Return of the Roo

 

It’s been over a year since I’ve updated this thing, which dismays me. All summer, I’ve been feeling the itch, as it’s been a big one for my beloved Blues. Things are happening in a most un-Evertonian way: early signings, wads of cash being thrown around the likes of which I have never seen in the fifteen years of my love affair with this club. It’s honestly a little hard to know what to do with it all.

First it was Jordan Pickford coming in for 30 million quid, followed immediately by Davy Klassen, the former Ajax captain, for a further 24 million. Then it’s this kid  Henry Onyekuru, who is sent out on loan immediately to Anderlecht. Then we bring in Michael Keane from Burnley, who was linked with a handful of clubs, including Manchester United. On the same day we sign Sandro from Malaga. The former Barcelona man bagged 16 goals in 30 appearances for the Boquerones last season, and at 22 years of age, he continues to push the average age of the Toffees squad down. In fact, none of the signings to this point are older than 24. There is a hint at long-term squad building, and the quality of all the signings is undoubtable. And we’re not even out of June at this point.

Then we get the one and only Wayne Rooney on a free. Holy shit.

The hoopla this is kicking up is epic. The fact that we’re losing our best striker since Gary Linekar seems to have been lost in the mix here, but with Romelu Lukaku’s transfer to Man U potentially rising to an eye-watering 90 million pounds, there’s optimism around the place that not even his departure can dampen. The fact that the check will be handed right over to Ronald Koeman to carry on his epic overhaul of the squad means that it is more than likely that we can continue to pad out our striking options while still reinforcing other areas of the pitch. I’m elated, giddy, and a little bit freaked out. What happened to our Toffees?

It would appear that Farhad Moshiri means business. When the Anglo-Iranian businessman divested from Arsenal back in February 2016 to fund his purchase of 49% of Everton’s shares, he speedily set about transforming the clubs fortunes. Moshiri signaled his intention to no longer tolerate mediocrity by shipping out Roberto Martinez with three games to go that season, and pursued his top target for the club, Ronald Koeman, quickly and decisively. This was followed up with the appointment of Steve Walsh as director of football, the man largely responsible for assembling Leicester’s surprise Premier League winning squad. The outlay last season came in at about 68 million pounds, largely offset by the sale of John Stones to Manchester City. The impression was Moshiri was here to do something, not just sit back and collect interest on his investment.

Then came the announcement that Everton intended to build a new stadium at Bramley-Moore Docks, an investment that would cost the club 300 million pounds. After the Kirkby and King’s Dock debacles of years past, this is one move that appears properly on the cards, and would signal that the reinvention of Everton as power player in both the Premier League and Europe. While I’ve felt a deep sense of trepidation in the past, these moves have a different feel about them altogether.

It could get more interesting, too. The connection between Moshiri and Alsher Usamov, who owns a 30% stake in Arsenal, has been mentioned extensively in the press. The two have been in business for many years, and Moshiri continues to be a junior shareholder in Usamov’s USM Holdings. It was recently announced that USM Holdings were making a 75 million pound investment in Everton’s Finch Farm training facility. This is not chump change. Then came news in May that Usamov tried and failed in a 1 billion pound bid to wrest Arsenal away from its majority shareholder Stan Kroenke.

One has to wonder whether Usamov is watching what his old Friend is doing at Everton with growing interest. What happens if the Toffees gate-crash the top four this season? Or if they win the Europa League and sneak into the Champions League? Or, a lá Leicester, they somehow win the Prem? A few seasons ago I’d be laughed off the stage with this kind of looney-ass comment, but the Foxes showed everyone that you can just never tell. A one-off, they’ll will say. Lightning never strikes the same place twice, they’ll say.

Until it does.

Wayne Rooney is past it, no question. He’s not the player who burned up the pitches in England and Europe back in the mid-oughts, but he is a winner, and is accustomed to winning. He didn’t come to Everton simply to put up his feet and enjoy the adulation. Everton cleverly published some photos of Rooney with another Gwladys hero, Duncan Ferguson. Those clever enough to draw the line will remember how Big Dunc also left Everton (albeit much against his will) back in the 90’s but came back when he could, and is now heavily involved in the coaching setup there. The great’s come home, they’ll say. They come home to ready the next generation for even greater things, they’ll say.

