The monkey is off our back
By Prestwich_Blue, Mon 26 September 2011 12:50
What is it about Everton? On Saturday, there was a palpable tension in the air at the Etihad Stadium as we faced our so-called bogey club. We were all mindful of games against them in the last few seasons when, even if we'd out-played them, they'd hung on in typically stubborn fashion to snatch a win. So if we really were going to have a serious tilt at the title this season, we needed to win that game on Saturday.
In previous seasons we've lacked some combination of mental strength, application, concentration, tactical nous or have simply been intimidated or out-muscled by an Everton side that always get in our faces. We must assume it has something to do with our new wealth, coupled with the friction over the Lescott transfer.
Of course there was, in essence, no problem with this transaction. He wanted a move, they were prepared to sell him for as much as they could get and we wanted to buy him. It may all be a bit murky at times (and we don't know the half of it I'd imagine) but that's the way it works.
Yet Moyes worked himself into a veritable lather of moral indignation, accusing us among other things of a lack of respect for not speaking to him about the deal. Excuse me, Davey old-boy but when was the last time Everton did a transfer that was arranged manager-to-manager?
The cynics among us might conclude that this Ferguson-wannabe was indulging in a bit of psychology here, stoking the flames to build some sort of siege mentality or it could have simply been a cynical tactic to ensure we caved and paid closer to the price they wanted rather than the one we had in mind. But there's a line to be drawn and Moyes crossed it in my opinion, stoking up a bad feeling between the two sets of fans. And that continued into last weekend's match.
As it reached half-time, the mood among the crowd where I sit in 109 was fractious and edgy, with the sort of heavy atmosphere you get before a big thunderstorm. Everton had set out to frustrate us and had succeeded admirably (from their point of view) shackling Silva by using Rodwell to man-mark him and occasionally using more questionable tactics, like Neville's sneaky trip as he set off to chase a ball, for which he rightly received a yellow card.
The overwhelming relief as the first goal went in was almost cathartic, releasing years of pent-up emotion after seven successive losses. They didn't remotely look like scoring so it seemed like game over. Milner's goal to put the match beyond any doubt was the icing on the cake and it did feel like a corner had finally been turned.
Let me make it clear that their game plan was entirely their affair and we'd done similar last season, notably at Arsenal, so we can have no complaints on that score. But they'd been at their most obdurate, defending in the most robust and disciplined fashion and we'd faced them down and beaten them.
Whatever we'd lacked in previous games, we'd finally shown it in this one. Of course six games into the season is far too early to say one game can make or break that season but there was a psychological barrier here and we finally broke it, almost like someone with arachnophobia letting a big, hairy tarantula crawl up their arm.
So despite all the beauty and power of our five-goal haul at Spurs, I really do feel that this ugly, hard-fought, dig-your-heels-in-and-grit-your-teeth win ultimately says more about the team we now are.