Everton Meet Young Boys, Harry Redknapp And Huge Tackles
The mystery of why Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher hatched a villainous plan that would culminate in a baker’s dozen of QPR fans making a near 500 mile round trip on a cold and windy Monday night in December may never be solved.
Be that as it may, Gaz and Jay couldn’t be satisfied with bamboozling the hardy handful of ‘Super Hoop’ supporters who were delusional enough to believe Harry Redknapp’s QPR could win a game not played at Loftus Road.
No, no. The unholy Bury-Bootle-Alliance left Sky viewers doubly dumbfounded on Monday night.
QPR succumbing to a ninth consecutive away defeat - any fool or die hard supporter could see that one coming - was the hook, a tease, a mere aperitif. There was much more gratification to be had on this particular Monday at Goodison Park.
The story began earlier the same day in the Swiss city of Nyon, where the man pulling Everton out of the Europa League tombola happened to be none other than Jamie Carragher’s ex-Liverpool team mate, Jerzy Dudek.
Had Jamie been on the blower? Had he had a quiet word in Jerzy’s shell-like? Again, we’ll probably never know.
Nevertheless, Evertonians had been bracing themselves in anticipation. Could the dream, however small the chance, of their team being drawn against a club whose name is a comedy gift that keeps on giving become a reality?
And then, lo and behold, there they appeared in all their glory. The first of the 32 teams drawn to compete in the knockout stages of UEFA’s Europa League had been randomly chosen.
Thoughts of commentators and reporters bemoaning the ‘lack of penetration’ or lauding Romelu Lukaku for ‘constantly getting in behind’ raced around the mind, but hang on here. There remained another 31 teams in Jerzy’s ball bag. Surely the nigh on impossible wouldn’t actually happen?
And then, right in front of unsuspecting eyes, a small miracle transpired. The unthinkable materialised. A phenomenal coincidence had occurred.
Gently holding his ball in one hand, before slowly tickling it open with the other, and with what seemed a knowing smirk and a twinkle in his eye, softly, Jerzy said: “Everton.”
Only a few hours later, once QPR had predictably been dispatched at Goodison Park, a nonplussed Everton boss Roberto Martinez fielded the first of what will surely be many cunning questions on his team’s Europa League opponents.
Perhaps the query had been lost in translation as Martinez stoically explained just how difficult it would be to come up against, and beat, Young Boys in February.
Thankfully neither Neville, Carragher, or their Monday Night Football host Ed Chamberlin pushed Martinez on how he planned to turn over Young Boys at the Wankdorf Stadium.
In this day and age of diving, cheating, conning and general shithousery, something else extraordinary took place at Goodison Park on Monday night.
A young, baby faced Bosnian by the name of Muhamed Besic put in a performance to transport back in time those who pine for the days when the art of tackling was admired. And the beautiful game was a contact sport.
When it comes to Saturday afternoon, or Sunday evening, or Monday night, once in situ, football supporters are generally a simple minded folk. And few things can get us off our seats quicker than an expertly executed, crunching tackle.
Sadly, the skill of tackling has been a dying art form for many a year. So to witness a 22 year-old give a near perfect example of how to fairly, yet very firmly, dispose of opposing players with a bracing challenge, was a welcome and overdue turn up for the books.
It certainly had the otherwise reticent Monday night Goodison Park crowd baying for more.
Football supporters love a cult hero and Evertonians are no different. Buff, modern footballers, with their mandy-bands, hair transplants, rabonas and their all-year-round-tan, lack a sense of simplicity. A footballing cult hero has to have a certain baseness about them.
They may be enigmatic characters away from the field of play - no doubt Besic has his complexities - but on it, the less complicated the cult hero the better.
“I like tackles,” said Besic. “That’s my style of play. I like to tackle and play it easy.”
Is that uncomplicated enough for you?
If, as was the case on Monday night, Muhamed Besic is given enough leeway by over fussy officials to continue to justly rattle through the opposition, Everton supporters may well have another genuine cult hero on their hands.