To be as fair as I can possibly be, when Dominic Calvert-Lewin found himself on the ground with a hamstring injury, I thought that it may be tough for Everton to pull the Tottenham Hotspur game out. Even with a lead, one knew that Harry Kane was going to come on, and that our best player was going to go off. Richarlison had had one goal to that point, and so it was not as if we were without a serious threat, or the same team that had gotten us to that point; yet a talent as massive as Calvert-Lewin is not easily replaced, especially without recently signed Joshua King, unavailable due to having played in the FA Cup with AFC Bournemouth prior.
And so you can imagine how I felt when beloved club captain Seamus Coleman came on to the replace him. While Coleman is to be respected and admired, he is an aging defender who did not start the match for the Toffees; this was where my mistake in judgement was most flawed apparently, and should be laughed at hardest in hindsight accordingly of course.
Coleman, far from being a weakness for the club upon the departure of Calvert-Lewin, should be lauded as one of the days heroes. The captaincy suited him no better than on this day against Tottenham, where amongst the youthful faces of the future of football in England and elsewhere he flew around the pitch like a man far younger than his 32-years-of-age.
When there was advanced pressure on the defenses and Robin Olsen, it was Coleman you could often find zooming up the right side of the pitch to relieve pressure, fighting off faster or more technically gifted men. His grit and focus, his determined dependability was always going to win the day, even if dolts like myself were not keen enough to sense that the moment was sufficiently massive for some, but not Coleman.
While he tracked back to provide protection and support for his comrades at the back, one could depend on him supporting the equally impressive Abdoulaye Doucoure as the momentum swung from one side of the pitch to the other. After the Irishman came on, far from losing control of the match in two separate instances, Everton weathered those moments and scored nearly the same amount of goals as before his appearance.
This match was a team effort, one that can catapult a good, developing club into an outfit that truly believes that it has something special, intangible, whatever it may or may not be. Performances like that of Coleman’s demonstrate just how much this current iteration of Everton means to everyone, young and old, on and off Merseyside; it was symbolic of struggle, of anxiety, of perseverance and of unadulterated passion.
That Coleman played with his heart was never a question, and never in question. Yet his play demonstrated that, in the right system, with the right players and mangers around you, the amount of effort you give towards your goal can be the difference ultimately in attaining or losing it.
“...The Future’s Uncertain and the End is Always Near..” -Jim Morrison
In our next match in the FA Cup, Everton will play Manchester City, and while it may not have been the most favorable of draws, I am with many of my fellows at RBM in believing the matchup both good and inevitable. It was fated that if Everton got through the quarter final against another club, that they would likely face Manchester City, who are playing simply stunning football in what may be one of Pep Guardiola’s more impressive recent runs.
It is alright however as well because Everton are playing positively right now; with the second shock loss to Newcastle this season, the club has responded to the criticisms of their father-like-Professor, Don Carlo Ancelotti. They shown fire, resolve, spirit, will, accountability, togetherness and passion. These are key to the results that every manager looks for from their clubs, yet some teams do not have the players; Everton has them in bunches, whether in the form of the youth of the Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s, Richarlison’s, Holgate’s and Godfrey’s, or in the form of the wiley old captain, sprinting up and down the pitch as though bringing the Royal Blue into the FA Cup quarter finals was a matter of life and death.
As the current global environment has demonstrated, football is far from a life and death matter of course, yet passion that beautiful and vibrant must always be applauded no matter the venue it is witnessed in. While many names will be remembered from this campaign should Everton win their first trophy since 1995, and/or finish in the top four of the Premiership, few who watched the fifth round match versus Tottenham could speak of the match without mentioning the sheer tenacity by which Coleman approached the match with; it is doubtful any who played alongside him will soon forget it either.
And that mark, is something that outlives the feeling that even the victory itself provides players and supporters alike. It may well have been the difference between an eventual European position and another trophy-less, top five-less campaign; legendary players make legendary appearances and for Everton, the Captain refused to let the Royal Blue fade from the FA Cup.