Bio: Paul is a freelance writer covering everything from Soccer to Chefs and is a regular contributor to the Followtonians Podcast.
Q1. Why Everton?
Well, my uncle beat my dad to taking me to a game. My dad is a Red, if that initial line doesn’t explain that. My first game was on August 27 1988, when Tony Cottee scored the first three of 99 career goals for us.
I never looked back and when I was old enough to, began going with my school mates in the mid-1990s.
Even though that was the nadir of our generation, I was insatiable and craved the atmosphere surrounding the match at every moment.
It’s probably what enhanced my career as a journalist as well, although I had been commentating whilst playing football with pals down the bottom of my folks’ road prior to this!
Basically though, Everton may not be the biggest club in the world and they may not be the best, but they are indelible in my soul and my heart – and nothing will EVER change that.
I have two loves, my son and Everton.
But in the short-term, we have to build on each good result, then turn them into sequences and make sure we are maximising our potential. This will only help us to attract the young and hungry players that we need to break through again and show the world who we really our again.
Q2. I remember standing amongst a glum chain gang of fans at Kirkdale train station in the late 90′s, we’d just been beaten at Goodison, the rain was pissing on us, and some cheeky Liverpool fans were laughing and mooning us from the top of the stairs. That was the lowest I felt as an Everton fan. What is your all time high/low as a fan?
The all-time low for me personally was that we didn’t take advantage of finishing 4th in 2005, or that we weren’t able to. That is paired with the fact that we produced one of the best players of his generation and were in that bad shape financially, we had to sell to move forward.
The high, was the FA Cup win in 1995 – the only silverware I’ve seen us win!
Q3.If you could jump into a time-machine which player from the past would you have loved to have seen?
I know it’ll be a common one and pretty obvious, but I would obviously love to have seen William Ralph Dean.
Who wouldn’t want to witness first-hand arguably the greatest centre-forward in English football?
If Babe Ruth was to go out of his way to meet him, I think I would too!
‘Dixie was the greatest centre-forward there will ever be. He belongs to the company of the supremely great, like Beethoven, Shakespeare and Rembrandt.’ – The words of Bill Shankly at a celebratory dinner on the day of his friend’s death.
Q4.Favourite all-time player?
This is a very difficult one as growing up, I was a goalkeeper and used to try and mimic players. Naturally then, the choice would be Neville Southall.
But then, as I failed to grow both in height and width, I played on my (only) strength of pace as a left-winger – so I studied both Dave Thomas and Kevin Sheedy.
Big Nev was eccentric and above all almost indomitable at times. Some of the saves I saw him make were gravity-defying and his presence on the field seemed frightening even for the defence in front of him.
Having been very fortunate to be part of the 25th Anniversary of 1985 official DVD, I was also lucky to be able to interview key members of the squad and of course the management duo of Howard Kendall and Colin Harvey.
I saw at close counters the respect that these men had for on individual who, at times, had single-handedly stopped the opposition at crucial times during that record-breaking season.
His legendary half-time protest at the Gwladys Street goal later in his career against Leeds United, where he refused to go in with the team because of a below-par display in the opening 45 minutes, shows both his will to win and his eccentricity.
On his day, there was no-one better and in my opinion only Peter Schmeichel in world football has come close to his brilliance.
Q5.What’s your favourite part of Goodison to watch a game from?
Again, another difficult question because I’ve sat in every part of the ground except for the Top Balcony.
The press box and executive boxes are great vantage points, but if you want the unique raw atmosphere of a REAL English football ground with history, heritage, humour and heart, then the Gwladys Street is unrivaled.
Nowadays though, I like to sit and watch the game so that I can study it a bit more – and even in some games just watching one player for the whole match to see how he plays – I prefer the Main Stand.
Q6. Where does our new lurid pink away kit rank in the historical list of Everton kit atrocities?
I actually don’t think it’s that bad when worn during a match, but much prefer the vanilla number.
Don’t forget that we have worn shirts with one shade of pink or another SEVEN times during our history and this was part of a requirement from David Moyes to accelerate peripheral vision during games.
A real man wears pink, but more important than that, it has an Everton crest on it so I can’t dislike it.
Now speaking from my head, I personally think it’s a PR-disaster as the amount of people who would have bought the away shirt had they liked it is in the thousands and you can’t turn down cash like that.
Q7. What are your thoughts on a ground share with Liverpool?
I could be here all weekend writing a thesis on this, but the top and bottom of my argument is that each club needs their own identity.
Clubs who groundshare on the continent are unique and it just works over there.
If any ground that would drive fans away from attending was agreed to, it would be a mistake simply because you should be attracting supporters, not giving them reasons not to come!
Plus, who wants to sit in the same seats as those jokers?
Q8.Our form this season has been iffy, we’ve been dominating games, but somehow we’ve been unable to put teams to the sword. Why do you think this is?
Well, decisions are the main part of any sport and in football, nothing is more important and it’s what separates a good player from a bad player.
