I’m writing this while enjoying my Secret Santa gift, an Everton quiz book, so a few questions are coming your way. Keep on your toes, people.
Christmas is a time to not only give and receive gifts, sweat over the purchasing of said gifts, and enjoy the dearth of bank holidays that come around this time of year, but also to reflect on what you can be thankful for. A fulfilling lifestyle, perhaps. The love of family and friends. Or the boss Everton side that are truly making this the season to be jolly. Of course, Christmas brings a great football bounty. In the twelve days from the Winter Solstice to New Year’s Day, we get the pleasure of four servings of Everton. 360 minutes of the Blues. Bliss.
Which team did Everton beat for the first time in ten years with a 2-1 victory at Goodison in February 2010?
After what was meant to be the run of fixtures that broke us, we have emerged a much stronger unit. And the next sides in the Everton sights are hardly the stuff of nightmares. Sunderland and Southampton are the only teams who can stop us going a calendar year unbeaten in the league at home, while a trip to Stoke could well make the perfect start to 2014 in a fixture that evokes memories of thirty years previous. Win all of those and at five o’clock on January 1st, we’ll be four points off the top of the Premier League. Maximum.
But that’s presuming a bit too much. First comes a rather tasty-looking trip to South Wales to take on a Swansea side with an all-too-familiar style. And, frankly, we wouldn’t be toasting such good times at Goodison if it wasn’t for this lot. Swansea City are very much the house that Roberto built. They gave him his first job, he returned the favour by instilling an ethos and system that led to their most successful period since the Eighties – or perhaps in their entire history. It’s also fair to say that Roberto Martinez would most likely not have been the man unveiled as our new boss half a year ago without his Swansea stint as the first stepping stone up to our Mere Green Field.
Which two players have scored a record 16 Premier League goals against Everton?
Incidentally, it could’ve been his opposite number sitting in the away dugout at the Liberty Stadium tomorrow. After promotion from the Championship and a solid first Premier League season under some bloke who went on to work as Joe Allen’s full-time carer, Swansea turned to a man slightly more successful and likeable than Andy Gray. Michael Laudrup now has a side whose success is indicative of the evolution of the Premier League. They are a mid-table team, but one that spends sensibly and plays an attractive, positive brand of football. Frankly, it’s good to see them representing the English top flight in Europe, even if they’re Welsh. Better than bloody Stoke.
But turn on the Yvonne Fair, because oh Lord, it should’ve been us. They may have snuck in via the Milk Cup, and Bradford are as intimidating an opponent as Abu Hamza in an egg-toss contest, but they’ve got a trophy in the cabinet and a sound Europa League tie against Napoli to look forward to. They are a good side, an example to all those who want top-flight security and football that keeps the punters rolling in, but if we want their spot in Europe we have to put them in their place. Which, contrary to the pre-season predictions of many a non-Evertonian and “expert” TV pundit, is below us.
In the first twenty years of the Premier League, which side did the Toffees beat on the most occasions (sixteen times in all)?
On paper, this one looks good for us – being up against a side that has never beaten us and all. We’ve played Swansea four times in the Premier League – 0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 3-0. Doesn’t get much better than that. While the Everton machine rumbles on, Swansea have stalled a fair bit. They’ve had to slog it out with the likes of Hull, Norwich and Stoke, and that’s not a style Michael Laudrup’s too familiar with. Just try comparing him with Steve Bruce. Christ.
But that’s not much of an issue with Laudrup and Martinez making the touchline look a bit of a catwalk. The football will be pure and flowing, which suits them (and us) down to the ground. Once-prolific attacking pair Michu and Wilfried Bony both have intentions of finding form again, and they do not have the constraints of a demanding European schedule that caused the rough patch of the last couple of months.
Bob Latchford scored for Swansea on his first trip back to Goodison in December of what year?
And they may be buoyed by the fact that we were pure sh*te against Fulham. Although a couple of players stood out – Leon Osman had a stormer – the midfield was a shadow of the dominant unit normally bossed by messrs McCarthy and Barry. Fulham’s penalty was harsh to say the least, but the win did not feel earned. Although, to turn the tables on that slightly, we played a piss-poor game and won. We did that under David Moyes, to be fair. A 2-1 home turnaround against Sunderland here, a stoppage time Vic Anichebe winner at West Brom there. But this time we played poorly and won 4-1. Fulham’s impotency played a big part in that, but it’s an oft-told cliché nowadays that the very best sides can play badly and win. Mission accomplished.
The big news regarding our line-up this Sunday is that Gerard Deulofeu is out injured, and that it’s very unlikely that Leighton Baines will start in his place – but him featuring has not been ruled out. So the proposition of a side including both Oviedo and Baines – and the head-scratching that would follow such an idea – is on hold. Keeping Osman in after his good performance and bringing Mirallas back into the starting XI are also options, but fitness concerns over the latter could even see Steven Naismith given a run-out. James McCarthy is back – grand.
Which side have we beaten more times than any other – a total of 78 victories?
Swansea have a similar luxury in options, except the double blow of losing Vorm and Dyer for this one will hurt more than us only lacking Baines and Deulo. Chico should return to form a mean-looking Swans defence with Amat in front of the less mean-looking Gerhard Tremmel. Tiendalli, who replaces the suspended Rangel, may be worth having a go at too. “Future Steven Gerrard replacement”-turned-“bag of sh*te” Jonjo Shelvey joins the impressive de Guzman in a solid midfield, while the likes of Pozuelo, Routledge and Hernandez are all options to provide some flair. Either Bony or Michu will start, but both will certainly feature – they may be off-colour but both are dangerous on their day.
There’s no doubt that this is quite a step up from Fulham at home, and that requires getting the game face on and taking it up a gear. Sound tactical judgment has helped us down Swansea before, and the battle in the technical areas may be as vital as the one on the pitch. Luckily, the man on the away bench is one smooth talking Blue Santa in brogues who should provide plenty of inspiration as he himself looks for a first win at his old stamping ground.
The answers to the quiz questions were Chelsea, Alan Shearer & Les Ferdinand, West Ham, 1981 and Sunderland by the way. Merry Christmas, Blues.