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Toffees away (six somersaulting Llamas)

Filed: Monday, 17th September 2018
By: Oxford Fred

I’d been talked into going to Everton by an optimistic Young Jack (East Stand Martin Junior) in the Drayton Park pub after our good (but losing) performance at the Goons.

It didn’t seem a bad idea at the time – Goodison Park possibly soon to be closed – West Ham playing good football, beer tasting good – shining glimpses of a turnaround etc.

As we all know, since then the spiral has been most definitely downwards. Now, the thought of a long trek North from my home in Oxford, to a ground we hardly ever get anything at, with the form and dynamism in our latest performances of a Three-toed Sloth with Glandular fever, well, let’s face it, it didn’t appeal.

However there I was to be picked up by Dave in the nice comfortable Range Rover at 10am, he was impressed as it looked like I’d actually managed to shower and wasn’t mumbling and dribbling on a match day for a change. We dropped by at Bicester for Mick and his lad Joe at 10.30 and then we’re off to Scouseville.

Gloomy predictions abound as we go steadily North on the M40. Gradually one of those slightly surreal conversations started…

Dave: ‘Can’t see us even scoring a goal’

Young Joe: ‘3-1 Everton’

Me: ‘So you reckon we’ll score then?

Joe: ‘Yep’

Me: ‘Well let’s make sure that we do as then at least we can go proper mental for a bit which will make up for the rest of it.’

Me: ‘And anyway I have decided that as all portents are for gloom, I have put a score on at 12-1 with those chirpy chappies at William Hill, that we will win 2-1’.

All: ‘You ‘aven’t have you Fred?’

Me: ‘Yep’

Silence for about a minute.

Bicester Mick: ‘The only way we are going to win today is if we see six somersaulting Llamas on the way up.’

At this we all burst out laughing, then we assigned different windows for each passenger to check for Llamas in a very obscure game of ‘I-Spy’ which did break up the journey – it’s amazing what excitement can be generated by a herd of cows or a flock of sheep on a Cheshire hillside in these situations…

Meanwhile, there was a sub-plot. Young Jack. I’d first met him when his dad – East Stand Martin (ESM) of KUMB Match report fame – brought him along aged around eight for trips to home and away games when ESM also lived in Oxford. Young Jack would normally say hello, eat some sweets, and then fall asleep in the back of the car, there and back.

This carried on for the next eight years or so, Eat, sleep, ‘are we there yet/are we home yet’. Then some sort of studying at a ‘University’ and girlfriends followed, we met him at the games if none of us were tasked with picking him up from wherever his twinkling eye had taken him the night before. Whatever, he was bigger but all of us older folks were still the responsible (don’t laugh) ones, and were IN CHARGE.

Ove the last three to four years, there has been a gradual evolutionary shift that now suddenly has dawned on me, JACK IS NOW IN CHARGE! He organises tickets, joins and forms WhatsApp groups, knows how many priority points everyone has got, organises people to take spare tickets, says where to meet for travel and drinks, picks up the tickets, re-sells tickets. WE NOW RELY ON JACK.

This last bit is pertinent, as he has got the tickets for me and Dave. We’ve arranged to meet in The Arkles by Anfield at about 1pm as it was reasonably welcoming and we’ve used it for the last two visits to that soulless cathedral of delusion. Also a great chippy right by it – steak and pepper pie with chips and curry sauce - £2.50. Result, just need two forks or bring your own as theirs just do a Uri Geller as soon as you touch the pie. I digress.

Jack is travelling by train from London, so I drop him a text in case he has been waylaid. No answer for a while, also no Llamas spotted by the observant crew in our car. Then a brief text from HE THAT IS IN CHARGE: ‘I’m running late mate, probably meet you at the ground’. What could go wrong?

We park up in the Taxi Drivers (Wheeltappers & Shunters) Social Club Car Park - £10 – was only a fiver for the Red Lot but I suppose we are on the blue side of Stanley Park.

Then my little legs shuffle along through the world’s biggest cemetery (Anfield Cemetery it’s called – insert joke here). We checked for Llamas, none. Meanwhile, Bicester Mick and Joe disappear in a whirr of longer legs up and across Stanley Park to The Arkles.

