What a week it has been as an Evertonian. It’s been a week that has contained more drama than a bus journey through Kenny and here is my assessment of the past seven days.
The week started with Everton being heavily linked with a move for Ukrainian playmaker Andriy Yarmolenko which certainly had our fans foaming at the mouth – unless that was just the after effects of a heavy weekend – but unfortunately this ‘move’ has fallen flat on its face because he will be staying at Kyiv for at least another year. It was exciting whilst it lasted, even though we don’t know for sure if we were even in for him at all. Twitter was off its head with this rumour – I think we’ve all become fluent in Russian/Ukrainian because of all the translating we’ve done. He was great against us for Kyiv last season, but unfortunately we won’t be seeing him play for us anytime soon.
These reports were closely followed by the news Everton had made moves for Argentinian defender Ramiro Funes Mori from River Plate and Uruguayan striker Leandro Rodriguez from River Plate Montevideo. Both players were at the City game on Sunday and Mori was pictured walking around L4 with an Everton scarf on – which makes Everton look a bit daft if we don’t end up signing him. There is an issue with a work permit for Mori and Martinez has admitted the deal is not yet concluded, and there is also no concrete news on the Rodriguez developments. Even though these two are relatively unknowns, it was good to see Everton actually attempting to sign players – about bloody time too.
*Just a note on the above – since writing this piece Martinez has now confirmed that the Mori deal is close to completion – admitting he is excited by signing the defender. Leandro Rodriguez has now been confirmed as an Everton player and will initially join up with the Club’s Under 21 side.
To the City game on Sunday and Everton did OK on the day but doing OK isn’t good enough when you are facing Man City. City’s quality got the better of us with Silva and Aguero in glittering form but I was disappointed that we didn’t see the fluid, vibrant Everton that we witnessed at St Mary’s the week previous. Lukaku’s first-half goal should have stood, but apart from that we didn’t create an awful lot going forward and City eventually ran out 2-0 victors scoring twice in the second half. Defensively we were carved open for Kolarov and Nasri’s goals and don’t even get my started on Tim Howard, I’ll be here all day. A player who makes a few good saves (which is his job) but then consistently makes costly errors that cost Everton points. Don’t be blinded by the fact that Tim will play well in a couple of games and make a few impressive stops – overall he isn’t good enough, always makes mistakes and somehow gets away with it by keeping his place. As you can tell I’m not his biggest fan.
We’ve started with a draw, a win and a loss, but we travel to Spurs with the chance to get another three points on the board and go into the international break with a boost.
Following the City game and on Tuesday this week we were dealt the news that John Stones had handed in a transfer request at Goodison Park. I honestly couldn’t believe it when I saw it on Sky Sports News – I thought ‘no not him, of all our players, not John Stones, he just doesn’t seem the type’ – but then I soon remembered he has no affinity to Everton FC, the City of Liverpool, he has an agent and he is a Premier League footballer. Nothing should surprise me anymore. Stones is a lad who seems to have a strong head on his shoulders, he appears to be very grounded and not the type to kick up a fuss but after weeks of speculation, underhand tactics and public interest from Chelsea, the media confirmed the news that Stones had told Everton of his desire to leave.
Once I read this news I thought there was only going to be one way this would end – Stones would be a Chelsea player come the 2nd September. We have found ourselves in this position time and time again, we’ve heard our Club tell us our star players are ‘not for sale’ and so on, but they’ve still gone on to leave. Everton’s stance hadn’t changed throughout all of this, but with the player openly submitting a request to leave, I honestly thought the writing was on the wall. Chelsea kept lodging bids for the 21-year-old (the latest one was a reported £37 million) and typically the likes of them and Man City get what they want in the end. Why do we again find a player who feels the need to seek a move to achieve his goals, why can’t he do that with Everton? The truth is, we aren’t a big Club anymore and we can’t compete with the likes of City and Chelsea, we are now competing with the West Hams and Crystal Palaces of the League, but as a Club we never attempt to push ourselves forward or show sufficient ambition to make our star players want to stay. Plus we always seem to require incoming funds to balance the books, we never grasp an opportunity to build on what we have and tend to take a step back before we take a step forward. After seeing Stones hand in a request to leave I thought this would be the latest in a long list of disappointing scenarios whereby we lose our biggest asset and the Club cave in.