Stevie G is back home across Stanley Park preparing to take over the reigns at Liverpool FC once he’s acquired the coaching chops and Jürgen Klopp has moved on to bigger things. It would seem that Rooney is following the same path, although he appears very keen to win some silverware for Everton before he hangs up his boots. I’d envisage Big Dunc getting a chance at the Everton hotseat before too long, and I can see Rooney, three to four seasons from now, sitting next to him in an assistant’s role. I can see Rooney managing Everton further down the line. I also believe Moshiri sees the same thing, and this move is as much about reintegrating Rooney into the fabric of Everton’s mythos as having an “inspirational figure” about the place to motivate the young uns.

Which brings us to Ross Barkley. In my previous post last summer, I had kicked around the idea of signing Rooney then as a way to get the most out of Barkley. As the most talked about and hyped player to roll off the assembly line at Everton’s storied academy since Rooney himself, Barkley embodies the hopes of the Blue faithful of a home-grown talent who sticks it out, Stevie G style, with his boyhood club and goes on to lead the Toffees to glories at home and abroad. Even the captain’s armband seemed a few seasons ago to be his birthright when he burst upon the scene during Roberto Martinez’s first season in charge. He appeared to have it all: guile, skill, a brilliant footballing brain, a nose for the killer pass and the goal. And then he stalled in his progress during seasons two and three of the brief Martinez tenure. Last season under Koeman did little to dispel a nagging sense that his kid just didn’t have the bottle for the big time. Then he had the temerity to hold out on signing a massive contract with the club, a move that drew Koeman’s ire and a threat to sell him if he failed to do so before the end of the season. Well, the season is long over and still there’s been no news in that direction, with Koeman making it abundantly clear that he has no intention of letting him go for free, so he is up for sale. The club slapped a 50 million pound price tag on him, which has somewhat dissuaded the likes of Tottenham, who had shown an interest at one point.

There’s been news rumbling ever since the close of last season that Everton are in for Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurdsson, a marvelous player in his own right. Leicester had a 40 million pound bid rejected today, and Swansea have made it clear that he will not be shipped out for less than 50 million quid. This brings up a scenario of a straight-swap between the clubs, if Barkley is indeed intent upon leaving Everton. To my mind, this would be a massive let down. If he is to leave, he should shoot for a big club, such as a Tottenham or a Chelsea. I am loathe to mention these clubs, who have been either taking our players or luring our prospects away year upon year. A move to Swansea, though, wouldn’t even be a sideways move at this point. The Welsh club spent most of last season in relegation trouble. Why switch to that sort of action? Furthermore, it’s not like Sigurdsson is itching to move. He’s settled at his club, why uproot a 28 year old player who isn’t going to improve massively, nor is likely to up our fortunes? What if he arrive jaded to begin with? I don’t see this as good business.

That all being said, Ross Barkley looks like a player struggling to come to terms with the massive expectations with which the Goodison faithful have saddled him. He’s been tarred and feathered by an unkind press, where he was recently portrayed as a boorish, knuckle-dragging buffoon. The last few years have been hard on him, and I honestly don’t think Koeman’s approach did much good for his state of mind. My sincere hope is Rooney’s arrival will deflect some of the glaring light of expectation off of Barkley and give him some room to breathe. I can imagine Rooney has been given the brief to put his arm around the lad’s shoulders and encourage him. My hope is that the words spoken to him once from none other than Stevie G will ring in Barkley’s ears still: stay and be a legend.

When Rooney left back in 2004, Everton were a very different club. They could not compete for the big name signings, they had to plunder the loan market during every transfer window and hope they could dig up a gem from the lower leagues (see Tim Cahill as exhibit A). This, though, is a new day. With the news of Romelu Lukaku’s transfer to United official, this does not have the same stench of Everton still being a selling club. This is more the case of a wantaway player being offloaded for a ridiculous sum in order to reinvest in the future. A future of silverware, European adventures and growth, year upon year.

Welcome home, Wayne. Stay home, Ross.

 

The way of all flesh…

guillotine

As is frequently the case, life has a habit of curtailing one’s passions, unless one’s passions are one’s life. As a father of three, husband and all-around working stiff, my passions, such as they are, often get pushed to the curb until such a time as the pile of it gets so… monumental… well, it gets time to pick up the rubbish and dispose of it.

