Friday, 28 November 2014

We must have peace at home, in order to be formidable abroad

I was right

"A fraught 2-1 win". That's what this correspondent called for this time last week in the big West Ham game - and what happened? So everything that follows should be read through that prism: a prism of pristine, crystalline truth. 

Without getting too moist and nostalgic, what timelessly satisfying outing that was. Hard to think of a combination of factors more likely to add up to an enjoyable match-going experience than a cold, dark autumn day, a niggly, spoiling for a scrap atmosphere, a pantomime villain opposition manager and referee, hard done by cry-arsing opponents and a thrilling winning goal. If you picked a game at complete random from the past and asked your dad or granddad 'what was that one like?' and they gave that synopsis, you'd think "sounds a good afternoon that". 

I've really enjoyed Tony Hibbert's contributions in both the West Ham & Wolfsburg games. Filling in at left-back - probably expecting Downing to play against him I think, but as was said elsewhere possibly just as much to do with him being wise to the grockness of Carlton Cole, Andy Carroll & Kevin Nolan and all that entails. Whatever the reason, he stood in watchfully and did everything with control and nous - for someone who I think has only ever started in that position once before (a 1-5 atrocity at City 10 years ago at that), it was an excellent showing. On Thursday he was restored to his right-back slot and again played a full part in a fantastic win - there was even one moment where roles were comically reversed as McGeady won the ball back with a well-timed tackle, and Hibbert then went past his man with a well-disguised little turn. Its a far cry from just over a year ago when Marinez seemed to think Hibbert was past it - preferring Stones out of position at full-back for the Anfield shellacking and even moving McCarthy there over putting Hibbert on in the next game. 

After a slight quibble re Martinez's selections, its worth mentioning that he's handled these two games expertly. The pragmatism he showed in playing Hibbert left-back instead of sticking rigidly to 'the plan' and putting Luke Garbutt in was vindicated on the day and even more so by how well he played and how at ease he looked in Germany. One of the more asinine decisions Moyes made in his last year was to put all of Gueye, Junior(!) & Oviedo in for starts and get booted from pillar to post by a Leeds line-up in which El Hadji Diouf was one of the less snide players. Throwing them in, seeing how they reacted and 'toughend up' would have had some merit - doing it then virtually writing them all off because of it was bizarre and, odd word maybe, cowardly to be honest. 
The win against Wolfsburg was achieved with our best half of the season so far in my opinion - after a slightly iffy first half-hour, we counter-intuitively improved a lot after the usually outstanding James McCarthy went off (whether he had been not so involved due to carrying a knock or whether it was just co-incidence I'm not sure). Not to take the established figures performances for granted, but the most exciting thing about this win was that in Garbutt, Eto'o, McGeady* and especially Besic, who I thought was MOTM, there were new(ish) players "stepping up"and taking responsibility, not just backing up the spine of last year but adding to it. 
Get the Besics right
Hopefully people weren't influenced by Clarke Carlisle wittering on that Besic was playing a "very very risky game" by doing exactly what we tactically set up to do (Def Mid drop in, split the CBs and receive the ball) and doing it well, but I haven't seen much comment on how well he played - I thought he was brilliant. To be fair to the erstwhile Question Time mumbler, he does at least convey a sense of enjoyment of the games he commentates on and gets into them - if he ends up coming out with the odd bit of bollocks I suppose he's only doing what any of us would do in the same position....

*Even after his shocking miss 'Robert Terrible' kept running and offering a lot to the team - he should have been slipped in in the last minute by Barkley. 

The Enemy's Among Us

So I was in the Children's Savings Working Party conference call this morning....... 

Pretty unusually this next bit is prompted by something that happened in work, but I'm not actually going to go on about that, just what it nudged me to think about. 

