Every time I sit in the Goodison Park press box, my gaze is drawn across the field to a billboard in front of the Lower Bullens Road stand.
That’s where the late, great Ray Wikins came and sat down during a break in play when QPR played Everton in November 1993. According to reports from that day, he actually signed an autograph before taking a corner. I don’t remember that, but I remember him sitting there talking to the fans when my dad and I were there, a few rows down.
I’m not an Everton fan but I used to go there every now and then when I was younger. It was 40 minutes from our house and Everton always played good football. Or at least they tried.
So I was there when Howard Kendall’s privateer team of future champions beat Sunderland 4-1 with that feat in 1985, and even darker, on the misty night that Jim Beglin found himself less than two years later at a Merseyside -Derby broke his leg.
I was even there the day Efan Ekoku scored four goals in the 5-1 win against Norwich. A guy named Chris Sutton scored the other hit.
Everton are currently bottom of the Premier League table after losing their first two games of the season
They are expected to face another relegation battle in their final season at Goodison Park
Sean Dyche has done an admirable job so far but is facing increasing opportunities after a disappointing transfer window
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At least in part, it’s those memories of the throbbing, humming Goodison Park that make me so sad looking at Everton now.
Surrounded on all sides by houses, a school, a main street and a street with pubs and chip shops, this super old stadium still looks the same. It still refers so unequivocally to this historic past.
But Everton won’t be playing there this time next year. You will have moved into what appears to be a stunning new home on the water. But what about Everton in his final season at Liverpool? I really shudder when I think about it.
They play Wolves at home on Saturday and are bottom of the table after two games of the new Premier League season. Two games? Usually it doesn’t mean anything but I think at Everton it means everything. 1-0 at home against Fulham and 4-0 away against Aston Villa are the numbers on the board so far.
Everton is a club that gets so many things right. Off the field, they do as much for their community as almost any club in the country and more than most. But things around football often feel desperate these days. When her name shows up on sports sites, it’s often bad news.
Everton’s board, for example, still don’t feel safe attending games. They haven’t done so since January. And when defender James Tarkowski defiantly attempted to discuss the team’s prospects in an interview with The Times yesterday, it emerged that potential investors from America had pulled out of talks for a 25 per cent stake in the club.
Sean Dyche is the man currently tasked with keeping Everton afloat as all of this swirls around him. He was hired to keep Everton in the loop last season and on the last day he pulled it off. He averaged 1.16 points per game, which translates to a 44-point season. Under the circumstances, that was perfectly adequate.
But Dyche was so successful all those years at Burnley because he was able to slowly build a side that was able to do the things he wanted to do and play the way he wanted to play.
The Toffees are still without a clear forward after Dominic Calvert-Lewin picked up a facial injury
Everton are set to move into a spectacular new home but it remains to be seen what state they will be in when they arrive
Ian Ladyman asks what will become of Everton’s final season at their iconic old stadium
At Everton he has no chance to do that. He arrived on January 30 thinking he might be able to sign a centre-forward at the last minute. It did not happen.
This summer the club have tried to sell fringe players to give their manager something – anything – to play with. The net result of this was Ashley Young’s free loanee Arnaut Danjuma from Spain and a purchase, youthful forward Youssef Chermiti from Portugal, who is described as ‘for the future’.
As he tries to avoid the same fate that befell Frank Lampard, Rafa Benitez, Marco Silva, Sam Allardyce, Ronaldo Koeman and Roberto Martinez – sacking – he must rely on the task of giving a squad a chance that he knows he desperately needs an injection full of energy, freshness and life.
Will Dyche make it? I wouldn’t go against him, but the odds are getting bigger for him. This season’s squad is worse than last season’s and almost went under. So imagine.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin remains his best chance but the centre-forward will be out again on Saturday, this time with a facial injury.
Everton’s top scorer last season was Dwight McNeill with seven goals. The year before it was Brazilian Richarlison with 10. Calvert-Lewin’s contribution in those two campaigns? Seven.
That’s why the Evertonians will pray for their striker’s fitness and pray that Dyche can turn water, if not quite, into wine, then into something with some life.
The stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock awaits. Leaving Goodison will be a huge blow – another part of the fabric of English football will disappear and the city will change forever.
I just hope Everton are still playing top-flight football after their departure. Because if that weren’t the case, I wouldn’t be very optimistic about seeing her again any time soon.
Pacey Foden flies under Pep
Phil Foden has been electrifying in a more central position this season than before
Watching Phil Foden paint magical pictures in a new central position for Manchester City against Newcastle was thrilling and reminded me of a lunchtime conversation almost five years ago.
When Pep Guardiola resisted pressure to use a youthful Foden more regularly in his first-team in early 2019, the man who guided his early days at City had an explanation and prognosis too.
“Philip is just missing one thing,” said City youth academy leader Jim Cassell when Foden was spotted. “He just needs that next growth, that boost in pace that takes him away from the players.” “The pace that Lionel Messi and Paul Gascoigne had. When that comes – and it will – you’ll see him fly.”
It’s fair to say that the pace is now many times faster and the player Jack Grealish thinks is the most skilled at the club can actually fly. Guardiola has a decision to make once Kevin De Bruyne is fit again. Cassell, meanwhile, was pushed out the door by City 10 years ago.
It seemed strange then, and it still seems strange today.
Lionesses owe their fans
It was not the decision of the England women’s team to leave Heathrow through the back door upon their return from the World Cup. Still it happened and it left a crowd of young fans waiting for them in the arrivals hall feeling disappointed and disrespected.
England midfielder Georgia Stanway says the team will be “engaging with fans via social media” but that doesn’t feel good enough.
Fans waited at Heathrow to welcome the Lionesses back after reaching the World Cup final
Many were disappointed when players quietly walked out the back door
As the 24-year-old told This Morning, there’s a game coming up soon, next month in Sunderland against Scotland. An open training session – or similar public access – would prove correct.
Chris Wilder’s five years at Sheffield United ended bitterly in March 2021 but time heals.
Club owner Prince Abdullah recently said: ‘If I needed advice right now I would call Chris and ask.’ Part of this year’s promotion goes to Chris.’
United have a very good manager in Paul Heckingbottom. But if it doesn’t work out, who would benefit from the smart money?