Thanks to William Hill, myself and Ed (@ViewFromGwladys) got the chance to go down to Goodison Park and play in an 11 a side match on the hallowed turf.
While we were there we got a chance to briefly interview our managers, Graeme Sharp and Graham Stuart and ask them about the promising first season under Ronald Koeman. These interviews took place before the last game of the season against Arsenal.
The Sharp Interview
What do you think about the first season overall, with Koeman coming in and doing so well?
I think he’s done well. It’s been an improvement on the last two seasons. It’s always going to be difficult for a new manager coming in; he’s got to assess what he has at his disposal, and I think he deserves a lot of credit for finishing in a European spot. The next couple of transfer windows will be really important. I think everyone can see positive signs, and I’m happy with what I’ve seen so far.
When he came from Southampton, Koeman didn’t have a reputation for bringing youngsters through, but here he has brought young players into the first team. Do you think that is in part down to David Unsworth and how well he has done with our under 23s?
I think he got a hard press for not bringing kids through at Southampton. What you’ve got to remember is that he’s a manager and he decides if the kids are ready or not. Obviously at Southampton they weren’t ready. We’ve got a really good reputation for bringing kids through, Unsy’s doing a fantastic job and I’m sure he would’ve been championing Tom Davies and the other young boys coming through. I don’t think it was a case of not giving youth a chance, I just think maybe the youth at his disposal at Southampton weren’t good enough. He knows the quality of players and it’s great to see the young lads flourishing here.
Who do you think has been the signing of the season?
It’s a really difficult one because we’ve made some really good signings. I think Morgan Schneiderlin has been a fantastic signing, Idrissa Gueye – outstanding. Ashley Williams has come in and been a little bit up and down but he has done well, and Bolasie got the unfortunate injury. Out of them all, I’d have to say Idrissa. Having watched him at Aston Villa on only a couple of occasions I wasn’t sure what we were gonna get but since he’s came here, he’s been outstanding.
Another season has gone by and we are still without a derby win for a number of years now. What do you think that’s down to?
It’s disappointing. We all know that. There’s been a lot of things put about that we can’t do this and we can’t do that and performances have been disappointing in the last few derby games. Some people have questioned the attitude of the players but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that. I just think they haven’t turned up on the day. It’s certainly been disappointing that in the bigger games we haven’t really shown what we can do.
Your opposite number today (Graham Stuart) scored the last time we won away at Arsenal. Isn’t it about time that run ended?
Course it is. Our record at the top clubs hasn’t been great but the results at Man City and United this season shows we can go out and get a result. Arsenal have had an up and down season as well with a lot of pressure on the manager but its never an easy place to go to. It’s a great place to go and play. They’ve had some really good teams over the years so it would be great to finish the season a high but it will be a tough game. We’ve got to look forward to next season now and hopefully we will show ambition in the transfer market and have a nice couple of marquee signings to help us push on from 7th place.
With us having had the Dixies last season, we want to know your: Player of the Season, Goal of the Season, Match of the Season.
I’m a striker and I think what Romelu has achieved, being the top scorer for so long, he’s been fabulous for us, so he’s my player of the season with Idrissa as the runner up. For goal of the season you can’t look past Tom Davies’ goal against Man City, and I think with the two penalty saves at Man City and getting a good point that has to be match of the season.
The Stuart Interview
How do you think the season has gone?
I think it’s been a terrific season. Our home form has been excellent; the majority of our good results have been here at Goodison Park and that sets up a feel-good factor for the home supporters, and it’s always nice to get points on the board and score plenty of goals here at Goodison Park and send the fans home happy.
Koeman came in with a reputation of being more of a disciplinarian than his predecessor, and maybe more of a winning mentality. Has that come across off the pitch?
I liked Ronald from the moment I met him. He’s got an aura about him, he walks in the dressing room – instant respect, simple as that. He knows what he wants, he’s confident in himself with what he wants to do and that is slowly but surely coming across in the players. They’ve bought in to what he wants to do, Jan Kluitenberg has worked really hard and its evident that we are an awful lot fitter as a side than we were a year ago, so slowly but surely everything is coming together. Rome wasn’t built in a day and we’ve still got to be patient. I think by preseason the team will be fully up to speed with what is required.
Have you got a player of the season, goal of the season and performance of the season?
It’s very hard to look past the Dixies themselves. If you’re a centre forward who’s scored 25 goals and has a chance of winning the golden boot you’re going to feel very aggrieved if you’re not winning the player of the year trophy so that is that one, but special mention to Idrissa Gueye who has been magnificent. When Morgan came in you could see he was a quality buy for us and I’m sure he will be a massive influence next season. He didn’t play too much in the season as a whole but he influenced the team in a big big way. Goal of the season again you can’t look past Tom based on the fact that it was an individual goal and it was against Man City, everybody enjoyed that one. Maarten Stekelenburg’s performance away at Man City was as good as I’ve seen from a goalkeeper. They beat our back four but Maarten was inspired on the day and capped it with two penalty saves so marten deserves a mention for that.
You were on the scoresheet the last time we won away at Arsenal – that’s an unwanted record. Do you think it’s time we put an end to that run?
There’s a few unwanted records we’ve got and a few things we would like to put right. The last time we won a trophy I was playing, the last time we beat Arsenal away I was playing and that’s too long, we all know that. There’s only one group of players that can put that right and that’s the players of today and they want to do it. None of our sides go out to get beat but Arsenal is a difficult place to go, even more so on Sunday because they’ve still got half a chance of making top four so they will be well up for it. We can’t do any better than 7th so you would think that they can’t possibly want it less than us, but the manager wants us to go out in a positive way, nothing would have changed in training and no one would have taken their foot off the peddle, that’s for sure. So hopefully it will be a good end to the season for us.
Another huge thanks to William Hill for inviting us down.