Without going into any details, there was a decision made that seemed a bit odd, a bit rushed and not really the most logical way of solving it. The explanation given was put over that it had been come to due to "worries about a Daily Mail headline" - weird to hear it actually being cited like that. In discussion about politics, fiction about politics, as an excuse for politicians doing gormless stuff - yeah, you can say it was 'avoiding the Daily Mail slating them'....but for it to really be the case slightly jarred me. 
What is it about the Daily Mail that gets into people? You walk around the office and depressingly, if you see people with a non-work screen up I'd say 8/10 times its the Daily Mail. You have to credit the paper in a grim way - it has managed to convince a huge portion of normal people that it somehow is in league with them. An utterly cynical, small-c-conservative, fanatically monarchical defender of the elite, rich and vested interests is the go-to site for  people who, if they really do think like that, don't seem to apply it in any discernible way.  
I suppose its not right to infer too much from people clicking on a site because its in their favourites or buying a paper because its cheap - but it is insidious. You hear the clichéd (and nothing becomes a cliché without a good dollop of truth as Stuart Maconie pointed out once) scare-mongering and bitterness seeping into conversations. It bothers me on every level - that the source is such a flawed one to begin with and that it seems to be (shielded by the defence of being a newspaper) so unquestioned. 

I know going on about the Mail is the least original thing you can possibly do, but as I said at the start of this bit - how does it wield that power and instill such scaredycatness in people and institutions? And how has it captured a group who should have so little truck with its stance? Spin it round and imagine people who actually are pro-Queen, pro-flag, I-heart-mortgages, down-with-this-sort-of-thingers being fanatically drawn to and obsessed with how The Independent might be 'a bit off' with them and you might see what my ill-expressed puzzlement is getting it.

Or not. But how can you take any sort of journal seriously when they run in all-but successive days:

Mylene Klass v Ed Miliband. Mansion Tax Bad. Labour hates the wealthy. 
White Van Man Disgrace. Labour are snobs who hate the "average(!) person"
Class War! Labour v Private Schools. Labour hates the wealthy. 

The overlap between the first two is incredible, and I don't recall seeing this actually linked by anyone. In attacking Emily Thornberry ("this snobbery is the mark of a true champagne socialist") they actually flagged up "she's a snob - what's she got a three-story house in Islington?" - without reference to the fact that literally the day before they'd taken the exact opposite stance and been happy to implicitly agree with Klass (ludicrously) saying you can only get "like a garage" for £2m and only "little grannies" live in them. You cannot credibly switch so easily from one argument to the next. 
The last one, a plan to "put private schools under legal duty to co-operate with state schools" (to do something 'charitable' in order to continue to be classed as 'charities') was lambasted as "offensive biogotry", "tasteless" and in complete swing-back "class war" (again!). With an added dollop of mis-attributed 'hypocrisy'.

"you're getting hypocrisy wrong!!!". 

In both instances, the Mansion Tax and the Private Schools proposal, the Mail, amongst others, are utterly incorrect to throw out the hypocrisy angle. The reasoning is that Ed Miliband/Emily Thornberry has a big house, yet they want to tax big houses. Tristram Hunt went to a private school, yet they want to "tax" private schools and force them to help state schools. 

Neither is hypocritical. If they were saying "all Mansions to be taxed - except those of Labour MPs, no charge on those" and "all Private Schools have to make a contribution to the wider community - except the ones Labour Mps attended or their children may attend - they're exempt", of course that would be flagrant, scandalous hypocrisy. The fact that they're pushing for (very minor and tentative if we're honest) action on both despite their links to what they're pushing at makes the position stronger if anything  and is, without getting carried away, to their credit in my view. 

We're off to the centre of all this class war and craziness on Sunday for what is for better or worse, always 'a proper game'. Our record at Tottenham for any young fan probably seems pretty normal - since 2006 P8 W3 D2 L3 - but I dont have that luxury and instinctively think of it as one of the fixtures Most Likely To Prompt A High Pitched Voice Whine during the game and Market Leader In Pre-Empting A Fuck Off Everton Grump after it. 
92/93 L 1-2 (Beardsley)
6 times in the first 10 trips to White Hart Lane in the Premier League we contrived to throw away leads and lose in the dying stages - to comically late winners by the luminary names of Andy Turner and Darren Caskey on the first two occasions - with a potent cocktail of hard luck stories and sheer rank incompetence. You're looking at the 1-4 hammering with a Chris Armstring hat-trick as one of the least traumatic of that first decade because at least we were uncomplicated garbage and didn't tease the illusion of not being so. 

