Well, they always say that football is a funny old game and the origin of our MFW Everton preview certainly proves that.
Over 25 years ago I occasionally worked alongside a lovely fella called Ken Stringer and because of a random line in a previous MFW article his son, Sean, got in touch to let me know that Ken was still going strong at 90 and as rampantly Evertonian as ever.
Anybody who has ever visited sites as part of their job will know that football is a common currency when meeting new people and as Ken was one of very few Toffees on the Huyton site [almost everyone else was Liverpudlian] we had something in common from the kick-off – we were in the minority.
But thanks to Ken’s influence and affability he managed to get me a ticket for the last game on the Kop, where I stood with one of Ken’s Red friends. Good day, eh, Gossy? So it’s only fitting that I should ask Ken’s son Sean to give us the lowdown on the current state of the Goodison nation.
Hi Sean, I thought I might be asking you who your next manager will be. But after that well-deserved win over Southampton I’ll convert that to: What do you reckon of Marco Silva?
It’s a difficult one as I don’t think a change of manager would make a massive difference. You can get the initial response from the players trying to impress the new incumbent but it’s a long process, as they still have the same players to work with. An awful lot of the time it’s down to that bit of good luck which can fortify the players’ confidence.
I recall the time Howard Kendall had at Goodison in the ’80s (in comparison to his later times in charge), Ferguson at Man Utd also. Neither were doing too well but after a couple of years, something (a League cup-tie equaliser by Adrian Heath against Oxford United in our case) clicked and with ostensibly the same squad, belief and confidence bloomed into a trophy-winning team.
There seems to be faith in Silva from the board and we’ve had, I feel, too many managers since Moyes. From my perspective, we want to see attractive football and Goodison really does respond. Similarly, a poor performance and the hostility can be unsettling for the players. Only the manager can address that, boosting confidence and belief etc, I honestly don’t know if Silva is the answer, just hoping come Christmas we don’t have to be on the phone to Sam Allardyce.
The boy Richarlison looks a bit tasty, Mr Pickford isn’t bad and I’ve always been an admirer of Seamus Coleman, although I guess he’s just a squad player now at the end of a long and distinguished career. Who else do you rate in your side and why?
I’ll give you my view on the three you mentioned. Richarlison has plenty of ability but his propensity to dropping to the floor and holding his head is so annoying! He really needs to toughen up, as the problem is that he’s become the boy-who-cried-wolf far too often. But he has been played out wide and up front, never seems to complain but just needs to deliver more often.
Jordan Pickford is alright, not the best I’ve seen but tries hard, too hard at times. And his decision-making is questionable at best. My feeling is that his stature does him no favours, I think he’s one of the shortest keepers in the Premiership at just over 6′. Silva keeps swapping his centre half pairing but think that the problem lies with the fact that they don’t have the confidence in their keeper, currently. Granted he’s only young for a keeper, so experience will develop but not his height.
Coleman is probably up there with one of the best buys ever at Goodison. I do enjoy watching him play, gives 100 per cent at all times. Can try to do too much sometimes but think that’s because he’s that sort of player. Especially coming back from such a bad injury, he may be in the twilight of his career but still has a lot to offer.
As for other players I rate, Tom Davies is another who leads by example. Local lad (which I do like) who very rarely leaves anything on the pitch. Only other which springs to mind is Gomes, loads of ability and vision but had such a horrible injury against Spurs, it’s fingers crossed he makes a full recovery [I second that – Martin].
What we do need is a proper captain, a player on the pitch who is respected by all the others, a bit of a Peter Reid (maybe Davies in a few years?)
How do you feel about supporting a team that will always be top ten but may be struggling to progress further [I’d kill to be in that position myself]?
Maybe it’s because I’ve experienced the ’80s and us winning trophy after trophy (which may well have continued were it not for an infamous incident resulting in English clubs being banned from European competitions). In today’s climate, expectations are really to watch great performances and wins at Goodison as a family.
A lot of the domestic competitions have been somewhat devalued, for example, the FA Cup due to semi-finals being played at Wembley also. Would love for us to do a Leicester and sneak a Premiership but a European competition the following season really adversely affects a team without the budget for a top-quality squad to compete in so many trophies. Maybe with the proposed new waterfront stadium, along with the added revenue/interest that should bring a long-standing place at the top-four table, which would be great.
You seem to be very easy on the eye to watch. We invariably play 4-2-3-1 and are being worked out by everyone so easily that I’m sure you can impose your game on us. So what set-up can we expect to face at Goodison?
If you want to stand a good chance at Goodison, defend deep and hit us on the break. Generally, up against the more attacking teams, who leave space at the back, we can hold our own and sneak a win. The issue we have are teams who park the bus but have pace up front or are good at set-pieces (we are sh!te at defending dead ball scenarios).
We just don’t have the wit to break teams down like that. Top teams, if frustrated will take shots from outside the area, to bypass the packed defences, we don’t or can’t.
As you know if you can get the first goal, the defending team then has to be more adventurous and try and equalise, leaving some more space at the back. Also if you sneak the first goal, our heads go down and the fact we’ve not won a game with Silva after going down in the first place comes to the fore. You can see the confidence and belief ebb away before your eyes.
Do you think we’re brave or foolish with our [increasingly fan-maligned] concept of self-financing and playing the kids to expose them for future sale? It’s not the Everton way, of course, but I’d be interested in your take on it.
Playing kids in the first-team to up their resale value is not uncommon amongst most teams, Chelsea, Liverpool, we do it also, so don’t see too much of a problem with it. That is so long as the game is either done and dusted or a relatively easy cup game perhaps.
Mind you I’m one of those [maybe an age thing?] who would like my team to have a fair representation from the local community. In fact, we have a family friend, Matt Pennington, who played with my son and then joined the Everton academy at the age of 11. Once he signed his first professional contract, I always told him I’d rather he played for us rather than as a journeyman.
He’s out on loan again, after a spell at Ipswich amongst others but he did manage to score a goal against Liverpool at Anfield, which resulted in a very large cheer in the Stringer household. Anyway, that was how teams were formed, back in the day, representing the area they’re from but once big money gets involved, there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. But you never know you might just unearth a gem.
Finally, as MFW always does I’ll have to ask you for a score guess. I’ll go 2-0 to you [we always lose 2-0] but what do you reckon?
I can’t see us keeping a clean sheet and from what I’ve seen of Pukki I reckon we’ll win 3-1.
Many thanks to Sean for his time and his trouble – and best MFW wishes to the entire Stringer clan.