And so it goes, another season (almost) ended and what an odd season it was. Certainly, as Everton’s late unlamented manager Walter Smith would have it , it was “disappointing”. An eighth place finish was okay, especially given the awful start to the season, but not qualifying for Europe has to be seen as a setback. Next season, Everton fans who posit the idea that no midweek games will mean a fresher, brighter Everton in the league and domestic cups and consequently a better showing, will certainly have their theory tested. I’m of the view that playing European opposition and learning from your mistakes makes for a better, more competitive side. I would also ask my fellow blues if they wouldn’t swap our eight place finish for Fulham’s eleventh place and a shot at the Europa League title? I think I know the answer to that.
Of course, it is that second part of the equation where Everton come undone. On one hand being able to compete and beat several of the best sides in Europe domestically (Chelsea, Manchester Utd.) and then falling to frankly mediocre European opposition is a conundrum that David Moyes will have a whole season to ponder, hopefully in preparation for future European campaigns.
The explanations of Everton’s poor start- injuries on a slightly less than Somme-like scale, completely legit- and the rather more spurious claim that the whole shabby Lescott saga upset pre-season preparations, still beg the question of David Moyes; while the injuries were unavoidable, surely the Lescott deal could have been expedited with less fuss and less disruption? Surely this is why you are paid thousands of pounds a week. And three home wins before Christmas? We are better than that.
A decent second half of the season, losing two games since November, unbeaten in our last ten league matches, saw Everton steadily climb out of the hole we had dug ourselves. That is a laudable achievement but draws with West Ham, Wolves, Birmingham, Villa and Stoke and two appalling derby losses all count as points thrown away. Convert the superiority shown by Everton in any of those games and you realize that Everton had the potential to yet again puncture the Big Four money-spinner cartel- as either Man City or Spurs are set to do, two sides I don’t believe are superior to a fully fit and firing Everton.
So opportunities missed- this Summer we’ll watch some World Cup and by August we will be raring to go again. Let’s hope Everton are too and get out of the blocks quickly next season. With this group of players, Everton have distinct possibilities…..