99/00 L 2-3 (Unsworth 2)
I'm sure Spurs fans wouldn't describe their record from 1992 - 2006 as being reliable, convincing or dependable. Yet over that period their record in this fixture was P14 W10 D4 L0 F29 A15. I suppose given the circumstances of some of the games, from the opposite side of the fence you'd have fond memories indeed of Everton collapsing late on. To Oyvind Leonhardsen...
01/02 D 1-1 (Weir)
The only time we didn't lose between 1998 and 2006 was achieved with an out-of-the-blue 20 yard dipping volley by David Weir and a desperate all-hands-to-the pump rearguard action by the 'trusty' 5-3-2 set-up, with the "wing"backs being Hibbert and Gary Naysmith....

"ah, they're awful arent they these immigranters?!"
'I dunno - have you ever worked with any?'
"yeah they were sound actually " 
'ever been assisted by any in any sort of situation where you needed their help or service?'
"yeah they were sound"
'ever met any when you were out?'
"yeah they were sound"
'ever known anyone who goes out with one?'
"yeah, they're sound"
'any family directly or indirectly come from abroad?'
"oh yeah, great stories, love them, all sound"
'ever played football or socialised with any?'
"yeah, they're sound"
'on football, ever enjoyed any play by or the universally acknowledged huge improvement in the game here by overseas players and managers coming here to work?'
"obviously, yeah, they're sound"
'ever mused on the fact, as the Czech politician Tomas Prouza did today, that in the Battle of Britain - the one event most said to identify our country's proud stand alone against evil - its known that the RAF included Polish, New Zealand, Canadian, Czech, Australian, Belgian, South African, Sri Lankan, Jamaican, French and American pilots?'
"yeah, yeah,we get whet you're saying. Nice one to them"
'so, they're not really that bad are they, overall?' 
"OH GOD YES! I'd over-ride all we've just covered to be honest , send em back and take my chances. If it meant some hypothetical person - who is never, ever any of the above - might not be able to temporarily theoretically claim some shadowy, meagre benefits, I'd prefer that. Overall, its just not worth the trade off...."
06/07 won 2-0 (OG, Johnson)
The turning point with regard to our fortunes at Tottenham, and actually a good claim at being where the Modern Era starts for Everton, was the 2-0 win early in the 2006-07 season. Given the prevailing form going into the game, given we were down to 10 men and given we had finished bottom half the season before, this match (won with an OG and a superb breakaway goal by Andy Johnson) arguably had a more long-lasting and seismic impact on our expectations than Everton Rooney at Leeds, which a lot of people might point to. Although Moyes famously never pushed on and won (or gave the consistent impression of trying to win) at the really Big grounds, after this point it was a bit of a surprise if we didn't have a real good go at Spurs, City (as then) or other 'nearly there' teams. 
09/10 lost 1-2 (Yakubu)
Hopefully its a good example of once you've crossed that threshold, even if you get set back soon after, you at least know you can do it. We beat Chelsea, Arsenal and Utd (away) last season - all have been turned back already this season, but I don't think that means we will automatically revert to feeling we cant win them: we haven't won here for 5 years again now, but having done it in 3 differing ways in recent memory, you approach it with a bit of confidence. 
10/11 D 1-1 (Baines)
Personally, I really rate Pochettino and think he will do a good job in the end - but they look a very in-between phases line-up to me at the moment. If we had a completely full squad to pick from and no game on Thursday before and Wednesday after I'd expect us to win. 

Controversial comment: if circumstances were absolutely ideal for us, that would give us a better chance. 

Its the same for Spurs though, and as it goes I can see a disjointed game with neither side playing well and a 1-1 draw - which would keep our unbeaten run going and set us up nicely for Hull at home in midweek. 

