AHEAD of Liverpool’s trip to Goodison Park we spoke to Lydia Bleasdale-Hill to get the lowdown on Everton.
Everton were on a poor run heading into the game against Arsenal, has that win given fans more confidence about the rest of the season?
Yes and no, as far as I’m concerned. There have been previous opportunities for us to step things up — after the Manchester United game, for example — but that hasn’t really happened come the next match. I’m torn over whether it’s a good thing that we’re playing you after the Arsenal game, but the feeling that it might be best to have that sort of atmosphere and that type of game (instead of the likes of Stoke or Crystal Palace) is just about edging it.
Given that my matchday mate is now my five-year-old daughter, Maya, I asked her these questions too. Granted, she spends more time looking out for the ‘basket’ (the stretcher — she’s a somewhat melancholy child and likes injuries) than watching the actual game, but her answer to this seemed about right to me — ‘nooo, not really. Why? Because I don’t think we’ll do that well, because I don’t think we’re always a very good team’
Prior to that, it’s safe to say the team weren’t living up to expectations, what would you put that form down to?
I couldn’t put my finger on any one thing. Stuff I’ve noticed (in between trying to answer questions about whether or not a player is really injured, explaining what the national flags next to each of the names in the programme represent, and fishing around for sweets): poor delivery into Romelu Lukaku, static play with no outlet, still faffing around at the back too much, a lack of collective concentration (for an experienced backline, they’ve looked particularly poor), a sneaking suspicion that we’re just a bit unfit in some areas. We also lack cover — that’s my real worry as the season develops.
The other thing which I think it’s important to bear in mind is that football clubs are no different to any other type of organisation or community of people. If you’re tasked with changing things to suit your vision, basically to affect cultural change, that’s one of the hardest things to do. I don’t care how much you get paid — it’s hard, and there’s no expectation of rapid, wholesale change in most other industries.
Ronald Koeman has upset some Blues with some of his comments about Liverpool and a couple of tweets recently, what did you make of the all that?
Actually had to do a search on Twitter to find out what this was about. I’m the sort of person who claims to like reading when actually she just reads Twitter all night, so I’m not sure how big a thing it was — or maybe it’s a sign that I don’t follow many Evertonians. Either way, I don’t see a problem with him giving an honest view on another side, or having a tree with red decorations. The white one was frankly terrifying.
With that being said, what’s your Christmas tree decorating game?
It used be quite nice — a few baubles, no tinsel (controversial?), star on top. Now there are Everton baubles in one section of it and school Christmas tat dotted throughout the rest of it. I have decorations made of some sort of flour base hanging on there, plastic gingerbread men and — confusingly — a glittery Star of David with a Merry Christmas sign attached to it. I don’t know either.
Romelu Lukaku has shone for Everton at times this season but do you think he needs more quality around him to allow the team to push on?
Overall, yes. He certainly needs more quality in terms of delivery into the box, and I don’t buy the line that he’s not working hard enough (just watch him directing players off the ball, and his movement), but he does need to look at his own first touch.
Onto the Reds, what have you made of their performances this season?
I’ve seen very few of the live performances, but the thing I’ve noticed most from what I have seen is that it often seems fun. I would like more of that.
Do you think Liverpool can challenge for the league title?
This season, no. Maybe too much fun being had. Chelsea look very strong — whilst we were poor in that 5-0 defeat, they were also sublime at times.
What would you say would be a realistic finish for Everton?
Maya went for 12th; I would say anywhere between seventh and ninth. I don’t expect any of those currently above us to drop down, aside from possibly West Brom, and then there are a clutch of teams who might be there or thereabouts — Southampton, maybe Watford and West Ham.
Finally, can we have a score prediction ahead of the game?
Me: 2-0 to you (I’m not going to jinx us…)
Maya: ‘2-1. Hang on, I mean 1-1. (Leighton) Baines to score.’
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