Mar 29, 2014

I am not some Johnny Come Lately in regards

To my support for Everton FC in the English Premier League (EPL).  I picked them as my team some time in the late-Nineties, probably just after I finished reading Nick Hornby's smashing Arsenal memoir, Fever Pitch.

Liverpudlian ladies model Everton FC's  kit.

I picked Everton because I did not want to support the super rich big city clubs in London like Arsenal, Chelsea, or Spurs.  My London club is Fulham (who right now are on the verge of being relegated.) And, I did not want to support Man U, as they were the hottest thing on the planet at that time, and everybody here in the States loved them.  (Now, most folks here in the States are madly enamored with Arsenal.  Yuck.)

When I found out there was another club in Liverpool, that was not nearly as wonderful as Liverpool FC, a club that was the underdog of one of the biggest underdog cities in the world, well, that was it for me.  It was just gravy on my chips when my favorite football player of all-time, Landon Donovan, had two loan spells with Everton, and the Liverpudlians really took to him, and loved him.

Everton are nothing if not consistent.  For the last decade and a half Everton FC have finished on the top half of the table every single season.  That is great except they have never finished fifth or higher.  If you finish in the top five of the EPL that means the next season you get to play in "Europe".  In either the Champions League, the greatest club football tournament in the world, or the NIT version of Champions League, Europa.

Everton always finished between sixth and tenth during that spell.  Not good enough for Europe, but still nowhere close to relegation, either.

But, this year something beautiful might just happen for the Toffees -- Everton's nickname.  Man U's Sir Alec retired after last season, and Everton's coach, David Moyes, took the job at Man U. Everton hired a very good young Spanish coach, Roberto Martinez, who had had a fair amount of success with some other lesser known Welsh and English football clubs.  The conventional wisdom going in to this season was that Man U would continue its winning ways, and Everton would probably end up on the bottom part of the table.

That has not happened.  Martinez has done a masterful job of incorporating a smashing counter attacking style, and has nurtured some very fine young talent, and judiciously used some loan players to give Everton their first real crack at going to Europe in ages.  Meanwhile, down the road in Manchester, David Moyes is probably receiving death threats, and is being lambasted every single day, as Man U have had -- for them -- a very rough season.  They will probably finish  in sixth or seventh place.

I think a fifth place finish for Everton is on the cards.  They are one point up on Spurs, but still have a game in hand.  A fifth place finish would get Everton in to the Europa tourney next year.

But, recently, Arsenal have been struggling, including getting shellacked by Chelsea about a week ago, 6-nil.  A few days later Arsenal gave up an own goal in the ninetieth minute against lightly considered Swansea, and were only able to muster up a draw.

So, there is still hope for Everton to finish in fourth place.  Everton have a big game tomorrow against Fulham.  It is a game they really have to win if they have any legitimate shot at making it to Champions League.  The game after that is against the team they are chasing, Arsenal, up at Goodison Park in Liverpool.

We will see what happens.  When I am in London a few weeks from now Everton will be facing Sunderland at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland.  I will be in Paris when Everton square off against Arsenal the day before my birthday.


UPDATE:  Arsenal drew 1-1 against title contenders, Man City, in London today, and are seven points ahead of Everton as of this moment.  The big shocker in the EPL today, though, was Crystal Palace beating Chelsea 1-nil on a own goal by John Terry.


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