Not that my passions are rubbish. Far from it.

WHAT a crazy season this has been so far in the Prem! Who would have thought Chelsea would be in the predicament in which they find themselves at this moment. Reports surfaced recently that Jose Mourinho is all out of time at Stamford Bridge, that the powers that be are awaiting until the end of the Stoke match this weekend to give the man the boot. This would have given them the international break to install his successor, a la Liverpool. It has since been reported that Mourinho retains the support of Chelsea’s deep-pocketed owner Roman Abramovich, but we all know how much that is worth these days. Chelski lost that game to Stoke, by the way.

This turn of events beggars belief, but is almost understandable given recent controversy surrounding the Portuguese schemer. Everywhere you look, Mourinho seems to be mentioned for all the wrong reasons: everything from the fallout of the Eva Carneiro fiasco to multiple stadium bans and fines, and even reports of a mutiny in the locker room led by everyone’s favorite sourpuss Cesc Fabregas (both deny the allegations). All signs point toward the Special One suddenly going from flavor of the month to something of a toxic asset. Where did it all go so wrong?

The Daily Mail, using its guise as an investigative news outlet, published this piece about all that has gone wrong old Jose. There are some pieces worth noting, though: Mourinho’s father, Felix, is apparently very ill and on his last legs. Mourinho has gone back and forth to Portugal often this season and one can see that the man is taking strain. One gets the feeling that a few misplaced words at the beginning of the season, coupled with the man’s mountain-sized ego and unwillingness to back down have contributed to what is becoming an untenable situation. I wonder if he had simply admitted he’d overreacted to Carneiro’s coming on the field to tend to Eden Hazard, if he’d defused that situation or, better, controlled his tongue and not said anything at all, whether he’d have a better grip on things right now.

Perhaps the problems started a little earlier, during the transfer window. Mourinho’s very public pursuit of Everton defender John Stones ended in futility, much to his embarrassment. How does a seemingly “small” club (when compared to the London giants) bat back such assiduous pursuit of one of their prize assets? Who do they think they are, Mourinho appeared to imply in his blustering comments. His inability to recruit adequate cover in that department, along with the ill-advised decision to allow Petr Cech to join Arsenal, seem to have called in to question his up-to-now unquestionable transfer nous.

How bad is it right now at Stamford Bridge, really? Does it make any sense in the world to sack a man who not six months ago brought home the Prem title at a canter with this same squad? Football is not the province of sense, reason or good taste, and as such the previous statements ought to be laughed off. This club is owned by none other than Roman Abramovich, a man accustomed to having everything he wants, right now, immediately, always. He went to some lengths to bury to hatchet between himself and Mourinho in order to woo the man back into the fold, and it now appears he may very well unearth it and bury the implement firmly in Jose’s back. It is so not beyond him it’s not funny.

The report on Mourinho’s imminent sacking came from a reliable source, and as such could not be discounted. Whether the latest pronouncement from the Bridge is a temporary stay of execution or a vote of confidence is to be seen. One hopes he hangs around, if for no other reason than the Premier League benefits from having a panto villian such as the Portuguese schemer. Still, Mourinho might have made his situation untenable.

It cannot be overstated that the situation with Eva Carneiro is unacceptable. In this day and age, a public figure of Mourinho’s clout cannot come across as a sexist pig, and there is no question that he did. The Football Association carried out an investigation, but never bothered to contact Ms Carneiro, which only further served to exacerbate the situation. How her input on this whole situation was deemed to be immaterial is truly beyond me, but it has now shown that the sexism is not focused simply on an individual, but is systemic. Carneiro was done very wrong in this sad debacle and goes to show that sexism in sport is not going to go away any time soon.

Mourinho’s inability to dislodge John Stones from Everton may have been the only well-publicized bit of transfer failure that we were made aware of. Chelsea did not reinforce their forward line, and Diego Costa showed that he has a niggle or two in him last season. We were all left to scratch our heads with the move for Colombian Radmael Falcão, who failed rather miserably to re-ignite his career at Manchester United last season. The Blues brought in Pedro from Barcelona for a significant outlay, but he has so far failed to make a real impression. We all know Loic Remy is just a backup. So Chelsea’s front line is, amazingly, in kind of a bad way. Perhaps Pedro was expected to hit the ground running. There have been reports that he is unhappy at the Bridge and wish he’d never left the Nou Camp.