Think of a thing. Say its terrible. 

That's my top tip for if you get stuck how to end a blog (can also be applied at start and middle of piece too). 

"Black" Friday, that is a thing, and it is without any doubt utterly terrible. You wouldn't have thought something so brazenly terrible would actually have even dared to be floated...but there it is. Trending away. What are people doing? Flocking to take part in a grotesque spectacle, a herd-following orgy fixated on consuming..... And the media love it - of course there's nothing sneery or condescending in photos and videos of possibly hard up people fighting between themselves for some tat. "Image from #Primark". ('we all know what was meant by that....')
Thinking about it, I'm surprised the retailers and bosses are happy for it to receive so much attention as what it suggested to me mostly was - how much are we ripped off most of the time? If you accept that, whatever 'offers' or 'reductions' are hawked, goods are not going to be sold at a loss, there's an argument that the prices today are actually the about-right level, it would follow that the "usual" prices are unjustifiable other than people pay it. Its pushing it a bit, but you could say, if people could restrain themselves and not collude by paying the inflated/usual prices the rest of the year, the companies would slowly have to drag the asking prices down to "Black" Friday levels as standard. So, I suppose, if you went about it in a methodical, restrained way and didn't buy anything all year, then only bought selectively and according to need on "Black" Friday, it would be an entirely rational method.....

Well that's two attempts at taking a slightly contrary approach - at the end of the day though, as stated, its the worst of the worst and people need to just knock it off. 
"Oh, I've done the most awful rubbish at times just to have somewhere to go in the mornings"

Friday, 21 November 2014

One Fool Can't Fathom The Thoughts Of Another

Haha. Memes. 
"Son , stahhrt wi' a meme, finish wi' a song.

The old rules still work ..."
For a long time it wasn't at all obvious what the point was even nominally going to be of this return to the fray  - what tendentious justification would be used to say a blog was prompted- but then there it was. There it was.
Ware On The March
In the middle of the notorious! infamous! x-rated! #imagefromRochester....what's that on one of the proud trio of flags? West Ham fan inne?! A Massive Hammer, a Fervent Iron, A Bubble-Blowing Die Hard. 
If you haven't seen this, trust me - it is topical. A political kerfuffle allied to tomorrow's opponents - I can get 20 minutes of that. 
This is of course the story of Dan Ware, who was traduced, ridiculed, mocked and vilified in a sustained outburst by the heartless and wicked Human Rights barrister masquerading as a Labour MP,  Emily Thornberry. 
The image was 'offensive' they said. The image was 'horrendous'. The image was 'insulting'. Prime Minister David Cameron, eschewing the opportunity to make an overblown and grubby contribution to divert attention from his own problems restrained himself to describing it as "completely appalling":
It was so much of all those really, genuinely offensive - that every paper and every news bulletin was forced to reproduce the image  - although some broadcasters did preface a clip by sombrely warning "viewers should be aware that the following feature may contain images of a house, some flags...and a van".
A vile slur on all our values. Photo taken by Emily Thornberry.
I actually thought I was a Labour supporter, but this incident has proven me wrong on that score. I distinctly remember recently barging through the Silsden locale and seeing a house with 2 Union Jacks, 2 St George's flags and a huge Help4Heroes banner. At the time, my reaction was "hahaha, kinel, bit full-on that isn't it?". I might have blanked it out due to the egregiousness of my behaviour, but in my darkest moments I think I might even have taken a snide photo of the proud dwelling. 
At that time, I thought I was a white, working class northern person having a bit of a laugh. But, in fact, what I was was 'final evidence of the liberal bourgeoisie London lofty multicultural-obsessed snobbery that is everything that is wrong with the Labour party'. 
Not a slur. Photo not taken by a Labour MP.
I've really appreciated the contribution of good ol' Labour MP John Mann - who signs up Mr Dare as symbolising "Labour values". Its a puzzling conclusion, given that 
"he voted Conservative at the last general election and has never voted Labour - He was not aware there was a by election on"
Now, I'm a Labour member - actually paying my own money to support their entire operation in an arrangement that underpins their whole existence - but as John implies, maybe I should ditch that - I could save the monthly fee to buy more red & white flags! 

