A Luke Garbutt booking two minutes from the end of Saturday’s home defeat by Sunderland may have given West Ham and Burnley the edge in the ‘battle’ for a Fair Play spot in next season’s Europa League.
But no-one knows for sure how the clubs will stand until the Premier League delegates have reported back from Goodison Park, Villa Park and the KC Stadium in Hull.
Before (Free £25 bet offer) Kick-off on Saturday West Ham led Everton by a slender margin in the complicated process used to judge the Premier League’s most sporting teams, with Burnley fractionally lower.
In the categories that can be worked out – red and yellow cards – teams start with a maximum of 10 points and lose one for every yellow card collected.
Luke Garbutt’s late caution was Everton’s second of the match on Saturday, while The Hammers and Burnley each picked up just one booking.
But there are other unknown elements – four further categories – which are judged and then added to each team’s charge list.
One is positive play – and with 15 corners and 22 shots at goal Everton must surely have been marked up in that section.
Respect towards the referee is another.
On Saturday Everton denied were a clear penalty kick, then saw a player rugby tackled by an opponent before Sunderland scored their second goal – off Jermain Defoe’s hand – and Everton’s restrained reactions to both perceived injustices should have gone down well with the Fair Play delegate.
Then there is behaviour of the team officials and behaviour of the general public.
And who knows how those categories will be marked?
As Roberto Martinez joked on Saturday night: “Big Sam and myself might be punching each other on Saturday!”
That suggested a Fair Play spot into the Europa League is a booby prize, but Martinez later stated his willingness to embrace an early Europa League campaign – which would kick off on July 2.
Martinez says he would use the club’s younger players in the early rounds.
Is he right to do so?
Would Evertonians relish a season which would start competitively just a fortnight after England play their last European Championship qualifier of the season on June 14?