Questions must be asked of Chelsea’s recruitment policy, if one indeed exists. The Blues currently have 32 of their players out on loan. That is not a typo. Chelsea have more out on loan than my beloved Toffees have on their books. While that last statement is not exactly true (it would appear the Toffees have 43 players signed up altogether), it does give one pause when you compare the roster of, say, Everton to Chelsea’s. Clearly, both clubs have increased focus on bringing in younger, unproven talent. It’s just that Chelsea have done on a much grander scale, and have sent the equivalent of a squad and its bench out on loan with a view to, potentially, plowing them back into the team.

Some get away. Everton has benefited from this policy, as has Man City (with Kevin De Bruyne, although via Wolfsburg). These aren’t exactly slouches. It would appear Chelsea’s scattershot style of recruiting young talent with great potential is netting results, but not for them. That is because these kids keep leaving due to annoyance at a perceived lack of chances. How many of this current loan crop will wind up back at the Bridge?

There’s a bit of arrogance in this policy: go out and scoop up as much young, raw talent and if they work out, great. At least the competition didn’t get them. The problem lies in whether they will live to rue the day they sold a world beater to a competitor or if they are unable to recoup some of the outlay. It’s a dangerous thing to spend a rich man’s money. If the results are good, then all is forgiven. If not…

That is probably where this is all going. Whether he’s acting like more of an ass than usual because of his father’s illness is neither here nor there. It is not up for debate whether Mourinho is everyone’s cup of tea; the man clearly divides opinion. If he continues to bring home the bacon, then much of his eccentricity can be written off. If not, then no. The Carneiro incident has proven he can be shockingly tone deaf to the mores of the times, while his spending can always lead to an inquest if the outlay does not net results. Pedro has been, so far, a costly mistake, while Falcão’s wages aren’t exactly bargain basement either. Fabregas was unstoppable last season but has not impressed this one. Nemanja Matic has not been at his best. Of course John Terry is slowing down, it’s why Mourinho chased Stones all summer. Expensive players, expensive contracts.

Still… Mourinho is a fan favorite. He is not going to be shown the door so soon. The recent vote of confidence might only be a stay of execution but really, who better is available? Rumors have circulated for what seems like forever that Abramovich’s deepest wish is to install Pep Guardiola as manager, but the Spanish tactician might be given bumper incentive to stay in Bavaria.

After having gone to such lengths to convince Mourinho to come back to the Bridge, perhaps Abramovich’s best bet is to allow this supposed top manager lead this team out of its rut. That being said, Mourinho could do worse than to polish up his public persona. He has always been a complainer, but this season he has managed to take that to new highs (or lows). As has been noted elsewhere, a bit of humility couldn’t hurt. Results are great, but character is better. I wonder if he has it in him?

Not for all the tea in China…

This summer has proven to be long and anguishing for Evertonians the world over. The “will he, won’t he” transfer saga of one John Stones (to either Chelsea, or now also the Man’s Citteh and United) has dragged on for three months, first with Jose Mourinho’s 20 million pound bid, which was followed two weeks later by one for 25 million, and then another for 30 million. As mentioned, this elevated amount of interest has drawn the two Manchester behemoths into the mix (blood in the water will do that), and it is more and more turning into a matter of not if but when (and to whom) the young former Barnsley academy grad will head up stream to greener pastures.

That Stones is destined to move on to a club larger (and more profitable) than Everton is a forgone conclusion in the minds of many. Manager Roberto Martinez is not one of those, plainly indicating his vision for the player: a center pillar in his plan to build up a new generation of Evertonian greats, future Everton captain, perhaps even the same role for England.

The eyes of the footballing world (or at least England) are on this young man who has had such a meteoric rise from Barnsley’s academy.

And then, just now, we hear that the young man has handed in a transfer request. Many Evertonians will be letting out howls of despair, clenching their teeth in anger and wondering what it’s going to take to be able to hold onto their prized assets.

