Ed Bottomley brings us his opinions on Everton’s peaks and troughs.
Evertonians must like tension, the years we spent on the razor’s edge of relegation, years of fraught nerves and throttled match-day programmes, weren’t able to be healed by warm coddled midtable safety for long; now we have a different set of reasons to grab every point that we can get. Whereas in the past we would breathe a long sigh of relief at the season’s end – at the dodgy offside goal we scored (and the ref didn’t notice) – now we count the points struck off our potential points tally by officials in need of dark glasses and white sticks. A point here, a disallowed goal there, it all counts, and it all makes a huge difference. Like the princess who had umpteen mattresses between her and a pea, a minuscule refereeing mistake can have gargantuan consequences.
Pierluigi Collina’s heartbreaking and unfathomable decision to disallow Duncan Ferguson’s equaliser against Villarreal that stopped us cold at the Champions League qualifier stage still haunts me. This season, however, the gaffes could stop Everton from even getting to that stage. I have to wonder if the FA charge against David Moyes for his post-derby Clattenburg comments (“Didn’t Clattenburg go to Hong Kong with Liverpool for the Asia Cup this summer? Maybe he wants to be their friend.”) was recently dropped because the FA feared where this investigation would focus. The Merseyside derby result hangs on my back like a black dog, as do the two points dropped against Blackburn at the weekend, when James Vaughan and AJ combined wonderfully, but were denied cruelly by the linesman.
To borrow and bend the Bard: As flies to wanton boys are we to the referees; they cheat us for their sport.
As it is, Everton are in fourth spot but remain uncomfortably close to the chasing pack. If certain results had gone the way the laws of the game intended and myopic refs hadn’t missed legit goals we would surely be more securely ensconced in fourth place.
Despite a video dossier to the contrary, the knee-jerk reaction of most refs to the sight of AJ taking a tumble is to treat it as a dive, such is his reputation. AJ is forced to chase long balls and lost causes, evade defenders, sidestep his reputation as a diver, stay on his feet despite being fouled, and then score; a thankless task.
The fact that Everton haven’t been awarded a single penalty in the Premier League this season speaks volumes. Add to that the several penalties we have been awarded by continental referees in the UEFA cup games we played this season, and you wonder if there is a congenital British eye defect inbred amongst referees and linesmen.
Looking back at Everton’s miraculous 3-2 win against pugnacious bruisers Wimbledon back in 1994 – coming back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in truly miraculous circumstances. I always suspected a Faustian pact secured this win, are we paying for that luck now?