A Grand Old Place to Play
Tuesday 22nd March 2016
Along with the fact Goodison Park is never an easy place to go and get a victory, my biggest fear on Saturday lunchtime is we would tire quite dramatically in the latter stages and that could cost us. If they felt anything like I did as I traipsed across Stanley Park in fact, we would have absolutely no chance! In a ‘burning the candle at both ends’ kind of way, it has been an exhausting few days!
Back in January 1989 we headed to the blue half of Liverpool sitting top of the league. The game will be remembered due to what had been described (particularly in the media) as a shoot-out between Merse and Everton’s Tony Cottee. According to reports Cottee turned down the Marble Halls of Highbury to join Everton in the Summer and as a result George Graham had put is faith in Merse to produce the goods. As it turned out on the day the Toffees’ striker left the field goalless and Merse scored one and generally ripped our hosts apart in a 3-1 win that sent us 5 points clear.
Amongst my memorabilia I have numerous newspaper cuttings and from this day Harry Harris’ piece in the Mirror quotes, “Arsenal’s army of 4000 travelling fans taunted Tony Cottee with ‘We all agree, Merson is better than Cottee’.” Every point proved crucial in that season as we all know but who could have predicted we would be back in the same city to pick up the league trophy 5 months later.
As mentioned previously, last week’s trip to Spain was a heavy one. And having got into bed about 2am on Thursday night/Friday morning, the Friday afternoon fight through the traffic to Liverpool brought on as a result of Saturday’s early kick-off dictating I had little choice from where I live, was genuinely one of the least attractive ideas I can remember!
But, depart we did and despite the near on 6 and a half hour drive we arrived at our hotel in relatively good spirits. And thirsty of course. Discussions had suggested we could all struggle with a ‘late one’ due to sheer tiredness. After sampling numerous establishments, 3am in Matthews Street suggests things didn’t quite work out that way!
The vast majority of our overnight trips tend to involve a twin room. Sharing with a mate is something we have all experienced. And these tend to work ok. The one thing you cannot allow for however, is your room mate’s habits. Mine on this occasion decided to bring his kebab back to his room, open it, and leave it next to his bed. The extra chilli and garlic mayonnaise meant that when I woke up a few hours later the aroma was quite horrific. See ‘rubbing your face in a bucket of raw onion’ for an indication of where we are here.
Suitably removed I managed to get a little more shut eye before we headed to the city’s location for our latest encounter, Goodison Park.
Thoughts pre match couldn’t really have emphasized how important a game it was for us. In what has been an incredibly topsy turvy season there are results every single week that are having an effect on the upper reaches of the table and ours could be hugely influential. And that ‘travelling Gooner Army’ described earlier in my ramblings was there in great numbers as always to offer considerable vocal support.
Goodison Park is one of the older stadia we still get to visit. And it has that traditional and atmospheric feel about it as a result. It also doesn’t change the fact however, that wherever you sit you will have something blocking part of the pitch. And although I am very much one of those who loves history and the various old stadia still standing around the country, better views at the very least are they way forward for me.
The way our hosts played last week at home to Chelsea meant we knew we might have to dig in at times but to be honest for the first hour we completely and totally dominated the game, particularly in the first half. Apart from one slight scare in the opening exchanges we looked sharp, determined and played some quite fantastic football a times, DW’s opener the perfect example of that. Once Alex Iwobi showed pace, strength and a fine finish to double our lead and jostle number two ensued in the away end we had definitely put ourselves in a winning position. The only thing missing come the half time whistle was the 2 or 3 more goals that some of our promising positions and the definite penalty the referee failed to give us possibly should have led to. That would be a bit harsh though as I thought we were excellent.
Good stuff then but we all knew we were one goal from it being game on. And that, coupled with our obvious tiredness as time went on, made it feel a long second half. Overall though, we were professional and relatively comfortable and three massive points were in the bag. Not that anyone other than Danny Murphy on Match of the Day recognised it was actually a very good, entertaining and powerful performance of course. It was because Everton played badly.
The win made that long, tired journey back south go hugely quicker than had we got beat and that was good enough for me as I settled down to enjoy a night’s sleep in my own bed.
And fortunately my missus is not over keen on kebabs.
Enjoy the break and see you at Watford at home.