Bearing this in mind, any team can pass the ball around on the comfort of the halfway line as it’s the primary skill of any player to be able to pass and control a ball – or they should not be in this profession.
Teams who would rather get the ball up the pitch as quickly as possible, do so because they feel they have a greater chance of scoring a goal, which is the aim of the game in the first place.
Obviously, a better striker will have the natural ability to find himself space and give himself a one-on-one opportunity with the goalkeeper. But when teams would rather adopt a cautious approach and get men behind the ball, that becomes very difficult for many strikers to do.
If you don’t have pace, then teams will/should play higher up the pitch, but that hasn’t really been happening either – and we are dominating possession, but not territory, which is more crucial.
If you get efforts on target then you have more chance of scoring – that much is simple. But, when things aren’t going your way and you persist in the same tactics, opposing teams will eat this up and be well-drilled before they play you.
But playing 4-4-2 against Spurs was the result of us having more men for the opposition defence to concentrate on – more bodies can counteract pace. As long as you put a doubt in a player’s mind, he will hesitate and players at the top-level nowadays possess such agility and athleticism that they only need a split-second to force you to go where you want them.
Without pace or clever movement, you run the risk of being stopped easier. Obvious or familiar tactics will easily be prevented from working when defenders have seen it all before.
You have to take defenders out of their comfort zone and if it means one player constantly dragging one marker out of position just ONCE during a game and not touching the ball too much, then it can be the difference between winning and losing.
Q9. When Jermaine Beckford scored the equalizer against Bolton a strange thing happened, Beckford was given the credit for salvaging a draw, yet Moyes was criticized. How much can Moyes be blamed for results like Aston Villa away; with Pienaar hitting the stanchion and a scuffed Fellaini clearance deciding the scoreline?
As I have touched in the previous answer, the tactics of a side are more important than ever in the current game as most sides have players of similar ability and with every game being filmed, it’s much easier to prepare for your opposition.
Working on an opponent’s weaknesses can sometimes be more effective than using your own strengths, but pair the two together and the results can be devastating.
In my opinion, Moyes is very cautious and looks not to lose games, rather than go out and win them. This is an understandable approach as it uses less energy and keeps you in games more often, it means a point is better than none and if you don’t concede you cannot lose.
But unfortunately, that mentality stopped being effective once the league decided to introduce three points for a win, which was to encourage sides to be more attacking to for a greater reward.
Being a defender in his playing career, Moyes is obviously influenced by this and I can see his point of making Everton hard to beat – and I’ve no argument with that. But I think we are a couple of players short of where he wants us to be and that’s why he doesn’t go 442 or similar more often as the side is not balanced enough for his liking – especially with the personnel that he has at his disposal.
Without either, it is hard to see how we will progress sufficiently and satisfyingly.
Q10.Is money necessary to compete at the highest level, and if so – should Kenwright step aside?
Money is a massive attribute, of course. But not the super cash of Manchester City or Chelsea. In fact, I feel the latter have gone about things in a lot better way than the Abu Dhabi group, not because they have won trophies; more because only brought in the players they needed.
Jose Mourinho was instrumental in this thought as he wanted only two players for each position. It stops in-fighting and helps to keep harmony, which is vitally important in being successful.
I only think that Everton need to buy younger players ahead of the other sides and develop them, because coaching is FAR more important than any transfer money can ever be.
If Kenwright can’t produce, then it’s obvious that he should let a more affluent person(s) come in. But if he wants to make sure that we don’t get power-hungry clowns in, there is no reason he should just sell to anyone. But we don’t know what the real reasons are for us not yet being bought out, however I feel at least he does have the club’s best interests at heart – that I think we are all certain of.
Should the money that we need to keep competitive become available – around £30m a season – then there would be no problem. But as our wage bill (if you believe the salaries being touted about) stands at a staggering £50m a season and the Sky money bringing in around £60m, the debt being taken into consideration and other financial facets, we are scraping the barrel every season.
Keeping our most valuable assets AT the club in the first place is more important than bringing new players in, that is obvious. There is no point in the players who are familiar with the club, surroundings, Moyes, fans, other players etc., leaving only to bring in players who will take time to settle in – it just doesn’t make sense.
Get players in young, teach them the basics make sure all of the age-ranges are playing the same way as the first-team, so that they know what to prepare for when called upon and cherish them and you have the foundations of a very good club.
We do that quite a lot and that’s how we can survive.
Q11.And finally, where do you see Everton in 10 years time?
Well, if I have my way, I’ll be manager! Ha ha ha.
Seriously, bringing in players from youth and elsewhere for good prices is all we can do at the moment and as I don’t see the cash needed to fund a European challenge season-in, season-out and more clubs and their managers being allowed that luxury, it could be a difficult period for the club.
Hopefully, something will change and we get a group of youngsters through that will take over the world, where the sale of one won’t seriously harm the club.
You can follow Paul on Twitter: @Dejonefc