It was a freezing Monday night in January 2015 when Hollywood came to Goodison Park.
Half-time had arrived in Everton’s meeting with West Bromwich Albion, as the crowd were invited by actor and Evertonian Sylvester Stallone to take part in filming a scene for his upcoming spin-off to the Rocky boxing film series, Creed.
A director instructed the home faithful to both jeer and cheer, for the arrivals into the ring of both Adonis Creed and ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan, played by Everton-mad Tony Bellew, respectively.
It made for a rousing and truly unique spectacle on the big screen yet, on the night, there was a sense that the booing, the venting of anger and frustration, felt more amplified and less artificial. And given what had transpired at the Old Lady just minutes earlier, perhaps this was inevitable.
Having won just one of their last nine league games, Everton had the perfect chance to deliver a potential knockout blow to struggling West Brom moments before the interval, with the game still deadlocked, when they were awarded a penalty following former Blue Joleon Lescott’s handball.
Only Kevin Mirallas then went on broke one of Everton Football Club’s unwritten laws - when the ball is on the penalty spot and Leighton Baines is on the pitch, everyone else in royal blue backs away. To the fury and disbelief of the home crowd, the Belgian assuredly strode up to take it, only to strike the post. The match would then end goalless, Mirallas’ own unedifying actions essentially costing his team a priceless victory.
If there was a single moment you could pinpoint to encapsulate Mirallas’ seven-year Everton career, which came to an end last week following his free transfer to Royal Antwerp, this was surely it.
Few would argue Mirallas did not prove his ability while at Everton; a return of 38 goals in 186 games is still a solid record, especially for a man who primarily occupied either of Goodison’s flanks.
Certainly, there is more than a tinge of regret about the way his Everton career seemed to ebb away; like a house plant you kept forgetting to water, Mirallas’ permanent exit has been on the cards ever since he was first loaned out to former club Olympiakos in January 2018, which was followed by another temporary spell at Fiorentina last season.
But what caused his downfall on Merseyside was his refusal to amalgamate his quality with sufficient levels of application; as the prophesy looming on one of the gym walls at Finch Farm reminds Everton’s players, ‘hard work will beat talent if talent does not work hard’. Mirallas, in his seven years at the club, sadly did not heed this warning often enough.
And when you consider the sheer number of accusations levelled at him during his time at Goodison, the case for defence begins to wear perilously thin. The aforementioned penalty incident. The petulant red card he earned himself in a galling 3-2 home defeat to West Ham when Everton were leading. The questioning of his attitude by Ronald Koeman. The reports that he walked out of a training session during David Unsworth’s time as caretaker manager. And that one of Marco Silva’s first acts as boss was to exile him from the first team picture, to name only a few.
The Mirallas who left Everton is almost a mirror image of the one who arrived in 2012, who bamboozled almost all of Stoke City’s broad-shouldered brigade under Tony Pulis to score a wonderful solo goal, who repeated the trick the following week at Tottenham Hotspur, and whose proclivity for being in the right place at the right time won both David Moyes and Roberto Martínez vital points.
Though in retrospect, you wonder whether these vignettes of sheer brilliance also proved to his detriment in the long-term, in that these fleeting highlights perhaps enhanced his own sense of hubris more than his contributions on the pitch.
His is a story that should serve as a warning to Silva’s current squad that the cancerous lack of work rate will no longer be allowed to fester within Goodison and Finch Farm. Indeed, it might say much of the club’s desperation to offload Mirallas that director of football Marcel Brands, so often a shrewd, calculated and patient businessman, was happy to let him to return to home Belgium with Antwerp without demanding a transfer fee.
This is not intended to be a hatchet job on Mirallas; it is simply maddening that, for all of his undeniable talent, he appeared too frequently guilty of being Everton’s own prima donna; dissatisfied with a role in the supporting cast, only content with being the A-lister, the star of the show.
Ultimately, this is why the eventual permanent departure of a man who Evertonians could so easily have taken to their hearts elicited little more than a mere shrug of the shoulders from the majority of Blues.