He has an interesting take on the history and traditional aims and historic improvements the Labour party have brought about John Mann. 
"It was horrendous. It insults ....Labour voters across the country because white vans, England flags, they're Labour values ".
Not a slur. On Anyone. A Proud White Van. With Values.
It was what propelled Blair to unprecedented landslides! His famous priorities for governing a successful nation: "white vans, white vans, white vans".

I was what people come out for Harold Wilson in the 60s "The White Heat of The White Van revolution"

After the war, when voters turned to Attlee - what was his slogan? "White vans after black times".

John Mann, can you look at this extract from a speech by Keir Hardy in 1914, the first Labour leader, setting out what he thinks the founding ideas behind the Labour party were please? 
it was tenaciously upheld by the public authorities, here and elsewhere, that it was an offence against laws of nature and ruinous to for public authorities to provide food for starving children, or independent aid for the aged poor. Even safety regulations in mines and factories were taboo. They interfered with the ‘freedom of the individual’. As for such proposals as an eight-hour day, a minimum wage, the right to work, and municipal houses, any serious mention of such classed a man as a fool. These cruel, heartless dogmas,... were accepted as part of the unalterable laws of nature, sacred and inviolable, and were maintained by statesmen, town councillors, ministers of the Gospel, and, strangest of all, by the bulk of Trade Union leaders. That was the political, social and religious element in which our Party saw the light. Scientists are constantly revealing the hidden powers of nature. By the aid of the X-rays we can now see through rocks and stones; the discovery of radium has revealed a great force which is already healing disease and will one day drive machinery; Marconi, with his wireless system of telegraphy and now of telephony, enables us to speak and send messages for thousands of miles through space.
But though these powers and forces are only now being revealed, they have existed since before the foundation of the world. The scientists, by sympathetic study and laborious toil, have brought them within our ken. And so, in like manner, our Socialism is revealing hidden and hitherto undreamed of powers and forces in human nature.
So John, what leaps out at you there? As someone who professes to - and pass judgement on who else can - 'be Labour' , what do you take way from that noble, far-reaching, inspiring vision?  

"The same as always - white vans. The values of white vans & England flags".
Swerve the politics la
On the bright side though, we have got Samuel Eto'o now, which is decent. 

Been an odd start to the season, with performances lurching from: dazzling attacking with no stamina and a defence collapsing under the slightest pressure; almost deliberately, point-makingly negative Europa League away outings; consummate, classy, swaggering run-outs at home in the same competition; two convincing and seemingly 'now we're sorted' (but we werent) league wins; two bitty & disjointed games at Anfield & Old Trafford; and latterly two draws from matches we should have won. 
95/96 Everton 3 West Ham 0  (Stuart, Unsworth, Ebbrell)
The seasons it most reminds me of in not quite knowing what to make of us by this relatively advanced stage are 95-96 & 07-08 - both of which we ended far better than we'd begun, after a choppy-changey first quarter. Both had as a mitigating factor in the early uncertainty a return to Europe after a break, and both saw a complete absence of a Best XI, as the manger's over-compensated for the 'difference playing twice a week makes'. 

I'm a staunch believer that, in all but the most unusual circumstances, you play your best team, and let natural variation play its part. As an example of why I'm completely right (no two ways about it, no room for argument, no way the medical and management experts could counter my conclusion) consider what Martinez did with Mirallas earlier this season: after 3 goals in 3 games, and off the back of two straight wins, he was "rested" for Crystal Palace at home. When we were playing shite and losing, he had to come on anyway. Then we played Swansea away in the League cup and he wasn't even on the bench - preserved, looked after, wrapped in cotton wool etc for the derby on the Saturday. The first time he had an actual run - joink, his hamstring went and that was the last we saw of him. 
2012/13 Everton 2 West Ham 0 (Mirallas 2)
In 95-96, Joe Royle diverted completely from what had worked the year before, ending up with nonsense like 3-5-1-1 with Earl Barrett as sweeper and Vinny Samways 'off the striker' as the likes of Jason Lee, Scott Taylor and some fat Icelandic waddler ran us ragged at the back. When our best players came back and we went to a system we were comfortable with and stuck with it, things picked up. 