As a Toffeeman myself, I feel annoyed and somewhat ambivalent. I can understand the boy wants to play for Chelsea. It’s regular Champions League appearances, Premier League titles, yearly runs at the FA Cup… I mean, wouldn’t you? So it’s not a matter of not being able to see it from his side.

To his credit, Stones has not once in the three games he’s played looked like an unsettled player or that his role at Everton is somehow beneath him. No, it has been much the opposite: he has been a model professional, playing extremely well all three times. So this transfer request is simply a young player who, understanding his brand is hot right now, will attempt to leverage the attention being lavished upon him to force through a move to a bigger club. The reasons are good, and beyond those stated above, any promising professional would want to be surrounded by the very best in his chosen field.

It’s not that Stones is in the wrong. It’s just that his request should be utterly ignored, bottom drawered, and he must be made to honor his contract if that is what the owner of it, namely, Everton Football Club, deign necessary.

Football is an odd profession. You have these binding contracts that players sign and are not allowed to simply walk away from. I work a job in a call center. If I get offered a better job with better pay, I put in my two weeks notice and walk away. My employer cannot force me to stay here. But John Stones, as much as he has a right to want to play at a bigger club, has signed a binding contract that he must honor unless the club releases him of that responsibility. The only way that will happen is if they get a silly money offer. But I have a feeling even that won’t be enough.

Odds are pretty good Stones will get his move. But Martinez now needs to make a difficult decision: does he try to put Chelsea over the proverbial barrel and extract a record fee for the youngster? Does he then turn it around to pick up two defensive reinforcements and a few other coveted players? Or does he dig in his heels and say no, not under any circumstances, and just ride this one out with a player who will likely become unsettled and unhappy with the turn of events? Either way, he must act immediately. You get the sense that it is now too late in the day to get adequate cover.

For my money, Stones is too important to the cause. And so, even if he rides the bench for a few weeks, Stones must be made to stay. He will get his move. Just not this window.

Furthermore, Everton must throw down the gauntlet here. There is something to be said about the nakedly provocative nature of Chelsea’s pursuit of the youngster. Comments by Mourinho, Chelsea captain John Terry and backline partner Gary Cahill cannot be seen as anything other than tapping a player up through the press. The London aristocrats should be made pay for their impudence by not only missing out on their number one summer target, but be made to watch their coveted prize sold to another club. Everton should make arrangements for Stones to be offered to the likes of Manchester United or even a club on the continent, such as Bayern Munich. You get the sense Stones would profit greatly (as would the Three Lions) from having played in Spain or Germany. At this stage, with so few cards to play, Everton must not sell Stones to Chelsea merely on principle.

that last bit there is a bit of my own spleen-venting. I’d rather loan him to Liverpool at this stage. Chelsea can go spontaneously explode for all I care.

Not that this is going to happen. The most likely scenario is Mourinho and Co. will come back with 32 million quid and a smug grin, and a deal will be hammered out. Chelsea will be in Goodison on 12 September, the first game back after the international break, and you can expect a mutinous atmosphere at the Old Lady. If I were Mourinho, I’d pick up a nasty cold or something and simply not show, so hot will the hatred be in the place for him. Stones would be advised to stay in London. And it will be an ugly, card-littered affair.

Even if the Toffees prevail in holding on to their star defender, you get the sense that Chelsea’s next turnout at Goodison will be an acrimonious one. If they lose him… it will color their meetings for years. David Moyes took immense personal satisfaction in beating Manchester City in the years following their successful luring of centerback Joleon Lescott. You get the sense that dynamic would be present again.

Martinez has spoken of his desire to build a team, and is recruiting younger players to do just that. There were six players on the pitch under the age of 22 in the last two games, and you get the sense Martinez has been prioritizing youth in this transfer window. At 21, Stones is central to his plans. As Everton’s legendary ‘keeper Neville Southall recently stated, what sort of message would selling Stones send out to the other young players in the team?

It’s a fair point. Here’s a counterpoint: holding onto Stones for the sake of it might be a bit of hubris.

I think, in the balance, it’s important that Everton hang onto Stones for this window and then reward him with improved terms on his contract. He has proven that he can be a professional and do the job even when his head’s been turned. He’s young, he can hang in for another year or two. It’s no train smash in his career if he stays a bit longer as he is so young now.

