Barkley. He's only recently returned to first XI action having damaged knee ligaments in pre-season. He's already into double figures for England caps, the most recent of which came in the humiliation of that chippy lot North of the border the other night, where he suffered the indignity of being sworn at by Roy Hodgson within seconds of coming on. That must be an experience much like being told off by an ex-Man Utd player for withdrawing international players through injury.
The club’s biggest spend of the summer was the £28m (or “beer money” as Abrahamovic calls it) given to Chelsea in exchange for the services of Romelu Lukaku. Last season his late winner in the corresponding fixture represented his first goal in ten matches, cementing our reputation as sequence busters. Whilst the transfer fee will have helped with the so called “Financial Fair Play” window dressing that no doubt is going on at Chelsea at the moment, you can’t help but wonder whether their title challenge last season might have been better served by keeping hold of Lukaku and shifting the inexplicably useless Fernando Torres on somewhere, anywhere.
The other paid-for arrival was midfielder Muhamed Besic. £4m was enough to secure the services of the Berlin-born Bosnian from Hungarian outfit Ferencvaros this summer. Amongst his previous employers were German outfit Hamburger SV. Things went a bit pear-shaped for him there when he picked up a club suspension for a “breach of discipline”, an incident that allegedly saw him being strangled by nut-job manager Thorsten Fink during a “frank exchange of views”. Suddenly having Roy Hodgson swearing at you for not getting the ball out wide quickly enough doesn't seem quite so bad does it?!
Another free transfer was the deal that brought Samuel Eto'o up from Chelsea after his one year deal with the Pensioners expired in the summer. The Cameroonian veteran (33) spent a couple of years with Anzhi Makhackala in Russia, attracted purely by the culture, climate and the football and in no way influenced by a reported €20m a year post-tax salary that made him the best-paid footballer in the world. His departure from that club (don't make me type it again) at just the same time as its billionaire owner got bored with football and withdrew all his funding was, I am sure, totally coincidental. Having earned enough in Russia to keep him going for a while, he's now pitched up on Merseyside where, at least, nobody can accuse him of having turned up for the money, the climate or the culture.
And so to us. Although club football has been in hiatus thanks to the international break it doesn’t mean we’ve not been busy here at the rest home. Oh no. There have been all sorts of comings and goings linked in the main to the news that the gentleman after whom this edifice is named has now got a new job. Avram is going to Ghana once they can sort out the little matter of the fact that a number of the countries that they would routinely play in African competition have an issue with allowing holders of Israeli passports into their country. This glitch hasn’t deterred the rest home’s owners (Soylent Green plc) from repainting all of the signs which now proudly read “Ghana’s Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered”.
Back on planet football, the break saw Downing finally get another England cap, playing the first half in Glasgow. However, the form that earned him his chance was hardly likely to be replicated by his being played in a different role. He was also carrying a knock sustained during training which sensibly saw him withdrawn at the interval. The traditional international break injury also affected Sakho, whose back problem prevented him from turning out for Senegal in midweek. Both players were listed as “doubtful” during Mr Allardyce’s Thursday press conference, though how much meaningful assessment of Sakho had taken place by that time is difficult to guess since the player would probably not have got back into the country until Thursday morning. Expect the pair of them to face the proverbial “late fitness test” along with Winston Reid (hip) assuming they are deemed fit to travel in the first place.
Should Reid not make it we’ll be looking at the Ginger-Tom combination at the back. In midfield Amalfitano will be looking at a return if Downing is out. Up front the choice is between Carroll, Cole and Zarate to join Valencia if Sakho is out of contention. It’s been a long time since we have had genuine options all over the place hasn’t it?!
Our last match was disappointing in result though the performance was, by and large, encouraging. Once in a while you’ll come up against a ‘keeper who has one of those games against you and Guzan certainly earned his post-match cuppa, especially at the end when he kept out the proverbial kitchen sink that we threw at him. Of course it might have helped had the ref awarded any one of the three penalties he was looking straight at when they occurred. It might have concentrated his mind somewhat if he thought that he might be punished for getting things wrong but, as this weekend’s official will attest, a “select group” official is more likely to be punished for wearing the wrong colour shoes in town than for incompetence.
International breaks are always difficult for those of us paid (and I use that word quite wrongly) to make a prediction. Will the break have come as an unwelcome interruption to our momentum or will the break enable us to work on some of the things that meant we didn’t take all three points last time out? Same goes for our opponents. It also doesn’t help that, in general, I’m about as useful at predictions as an X-Factor contestant is at singing.
Merseyside isn’t a happy hunting ground – we tend to leave the blue half with as little as we get from the corrupt side of the city. On the other hand Everton are in a bit of a stutter form-wise and we’re still on the up as regards confidence levels. I’m going for a creditable draw. So the Ghana’s Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For the Bewildered’s fund to buy its patron a new passport (£2.50) will be placed on a creditable draw. Let’s call it 2-2 shall we?
Enjoy the game!
When last we met at Goodison Lost 0-1 A late Lukaku goal gave the home side the points in one of those performances here we looked sort of ok defensively but showed little attacking threat.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg Not a favourite amongst the Goodison support following a derby day a few years back where he allowed the loathsome Gerrard to persuade him to change a yellow card for Tony Hibbert to a red one. He followed this up by ignoring a disgraceful challenge by Kuyt on Neville (P) and then, for an encore, waving away a blatant injury-time penalty claim. His latest run-in with his bosses – and there have been a few-referred to “breaches of protocol” where he telephoned Neil Warnock after leaving a Palace match on his own in order to attend an Ed Sheeran gig. Whilst I would happily vote for the death penalty for both Sheeran and his fans (we at Ghana’s Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered haven’t forgotten what he did to Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” at the Olympic closing ceremony), it does strike us as strange that referees can ruin match after match without any comeback, but as soon as they elect to drive themselves home they get punished. Priorities eh?
Danger Man: Romelu Lukaku. Without a goal in his last three games. You know what that means.
Daft fact of the week:The name “Everton” is derived from the Saxon eofor which means “wild boar that lives in the forest”. This is, of course, not to be confused with the Saxon word keane which translates as “wild bore that played for Forest”.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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