It was a privilege to be at the London Stadium last Friday evening. Not for the quality of the football, although it was a small improvement on what we have previously seen this season. No, the reason was the energy and commitment of the players, which in turn led to the fans giving a demonstration of what backing a team is all about. The volume of support was right up there with what we heard in the games against Chelsea (EFL Cup) and Tottenham last season. The difference this time was that we weren’t actually winning the game. In some ways it was reminiscent of the infamous FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest over a quarter of a century ago when Keith Hackett totally ruined a game of football, but the fans continued to support the team until the end. The only disappointment was that we couldn’t get a winning goal, but nevertheless the fans received plaudits from players, pundits and the media generally for the voluminous and continuous support.
Now, can we please put an end to the stadium excuses and comments regarding lack of atmosphere? If the players demonstrate their commitment, then the fans will show theirs. Those of us who have been supporters for many years will accept losing games. What we won’t accept is heads going down when a goal is conceded, or lack of effort. As David Moyes has said, full commitment for 90 minutes should be the absolute minimum that players should give to a game. Too often in recent times that hasn’t been the case. It is still early days, and there is a long way to go, but I have to say that I have been very impressed with the start that our new manager and coaching staff have made. There was some ridiculous criticism of an appointment of a manger who, arguably, has been more successful (certainly in terms of league positions attained) than any other manager in our history. The players have been given a justifiable kick up the backside, so let us hope that the increased enthusiasm leads to some positive results, especially in view of the tough fixture list coming up.
The game against the Toffees is one where both teams are considered to be in crisis, perhaps Everton even more surprisingly than ourselves. They were widely tipped to finish seventh in the Premier League and perhaps be challenging the dominance of the elite six. Quite clearly that hasn’t happened, Koeman was sacked around a month ago, and surprisingly they have left a caretaker (Unsworth) in charge. If anything their season has nosedived still further in the last month, and Moyes has said we are going into the game full of confidence. I have some reservations, partly because of our past record against teams who are in poor form, where somehow they seem to relish our visit which enables them to turn their form around. Beware a wounded toffeeman, he can be a dangerous beast!
Wayne Rooney in particular has had a miserable return to his home town club, and a miserable few months off the pitch too. He has been left on the bench for the past couple of games, but somehow I can see him being picked for our visit and we all know what an impressive record he has when playing against us. But at least we haven’t got Lukaku to deal with this time!
Everton actually began the season well with a 1-0 win against Stoke in the opener, followed by an even more impressive draw at Manchester City in their next match. They still remain the only team (with 13 games of the season gone) to have denied City a three point haul in a game. Of course City are our next opponents at the weekend, and if recent history is anything to go by then many will be dusting down their abacuses in readiness for our visit to the Etihad, but perhaps it is our time to turn the tables on a team in superb form?
After the four points from their opening two games, Everton have only won twice more, 2-1 against Bournemouth, and an extremely fortuitous 3-2 victory over Watford (from 2-0 down). If you believe in sequences, then Everton seem to win a game, then fail to win in the next four. They won their first, sixth, and eleventh game of the season, so they are not due a victory until the sixteenth (this is game 14). But we are a good bet to help other teams break a sequence aren’t we?
Once more our game is being televised, so I’ll settle down with my Everton mints and hope that we can get at them as soon as the Z-Cars theme is over. An early goal from us would hopefully get the home crowd on the backs of their players. The Merseyside natives are getting restless with the performances of their team in recent games, so let us hope they don’t choose to up their game for this one, as they have frequently done in the past few seasons against us. At the time of writing this article they still haven’t appointed a permanent manager, but our old friend Big Sam is widely tipped to be taking over the reins there. Their search is now even more urgent after their poor performance in a 4-1 defeat at Southampton at the weekend.
As with all West Ham games this is a difficult one to call, and despite their indifferent form, the bookmakers still have Everton as firm favourites to win the match. Historically they have a far superior record in games against us with 68 wins in 136 matches, and we have only beaten them once in the league (either home or away) in the last ten years (3-2 at Goodison in 2016, after coming back from two down). Perhaps it is now our turn to break our sequence of poor results against them?