What a week.
It’s been a while since I last wrote about Everton, so let me fill you in on a wonderful few days for supporters of the club.
I’d just about calmed down ahead of the home game against Stoke City following a ferocious Merseyside Derby the week previous. So often with these sorts of games it’s a case of ‘after the Lord Mayors show’: the fans are a little subdued, there is a danger the players might not be quite as up for it and talk pre-match typically centres round the last week’s game, not the upcoming one.
So on reflection, making a few changes was an inspired decision from Roberto Martinez. Bryan Oviedo, Leon Osman and Gerard Deulofeu all came into the team and having been on the fringes of the first team squad, all looked to make an impression. They galvanized Everton, and Deulofeu in particular lifted the crowd with a dazzling performance. Stoke were blown away and they eventually caved in to a 4-0 defeat. It’s a cliché, but it was a game that could have been 10-0 if it wasn’t for Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who made some outstanding saves.
It set the tone for what was an understandably huge game for Evertonians, as the midweek fixture list saw the Toffees pitted against former manager David Moyes and his Manchester United team at Old Trafford.
Midweek games are never desirable. Especially away from home. But it’s not that far to Manchester and with the game obviously significant, we made the trip along with 3,000 raucous Evertonians hoping to sample victory at the home of the champions for the first time in 21 years.
The build-up to the game focused on Moyes, his time at Everton and his failure to win at any of the traditional top four in his time at the club. So often we’d travel to Old Trafford, to the Emirates, to Stamford Bridge and most pertinently, to Anfield, hoping for a win, but in the end being delighted to pick up a draw.
It was refreshing to see that from a blue point of view, there was enormous positivity heading into this one. Martinez had alluded to how important it was to Everton to overcome this mental block when facing the top teams and there seemed to be a genuine belief amongst the supporters that they could do exactly that.
We arrived into Manchester and met a few of my Manchester City-supporting friends for a couple of drinks, who naturally wished us well before the game. For those of you who haven’t been to Old Trafford, the stadium itself is situated about three miles outside Manchester city centre and we jumped onto a crammed Metro train up to the ground. The train station at Old Trafford is literally opposite the visiting supporters section and with about thirty minutes to go until kick-off, we went straight in.
At away games, in the concourse underneath the stand, things are always a little bit crazy. There are always blokes trying to sneakily have a cigarette, smoke alarms are going off, supporters jostling for space whilst trying to keep their beer intact and bar staff buzz about trying to pass out pints and pies on a metronomic basis.