As an Evertonian, if you’d offered me a 1-1 home draw with Birmingham before the season began, I’d have been more than a little disappointing. That’s meant with no disrespect for Birmingham, it just goes to show how quickly things can change in football and actually, given the circumstances, a home draw with Birmingham (who were, let’s not forget, the form team in the league going into this game, should not be too much of a disappointment.
That’s what I felt when I rolled bleary-eyed out of bed at 6.55am this morning and checked the score at least. But then, an hour and fifty-five minutes later having watched the delayed coverage of the match, I was beginning to feel disappointed again. Watching the game you’d have sworn, had you not known otherwise, that Everton were the form team and that Birmingham were struggling. We completely dominated them and to only get a point is a bit hard to take. But I think we’re right to be not too disappointed.
While another draw (our third in a row in the league) hasn’t helped us significantly in terms of league position, it was the performance that was really encouraging today. From the word go we took the game to Birmingham and played some really good football, lovely short passing stuff, the sort of football that proved so successful for us last season. And that makes a nice change because I’ll be the first to admit that so far this season, we’ve shown a distinct lack of creativity much of the time.
That has led to many Everton fans on forums and fansites that i visit branding us a ‘hoofball’ team and even having the nerve to tentatively question David Moyes’ role at the club – nonsense. Yesterday’s game was about the least makeshift side we’ve been able to field all season (with only Lucas Neill playing out of position and no youngsters in the starting lineup) and it showed. Pienaar, Bilyaletdinov and the returning Osman brought the much-needed spark across the midfield and Louis Saha again showed just what a shame it is that his career has been so blighted by injury.
Also impressive has been the recent form of Marouane Fellaini and today’s showing from Tim Cahill, who has been a shadow of his former self for a while now. The thing is though, Fellaini has finally had the chance to play in his more natural withdrawn midfield role and is flourishing, while the return of Pienaar and Osman from injury has allowed Cahill to get back to his position just off the striker. Finally, we have a team of players all playing in their strongest positions and it showed – we were excellent.
And that was something of a relief. Many fellow fans and pundits have been touting the dreaded ‘R’ word about with regards to Everton but I never believed it. I always maintained that when, eventually, our dreadful luck with injuries abated we would soon charge up the league because we have a very, very good squad. And yesterday, even with many injury troubles still hanging over us (nine first teamers are still missing), Everton started to justify my confidence in them.
Yes, we did only get a draw, but I have no idea how we didn’t win the game. It would be easy to be disappointed with that of course – we had the chances, we had the possession and Birmingham only had two attacks for christ’s sake (in fact, I think their goal may have been their only shot on goal), so you could very well argue that we absolutely should have won the game and must therefore be disappointed with only a point. And in a normal season, you’d be right, and I would be disappointed. This season though, has been far from normal.
And so bad has this season been that a home draw with Birmingham (regardless of the form they’re in) is no bad thing. The crucial thing is that the performance that the boys in blue put on today represented in another step round the corner and another step to finally getting our season on track. It started with the loss to Liverpool, another game we dominated and has been exacerbated with the win against AEK Athens and draws with Tottenham and Chelsea – the Everton of old are on their way back.
And so while I would have loved a present of three points for Christmas, I’m actually just as satisfied to see my team finally finding their feet. The signs are clearly there now to suggest that before too long (barring a massive injury relapse from certain players) Everton will be back winning games sooner rather than later and that this season may not have to be a complete write-off after all – hell, given the tight nature of the League this season, exceptional post-Christmas form could even see us with an outside chance of Europe!
So although on paper a draw with Birmingham should probably be a result to dull the Christmas cheer, I’m actually feeling pretty upbeat about it. Not only have we got a point off a good team who are bang in form but we showed genuine glimpses of quality – at times we even made Birmingham look like the relegation battlers they most certainly aren’t and that should only encourage all Evertonians this Christmas. So well done Blue Boys, enjoy your Christmas and let’s get back to winning ways on Boxing Day eh?
PS. It was great to see James Vaughan make a fleeting appearance as a late substitute – the boy’s had terrible luck with injuries, let’s hope that this time he can establish himself and stay fit and healthy. All the best from me James.
PPS. If Fabio Capello can overlook Leighton Baines as England’s second choice left-back after his performance yesterday then… well, he’s not fit for the England job. Baines was fucking brilliant.
Have your say:
What did you make of Everton’s performance? Do you agree that Everton, with injured players returning, will turn the corner? Or are we still in for a relegation fight? Leave a comment with your thoughts below…