On Saturday we play Liverpool at Goodison Park in the 224th Merseyside Derby and yet strangely enough the build has not really been about the Two teams.
Firstly, we have had the ongoing saga of the 5-30pm Kick Off time debate in which Merseyside Police apparently don’t seem to trust supporters of either side in coming together to watch a football match ‘after dark’. I understand that the concerns that supporters drinking for hours before a potentially hostile game isn’t always a recipe for a peaceful night’s work but for me there are two factors that made their late attempt to block the kick off time a bit strange.
When the fixture was chosen by Sky Sports to be their ‘Prime Time’ Saturday night slot the Police will have been aware. I must admit that I raised an eyebrow at the chosen time but then everyone else seemed okay with it so why not? If it had been 3pm similar concerns might have arisen but that is because we have been persuaded to think that this game must kick off early due to potential trouble ! For me, it was at that point that the Police should have said ‘No’ we aren’t policing at that time due to risks etc. Once a couple of days passed then their argument weakened and therefore they should have left well alone. Even after the safety meeting they still lodged an appeal in court and then dropped it very easily ?! Let’s be honest Sky were always getting their own way on this one.
This is not the first time both teams have met for an evening kick off ! I have been to numerous Merseyside derbies at both Goodison Park and Anfield after dark and to be honest it’s just the same as going when it is light (Obviously it’s dark but you know what I mean). For me the risks are the same as for any derby in that you will always find small pockets of trouble (particularly if you look for it) when so many people come together. However, this statement that ‘under the cover of darkness the criminals will thrive’ , sorry but it all sounds a bit Gotham city to me! I mean last season we played in January at Anfield at 8pm !! There will always be the odd ‘scuffle’ it’s the way it is sadly but for me the risks are no greater than at any other time but only time will tell. However, the last couple of weeks the Police have made us all feel as though we are back in the late 70s wearing bother boots and skinheads ! Times have changed but it seems the attitude towards football supporters has not.
Moving onto the actual game, yes there is actually a game taking place, it seems like our loveable friends at Sky Sports have actually forgotten that it takes two teams to play a football match ! Sky Sports have imaginatively named the match ‘The Gerrard Derby’ as the loveable ‘Stevie G’ prepares to play his last Premier League Merseyside derby. Imagine how funny it would be if Brendan Rodgers chose to leave Gerrard out !!! Haha
Now there is no denying that Steven Gerrard has been a fantastic footballer and has been Liverpool’s talisman for many years but the Sky Sports ‘love in’ for him this week has been ridiculous. Their advert for the game is crazily biased (more so than usual) but it is also not only disrespectful to Everton it also disrespectful to the rest of the Liverpool players. It seems to me that Sky basically just want to watch Gerrard running around the pitch so maybe the teams just stay away from the game and just let Sky film Stevie Me La having shots and kissing cameras etc. Also go and have a look on the Sky Sports news page, about 6 out of 10 stories are all about Gerrard and it grates, however I think that is something that Everton could actually use to their advantage.
Last weekend’s win at Crystal Palace was massively important for confidence going into this game but also because we had lost that winning feeling and that can be a very dangerous thing to do. However, since we lost at Hull City on New Years Day we have been steadily improving and although we aren’t anywhere near the level we were at last season we are definitely picking up.
Joel Robles has come into the side and been getting better with each game and his confidence is growing. The difference when a goalkeeper comes and takes crosses is brilliant for the defence and eases worries. The return of John Stones alongside Phil Jagielka has also massively helped the Blues because the way the manager wants to play it is vital to have a ball playing centre half who can defend and Stones does both with consummate ease. If we can get James McCarthy back into the midfield alongside Gareth Barry and Muhamed Besic then we could see Everton playing a higher tempo pressing game that saw them have so much success last season.
The addition of Aaron Lennon on loan this week has also given the squad a welcome boost. Lennon’s pace is something we have been crying out for since Gerard Duelofeu returned to Barcelona in the summer. Lennon is a good age at 27 and is obviously surplus to requirements at Spurs and could be available for around £6m in the summer and if he turns in some good performances he could make the move to Goodison Park permanently. What Lennon will give us is the ability to get to the byline and cut the ball back and that is where we need to improve his final ball by ensuring that we have bodies in there to finish the crosses off. Lukaku, Kone and Naismith can all benefit from Lennon’s ability to get 1v1 with a fullback and deliver a ball across the box. I must admit that I am quite excited by Seamus Coleman and Aaron Lennon on side and Leighton Baines and Kevin Mirallas on the other side. If Lukaku can get himself into the areas that he did on Saturday to score the winner at Palace then he can certainly add to his tally for the remainder of the season.
Saturday’s game gives us the chance to improve a dreadful win ratio against our beloved neighbours which stands at an unbelievably bad 4 wins in 15 years ! That is crazy given how poor they have been in that period and it is about time we began to have belief in ourselves that we can beat them. They currently sit in the top 7 and have only lost 2 less games than us this season so they aren’t all that. Last season’s game at Goodison should have seen us smash them about 9-5 in the end but for some poor finishing and Simon Mingolet having one of his better days. This time they are on a bit of form but do not have the nemesis that was Luis Suarez and therefore although Raheem Sterling is playing well we have to believe we have enough to beat them and the crowd will be right up for this one.
So I will finish this little ditty by saying to Everton ‘let’s upset the apple cart’ , let’s ruin Sky Sports day by winning the game and not giving them a chance eulogise over Gerrard for hours afterwards ! It is our time chance to give Sky a kick in the proverbials and I for one pray that we actually perform this time and leave messrs Carragher and Redknapp sulking in the corner !
Just win it Blues !!!