Legend Peter Reid reflects on a dramatic week for Everton.
.. DERBY DISPLAY POINTING TO PROGRESS
As someone who holds Everton so close to my heart, I still get that buzz in the build-up to the Merseyside derby - that anticipation of matchday and the coming together of two of the game’s greatest rivals.
Sunday’s latest installment certainly didn’t disappoint.
It really was an exciting game with talking points aplenty and no shortage of thrills and spills either.
Truthfully, I didn't think we saw the best defending from either side, and though I do believe Everton did just enough over the 90 minutes to edge it, I’m not going to say a draw was an unfair result.
The media made much of Steven Gerrard’s comments in the aftermath of the game. As a manager and a player I made a point of never commenting on other teams other than to compliment them because you'll always have to play them again at some point in the future. But things do get said in the heat of the moment and Gerrard has since come out and apologised for the criticisms he made. That was the right thing for him to do so that the episode can be forgotten and everyone can move on.
It was the same for Moyes when Luis Suarez did his swan dive celebration after Liverpool's first goal. I thought David handled it perfectly. He could have said something and it might in turn have blown up into something it wasn’t. Instead he had a laugh about it and put an end to it, and sometimes in football I think you have to do that.
It is a challenge to keep a lid on your emotions when you’re involved in a Merseyside derby. Certainly there were matches against Liverpool where I felt as though we hadn’t got the rub of the green with the referees and it does get at you. I remember the League Cup final in 1984 when Alan Hansen got away with a handball and other occasions as well, but I always took the approach that I'd give everything I could while I was out on the pitch, use that frustration as a positive if it came to it and then accept that once the final whistle had blown there was nothing I could do about it other than shake hands and move on.
Always, that is, except on one occasion. When we got beat in the FA Cup final in 1986 that was one where I just couldn't handle it. We'd ended up coming second to Liverpool in both the cup and league and, as players, we were asked to do a bus tour around the city. There was no way I was going on that.
I thought we should have won at least one of those two trophies - if not both - and I just couldn't face the thought of getting up there and parading nothing. I got fined by Howard Kendall but that was my decision and to this day I don’t regret it. I actually think I was understood and I've never spoken about it to Howard since. His man management qualities were terrific and I think he could see where I was coming from. I told him before the game and he said the price would be two weeks' wages. I said ‘fair dos’, and that was that.
Gerrard’s comments did bring up the subject of long balls. For me, a long ball can be a fantastic tool. I remember hitting one to Gary Lineker in the Cup final in 1986; I remember Ruud Gullit hitting them up to Marco van Basten for Holland and AC Milan; I remember David Beckham getting the ball out of his feet and hitting it 60 yards for Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole. You mix it up and Everton have been good at doing that this season.
I think one of the biggest things about football is having that variety and that ability to adapt and change your style as situations present themselves. Over the years, Everton have been organised, hard to beat but now they are settling into a really good side and when you look at them you see character – which was evident in abundance on Sunday - but also goals and various avenues down which they can find them.
That is why there is a real optimism among supporters that this is a side that is going places.
Quite simply, he was terrific.
He was a threat every time he got forward and I was sat there watching the game and wanting the ball to land at his feet at every opportunity.
When you're thinking that as a spectator it tells you how good a performance you're witnessing and it was a real shame he didn't reappear for the second half. It’s always difficult to say whether he could have changed the game but he was certainly causing Liverpool no end of problems.
He looks an absolutely terrific buy and yet another bargain-priced gem unearthed by David Moyes.
THE TOUGH TASK AHEAD
It's three draws on the trot now for Everton and I’m sure everyone would like a win to stay in touch with that top three or four.
Make no mistake, however, it's a tough challenge that awaits David Moyes and his players at Craven Cottage this weekend.
Fulham have always been strong at home and while they have lost Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey, Martin Jol has added players who have fitted perfectly and allowed them to build on the good form they showed last season.
For that reason, it remains one of the toughest places to go. I think an Everton win on Saturday would make a real statement to the rest of the league about their ambitions the rest of the season.
ARSENAL AND READING SERVED UP A REAL HALLOWEEN TREAT
Just a final comment on Tuesday night's League Cup game between Arsenal and Reading.
It was just a fantastic game of football and so open it was untrue.
I always like to talk Everton but from a sheer enjoyment point of view it was simply riveting. Football at its unpredictable best.