Fortunately this means Mick kindly phones me from the bar asking for my order. Lager is waiting in his hand as we go in. All good. Dave the driver has one pint then off to tour Anfield and Goodison for his football memories bank. For us philistines, three pints and a pie, chips and curry sauce later, we go back across Stanley Park to get outside the Goodison away end for 3.30. Jack is now ‘just got into Lime Street Mate – Ubering mate – chill’.

Myself and Dave are then waved at by the Bicester Two as they merrily clutch their tickets and go into the ground with a parting ‘we’ll see you after if he don’t turn up’. Cheers lads. We stand by two Great Big Police Horses with two Great Big Policewomen sat on them. Various people come up for photos with the horses. We get on first name terms. No Llamas though, either acrobatic or not. And, No Jack.

3.45 No Jack.

3.50 No Jack

3.55 No Jack.

We hear Z-Cars playing through the tannoy and exchange looks. Thoughts turn to pubs we could watch the game in.

3.58 ‘Hello lads – come on then.’ It’s Jack!

We scrabble our way in to our seats going up, along, down, back along again, down, up a bit, and along again, just before kick-off. Proper old school and very curious design. Wood and steps and pillars everywhere. Never in doubt!

I’ll leave it to others to give a more professional description of the game, but to me, we weathered the storm a bit and then seemed to suddenly know how to play. Keeping the ball, challenging, chasing, showing options to each other, looking for, and playing, clever balls forward (yes FORWARD) with purpose, and it was starting to make grins spread on our faces.

Already hoarse from singing along in usual West Ham away fashion, we then exploded when Obiang returned Arnie’s chest down with interest and a perfectly weighted ball over the top for him to run onto. We held our breath as he squared it, but Yarmolenko swept it in. As Jack says: ‘Scenes, Fred, scenes’.

The second from Yarmolenko was a lovely cut back from the right, dummy for more space, and curling shot with his left (have to say ‘cultured’ left, sorry) which we had the perfect view of. You guessed it, scenes.

Everton looked shaken but not beaten. Our defence was holding well, and we were still a threat, but… Obviously they scored with the last gasp of the half. Another cross from the right met by Gilfi S, with what I must admit was an excellent header, 2-1 to us at half time.

Grim looks but we were all encouraged. Of course we must be fragile with losing all four up to now, and we were a bit worried this would end up like at the Gooners.

As you know, all came out well. We were still enterprising in the second half with Noble, Rice, and Obiang in the middle covering miles breaking up play, but also crucially spring boarding more of our attacks. Great interplay again saw Obiang burst into the box and slip one for Arnie to stretch to and toe into the net. You guessed it, scenes!

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We rode our luck a bit with Niasse hitting the bar and a few vital clearances from the box. Arnie went off with what we all hope is a minor niggle, and his replacement Antonio impressed with his attitude and ability to really frustrate and annoy Everton; great pace, power, and strength.

One comic moment came when Everton messed up on the halfway line and the ball rebounded to Noble who was through on goal but a good 45 yards out, and frankly knackered. He was quickly swamped but I loved the brief light in his eye before reality caught up with him. Like a fawn setting off gleefully on seeing the sunlight, and then the nasty wolves crowd in…

All finished with the final whistle with the ball kept in front of our section by Anderson and Antonio. Scenes.

Makes you realise why you say ‘yes’ after a couple of beers to going along, because sometimes, just sometimes, you get days like these.

Traffic meant we didn’t get home until 10pm, and conversation obviously returned to Llamas. It was agreed that while stuck in traffic by Knutsford on the way up, there was a deep high fence to our left, which could, conceivably, have hidden South American quadrupeds of a gymnastic bent, so we’ve decided to keep a look out for them on future away journeys.

Perhaps we could get some official WHU mascot Llamas to stay in the director’s box and nibble at Sullivan’s hat to annoy him? Just a thought…

Oh and someone tell us the words to the Yarmolenko song, I couldn’t make it out.

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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