Hardman's Thoughts

Pretty much everything…


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Three sports, three players, three hundred words

Romelu Lukaku has now scored more league goals than any other Everton player in the history of the Premier League. People are, ridiculously, making a big deal about it. Let’s put this into some perspective. He’s scored 61 goals, one more than Dixie Dean scored in the 1927-28 season (yes, football existed before 1992). Everton have been in the top flight since the PL was created, along with Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham. Their top goal scorers have 175, 180, 128, 147 and 97 goals respectively. Yes, Lukaku breaking Ferguson’s record is a little bit of history but that doesn’t mean we should be celebrating it.

Eoin Morgan scored another one-day century this week. Only seven players (four from South Africa) have scored more runs than him in the format this year, and only one from the same amount of innings. Our captain is fourth on the all-time list for English players, while the century in the first match against West Indies pulled him level with Kevin Pietersen. It means only Marcus Trescothick has hit more tons. Trescothick’s 12 centuries is well within reach, as is Ian Bell’s record of 5400 runs (Morgan is about 900 behind). England’s greatest? Possibly, at least until Joe Root catches up!

Andy Murray has remained at number one for the 18th week in a row. That makes it sound defensive, the truth is he’s comfortable there – at least until the French Open! Djokovic has points galore to defend at the next two tournaments – Indian Wells and Miami, where Andy lost in the third round at both last year. Andy won in Dubai last week as Djokovic lost to Kyrgios in Mexico. Djokovic will almost certainly still finish the year top of the pile, but March is a great chance for Murray to continue cementing his place in tennis history.


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Joel Robles

Whisper it quietly, but Everton have been performing quite well recently. We sit pretty atop of the form table over the last five games and fourth in the table concerning the last ten.

There’s a mixture of reasons for the fact we’ve only lost one game in those ten. Firstly, our central midfield has become a pillar of strength, with Koeman spoiled for choice amongst new signing Morgan Schneiderlin, young star Tom Davies, the ever-consistent Idrissa Gana Gueye, improving Ross Barkley, livewire James McCarthy and the experienced Gareth Barry. We found success while Gueye was on international duty using a 5-3-2 system, but the Senegalese rock’s return has seen an indifferent return to the 4-3-3 with Barkley on the wings rather than in the centre. Hopefully the, by all accounts, lacklustre draw away at Boro is the end of that.

Secondly, and what I want to focus this blog on is the improvement at the back. Mason Holgate and Ramiro Funes Mori have come in to replace Phil Jagielka, and Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman appear more at home as wing-backs rather than full-backs but neither of those changes have made the biggest difference.

That, instead, lies with the goalkeeper. First choice at the start of the season, Marteen Steklenburg got injured in the Merseyside Derby, and was replaced by Joel Robles. Many Everton fans, myself included, as harsh as this sounds, were relieved because, quite frankly, Stek is a liability and Robles is something of a rock.

In his ten matches this season, nine in this current run, one against West Ham earlier, Joel has kept six clean sheets. He’s conceded seven goals. Ok, so seven goals in four games isn’t a great record but looking individually at the goals it’s hard to pinpoint any of the blame on Joel.

In 16 matches earlier this year, Stekenlenberg conceded 20 goals and only kept two clean sheets. He became a little bit of a hero against Manchester City with two penalty saves, but that was more of the exception than the rule.

With Joel between the sticks, our defenders look much more solid. And that allows our attacks to be more fluid. Which, unsurprisingly, has led to better results. Joel makes an average of 3 saves per match, Steklenberg only 2.1. Joel’s seven goals conceded in ten matches is the fewest of any goalkeeper to have reached double figures for appearances this season. There’s no question that Joel deserves to be, and should be for a very long time, Everton’s number one.

Personally, I’m a massive fan of the Spaniard. When Everton were collapsing last term, he was conceding three or four goals every time we played away. And yet he was consistently our best player. Without him, our goal difference last season would have been negatively astronomical. That went unnoticed by most, so I’m glad he’s now starting to prove himself with a decent defence who actually want to play for the manager.

And just to top it all off, his celebrations are boss.


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2015/16 Prediction League Results – Premier League (Josh and Martyn)

To round off the first week of results from our prediction league, we will take a look at Josh and Martyn’s Premier League tables.