His very youth might be a card to play in this particular game. As good as he is, he he has a lot about his game to improve and he will have a greater chance to do so playing regularly every week. While Terry has seen his performances questioned in his last two outings (substituted in one and red-carded in the other), there is no guarantee that the old soldier is going to roll over and allow a callow youngster such as Stones to usurp his spot in the starting eleven. The far more likely scenario is Stones will find himself on the bench for the remainder of this season. That would likely mean he would have to prove his worth all over again to England manager Roy Hodgson, who will not select him if he is not playing.

If Stones has already thought this one through and he is insistent enough, then perhaps Martinez will have to just accept the inevitable. But the carrot of a starting berth in the Three Lions in next summer’s Euros and the promise of a move in the next summer transfer window could just be enough to keep the young man put, for now. Here’s hoping he stays…

Season Preview: Everton

There are no warm fuzzies left at Goodison Park for Roberto Martinez. There is no more praise for the attractive, passing style of football, the supposed return of the School of Science days, no more patience for anything other than results. Results and a top-eight finish, at the very minimum. While not too many Toffeemen will pine for the return of dour Davey Moyes at Merseyside, it’s no use playing pretty if you wind up in the basement of the League.

I had the Toffees finishing sixth last season. A respectable return in an increasingly competitive League, I felt Martinez had proven you could play with aplomb, the right way, attractively, and be rewarded in the League and lead the Toffees into Europe.

Alas… Everton got off to a slow-as-molasses-in-January start and never recovered. Fingers were pointed everywhere, but ultimately it was a combination of player fatigue and tactical inflexibility. Once Martinez acquiesced to player demand for a more direct approach (and John Stones made his return from injury around the turn of the year), results improved. But the damage was done. 12th place was about right for the club’s atrocious form throughout the season, and it could have been a whole lot worse.

So it is with no small measure of disgust that this Evertonian has watched Chelsea’s revolting manipulation of the press in their attempt to woo John Stones away from Goodison Park. It’s no secret that Stones will play for a biger club than Everton someday. It’s just that it should not be today. Or tomorrow. Or at any point of this or next season.

To say that Stones is pivotal to the way Martinez wants his teams to play is to state the obvious. A superb ball handler with the confidence and intelligence to build the play from the back, Stones is the dynamo that fires the Everton attack engine. Phil Jagielka can play that way also, but it is not his natural skill set. Stones was born to play this way. One has to imagine that Martinez took the job at Everton at least in part because John Stones was already there (he’d unsuccessfully tried to persuade the player to join him at Wigan) and so highly values the player’s abilities that he felt he could continue to develop his blueprint for the kind of football he wants to play. If Stones were to leave now, Martinez would lose possibly the most important piece of his tactical puzzle. Antolin Alcaraz, for all the heat he took from the press and fans at Everton, had been a player in that mold for Martinez at wigan – it is why he was so keen to bring him over to Everton when he took the job. Alcaraz never settled though, and the whole matter was rendered redundant with the rapid development of Stones. It was as if the player and manager were meant to work together, another reason his eventual defection will cut so deeply. Both men seem to genuinely like one another and like to work together.

But… it is Chelsea. And while it can be argued that Stones will likely ride out a season on the bench, he would be the man at Chelsea. He seems to not only be an adequate replacement to John Terry – he has all the hallmarks of an upgrade. While Terry is no slouch on the ball, he is no John Stones, either. Stones is the future – in twenty years time, editorials will be written about the transformative John Stones generation of defenders who can play out of the back. His name will be that touchstone, the shorthand to refer to when defender’s changed in the game.

So… yeah. He’ll go. If he doesn’t go this year, if he stays the full season, Everton could finish in the top ten. I have them finishing at eight, for no other reason than I love them and that is what I want to happen. If Stones leaves, it will likely be late (like transfer deadline day at midnight) and they will not have had the time to recruit a replacement. Martinez has been forced to play hardball with Chelsea and give no indication that he is planning for life after Stones (like seeking a defender on the loan market), which puts Everton in a weakened position in this “it’s not a matter of if but when” scenario.

