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>Days 75-77: Highs and Lows

1 June, 2009 1 comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Dr Dog – Fate

Been far too busy to post on a daily basis over the weekend, so playing catch-up today.

Firstly Mr Cat (as opposed to Dr Dog – of whom more later). Pedro is settling in really well and had the benefit of both a full weekend with Mrs W and also some glorious weather. As anticipated, he’s already formed a really strong bond with Mrs W and is enjoying his newly-found freedom in and around the house. Although happy to explore outside in the garden (and to roam quite widely) he’s happily shown no interest in the front of the house or the main road. In the house, he seems to have set himself some arbitrary borders that, so far, he’s disinclined to cross. He’s happy to roam around the kitchen (which has become a makeshift football pitch for him) but won’t enter the two rooms leading off the kitchen. If his ball goes into either room, I have to go and get it for him. He will happily venture into the lounge, but under sufferance of going via the hall, which he’s not too happy about. However since both his food and his litter tray are there, he’ll visit the hall when he has to. Upstairs is also off limits at the moment.

He’s happily using his litter tray (and the garden borders) for Number Ones, but Number Twos are conspicuous by their absence at the moment. I suspect this is due to the stress of the move, but given his documented bowel problems, Mrs W is going to run it by the Vet just to see if we need to be doing anything.

But all in all, he’s a happy, lairy little soul who is settling in well.

After doing a bit of bonding with Pedro on Friday, it was over to Huddersfield to pick up Son No 2 in advance of Saturday’s game. Pub lunch, followed by a Chinese takeaway in front of a crappy film – Max Payne, based upon the computer game character. Which is invariably a bad idea.

And so to Saturday. Early start – up at half five, to get to various collection points. Son travelling down with my brother and his party, involving mini-bus and lager from 0800 onwards. Me travelling down with ‘the Grandparents’ which did not involve lager at all.

Travel arrangements went to plan – we stopped at the same service station (and parked in the same spot) as last time, and met up with the other half of the party (and about 20,000 other Evertonians). Got to Hillingdon tube station at about 11:30, had some lunch and then headed into Wembley Park – and met up with the other 80,000 Evertonians and about 20 Chelsea fans (or so it felt).

Strolled up Wembley Way, bought programmes, flags and scarves and eventually made our way into the ground, just as a bunch of scallies tried to bunk in through the security doors next to the turnstiles. Don’t think any managed to make it past security, who dealt quickly and ‘firmly’ with the interlopers. Seats were one row from the very backmost row, but the view was still excellent. More flags on the seats, courtesy of Wembley Stadium.

The build up to kick-off went swiftly, with some impressive on-field banner work, a gospel choir and ‘Abide With Me’. Pleasantries over, it was time for kick-off. And twenty-five seconds later, we scored.

Bloody hell.

Once I’d calmed down, I turned to my dad and said “How long left?” and I think the team were asking themselves the same thing. Chelsea settled better than us and continually stretched our defence. Attacking down our right, Tony Hibbert was booked early on for a tackle on the excellent Malouda, and for the rest of the half was a passenger, scared to commit and not supported by Leon Osman as well as he should have been. He was rightly replaced by Lars Jacobsen at half time, although by then the damage had been done, Malouda free after 20 minutes to cross for an unmarked Drogba to head home the equaliser.

Second half, and we began to get back into the game, but without looking like scoring, one Saha header apart. Then on seventy minutes or so, we made the mistake of giving Lampard just enough space on the edge of the area – 2-1 to Chelsea and game over. Malouda apparently made it 3-1 minutes later although from the far end of the ground it was impossible to tell.

So Chelsea saw the game out, and that was that. Good reception for the Everton team from the fans, they’d not been good enough on the day but, taking the season as a whole, they’ve been magnificent and deserved their ovation. 5th place and cup finalists, with the financial constraints we have and the injuries and already small squad have suffered, is a massive achievement and the team (and club) can rightly be proud.