Our resident Nottingham Forest fans were leading at the conclusion of the cups, with 2 points each, but have since seen both Charlie and Gareth overtake them. Can they regain the lead through their predictions of the top league?

Before we take a look at the details, refresh yourself with the scoring system by following this link.

Josh’s table:

Josh's Table

In Josh’s world, Leicester would be preparing for life in the Championship, Louis van Gaal would (probably) still be in a job and Everton fans would be digging out their passports. Too many zeros for Josh’s liking, he’ll probably be rueing the fact he missed the mark with many of the key teams from this season. The correct prediction of Villa’s dismal season at least makes sure Josh scores 34 points from the table.

Will he add to that? Well, reports of Steve McClaren speaking in a Geordie accent are, sadly, all fake so we can’t give him 20 points for that. Josh was 10 points away from correctly predicting points required to be champions and 4 away from survival points, so nothing there.

What, then, about the top goalscorer? Josh said Wayne Rooney. I was very tempted to deduct points for that.

Martyn’s table:

Martyn's table

Martyn recently said Josh knows nothing about football. Sadly for Mr Gray, their respective tables don’t show this. Martyn’s outside the box predictions have only resulted in a lot of 0s, and relegation for the eventual champions. From his table alone, Martyn scores 21 points.

However, there is better news for him with the extra predictions. He was close with his prediction of 37 points required to stay up (it was 39), miles away with his suggestion that 92 points would only just guarantee you the title and the fastest red card was in the 17th minute and not the first, yet he was spot on with Harry Kane being this year’s top goalscorer.

The five points on offer there means Martyn scores 26 points.

Which, when all summed up means that Gareth is leading after the cups and EPL, followed by Charlie, then Josh and Martyn bottom. Here is the full table:

EPL table

With a bigger league and a tighter scoring system which should offer more points, the Championship will determine which of us comes out on top. I’ll be back next week with the results from that, once the play-off final takes place.


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2015/16 Prediction League Results – Premier League (Charlie and Gareth)

So, we’ve already looked at how well the predictions went for the cups, which resulted in a two point lead for Martyn and Josh.

This article takes a look at how the Premier League predictions panned out. This took the form of predicting the final table. The scoring system was as follows:

  • 10 points if correct prediction of Champions or relegated side
  • 5 points if any other side finished where predicted
  • 3 points if any other side finished one position away from where predicted
  • 1 point if any other side finished two positions away from where predicted

Specific to the bloggers:

  • All would get 10 points if they correctly predicted Everton or West Brom
  • If Charlie correctly predicted West Brom he would get 15 points (instead of the 10 gained above), and it was the same for Gareth with Everton
  • However, if either got their club wrong by more than 5 places then they would lose 15 points

The higher points tally took precedence (so, if any of our bloggers predicted Leicester to win the league they would get 10, and not an extra 5 for a correct position) 

On top of how the league would finish, we threw extra predictions into the mix. These were points required to be champions (team who finished in second’s total + 1), points required for survival (points total of who finished in 17th), top scorer and an “outlandish” prediction, something unlikely to happen. The details of these can be found here.

Success with the points would wield 10 points, a successful guess at the top scorer 5 and if the “outlandish” prediction came true, that would bring 20 points.

Got that? Take a second to read it again if you are confused!

To build suspense, and save space… I will give you the Premier League results in two posts, starting with Charlie and Gareth.

Charlie’s table:

Charlie's TableIn what will become a recurring theme, Charlie had the champions languishing in the lower reaches of the table. At the start of the season, we never contemplated a scenario in which we’d predict the Champions to finish so low, and hence never factored in any point deductions for that – much to our relief! Charlie didn’t get any teams in exactly the right position, however correctly predicting that Norwich and Villa would be relegated has pushed him up to a decent score.

From his table alone, Charlie scores 40 points.

Will he add to his tally?

Well, as stated here, his outlandish prediction failed days after he declared it. Charlie said Sergio Aguero would be top scorer – not a bad shout, but he wasn’t right. Further, Mr Marriott said 34 points would be enough to stay up (it was 39) and 80 points would be required for the title (it was 72). So, Charlie misses out on any bonus points, meaning he stays on 40 points.

