Say what you like about Everton, but they don’t get relegated very often, and when they do, they do it in style. In fact, they’ve only been sent down twice. In 1930, a mere two years after Dixie Dean’s 60-goal title-winning season, the Ev were relegated despite winning four of their last five games. They drew the other one, 3-3 at Manchester United, having been 3-1 to the good, dropping a point that would have kept them up. Then in 1951, their fate was sealed on the final day in a 6-0 humiliation at Sheffield Wednesday. “To abuse Everton at this stage,” wrote Donny Davies in Big Paper, “would be too much like picking up a person badly mauled from a street accident and reading him a lecture on the folly of jay-walking.” Talk about slyly putting the boot in. A drop-kicking, if you will.
Whether the current iteration of the Ev are quite as hopeless as those particular forefathers is a moot point, though Monday night’s 5-0 hammering at Tottenham doesn’t exactly help. It’s true that games between the two clubs are rarely predictable: Everton have won 5-4 and lost 6-2 at Goodison in recent years, while Tottenham’s all-time highest goal haul in the league came in a 10-4 win at White Hart Lane in Bill Nicholson’s first game in charge. (“It can only get worse,” a deadpan Danny Blanchflower told the new boss as he ambled off the pitch and down the tunnel, whistling insouciantly.) But this collapse has come at the worst possible time, with Everton one point above the relegation zone, and what would be only their fifth season out of the top flight since the league began in 1888 now a very real possibility.
“I have no problems with the challenge,” insisted Frank Lampard after this latest fiasco. That statement might not survive full scrutiny, given Everton have lost four of the seven games played since he took over, and in two of the other three, his team could only manage five goals in 180 minutes against non-league Boreham Wood and a defence given instructions by Marcelo Bielsa. Those early Goodison parties against Leeds and Brentford in the Cup suddenly look less the start of the honeymoon, more a dead cat bounce.
That may explain why Lampard went on to blame individual errors over any perceived tactical incompetence. “The first 15 minutes looked like I wanted it to,” he began, his voice barely audible above the sound of running water and freshly soaped hands, “but the crucial part of Tottenham’s game as a counterattacking team is to find space behind you and the players were aware of that and didn’t deal with it.” Lampard went on to bemoan “issues that were there before me and don’t take care of themselves overnight”, which is fair enough until you consider he’s had 37 overnights now to address at least one thing, something, anything, and has only another six to work out a plan for the visit of Wolves that doesn’t involve throwing his players under the bus in the post-match presser.
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Join Scott Murray from 8pm GMT for hot Big Cup coverage of Liverpool 2-1 Inter (agg: 4-1), while Paul Doyle will be on hand for Bayern Munich 2-0 RB Salzburg (agg: 3-1).
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We looked at all aspects of how football operates at the moment and in a large number of cases clubs are living in the dark ages and are failing to cater adequately for 51% of the population. Public attitudes towards sexism and misogyny are changing, and football needs to change too. Clubs need to create an environment that is safe, welcoming and inclusive for all women” – Dr Stacey Pope, co-author of a new study from the Fair Game campaigning body, which found that two-thirds of clubs in England and Wales have all-male boards.
David Squires on the sale of Chelsea and tough times for those poor, downtrodden oligarchs.
A special Football Weekly episode, talking to Inhulets Petrove’s assistant coach Mladen Bartulovic about his experiences of the invasion of Ukraine.
“Re: Alan Collins’ sickness at the lack of corners taken within the lines (yesterday’s Fiver letters). Can I be the third of 1,057 pedants to point out it’s a quadrant, not a semi-circle, in the corner? I quite agree with the sentiment, though” – Chris Wakeling (and 1,056 others).
“I’m with Alan on petty infringements. What about the six-second rule? Keepers wasting time are taking liberties now and referees are doing nothing. The Middlesbrough keeper managed 25 seconds late in the recent cup win, although it was against Spurs, so maybe fair enough” – Robert Macmillan.
“Re: punishing foul throws. Anyone taking a foul throw in the Nottsborough FC third team is hit with a mandatory pint-downing fine. If this was introduced in the top flight, refs and fans might be keener to call them out” – Dan Ashley.
“If Alan hadn’t already switched off Forest v Huddersfield last night due to the amount of corners clearly being taken from outside of the quadrant, I dread to think what action he took upon viewing Pipa’s injury-time throw-in” – Jim Hearson.
“Many people have mentioned their favourite tea-time email being shortened (Fiver letters passim). Mine have not: what did I do to deserve this punishment?” – JJ Zucal (and others).
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
The former Aston Villa defender and Everton manager Gordon Lee has died at the age of 87.
Scotland’s World Cup play-off semi-final against Ukraine is looking for a new date after being postponed. Meanwhile, the Premier League and FA have suspended their agreements with Russian broadcasters.
Nottingham Forest are on their way to a rollicking FA Cup quarter-final with Liverpool after beating Huddersfield 2-1 in the fifth round. “I said to the players in the dressing room – enjoy this but then it’s Reading [on Saturday],” cheered manager Steve Cooper.
With only 14 senior players available and a 5-0 first-leg advantage for Manchester City against Sporting, Pep Guardiola is feeling funky at Kyle Walker for his Big Cup ban. “I’m still so angry with him,” sniffed Guardiola.
And James Rowe, who left his position at Chesterfield following allegations of misconduct, is the new Fylde manager. “We have done our due diligence on James and, while it is clear he is no shrinking violet, we are confident James will bring winning mentality to the club, which we all want,” tooted chairman David Haythornthwaite.
STILL WANT MORE?
Why Rachel Pavlou is an unsung hero of the English women’s game. By Suzy Wrack.
Raúl Vilchis looks at what lay behind Mexico’s brutal weekend football riot.
Barney Ronay on the self-sustaining media industry of Manchester United being bad.
Fulham are yo-yoing back upwards, but despite goals, style and an incoming rooftop pool, will the inevitable happen next year? Paul Doyle has a gander.
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