B, C, N, U…


Otherwise known as my obligatory season review, naturally featuring reference to reality TV ‘stars’, over-complicated narrative, and at times ridiculous bathos.

Now that the somewhat anticlimactic summer internationals have passed, it feels somewhat appropriate to take an annual look back over past few months. I have decided to begin it by paraphrasing your favourite Slaughterhouse Five quote and mine:

“Some things were beautiful, and others hurt.”

And with that, anyone who has read my offerings throughout 2008 / 9 or just knows who I support, will be able to see where this is going. A season that at times promised much, and generally delivered, before ending with wonderings of what might have been. Over the past ten months I have made heartfelt gestures on these pages in which I have dissected my own life events and attempted to link them to those played out on hallowed turfs from the north west of England, to the ‘heavy’ pitch at Wembley, and even the infected fields of Mexico, each article honestly being a cathartic release which leaves me emotionally drained after posting. But if you’re not familiar with my schtick, stick with me, as I muse on the campaign.

I will begin at the end, on Saturday 30 May, and my ultimate disappointment. I genuinely thought it was our destiny to win it, but in the end, good organisation and flashy moves beat the plucky, unattractive underdog, ‘Amanda Holden’s favourite’ who ‘made people feel good’ but who people felt sorry for especially after the kind comments about her victorious opponents that Susan Boyle made.

Some things were beautiful, and others hurt

No, of course I was talking about the FA Cup Final, still one of the highlights of my supporting life, despite the outcome. The day itself was wonderful and I was immensely proud of my fellow supporters and my team but ultimately saddened by my realisation that there is no place for sentiment at the big occasions and it is not always ‘written’, despite the events that had taken place on the road to Wembley (twice) which offered evidence to the contrary. What happened later that evening on Britain’s Got Talent, only underlined my new found belief that things do not necessarily happen for a reason, and the good won’t always out.

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Chelsea’s superstars win the cup for the departing Hiddink


We simply weren’t good enough on the day, as Moyesie himself rightly or wrongly admitted. But I had dared to dream (“I dreamed a dream?”) Perhaps I had got carried away by the justice that had been served earlier that week, when one of the two best teams I have seen this season won the Champions’ League. My review of that particular game would involve a beautiful woman belting out classics at the MEN Arena, given I was in the presence of Beyonce that evening, but the footage I saw including that awesome photo of Messi soaring to head the second, confirmed everything that I previously took as fact – that the season would ultimately be a success for all those who deserved it.

Barca in particular showed the world how to play football, and the game against Real Madrid was without doubt one of the greatest performances I have ever seen. I recall being excited about seeing Pep Guardiola play for the old boys at Goodison a couple of years ago (he didn’t) as I remembered him to be a classy midfielder from Johan Cruyff’s dream team. Ultimately, I was to gain even more pleasure from seeing him coach, as a potential style icon on the sidelines, and was particularly pleased that this season two of the apparent good guys of the team, Xavi and Iniesta (whom Guardiola himself had lauded several years previous) getting the plaudits, along with Messi of course.

Another example of this theory that this was the season that ‘good’ beat off ‘evil’ was Burnley’s arrival in the Premiership, everything that I have seen and read about them suggested their playoff victory was a fairytale and a deserved victory for a family club with tradition. You see, I had begun to believe that villains might just prosper earlier in the season though, as from about Christmas time I was filled with dread that Liverpool were going to win the league.

They for me were the other best team of the season. I bet you weren’t expecting that. But the victories I witnessed at Newcastle, Old Trafford, and at home to Villa and Real Madrid, did make me think that they actually deserved to win the league. Thankfully, for my own sanity and personal opposition to some of their fans – a couple of points dropped at home – perhaps Tim Cahill’s equaliser had something to do with it –  meant that once again the Premiership trophy ended up at the other end of the East Lancs.


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Liverpool last won the league nineteen years ago

Bringing things back to Everton, what made the race for the title (copyright Jim Rosenthal from another end of season video I once owned from twenty years ago) so intriguing though, was that we beat both teams on the way to the final and so perhaps I was right to believe so strongly. Certainly, the night replay at Goodison when my prayers were answered, added weight to that theory (“Memories?”) and of course the semi-final penalty shoot out brought tears to my eyes for the right reasons this time.


Without my sister and my girlfriend I might not have made it to either Wembley visit so I’d like to put on record my appreciation. Those days will live with me for a long time. They were two of few real highlights of the season though, the absence of which partly resulted in my having given up my season ticket, temporarily anyway. Indeed, only a week after the penalties we winced collectively as our new hero Phil Jagielka fell to the ground in a painful reminder of just how cruel football can be.

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‘Jags’ ‘slots’ home the winning ‘penno’


Indeed, that the best game I probably saw this season was a final minute 3-2 defeat to Villa, speaks volumes. Equally so, that perhaps the best away performance I saw was by Robinho, who I believe comes close to symbolising much that is wrong with football today. And, that I have any highlights at all after our first two home games is maybe the most surprising aspect of this article. To think I went from being stood getting autographs off kids on the first day of the domestic season, to cheering them on at Wembley on the last, is incredible really.


Other good bits along the way though, involved my X Factor interactive participation project, the fortune cookies bringing us luck, our own ‘hairy angel’ Fellaini’s emergence as a cult hero (and the focus of some strange dreams, one involving a dead duck (I dreamed a dream indeed)), Steven Pienaar’s as a real one, Preston’s late run into the play offs, Carlisle’s late salvation, Cahill’s comments in an interview, falling back in love with the Italian game (with only a magazine every month and one televised Milanese derby to whet my calcio appetito), of course winning a classy Monterrey shirt in an EFP competition (* does hip wiggle for judges) , and most of all, those Barcelona performances I caught on Sky.


But similarly, I have become sick of many fans’ behaviours. And some players’. I was just sick at times, and not just of the obscene amounts of money, Ronaldo being a case in point. Even Kaka has now seemingly fallen into the trap, showing that he belongs not only to Jesus. It is admirable that he chose to act in the best interests of the club, but a sad indictment on the uncertainties that face some of the giants of the modern game. Talking of which, I have to mention the sad demise of Newcastle United. Many were glad to see them go, I’ve got a soft spot for them with part of my roots soaked in Newcastle Brown Ale so I actually wasn’t, and certainly don’t revel in their being up for sale on ebay. And to really rub salt in, my fantasy football team finished second bottom of their thirty-odd team strong league, suggesting that maybe I do not know as much about football as I’d like to think.

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As is tradition, I will end with a couple more awards. Manager of the season to Snr Guardiola with Mr Moyes, Guus Hiddink and Alan Irvine being runners-up. My player of the season? Jagielka. Then, Messi. With Gerrard a close third, believe it or not. And goal of the season – Dan Gosling, naturally.
So Susan Boyle just misses out once again.