Gareth’s table:

Gareth's tableThis table is dominated by 0s, however is rescued by the three teams in the right place, including West Brom, and Norwich’s relegation. Strangely enough, I haven’t got a 1 anywhere, so my predictions were either really close or really not. Once again, Leicester were in the bottom half, with Chelsea predicted to defend their crown.

From the table alone, Gareth scores 39 points.

My outlandish prediction was that no English player would score more than 15 goals. This has lost me 25 points, as, obviously, I didn’t predict an Englishman to be top scorer and, predictably, it ended up being Harry Kane. I always was obscenely optimistic with the title-winning points – suggesting 86 (and it was 72). However, I picked up 10 points with my correct prediction of 39 points required to stay up.

All together, Gareth scores 49 points.

Next time we will take a look at how Josh and Martyn fared in the Premier League, but until then … here is the updated table.

EPL CG table


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Moshiri: The path to a brighter future?

This weekend was the most positive I can recall as an Evertonian, and that was without kicking a ball in anger.

Finally, the ten-year search for investment is over, and Everton can move forward with a billionaire sitting on the board and making decisions. This story has been brewing for the past few months, yet I haven’t put anything up on this blog because I haven’t got anything new to add except my opinion.

To recap for those who haven’t followed it, Everton were in talks with a couple of Americans, a Chinese consortium and there were rumours of Indian and Thai involvement. Yet none of those were the path we chose.

Instead, 60-year-old Iranian Farhad Moshiri has bought, subject to Premier League ratification, a 49.9% stake in Everton. Bill Kenwright will seemingly remain as chairman. That percentage will be crucial, as Kenwright and co can outvote Moshiri should he make a decision that is unpopular.

farhad-moshiri

For Moshiri, it’s a start – toes in the water, tests to see how the club goes under his investment, while still having the ability to buy more stakes and assume complete control. You have to assume that’s his end game, even the most naïve of Everton fans would have to see that he’s in this to gain full control eventually, not be a puppet to Kenwright and friends.

Moshiri used to own 15% of Arsenal. He sold that to his friend, Alisher Usmanov, in order to buy into Everton. As part of a fantastic series of coverage on the event, the Liverpool Echo wrote:

The Arsenal supporters who met with the Iranian found him to be very business-like but his enthusiasm to be more involved with the running of the club – and investing in it – was clear.

They were left with the distinct impression that he viewed his role at a Premier League football club as hands-on and not one where he would be happy to just sit on his investment.

The signs are positive. Here is a man with money (his estimated worth is £1.3bn – not filthy rich, but better off than Liverpool’s owners for example), and Premier League experience. He genuinely seems to want to run a football club, without debt and with potential. While the without debt part will be basically impossible, what he can bring is the promise of a better future.

I’m happier with Moshiri behind Kenwright than a couple of American businessmen. American owners, being very stereotypical here, haven’t worked for mid-table sides in the past and there’s no evidence to suggest they would now.

I’ve always been on the fence about investment. I would hate for my club to lose the principles on which it is built. I would hate to lose history at a stab at an uncertain future, and I would hate to turn out like Blackpool or Blackburn. We all want a Chelsea or a City but the reality is, they are few and far between.

everton-fc-chairman-bill-kenwright-306339074

Kenwright has conducted the search in the right way, which is something I’ve said from the start. He’s looked for someone who can take Everton forward but who cares about running the club the right way. There were worries he’d try to hold on to power forever, but thankfully they have been quashed now.

Over the years, I’ve come to see that investment is vital. While I’m not afraid to see our club remain in mid table, not challenging for honours but not getting relegated either, the reality is that even that wouldn’t last forever.

You need to take opportunities to move up the league, and with the influx of TV money and success of Leicester and Tottenham this year, the next few years may well be the ones where a new superpower can enter the Premier League. Moshiri’s money probably won’t allow us to win titles, but it can certainly put us in a more attractive position. For example, Champions League is now a realistic aim.

Everton didn’t take to the field this weekend. We were meant to play Liverpool, who instead took part in a cup final. A cup final that, realistically, we could have appeared at as well. The semi-final loss to City was a perfect example of how frustrating the Kenwright years have been. Good enough to lead the tie for 3/4s of it, not good enough to finish it off.

3500

Our eventual aim?

Hopefully, that frustration is the last we see for a while. Although, in true Everton style, I guarantee we will lose to Aston Villa later.