If he stays and if we manage to win the first two matches, I think Everton, being the proverbial confidence team, could be a lot of fun to watch this season and finish in eighth. Tom Cleverly seems to have bedded in nicely during pre-season, and the signature of Gerard Deulofeu (to the delicious howls of dismay from Barcelona presidential hopeful Joan Laporta) was music to the Everton faithful’s collective ears. Deulofeu is an electrifying player, capable of the sublime (and ridiculous), a single-handed game changer. His signature will hopefully light a fire under apparently disgruntled winger Kevin Mirallas who, although playing on the opposite wing, will have to know he’s now not the only miracle worker on the squad. Mirallas has since signed a contract extension at the club, as has midfield commander James McCarthy. So maybe it’s not all doom and despair, but how else is an Evertonian to be?

It’s all up in the air, all to play for, and there are no guarantees. But Martinez needs to produce, and quickly. Chairman Bill Kenwright is about the most patient and supportive owner in the League at the moment, but another season of going backwards will not do for a team accustomed to finishing in the top half of the table. Everton are a big enough club to be finishing in the European places every season. The talent is there, but are the tactics and leadership? What seemed to be such a lock at the beginning of last season is very much up in the air at the start of this one.

The status of summer

Summer is great and everything, except if you’re into European football, and then you’re pretty much sitting around reading the rumor pages. So this is the summer I begin paying attention to my local team, the Philadelphia Union.

It’s shameful to say I’ve not been to a game at PPL park. Confessing this feels exactly like trying to explain to relatives why you never come around anymore – well, I got three kids; work’s stressing me out; I got my hands full right now… none of which are untrue, but still…

So while my first loves are all things Brasil (especially Sao Paulo Futebol Club) and Everton, I am, as a matter of decency, going to make it a point to get in there and catch some games. My son will love it.

As for the stories that were being highlighted when I last came in here… Sepp Blatter freaked people out by denying that he had resigned, and then sort of going back on it, and then being told off by everyone of consequence within global football (as well as outside of it) that he should resign, but not before Putin said he should be given the Nobel Prize. Latest news is Michel Platini will run for the post. It’s going to be an interesting scene there for ages to come…

The most overblown transfer of summer finally went through, with the evil Reds of Liberpewl netting nearly 50 million pounds in the deal. Not bad for a guy who could very well find himself on the bench for much of the next few years. Sterling, while fast and tricksey, has yet to prove himself in a proper world-caliber squad. I guess he’ll get his chance now.

It’s looking more and more likely that Angel Di Maria, who showed what a class player he was at the beginning of last season for the Red Devils, is looking like he’ll be moving over to Paris San Germain soon. There’s a good article on the Beeb as to the whys and wherefores, but the Prem will sorely miss that level of quality gracing its pitches next season, leaving many a fan and neutral wondering what could have been…

That paragon of class and understatement Jose Mourinho has once again reminded us all of why he is held in such high regard with his latest war of words… against old rival and current Real Madrid manager Rafa Benitez’s wife, no less. Gotta love the guy, he is the gift that keeps on giving.

Speaking of the putrid London Blues, their obnoxious pursuit of Everton defensive linchpin John Stones has many a Toffee wondering if we will see top talent heading for the doors this summer. Rumors flying around him and midfield general James McCarthy make for uneasy reading, with kickoff for the 2015-2016 season just days away. The story is from UK’s Daily Mirror, which is, well, not exactly the bastion of journalistic excellence, but it’s not the first time we’ve heard these rumors.

The Premier league is just two weeks away from kickoff and it’s about now that the transfers begin to hot up. Of course there is too much to talk about, so I won’t try. I hope to have up the predictions for every team in the Prem before the start of the season, but that doesn’t always go off the way I wanted it to!

In a nod to local club the U’s, former Schalke 04 midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta has been training with the Philly MLS side in the last week, sparking rumors of a possible transfer to PPL Park. This is exactly the kind of talent the team need to attract and retain to see the club evolve. At 30, he is still has plenty of time left in his playing career. A full international (he’s represented his country Switzerland 75 times, with 10 goals), the experience and nous he would offer the squad would be invaluable. Reports of interest from both the Premier League (Leicester City have been tracking his progress) and La Liga (in the form of Real Betis) will be a test for the Union’s leadership, as Barnetta already implied earlier in the summer that England would be his preferred destination. We shall see, we shall see…