My mate’s nan sat down slowly and looked him square in the eyes with a look which suggested impending bad news.
He steeled himself for the worst.
“I don’t really know how to say this love,” she mumbled, as his knuckles went white around the handle of his tea mug.
“But… I think I want us to get beat by City. I couldn’t bear it if they won the league.”
He recounted this anecdote with a smile, but at the time it dawned on him that it’s coming to something when even a 70-year-old life-long Evertonian is struggling with the prospect of a victory for her beloved team this tea-time.
It’s a conundrum many Blues have been mulling over this week, regardless of the expected professional noises about wanting to win from the home dressing room and manager’s office at Goodison.
Roberto Martinez speaks of another “special chapter” in the history of Everton and Liverpool if a Blues triumph today revived the Reds’ title hopes.
He has a good point when he says that at least Toffees could tell their Red mates that they couldn’t have done it without them.
But his words will still offer little solace to Evertonians if their team miss out on the top four, and they are then subjected to years of hearing about the Spirit of 2014; When Brendan’s Reds finally reclaimed their ‘rightful’ place as Champions.
Yet – and here’s the real problem – all the ramifications of today’s game are, until Sunday in respect of Arsenal, and Monday for the Kopites, pure conjecture.
Imagine if Everton’s players gave less than 100% today, and then West Brom (unlikely as it is) beat the Gunners, while Crystal Palace did a number on the nervy Reds.
What we do know, however, is that when Everton are at their best at home, it’s thanks to that special symbiosis between Goodison and the players. Anger, defiance and will to win from the Gwladys Street are absorbed and reflected on the pitch and vice versa. Nerves on the pitch transmit quickly to the stands.
A bad decision can awaken the bear-pit which so often roars the Blues home.
That’s why there’s a danger any lukewarm feelings about today could leave the players bereft of that special extra burst of encouragement they will need if they are to get a result against a title-chasing side with as much quality as the Citizens.
It remains to be seen if the banter and mixed feelings of many, my pal’s Nan included, vanishes when the whistle blows and their team are going all out to win.
If it doesn’t – it could mean a particularly peculiar atmosphere in the Old Lady, which could mean that special winning ingredient is missing. What happens then is anyone’s guess…
Show your appreciation for players
Everton’s players will take part in a lap of appreciation following the game against Manchester City to mark the end of their Goodison Park campaign.
Supporters are able to stay behind after the match to watch the annual end-of-term activities unfold.
Following the final whistle, the players will return to the dressing room, at which time videos showcasing the highlights of a memorable 2013/14 season will be shown on the big screens.
Roberto Martinez and his players will then re-emerge from the tunnel and complete a lap of pitch – while T-shirts bearing the slogan ‘Proud to be Blue’ will also be fired by the players into the crowd using a t-shirt cannon.
However, the lap of appreciation is just one of many activities going on at Goodison Park this weekend.
A huge crowd flag has been produced and will travel from the Upper Gwladys and across the Upper Bullens moments before (Free £25 bet offer) Kick-off to salute Martinez at the end of his first campaign in charge. Supporters’ own flags will also be draped around the stadium.
In the build-up to kick off, the Fan Zone will open at 3.30pm for entertainment, giveaways and live music – including a duet by local singer Jennifer Jewell and former Goodison great Ian Snodin.
Meanwhile, the Players’ Parade will get underway from 3pm, giving fans the chance to meet and greet the squad on arrival in the Park End car park.
Also outside the ground, the Everton stilt-walkers return and will be handing out miniature flags to junior Blues, while percussion group Batala will be marching down Goodison Road drumming up the atmosphere.
Goodison in World Cup and legend Sheedy at St Luke’s
Goodison Park’s role during the 1966 World Cup will be celebrated at St Luke’s Church ahead of today’s game against Manchester City.
The Everton Heritage Society invite supporters from both sides to view a special exhibition of photographs, articles and DVDs highlighting the role of Goodison during the tournament.
The Blues’ home hosted five games during the tournament – including Brazil’s group matches, a famous quarter-final between Portugal and North Korea and the semi-final clash between West Germany and Russia. Legendary Portuguese marksman Eusebio later said: “Goodison Park is for me the best stadium in my life.”
Meanwhile, Blues legend Kevin Sheedy will be signing copies of his new autobiography in the church between 4pm and 5pm. Admission to St Luke’s is free.
Ossie: I don’t even know how to dive
Not only does Leon Osman insists he was stunned to be booked for simulation when he was denied a stonewall penalty at Southampton – the Blues veteran says he doesn’t even know how to dive!
“I wouldn’t know how to dive properly if there was no contact from a defender,” he said. “Some players do it well but they must practice! Anyone who has been unfortunate enough to witness my lack of grace and style when I dive into a swimming pool would know that I’d never try it on grass!
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