Villarreal visit Goodison Park Friday to play Everton in a friendly, the first time the clubs have met since a memorable Champions League playoff match in 2005. Since many of you may not be that familiar with Everton, we asked Tom Mallows of the RoyalBlueMersey.com blog to answer some questions about this storied side--everything from the future ownership of the team to some of the folklore surrounding the club.
You'll certainly see some similarities between Villarreal's and Everton's situations. The local owners have done their best to keep the team competitive, but now that Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool are owned by folks with money (and Man Utd as well, though also with lots of debt) they're finding it increasingly hard to compete at the top. That's too bad, because they are a friendly side with a storied history and much to admire.
(1) How has Everton’s pre-season gone?
Mixed! We began with a 4-1 win over lower league side Bury before going on a two-game US Tour. There we won one and lost one before heading to Germany where we lost 1-0 to Werder Bremen. I reckon we will get a better idea of how the team is progressing on Friday.
(2) Everton, like Villarreal, tries to compete with teams that have much bigger budgets. What is a realistic goal for this season in the EPL? Or is the FA Cup a big goal?
It is getting increasingly hard to compete with the teams at the top of the league; they all have billionaire owners and generate huge income thanks to the Champions League and big stadiums with corporate facilities. We have done our best to try and break into that elite group but with a ageing, small ground finances are tight. The best we can hope for realistically is 6th or 7th and, as you say, a decent Cup run. On our day we can beat anyone so with the draw on our side there is no reason why we can’t have a good go at the FA Cup.
(3) Why are you called the "Toffeemen", and what is that jaunty tune that's played when you come onto the pitch?
The nickname is believed to have stemmed from Mother Noblett’s Toffee shop, which was located near Goodison Park soon after the club moved there in the 1880s. Even to this day a young girl dresses up as the ‘Toffeelady’ before each home game and walks round the pitch giving sweets – usually Everton mints - to the supporters.
The tune Everton come out to is called Johnny Todd, which was the theme tune to Z-Cars, a TV Cop show which was based in Liverpool in the 1960s. As many of the scenes were filmed near Goodison Park the club decided to adopt the song and have played it at every home game ever since. Previous to its use on TV Johnny Todd was best known as a Liverpool children’s folk song dating back to the 1890s.
(4) David Moyes wants to bring in players, but needs to sell to do so. Who do you see leaving, and who might take their place?
I think Moyes will be desperate to keep his best players, so will resist bids for the likes of Phil Jagielka and Marouane Fellaini. Therefore the most likely players to leave are players like Yakubu and Joseph Yobo. Both players spent last season out on loan but to date any potential transfers have failed to materialise, meaning Moyes’ hands continue to be tied in the transfer market.
(5) We know players like Tim Cahill and Tim Howard, and Leighton Bainesalso gets some press, but what players should we know about that we may not be familiar with?
Given the tight finances at Goodison Park David Moyes is reliant on developing youth players as well as picking up bargains. One of those is rampaging Irish full-back Seamus Coleman, who cost just £60,000 from Irish side Sligo Rovers two years ago. He established himself in the first team last season with a series of fearless displays and won the club’s Young Player of the Year Award. Elegant midfielder Jack Rodwell is a graduate of the club’s youth Academy and is looking to make up for lost time after an injury hit season last year. The latest player to emerge from the youth team is 17-year-old Ross Barkley, who plays like a young Steven Gerrard. However, keep that to yourself as we don’t want any clubs sniffing around!
(6) With the Boston Red Sox owners buying Liverpool, has that changed the dynamic on Merseyside? Are your owners feeling pressure to sell?
Owner Bill Kenwright is very open about his desire to sell the club. He simply doesn’t have the required funds to back the manager in the transfer market. However, as a life-long Everton fan he is wary of selling to the wrong person – there have been a number of foreign take-overs in the Premier League and the vast majority of them have not brought long-term benefits to the club. The supporters do appreciate this and aren’t demanding a billionaire like at Manchester City, just someone who can support the manager in the transfer window. They also understand, grudgingly, that Liverpool FC carries a greater worldwide appeal and has a larger fan-base abroad so we are unlikely to attract similar investors to John Henry and co.
We also need to revamp our current ground or built a brand new stadium elsewhere, which costs big-money, meaning we simply aren’t the most attractive proposition for would-be buyers.
That said, many of the fans are growing frustrated at the wall of silence coming from the boardroom at present. They feel the manager is doing his best but is not being adequately supported by those above him. A number of protest groups have been formed with the aim of forcing through change, whether these protests gather pace perhaps depends on how we start the season.
(7) What's your prediction for the game?
I think it will be a tough one – Villarreal have better individual players than us I think. However, with home advantage and the supporters urging the players on, I think we can sneak a 2-1 win.
(8) What's your prediction for Everton's season?
Hmmm more of the same I reckon, win a few, lose a few and probably finish between 7th-10th. Anything higher would be a huge bonus. I would like to think we could go far in the cups though.
Well, I told them we would win 2-1, so we agree on the score at least, if not the result!
This post is getting a bit long, so I'll explain why Everton fans still get upset thinking of their loss to us in 2005, and cover our squad for the match and other news, tomorrow. Bona nit!