Oh Everton, why do we bother?
The Toffees have turned out some pretty insipid performances this season, but Sunday’s match against Sheffield United was outstandingly grim.
The moment they fell behind early on you sensed they would never get back int the game despite taking on a side already relegated, with a permanent manager with a 17-year-old up front and having collected just four points all season.
It has killed off what little chance Everton have of qualifying for Europe, with the Toffees stuck in eighth and three points behind Tottenham and West Ham. It has also dampened enthusiasm for what was supposed to be a glorious return of supporters through the turnstiles on Wednesday.
Bar three games just before Christmas Goodison has been silent for over a year, but on Wednesday 6,500 will be allowed through the turnstiles as we all take another welcome step towards normality.
The fans will get behind the team of course, they always will. The absence of that vociferous support is one of the reasons why the team has struggled at home this season. Another defeat here though and it will go down as the worst home season in the club’s entire history.
The team owes the supporters a performance not just for the Sheffield United game but for a season that promised so much but had frustratingly reverted to type.
Like Everton, Wolves will probably want to see the back of 2020-21.
The Black Country club have enjoyed back-to-back seventh place finishes and a run to the Europa League quarter-finals, but things have not gone to plan this year and they head to Goodison Park in 12th place.
The sales of Diogo Jota and Matt Doherty, as well as the season-ending injury to Raul Jimenez has removed three key components of their recent success and their replacements have not come up to scratch.
The loss of Jimenez has been particularly hard felt. The Mexican suffered a fractured skull in a clash-of-heads with David Luiz in October and has yet to return.
However, some perspective is needed. They were never in any serious danger of relegation meaning a fourth successive Premier League season awaits next year – their best run in the top flight since the early 1980s.
Wolves 1-2 Everton, January 12, 2021
Another successful away day for the Toffees as goals from Alex Iwobi and Michael Keane secured all three points.
Sheffield United (H) Lost 1-0
Aston Villa (A) Drew 0-0
West Ham (A) Won 1-0
Aston Villa (H) Lost 2-1
Arsenal (A) Won 1-0
Tottenham (A) Lost 2-0
Brighton (H Won 2-1
West Brom (A) Drew 1-1
Burnley (H) Lost 4-0
Sheff Utd (H) Won 1-0
Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed defender Yerry Mina and forward Josh King are available after injury for the final home game of the season, leaving Jean-Phillipe Gbamin as the only absentee.
What they said
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti: “We need to show the fans a good attitude and a good spirit. The supporters at the stadium will give us more motivation and support.
“It will be another atmosphere. I remember my first game as manager at Goodison Park and it was an outstanding atmosphere.
“Finally, I can say we have the fans back, and we are coming back to play football with emotion and passion.
“We played in the Premier League with our fans at Goodison in December, we had only 2,000 supporters but we were able to win the two games against Chelsea and Arsenal. I’m sure they are going to support us.
“We don’t have a lot of possibility [to qualify for Europe], but we can have the dream only if we are able to win our next two games.
“I don’t want to talk a lot, because we are so disappointed for the game on Sunday. We can only do one thing – to show a great reaction and use our spirit and attitude.”
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo: “Our only priority since we arrived was always to improve our players. Since we arrived in the Championship, we’ve always looked at how we can develop players, how can we improve them, because this will allow us to improve as a team and improve as a club.
“No matter what age he has, no matter the background of him, we just have to look at him and realise what are the aspects that you can improve.
“We have a lot of young players and we always have, over all the seasons were based on a mix of experienced and youth players and we have, of course with the circumstances that has occurred, these young players are having minutes, and it’s the best way to improve.
“The best way is to compete and play against tough opponents, from Brighton to Tottenham and now to Everton and then Man U, all this growing process in terms of competition is what makes the player better.”
After Sunday you wonder whether Everton can actually play much worse (don’t answer that) but surely the returning fans will make an impact here? The damage is already done with regards to our European chances, but a win and rousing display will at least send us into the summer on a high.