Chelsea of course have no such constraints and, on their terms, a win in the cup final essentially ‘rescues’ their season from failure. Which is presumably why their fans seemed to take little lasting pleasure from the win. On the tube back to Hillingdon their fans were remarkably quiet and subdued. I couldn’t understand this, until I realised – their overriding emotion was not joy, but relief. Relief that they hadn’t finished up without a trophy for two years running.

However far Moyes can take us, with or without funding, and however successful we get, I hope (and believe) our fans will never end up like that.

So back home, and an uneventful Sunday taken up with tent pole repairs and the return trip to Huddersfield with Son No 2.

So – Dr Dog. you’ve never heard of them, have you? Nor had I, actually, until a glowing review of the album and some spare eMusic credits persuaded me to take the plunge.

FYI, Dr Dog are from Philadelphia and Fate is their second album. What do they sound like? The Beatles, The Band and the Beach Boys, according to their Wikipedia page. Which is stretching it a bit, fine band that they are. Anyway, make your own mind up – this is ‘The Breeze’ from Fate. Bit of Beach Boys in the harmonies I guess….

Categories: Dr Dog, Everton, Matt, Pedro, Wembley

>Day 64: Wembley here we come!

18 May, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: The Plimsouls – The Plimsouls…Plus!

Well, final confirmation today that not only have I got my ticket for the Cup Final sorted, but that the whole of Team Waring is also sorted – the latest ticket announcement by the club made it clear that all the tickets we’d applied for will come through, the ‘selection’ criteria having been relaxed sufficiently for us all to go. We may even be able to get hold of an additional ticket for Son No 2 to come along as well – fingers crossed!

Actually having a seat specifically allocated (and being able to pick out the seat in the Wembley plan) makes it all seem very real now…cup final! At Wembley!! The only stumbling block is we’ve got to beat Chelsea once we’re down there, but that’s just a detail, really. A very minor detail.

Spoke to my Leeds recruitment consultant again today, and some pretty positive noises coming out of there at the moment. Nothing concrete, but a willingness on the part of the organisations they are speaking to, to at least consider me for potential roles – and largely on a personal basis, rather than as one of a number of potential candidates. I do think that if I’m going to get sorted sooner rather than later, this will be the route by which I’ll get sorted.

Finished my Johnny Cash biography today. Not a bad book, but it all seemed a little bit superficial, hinting at the complexity of the man rather than really getting beneath the surface. Cash is a character crying out for a real in-depth biography to be written, by a Peter Guralnick-type biographer along the lines of his two excellent Presley biographies. It may be that such a book is already out there, but if it is, I’ve not come across it. Might check with the ‘Word Massive’ on their website – it’s the sort of question that would be right up their street.

So with the Cash out of the way, what’s next up? I’m about to start Andrew Marr’s ‘History of Modern Britain’ which I’ve heard plenty of good things about. Hopefully a touch more accessible than Simon Schama’s three volume history of Britain, which sits accusingly in hardback on my bookshelves. One day….

I think we’re looking at a Spaghetti Carbonara for tea tonight – have I already given you a carbonara recipe? Pretty sure I have, you know….yep, there you go, Day 39 if you’re interested!

Plimsouls on the soundtrack today. Not that well known in the UK, but a lot bigger in the States back in the day. They are (were) what used to be known as ‘Power Pop’, ie slightly punky, very melodic and catchy tunes, narrow ties etc. Difficult to think of a mainstream UK equivalent you’ll have heard of – maybe The Motors or The Records, although again hardly household names. Peter Case, lead singer, went on to establish himself as a solo artist of some quality in the mid-’80s – his first album in particular is a thing of some beauty. The band re-formed recently and toured, although not sure if they recorded any new stuff or not.

And here they are performing on that reunion tour – see what you think..

