Everton seeks Derby solace
A generation ago, a Merseyside derby in late April or May usually had greater importance attached to it than just local pride. Usually a cup or league title was at stake when the two Mersey foes met, which merely highlights just how far both Everton and Liverpool have fallen in recent years.
May 1st, 2013
For Sunday’s clash at Anfield will merely help Red or Blue to the title of “best of the rest”, without so much as a Europa League place as consolation.
The game probably carries more importance for the Toffees, as the chance to finish above their near rivals in consecutive seasons is not one to take for granted – though that is as much due to their opponents’ rapid decline than it is Everton’s progress. Indeed, the Toffees have been treading water in recent seasons while the Reds have gone from Premier League runners-up to mid-table also-rans in four years.
It has been a strange old season for Everton; they have only lost six league games and stand on the brink of a seventh top seven finish in eight seasons. But a crushing defeat at home to Wigan in the FA Cup and a critical failure to add to the squad when pushing for the top four in January has left many fans wondering ‘what might have been’.
Boss David Moyes is probably thinking the same too, as he has done for the past five years. With his contract up at the end of the season all the noises suggest he is ready to move on, frustrated at the lack of support in the transfer market. The Scot has tapped on that glass ceiling separating the Champions League teams and the rest, but a lack of finances has always seen the Blues fall just short.
The same will almost certainly happen this year, but a first-ever win at Anfield for Moyes would at least get that monkey off his back.
The one criticism of the Scot during his Goodison tenure is that he often “bottled” big games when it mattered. Zero wins at Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford, The Emirates (or Highbury) as well as Anfield in his 11-year spell in charge give weight to that argument.
The counter to that is the fact not many teams go to those grounds and win, and the occasional day of glory at one of the big boys is no substitute for consistent form and top-six league finishes. A win on Sunday though would still be something to cherish for everyone involved with the club in a season of ever-diminishing returns.
It would also give the fans something to cheer as they prepare to enter an uncertain close-season – and one that could shape the direction of the club for years to come.