I expect Everton to beat Manchester City.
Irrespective of whether it helps Liverpool win the league, Everton need to worry about themselves. It might be a quandary for the fans, but it really can’t be. Forget about what’s happening on the other side of Stanley Park, we need to be sure that we do what’s good for Everton and without a moment’s hesitation, that is beating City. We need to win for Everton, not for anyone else.
We need to keep the pressure on Arsenal and also because we lost to Southampton. There’s six points and the slim chance of a Top Four finish if things go well, but if things go badly, there’s a chance of three defeats on the bounce to end the season and the optimism taking a big knock ahead of next season.
It’s Toff, but we can’t let up
It’s in Arsenal’s hands, but we have got to hold up our end of the bargain. Getting Champions League football could mean the difference between signing a top quality player or two during the summer or not – the potential reward is huge. Imagine if Arsenal slipped up against West Brom and Norwich and we missed out because we took the foot off the gas – that would make me sick to my stomach knowing we basically threw it away.
The fans see it as a no-win situation and I can understand that. We’re stuck. It’s like getting married but having to invite your mother in law! I think deep down, most Evertonians have prepared themselves for the possibility of Liverpool winning the league, so we’ve just got to worry about ourselves.
If you look at it one way, beating City and helping the Reds win the league is good for us because we can claim that they wouldn’t have been able to do it without us!
Plus, if we show we’re capable of beating teams like City, Arsenal, United and competing for Champions League football, it gets noticed by players around the world and they’ll think about joining when they otherwise may not have.
Everybody needs good neighbours
It’s different for the players. The players don’t begrudge Liverpool any success. That was how it was in my day and for all the changes in football, I’m sure it’s still the same. It spurs you on to do better. You look at what they’re achieving and think ‘I want that and I’m going to do everything I can to get it’. You don’t think about it during games because you’re just focused on winning your games, but in training, it can pop into your head and drive you on.
These days, so many of the players are foreign, they don’t fully grasp the importance of the local rivalry. If I had my way, I’d have new signings sit in front of a few of the most hardcore fans and talk to them about what it means to them and what they expect. A type of induction – making them aware of how the fans feel. A lot of the players drive to training, drive home, don’t really socialise in the city and rarely cross paths with fans. They kind of treat the fans like they have leprosy and they don’t understand how much it means to them.
I don’t recall too many occasions when we went into games needing to do another team a favour, but it did happen indirectly. It was always about winning the game for ourselves first and foremost. I can remember not doing teams a favour when we played them.
We might have been out of contention for the league or safely mid-table and they might have been fighting to stay up, but we’d win and effectively send them down. That’s hard. You’re doing someone else a favour, but you’re not really conscious of it until the final whistle. You’ve killed someone’s dream. I know they’ve gotten themselves in that situation with how they’ve played for the rest of the season, but it’s hard to be the executioner when you finally put the bullets in their heads. It’s tough on the fans and I found it gutting when I saw fans walking out of the stadium absolutely dejected after going down.
The pressure on City is huge and they’re not a team renowned for their unfailing nerves of steel. Not yet at least. The pressure on the players is severe. With the money and squad they have, this league should have been in the bag at this stage. I know it’s the manager’s first season, but he was basically working with a squad that had won the league the season before last and he added a few more top class players to the mix.
They’ve under-performed and with Chelsea in transition, Arsenal falling away and Manchester United out of contention early on, this should have been easy pickings. It’s hard to keep players happy when you’ve got a big squad and people miss out, but they should have won.
Everton can win it. Some of the football City play on the attack is brilliant, but they’re still suspect at the back. You can get at them. We’ll being going for a win because that’s the only Roberto Martinez knows how to play. We’ll have to score two to win it because they’ll score.
Leave it a-loan
It’s wrong that Gareth Barry can’t play because he’s on loan. It strikes me as not wanting to embarrass the parent club more than anything else. If it was about wanting the player to develop and come back a better player, then why not let him play every game, particularly against the top class opposition? We saw it with Chelsea and Atletico during the work. Thibaut Courtois played, had a great game and he has invaluable experience he would never have got if he wasn’t allowed play. It hurts now I’m sure, but Chelsea will eventually end up with a better goalkeeper for it all.
It’ll be close, but we can win it at odds of 7/2. It’d be great to score early and force them to come out and attack us. That would suit us nicely. It’s the last home game of a good season – the crowd will be buzzing and we’re good enough to beat them. I’m going for a 2-1 scoreline at 13/1. A lad who has been catching my eye a lot lately is Steven Naismith. He’s not a huge favourite of the fans, but he works his knackers off. He chases everything and attackers like that are always likely to get you a goal.