Next up part one of a two legged euro showdown, with the winners having more interesting Thursday nights before Christmas than the losers will. High stakes here compadres.
The league season got off to a decent start with a bet so obvious in Rooney first goalscorer that hardly anyone backed it. Lots of sucking air through teeth there and pointy fingers at your mates with wide eyes of feigned regret. Matter not, Everton won and that’s ultimately what your happiness is dependent on. You even got a knee slide fist pump for the Park End, despite half of it not ready to forgive yet, maybe even never. A late winner in front of the Kop would surely challenge that, but such hypotheticals are for another time.
The Stoke game was evidence of a much changed Everton side chocka with new signings and this natural disjointment was evident throughout, albeit less so in the second half. There’s time yet but it also showed that any ambitions of heading higher in the league will be subject to yet more player recruitment, with one more since then already in but a wee bit on that later. No Viking claps though for the love of fuck or our metamorphosis into Geordies will be complete in just one devastating move.
So what can we expect from Hajduk Split? Gonna be brutally honest here dear reader and say I know next to fucking nothing about foreign football leagues, less so the Croatian league. I doubt you’re reading this expecting James, Raphael, Sid or whoever’s smooth insight. We celebrate the shiteness of those opposing us domestically in these previews so it’s only fair to be consistent when facing our European chums. The occasionally warring no socks wearing porn producing talk-with-their-hands-knobrots. The line between preview and abstract Brexiteering may be a tight one to navigate but I’m sure you’ll abuse me accordingly if I venture too much towards, sadly, surviving crashing helicopters and looking like Oscar The Grouch mated with a fucking slug then got a TKMaxx voucher for the suit section.
This week however there is much to celebrate with being drawn against Hajduk Split. A fiercely historic and proud football team that has endured harsh regimes, civil war, a new stadium curse and financial breakdown. It was formed by a group of local students and from that beginning maintain a fiercely proud local identity with the Dalmatian culture, residing in a real gem of the Adriatic in the city of Split itself. A beautiful place that a lucky few thousand of you will get to enjoy next week. Fully expecting a heady mix of red skin and Everton training shorts amongst the city’s beaches. When you put that together with beautiful architecture, rustic authentic bars and reasonable beer prices then you have a heady mix of Everton away day catnip.
It looks over the water from Italy so for all intents and purposes Split is the New Brighton of the Adriatic. For confirmation of this you’d have to research the nuances for what they call their beloved bread products, such as barm cake/batch. Or if the good people of Split consider three bottles of Frosty Jacks, assaulting their neighbour and necking their cousin as essential Friday evening entertainment.
Anyway, such cultural hotbeds of Euro togger passion are fertile grounds and therefore you can also expect more than a smattering of ultra type behaviour but unless they turn up and start acting like pricks in L4 then I for one am happy to give them the benefit of the doubt, aided by the experience of knowing quite a few Croatians and being fond of every single one of them. No matter where you wonder in the world you’ll find some disaffected millennials raging amongst stiff yellow socks stashed under the bed and a head full of causal football violence clashes bookmarked on YouTube. We’ve got them, they’ve got them. They take a little more pride in theirs than we do in ours. They call themselves the Torcida (after Brazil 1950 no less) so just a heads up if you’ve got passive aggressive scruffs trying to slash your mate from the back of a moped near the port at 3am, I did warn you. Quite what they will make of Podge Sweeney asking them for a bifter at a bus stop will be quite another. Drink with your mates and watch the footie lads, no ones arsed. Davor Suker’s chip though.
They have some injury problems which means their main striker is out and their best defender is doubtful. Surely a good omen for us if so. They have a boss young midfielder apparently too. For names of all of these players you’ll find appropriate previews elsewhere I suggest. Maybe you even know them, if so then go you, and good luck with losing that virginity sometime soon.
Croatian League or not we shouldn’t be taking this lightly. Hajduk and a proud nation of some really excellent footballers demand a bit more attention and respect than others that could be drawn in this qualifier. They’ll play savvy football and be technically proficient as any. It’s always fun to watch supposedly bigger European teams get their noses bloodied while sneering at the Europa League and it’s opposition, much less fun if Everton get sucker punched out before a group stage whistle has even blown. We’ve put a knee down in Kharkiv, been bloodied in Bucharest and and need to swerve being sparked in Split. I’d love to fucking win the thing, as would you. At the very least to hammer the flexi and get a few ace away trips in.
So who will Everton play or how will they line up?
We know from the press conference that Koeman – who smiles but never with his eyes – has doubts over Ramirez being fit for this so Pitz headed Rooney who has to freshly sand his head every night will be about somewhere in there. In the absence of a Premier League super big grock up front I wouldn’t be surprised to see Calvin-Lewin sow some more seeds into heads that there’s a decent young player in there. Mirallas is a shoe in for this I reckon, and really should tear opposition like this apart – the one in five bell, with maybe Lookman agitating on the bench when Hajduk’s crucial away goal eventually deflects in.
Midfield has seen personnel change this week. Genuinely sad too that we will not get to see any more of Gareth Barry’s understated handsomeness and yellow card absolute shithousing in the good name of FC Everton. No need for cringey squad videos or farewell hashtags. Sincere appreciation of a really good footballer though. He will be remembered fondly. In with the new and Gylfi Sigurdsson finally arrived as an Everton player, smashing our previous transfer record by 50% to a sea of mostly royal blue nonchalance. Circumstantial for sure as observing the static negotiation was like watching the first 5 episodes of The Wire, we just need to hope that the four and a half series after from Sigurdsson is equally as spellbinding as the best TV ever made and get to fuck if you claim anything different. Where does the Icelandic scorer of much BLAMMO fit in? fuck knows. Will he fit in? Suppose we will find out. Nothing more than that really, I can’t sweat mine or others anxieties. And I’m too old to invest acute enthusiasm after what the likes of John Collins, the centre circle molesting shithouse, have done to me prior.
Was meant to be chatting about our proposed midfield there so I’ll say Schneiderlin, Gueye and Davies if Ronko is taking this dead seriously.
Defence looked better as a four than a five so probably that will stick for this. Not gonna impose on the current battle of Jagielka v Williams as your preferred partner for Mick Keane. Can’t see past Pickford for starting in goal either, I’m probably as enthused as you are about him but then after one game last season I had a virtual semi on for Stekelenburg. Pickford’s fucking miles better though and I just can’t hide it. About to lose my mind here so will close.
I honestly don’t want to be rolling with the “didn’t want to play in Thursdays and it’s all about the Premier League anyway” pretence in front of kopites any time soon.
Fucking Split these in half, blues.