Going into Everton's opening game, against a pre-Venky's Circus Blackburn, optimism was high after a strong close season and it appeared that lessons in regards to the benefits of early recruitment had been learnt with the acquisitions of Jermaine Beckford, Magaye Gueye and Joao Silva before August. David Moyes even went so far to describe his current roster as the best squad he had worked with, many amongst us agreed, despite the lack of a real superstar essential to many others as a message of intent to their rivals, the furthest Everton flexed their muscle was too offer new and improved terms to Leighton Baines and Mikel Arteta. However, our penchant for chasing coat tails at the latter stage of the footballing calendar would again define our destiny. To the credit of a squad depleted of key players throughout they pulled together and worked hard for each other and the result was a league placing higher than the year previous and a plethora of memorable performances, both Derbies, Manchester United's 5 minutes of complacency at Goodison, our annual destruction of free spending Manchester City and the goalathon at home to Blackpool.
A large disappointment for Everton was our inconsistent displays during the cup competitions, much of the team that started the 2009 FA Cup Final remains a vital part of the first IX so have tasted the opportunity of glory. We must look back in hindsight at how the Carling Cup was won and see that as real missed chance at silverware and access to European Football again, the one trophy that continues to elude us was won by a team that would later be relegated from the top flight. After an emphatic home victory against Huddersfield, where a much changed team gave outings to players around the peripheral of the squad on a Saturday afternoon. Where they may have seized their chance in that instance they failed to show similar quality in the following round against Brentford, losing on penalties, although our blushes and column inches were somewhat spared by an elderly Gentlemen impersonating the 2010 Manager of the Year taking charge of our neighbours for their game against Northampton, thanks Roy.
Everton's love affair with English Football's most sacred of competitions, the FA Cup, looked set to ignite our season but instead became another example of our season of missed opportunities. A professional demolition of Championship struggler’s and eventual relegation fodder Scunthorpe United led to a difficult tie against the back to back FA Cup holders and our conquerors in 2009, Chelsea, with home advantage in the first leg. The game at Goodison, an early kick off watched in person by a meagre 25,000, was an intriguing game of chess, neither side wanting to give too much advantage to the other, but were ready to pick off any mistakes made by their counterparts and punish them immediately. Since the afore mentioned Cup Final the Boys from West London have found Everton a thorn in their side, failing to beat them in any competition since, this record remains intact. A draw at home meant a return leg at Stamford Bridge, due to Chelsea's commitments in the Champions League, the game was to be played the same day as the others remaining were playing in the following round, very confusing. Make no mistake, over 90 minutes Chelsea dominated us, if my memory serves me correctly, our only chances came in the last 15 minutes, one of which being a goal from Marouane Fellaini ruled offside. Somehow it remained 0-0 in normal time, mostly down to hands of Tim Howard in goal and the game entered extra time.
Another 30 minutes of time was exactly what we needed, we were just getting into the match for the first time and were wounded by the late raised flag on Fellaini. The opening exchanges were timid, until Lampard settled his sides nerves with a simple goal just before the mid way switch of ends. Just when time is running out and you think today isn't going to be our, a free kick on the outside of the box is our last grasp at hope, I don't think I was alone in thinking that “if Arteta takes this it's over, but if Baines takes it, it's going in”. Thankfully Leighton took charge of the set piece and scored the, later named, goal of the season. A few penalties, a shoulder barge and a Captain's example later and we're in the next round to face Reading at home, the less said about that game the better but the match with Chelsea will be talked about for many years to come.
So rather than dwell on a season of shoulda\woulda\coulda's we now have to look forward to the new campaign, the mission will be the same as last year, knocking on the door of the top 4 and a Europa League placing at the very least with a strong run in both Cups. To achieve this we still require reinforcements in key areas, a Centre Forward is a must with Cardiff's (and England's) Jay Bothroyd touted as a strong possibility, a Winger\Creative Midfielder to replace to the consistently inconsistent Bilyaletdinov, it remains to be seen if Moyes again moves for Landon Donovan to fill this void and I think we also need natural cover in both Full Back positions. It's looking increasingly likely that any transfer activity will be funded by sales, with Jack Rodwell and Fellaini the names most commonly linked elsewhere, but like most Summer's we await August 31st with bated breath.
On June 12 I am running the 10k Mersey Tunnel Run in aid of Everton in the Community, a wonderful charity offering opportunities to all through Sport, if you would like to sponsor me and support this excellent organisation please click on the link below:
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Enjoy your holidays and thank you for reading.
Jacko - Follow me on Twitter @jackdoggydogg
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