Defeat at the death

Last updated : 05 January 2005 By Keith Allman
All in all, yesterday was a bit of a nightmare.

Let's start with the fact that my car started to make strange noises on the way to the match; although it somehow got me there and back, the clutch is in fact ruined - cash down the plug hole. Then we'll remember that point at 1:40 in the morning where I didn't realise what the speed limit was, and got flashed by one of those darling cameras. Marvellous. And who can forget the dubious pleasures of watching some child try to set light to a Salvation Army clothes bin? Or getting back at 5 this morning and having to get up for work at 7?

And what better way to ruin a day that is already achieveing status of "worst ever" than a last minute defeat to make the 500 mile round trip all the more worthwhile. Or something. What makes the result such a disappointment is that their goal came 40 seconds after the actual "added time" had finished, and we probably should've escaped with a draw. "Escape" is a key word; if you looked at the balance of play overall you would probably say that the home team deserved a 2-1 win, but to get so close and yet fall at the final hurdle, courtesy of the referee's timekeeping ineptitude, is something of a pain.

What makes the result even more disappointing is that people are using it as a springboard to vent their angry opinions. Velimir and Joe, apparently, are too defensively minded and maybe not up to it. This, no doubt, from the same who complained Harry Redknapp was "too attacking", but hey, everyone's an expert. The fact we were within one hoofed clearance of another away point at another Champions League chasing ground is thrown by the wayside - let's just get on people's backs instead! Ignore Faye's excellent containing performance, ignore Berger's swashbuckling forward runs and longshots, ignore De Zeeuw's confident night at the back - let's concentrate on the negatives.

I'm all for a bit of constructive criticism; lord knows I dish out enough myself, after all, but there's just no two sides for some people. I previously have debated that Matt Taylor has failed to show the form we know he can, and yet recently have been impressed by the way he's played and admitted perhaps I was hasty to judge him. Last night he made a mistake which led to their goal, the poor git. Instantly, there's a barrage of high quality constructive comments such as "shit", "crap", and "gaylord". I'm sure he'll take those points on board in training.

Yak, yet again, is a popular figure of blame. Despite scoring a wonderful goal, and now having 2 in 2, that's simply not enough. People expect more than just goals from their strikers. Despite the fact that he was full of running and excellent positional play last night, we need more more more. Take a perfect example in the second half, as Stefanovic hoofs the ball long into the night sky, the ball bouncing once before Richard Wright picked it up in the Everton goal. "Faaaaacking 'ell Yak! CHASE IIIIM!" came an intellegent shout. Yes, good idea. Go on son, waste all your energy on lost causes. You'll be in an offside position if we launch another attack and probably be knackered too, but it'll certainly satisfy Mr Angry. No doubt the same Mr Angry who was slagging you off this time last year for a goal return of just four, levelling the same comments of "lazy" and "out of the game" continually, despite bulging the onion bag many times when push came to shove.

You may have noticed there's a somewhat defensive tone about this article, and indeed, lately quite a few of the things I've written about have been. The fact is, I'm fed up. When we do well, very rarely do players or coaching staff get credit. Yet as soon as we dare to lose narrowly, or draw at home to a team who played very well with a tight defensive formation, people start to question the manager. After a month and a bit in charge. No wonder the likes of Dalglish and Souness have had serious trouble with the stress of the job. Zajec is still learning the ropes, he's still getting to know the players, he's grinding out some good results - and yet people still want to get on his back.

It's no secret I'm a big fan of Velimir, so of course I'm biased in this opinion. He hasn't entirely proven himself yet, but the encouraging signs are there. Sooner or later we have to turn these good performances into points, I can agree with that opinion, but the fact is that people just seem to expect us to be walking every game at the moment. We can't beat Norwich, so let's boo them off. We only just lose away - something that people seem to forget was a foregone conclusion a couple of months back - and it's time to slag off the tactics and substitutions that so very nearly earnt a point.

I don't really know where I'm going with this. Suffice to say that Rome wasn't built in a day, and fans need to learn patience. Perhaps after the lighting rise that Redknapp brought to the club, people are expecting more of the same. But the key phrase must surely be that old cliché - evolution, not revolution.