Being Evertonian ain’t what it used to be. As the first West Ham goal went in on Saturday, I’m thinking ‘well that’s that, then’. There’s a feeling in your stomach, like butterflies or more likely moths, and you think your team’s done for.
But Christ on a dynamite electric pedal bike was I wrong. Two portions of Baines magic and an overly literal knockout header from Romelu Lukaku later and we pull off a deserved win.
The first half is cack, we have one chance on goal despite a king-size Lion bar’s share of possession and it ends with Martinez pictured downwind of a bubble typhoon, as West Ham fans celebrate Ravel Morrison’s deflected opener.
The dreadfully out-of-form Jelavic and a crocked Leon Osman make way for Lukaku and 11-year-old-alike James McCarthy at the start of the second-half and Everton are a different team.
Lukaku reminds me of a younger, more mobile Duncan Ferguson. Players bounce off him – I burst into laughter a couple of times on Saturday as he bound up the pitch. His touch is sweet, he has vision and skill in abundance and looks twice as big as everyone else. I can picture future matches where he’ll have to be handicapped by lead shin-pads, to give the opposition a chance. His emphatic winner on 85 minutes topped off a dream half. Seeing him collide with the Hammers defender as he connected with Mirallas’ centre was as poetic as it was oof-that’s-gotta-hurt stomach-churning. What the hell was Mourinho thinking, letting him go for the season? Perhaps Jose thinks on-loan means the same as handing over a DVD boxset for a few weeks. He’ll just put his head round the door at Finch Farm soon: “Hey Romelu, get your things together, the motor’s double parked…”
If Lukaku’s performance wasn’t mouth-watering enough, the pair of free kicks by ineffably cool Baines had me drooling like a St Bernard trapped in a butcher's overnight. The second one was especially masterful. It had the same effortless technique you see in so many sports, it was as precise as a Federer slice, as direct and exact as when Rory really whacks it down the fairway. As soon as he clipped it in, I was struck by a goal Ronald Koeman scored for Holland against England in 1992. That delicate chip sticks in my head mainly because of Motson’s commentary (I think it was him, it usually was) as Koeman stepped up “He’s gone for the chip!”. The blond-haired Barcelona legend was apparently being audacious, judging by Motty’s tone of voice – but he was only doing what comes naturally to a world class defender. And that’s what Baines is too, world class. Only Ashley Cole’s consistency for England has prevented Baines from proving it more often and on a bigger stage.
If he keeps slotting them in so perfectly, so beautifully, like that, we could always use the money we get from selling him to Man United to buy Lukaku...
This squad is growing in stature, and so Martinez is with it. We may currently be the only unbeaten club in the top flight, but the fact we have one of the few bosses who can speak at length without cliché, is just as pleasing to me.
Some of his signings have yet to prove their worth, thanks to injury mostly, and some of the passing out of defence is heart-stopping at times (Jagielka being the main culprit), but his nose for a good loan has so far made up for that.
These kind of deals, although less than satisfactory, are where it’s at these days. The richest clubs swell their squads, it seems, to stop rivals getting their hands on the same players, then rent them out to non-rich teams to keep them in good shape. Come to think of it, it’s a bizarre system. Imagine being a billionaire and buying car just to make sure no one in your pay bracket drives it. It’s a bit like that. And like most things money-related in modern football, it makes little sense. But there’s no doubt that a quality player on loan can lift a whole team. It worked when we first had Tim Howard on loan from Old Trafford – and again when the ever-elusive Landon Donovan crossed the pond from the New York Ballkickers, or whoever it was. Even if we can’t afford Lukaku’s transfer fee come the summer, he should play a huge part in Everton’s fortunes, adding killer instinct to Martinez’s bittersweet ballet.