After a disruptive Tuesday night for all Evertonians, we then had a game to focus on as Martinez took his side to Barnsley for a League Cup clash on Wednesday evening. The League Cup has always been a massive disappointment for us – we’ve gone out to Fulham and Swansea in our last two seasons and it is about time we took the competition seriously. For me it is a quick route to silverware, even though many dismiss it is the Mickey Mouse Cup, at the end of the day it is silverware and this is something we haven’t achieved for more than 20 years.
To the game itself and Barnsley deserve huge credit for their performance against us throughout. In the first half we found ourselves two goals behind and the home side more than deserved their lead. Everton were at sixes and sevens at the back – with John Stones included in the starting XI – and we couldn’t contain our League One opponents. Aiden McGeady had a shocker upon his return to the side and Everton lacked any sort of cutting edge, with the only positive from the opening 45 minutes the performance of young right back Matthew Pennington. We all feared that a defeat here would only worsen the fume that had been generated from the Stones news 24-hours earlier.
However Martinez rung the changes at the break, Deulofeu and Barkley came on and the game changed immediately. Barkley looks like he is brimming with confidence and he saw a lot of the ball as did Deulofeu who came on to remind us just how good he can be. Everton were soon back on level terms with Mirallas (51) and Naismith (59) scoring in quick succession. The fight back was on. Well, for a minute at least. In typical Everton fashion, before we had finished celebrating Naismith’s leveller, Barnsley went up and scored a third. The home side were still going for it and did not back down against us for one minute, fair play to them. Everton would now have to chase the game again and eventually they got themselves another leveller through Lukaku (78). It makes me laugh how lots of our fans persistently slate Lukaku for being lazy yet he still ends up scoring a shed load of goals?! Anyway, Everton should have gone on to win the game after that but we missed a hatful of chances (34 attempts on goal overall) with Deulofeu, Naismith and Barkley all going close. Cleverley was doing a great job filling in at right back – he’s been a breath of fresh air since signing for us – and we continued to go at the home side with Deulofeu too hot to handle in attack. He is such a raw talent, can pluck a cross or shot from anything and constantly has the opposition on the back foot – great to see him back in royal blue.
The game ended up going to extra time and there was some tired legs out there, but thankfully through a Barnsley own goal (96) and Lukaku’s second (115) the Toffees progressed to the next round. Martinez looked fuming at half time and whatever he said to his players worked – we saw a reaction and even though Barnsley ran us close, our quality took us through and we scored some impressive goals along the way. At the back we looked shaky when Barnsley went forward and Robles had a poor game in between the sticks but overall the fact we conceded three times wasn’t down to us playing badly it was down to Barnsley playing well, and finishing their chances. Full credit to them but well done to Everton for overcoming the challenge, it definitely was an entertaining night of football at Oakwell.
Following on from Tuesday’s news about Stones handing in a transfer request, Martinez was again questioned after the Barnsley game on the subject and this is what he had to say – ‘Our fans know all we are doing is trying to become better and be as good as we can. John is a massive part of that and we’ve got a clear idea that in life and in football money can sometimes not buy everything. This is about values and John is a vital part of our future’. The Spaniard also confirmed that Everton will officially reject Stones’ transfer request on Thursday morning and reiterated to reporters that the defender is not for sale by answering ‘no, not at all’. Martinez was forthright in his approach to questions and gave one of his best interviews since arriving at Goodison Park, he has remained classy and dignified in his approach to the Stones subject throughout and I just hoped he wouldn’t be made to look stupid following the conclusion of this saga.
Martinez had been left on his own to field questions during a media-frenzy, fan unrest and also handle the footballing side of things too. The silence had been deafening from the Everton Board, no Club statements on their official website, nothing. This didn’t sit well with me – why haven’t we officially clarified our stance weeks ago rather than continue to let Martinez answer questions, for Stones to eventually hand in a request and then face the wrath of certain sections of our support.
Thankfully, as of 17:45pm on 27th August, Everton FC released that long overdue statement which read as below:
Everton Football Club has rejected a transfer request from John Stones. Since the start of the transfer window, we have resolutely turned down offers from another Premier League football club for our player. John is not for sale and he will remain a highly valued member of our first team squad. Bill Kenwright, Chairman, Everton Football Club.