Categories: Everton, The Plimsouls, Wembley

>Day 35: Wembley Way

20 April, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Z-Cars – Johnny Keating and the Z Men

The day started early, doing my ‘cutting-up’ and getting across to the parents to be picked up for the drive down south. We stopped on the way at Warwick Services on the M40 and was staggered to see the place was almost wholly blue and white – where were the ManYoo fans? (insert own fanbase/location joke here).

We parked up at Hillingdon and got the Tube in to Wembley Park. Now I’ve been to the ‘new’ Wembley before, for a conference, and have passed it on the train into Euston numerous times, and an impressive sight it is too – but none more impressive than the first view as you reach the exit of Wembley Park and look straight down Wembley Way, with the combined voices of thousands of Evertonians all singing and chanting.

There was a real carnival atmosphere on the day, helped by the glorious weather, and the two sets of fans were getting on well together (although this changed a touch in the stadium itself – more later).

So the Waring clan congregated outside the station, and made the walk up Wembley Way, stopping off for flags, jester hats and programmes on the way. The obligatory Fellaini wigs had been pre-purchased. All for the kids of course….

Into the stadium itself, just as the Everton coach arrived and the players came out to inspect the pitch and sample the atmosphere. Our seats were in line with the edge of the penalty area, high up in the rafters. Oxygen almost required to get there. Despite the height, the view was fantastic and the atmosphere – even in a quarter-full stadium – was already intense. How much more intense it was going to get…well, we would find out a few hours later.

And so to the game itself. Black armbands worn by the players in recognition of the Hillsborough anniversary – but no minute’s silence? Perhaps concerns over fans’ behaviour, given the two teams involved? I hope not – and certainly the presence of banners in the Everton crowd and chants of ‘Stand up, for the 96’ should have allayed any concerns in at least half the stadium.

As an aside, it’s a shame that a (very small) minority of our fans couldn’t extend the same courtesy and respect to our opponents. Very sad to see some of the younger Everton fans responding to taunts with ‘aeroplane’ mimes and reference to Munich. But it was a minority, and did not lead to any serious trouble – at least that I could see from where I was sitting.

Anyway, the game itself. We knew there were going to be some changes to the ManYoo team, but even so, we were all surprised by the team put out by Sir Alex. Surprised and hopeful? Well yes, albeit with some reservations – the presence of Ferdinand and Vidic, and the knowledge that any team Ferguson puts out will have a chance against any other team.

Well, it wasn’t the most entertaining of games for the neutral, I have to admit. Two strong (the strongest two?) central defensive pairings and two depleted attacks meant it was always going to be a game short on goalmouth action, and so it proved. Few chances of note, a couple of decent penalty shouts (for both teams – yes, the Wellbeck incident would be given more often than not, but Pienaar also had a good shout in the first half) and a breakaway by Tim Cahill that was brought back for reasons only known to Mike Riley.

Did David Moyes‘ mind games have any effect? Only Mike Riley knows that, but if they did – well, Sir Alex can hardly complain now, can he? (Memo to Rafa – that’s how to do it, mate!)

When the game petered out to a penalty shoot out – well, was there an Evertonian in the ground who thought we’d win it? Especially after Timmy skied the first one high over the bar? Not me, for one. But then the comedy of Berbatov’s penalty and the quality of Howard’s save from Ferdinand offered a glimmer of hope. Our four other penalty takers showed their bottle and their quality by scoring and… there it was! We’d done it! We were in the final! Pandemonium in the stands, and a mass departure from the Red end of the stadium. The celebrations went on…and on…and on!

I know we’ve won nothing yet, but to get to a Wembley semi-final, to beat United (having already beaten Liverpool and Villa to get there) and to have a realistic chance of some silverware (Chelsea notwithstanding) is a good, good feeling. Just need to get tickets for the final now!

The journey home was uneventful, and I crawled into bed at about half past midnight, tired but happy.

It’s a grand old team to play for, it’s a grand old team to support…

Categories: Everton, Wembley