23 August 2014

Open letter to Everton fans

Greetings, Toffees. It looks like we have begun a beautiful. tumultuous relationship, having exchanged pleasantries via a win, a loss, and a draw each. I've always admired you from afar, hoping you might someday overtake our own noisome neighbors. However, I  never imagined you'd do so in such fine fashion—nor did I think you'd overstep so far, with designs on elbowing us out of the way as well. Thank god order was restored before too long. Know your place, Toffees, and stick to it. Don't get too big for yer britches, are you'll get spanked, and we'll be the ones holding the paddle.Speaking of spankings, we've offered a few over the years. 7-0. 1-6. 4-1. That last one of course paved the way for us to win the FA Cup. Sorry if we never thanked you properly.

Your last campaign was a bright one, no doubt, and it started some tongues wagging around the idea that there might be a few Toffees good enough to make the jump over to Arsenal. Lukaku. Martinez. Barkley. Ultimately, though, we calmed down a bit and came to our senses. Yes, Martinez has you playing some positive, attractive football, but you can no longer sneak up on folks (tricksy habit), nor can you count on such carefree salad days.

People are going to expect things from you, bigger things than last season. However, that's a Damoclean sword dangling over you. Last season, you were the plucky upstarts punching with the big boys (and landing a few hay-makers, I'll admit). This time through, you've been pencilled in as a top-four contender. The 'underdog' label is gone, and with it the naive freedom that allowed you to ignore the pressures. Not sure you agree? What happened then in the run-in? While our attention was split between the FA Cup and the Prem, you could focus on the Prem. Even fighting the ghosts of our nine-year trophy drought, we also had the grit to reel you in and finish fourth.

Fifth, though, is no mere door-prize, not when the top three spots have already been all but auctioned off to the highest bidder. However, you've also incurred the curse of Europa, and with it accursed sojourns into far-flung footballing backwaters. Long trips. Harsh, unforgiving pitches. Consonant-strewn, vowel-deprived opponents. Long may you toil there, and many Prem points may you drop as a result. I never wish injury on an opponent (well, maybe I did it to John Terry, but exceptions and rules, eh?), but I do foresee fatigue and possible injury becoming more regular companions to you.

We have our own travel-woes, of coruse, having returned from Turkey, land of clubs with that little curlicue in their nameş. Beşiktaş battled us to a draw, hacked Arteta to the ground, and forced us to treat our second-leg next week like a cup final. You see the dilemma? Despite my vows that we put you in your places, we may not be able to pull it off. We're a bit...distracted. It's not that we underestimate you—quite the opposite, in fact. It's just that we have little choice but to focus keep one eye on Wednesday's clash, a few players have already picked up knocks, and our German contingent may not be available after winning the World Cup.

Am I prepping a few excuses in case we lose? Yep.

It would be a back-handed compliment to suggest that we're wary of the threat you pose. There's more to it than that. Martinez has you believing, and deservedly so. Meanwhile, we've done a nice bit of business over the summer, but much of that has simply been to replace departed players. You all may not have been as aggressive in the summer-window, but we know full-well that you mean business all the same. I just hope you don't get a chance to give us the business today. We know what you're capable of both today and through the season. Lukaku terrorized us last the last time we came to Goodison Park, and I again am casting about for excuses when I hope that he struggles to live up to the expectations that now surround him.

Truth be told, Toffees, I'm pulling for you. Just not today, of course. I'd love to see you finish above the Spuds and Kopites, the Chavs and Mancs. Just not above us.