I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by this and even though I have been quick to criticise Bill Kenwright and his colleagues in recent times I believe the Club deserve praise in this instance. They have stood firm, they have not been bullied by Chelsea who have been a disgrace, and they look set to keep a player who is a first class defender and still very young – he is still part of our future plans and Roberto has again stated this in his press conference this morning. Roberto was forthright in his approach to the subject – as he has had to be – and after a turbulent few months hopefully we can all now focus on the football again and get signing a few players ourselves.
Martinez admitted it has been an emotional time for all involved and it has, but thankfully it appears we can now all draw a line under the matter and get back to business. He spoke ahead of the trip to Spurs and had this to say:
“It’s been a really emotional period for everyone involved. The Football authorities need to act. We cannot allow one of our players to be so exposed when the competition is well under way and it’s disrespectful to the fans. The football authorities should not allow that to happen anymore. And not just at Everton. There are certain ways of doing deals.
“I think it is vitally important to show we have our own ambitions and we don’t rely on big offers coming in. I think many clubs would take the money, it shows we have an incredible chairman who wants the best for our football club. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves. It’s important because nowadays it seems money can buy everything.”
Although the news about Stones staying is massive for the Club, we should not judge this transfer window as a success because a player is staying. A transfer window should be judged when it has finished, so for now I’ll try not to be too critical, but we should have moved quicker and signed quality players to play alongside the ones we have already. In terms of numbers we’ve lost two (Distin and Alcaraz) and signed two (Henen and Holgate are young and not ready for the First Team) and as much as I am happy with the acquisitions of Cleverley and Deulofeu, I would have been a lot happier going into the season with a settled squad – a new number ten and defensive depth at the very minimum. This hasn’t happened as yet and the season has already begun, but it begs the question just why are we left waiting until the last minute to tie up our deals yet again? Was the Club seriously waiting for TV money to land? It always seems to be the case at Everton. Talk of fresh loans taken out by the Club, on the face of it we are begging, stealing and borrowing once again whilst certain people on the Everton Board take a tidy profit away from the Club even though they don’t actually give a shit about us?! I’ll try not to become too negative here because this is a largely positive piece, for once!
Roberto has insisted that he will make additions in our attacking areas and I am excited to see just who those players are. Jonathan De Guzman has been linked, as has Adnan Januzaj, but these would only be loan options – it would be nice to see us make permanent, exciting additions who will compliment what we already have. Of course we would take a loan or two, they are always welcome, but they have to be a bonus on top of what business we already do. I’d expect Aaron Lennon to sign – no doubt he has just been told to bide his time – and judging by Roberto’s comments we could be in for one or two surprises. He’s a little tease isn’t he, and he’s got a boss new jacket too.
In terms of outgoings I am unsure if anyone will leave Everton before the deadline slams shut on Tuesday. I think most Evertonians would be glad to see the back of Aiden McGeady, whilst Darron Gibson will surely be released to save on wages, but I can’t see their being any major departures at the Club.
After a summer that has been disrupted by the Stones saga I am hopeful that the transfer deadline will bring about a refreshing and positive end to business for Evertonians. I am pleased to see Everton standing firm in their beliefs this time around – not allowing themselves to be drawn into a horrible situation and keeping John Stones at a Club that he can develop with – he owes us another season at least for the gamble we took when signing him from Barnsley. The lad will be a world class player one day, and I can only hope for the short term we, as a Club, can match his ambition by performing on and off the pitch and attempting to make ourselves a recognised force again. Everton have proved that money can’t always buy you everything, our Manager has done himself proud throughout this whole affair, acted with dignity and represented himself and the Club well, unlike Mourinho and Chelsea who have simply been shameless in their pursuit of the player.
This sort of behaviour has become increasingly familiar in the Premier League and I have to admit, as I said on Twitter the other day, I have fallen out of love with the game and supporting Everton in recent years. You can’t help but feel disillusioned with the way things have gone, the gulf between the money-churning business that is Premier League Football Clubs, their players and us the fans. It is an ever growing one, and a pattern that continues with record-breaking TV deals, player power and more money than ever being poured into the game. I have lost a lot of faith in Football and supporting Everton probably hasn’t helped the cause, but after witnessing the events of this week and how my Club have eventually dealt with the circus that has surrounded one of their players, all is certainly not forgotten, but I’d like to think a little bit of that faith has now been restored.
Now let’s get at Spurs tomorrow, sign some players before the deadline has shut and make Goodison Park the volatile, angry and passionate place we know it can be when Everton take on Chelsea on 12th September.
Up the Toffees.