Similarly, 12 years later -  early experiments with a Neville & Jagielka centre midfield, leaving out Lescott, and playing Yakubu as a kind of wing-forward all gave way to a fixed formation, regular XI and we went on a fantastic run. Culminating in two wins in a week versus (a rated) West Ham side, where were notably kept the same XI, an made only one substitution over 180 minutes. 
07/08 West Ham 0 Everton 2 (Yakubu, Johnson)
For three good managers to all have followed a similarly confused pattern, over a 19 year period, early in the season suggests that there is an underlying 'need' or temptation to "shake the kaleidoscope about a bit" early on before the pieces settle and you get a clear vision of what things should look like (or, more dully, playing more = more injuries), so perhaps I shouldn't be too picky on Martinez - although some small un-tweaking would see an improvement in my view: Barkley should play central, don't worry about squeezing him in on the left. 
2010/11 Everton 2 West Ham 2 (Bilyaletdinov, Fellaini)
 That all said, we seem to have an especially high number of players 'at amber' in terms of fitness for this one. I assume Barry's out, but a raft of others (including Baines & McCarthy, miles our best two players so far) are doubtful too. So I would imagine Sam Allardyce is quietly confident - they seem to have improved fairly drastically on the 9-1-1 all 6ft line-up they came to Goodison last year (that sounds a Big Sam cliche, but they really were remarkably grim).

They might even fancy it as a good opportunity to take three points for the (I think) third time in the Premier League years. And I've been at the other two: New Year's day 1994, when Tim Breaker scored a deflating lopping header in after a couple of minutes and a sub-20,000 crowd then set niggly and freezing through the rest of a game that extended a spirit-sapping goal-draught to 6 and a half games. In classic Everton style, the catalyst for this mind-numbing lack of direction or threat up front was driving the manger to resignation over the refusal to sign exactly the player we needed, at a perfectly reasonable fee. 

That's my boys!
Tim Breaker with The Lads and looking delighted to be so
The other defeat, in December 2005 was one of the most flat-out disappointing Everton games I've ever been too - after a day working cash in hand as a pseudo-removal man as we raked over the ashes of a company in financial ruin, we went ahead only to be beaten 2-1 - propmpting Alan Pardew to correctly state they played us off the park. For some reason, Moyes took this as a grave personal insult and 'disrespectful', which I never really understood. 

The historical patterns and lessons to be learnt? 

Don't play like in those games, as they were both fucking terrible. 

One I did like, and I could see being played out in some form tomorrow was in 1997-98, when Everton were nervous and pokey for a half, going in trailing to an own goal and the crowd getting a bit "Goodison~y", then John Oster came on, ran at them and the mood changed completely, with Ludek Miklosko making a string of saves before and after Dave Watson's equaliser. A counter-intuitive (and never repeated) change by Howard Kendall saw Craig Short come on as sub whilst we were pressing for a winner, with Slaven Bilic (one of three players opposing a team they'd played for 2 matches previously) shoved forward into midfield - he soon sent a cross in that Ferguson headed down and Graham Stuart (returned to the club in some well-meaning symbolic role this week) turned and finished with a shot across the greasy surface. 
1997/98 Everton 2 West Ham 1 (Watson, Stuart)
An uplifting, fraught 2-1 win in front of a sold-out crowd tomorrow would do very nicely indeed. A pretty trite way to end, especially as I've set it up at the start as if I should refer back to finishing with a song , but I don't really that would work...and its late and I'm trying to watch Graham Norton to be honest - I'll say this is my version of that early season 'not quite at it' form - yeah, say that. If/when it clicks though - oof, watch out y'all!