The season can hinge on these next three games coming up. If you don’t have a good Christmas all your dreams are dashed.
Howard Kendall knew how to handle us if our form started to dip. He’d take us all for a Chinese and a few beers knowing that any tensions would emerge then and get sorted.
Ok, so Kevin Sheedy and Martin Keown had a fight on one night out but they came in the next day shook hands and got on with it. It never affected the dressing-room. I don’t think we lost a game all season after it. Sh*t happens.
Christmas marks the business end of the season. Liverpool used to say we’ll have our Christmas party at the end of the season.
When Everton last won the title in 1986/87 we won all four games over Christmas (Newcastle 4-0, Leicester 5-1, Aston Villa 3-0, QPR 1-0).
Everton start with Sunderland on December 26 and can keep their excellent home record going. The Black Cats may have beaten Chelsea last Tuesday night but they were never in it until they got the equaliser. Everton are well capable of beating Sunderland and we’ve been scoring more goals than Chelsea all season.
They then face a Southampton side on Sunday, December 29 who lost to Spurs at the weekend. The Saints’ form has dipped slightly of late and three points here would see Everton unbeaten at Goodison at home in the league in 2013. That’s a great record to build on heading into the New Year.
But there’s no point at looking at the ‘bigger picture’ because you get injuries and suspensions when the games come thick and fast. The club with the best bench will come out on top over the festive pile up, and over the rest of the season.
I used to take the games as ‘blocks of three’ at most and just deal with whatever came at you next. I worked it out on the basis of not making a mistake that would cost you a goal. So if I didn’t make a mistake in the first game I knew I’d just two left, and then I started again. A lot of sacrifices have to be made and there’ll be some freak results. With the form the Toffees are in – we can take all the points. Everton took nine from 12 last season and are a much better side this year.
Roberto Martinez picks his team to win the game and then the next one and that’s a real strength. When we beat Stoke 4-0 at Goodison, I thought the Potters were certainties to be relegated. They looked as if they didn’t give a monkey’s whether they got beat. We can do them at the Britannia Stadium on New Year’s Day..
You need to peak in summer
Howard Kendall believed you had to peak near the end around May. As long as we were in the top six by the Christmas fixtures we knew we could make ground and push on in the New Year. And that’s what we did. When we were last battling for trophies we knew we were poor starters but very good finishers. In pre-season we did everything with a ball and didn’t do much running – maybe 15 minutes max.
As for 2014 – Everton need to get another few players in to make sure we finish the season as strong as we started it.
Look at the stats. Since the Premier League started, 11 sides that have been top since January 1 have gone on to be crowned champions. That’s not coincidence.
I hope Merseyside can take over from Manchester again as the power house of English football. Manchester City have underachieved given the resources they have.
If Everton play their cards right we could be top three by the end of the season with all the other clubs in flux. United are struggling because David Moyes has been handed a time-bomb. Players are unhappy, others are on the way out and it’s a time of change.
Chelsea’s stalwarts like John Terry and Frank Lampard are near the end of their careers so there’s upheaval there as well. Arsenal are three injuries short of a disaster.
This season is massive to Everton. But they must take advantage because the big clubs will spend their way out of a crisis eventually. Martinez has to rely on loan deals and attracting young players with slick, attacking football. The others can get established stars by waving the chequebook at them. They’ll rebuild in January and July.
Everton need to kick on and get a return from the progress they’re making this season before the big four start to regroup again. Maximum points from the festive fixtures will help their cause.
- What do you think? Can Everton finish in the top four?