5th July 2003
I had completely forgotten that Elton John ever collaborated with the ghost of 2pac, but nevertheless, Ghetto Gospel is sitting pretty on top of the UK charts as we enter our 5th season in charge of the Toffees. Crazy Frog is beginning it’s long descent towards the dregs of our collective memory where it fucking deserves to be and James Blunt’s You’re Beautiful is sitting at a gentleman’s 3rd place. What an erratic year in the history of Music.
I’ve returned with a sense of grim determination to redeem my good name after it was besmirched towards the back end of last season by the 2 Uniteds that nobody likes. I’m also not bitter. It was a bumpy year but I’m certain that with a couple of choice additions and a pinch of luck, we’ll be able to top the table and/or bring home European glory.
And would you believe that those choice additions are already in? Of course you would! When have I ever lead you astray? The vast majority of my £23M budget went on securing the services of Newcastle’s Craig Bellamy. He’s cost us £22M, but I think it’s good business and I’ll tell you why.
Bellamy probably comes in as our 3rd choice striker, below Vieri and Radzinski and above Jeffers. He’s natural as an advanced forward, adept on either wing and has such solid attributes across the board. His only weakness is heading the ball, but as my forward line throughout this save has mainly been composed of smaller, quicker players, we always use low crosses anyway. You could argue that we’re strong from set pieces, from which we do usually loft the ball into the box, but that’s what Unsworth and Ferdinand are there for. Craig’s also great from the spot and to let you in on a secret, I think we’ll have a penalty shootout this season. I have no idea whether that’ll come true as I write these in real time, but I’m really gunning for silverware and if we’re to go deep in the FA Cup and the Champions League, there’s a good chance it’ll come down to pens. Craig comes with a wealth of benefits for this squad and I’m happy to have him.
For our second signing, I wanted to bolster the midfield after losing both Mark Pembridge and Scott Gemmill on free transfers to Krasnodar and Spurs respectively. At first I decided not to buy a replacement after all. I decided that our 4 midfielders will be Frank Lampard, David Beckham, Gennaro Gattuso and Richard Brown.
Brown’s an academy graduate that’s been out honing his craft with Wycombe and Brentford for the last 2 seasons but in my opinion he’s come back good enough for a squad place. He’s not a natural centre mid but he’ll soon get there with Becks and Lampard showing him the ropes. He’s smart, good on the ball and able to hold his own physically. But even having made that choice, I still decided to make another signing.
34 year old David Batty is in on a free transfer and will be central midfielder number 5, offering us an upgrade on what Gemmill gave us last season. He’s a scary bastard, a good leader and a hard tackler and if we had an injury crisis in midfield, I’d be comfortable sticking him in there. Plus, how good would it feel if he helped us knock Leeds out of a cup?
You’ll also note that the usual shit tonne of young players have found loan clubs. I’ll have a keen eye on First Division club Millwall’s progress this year as they’ve taken goalkeeper Alan Mannus, left back Leighton Baines, midfielder Leon Osman and striker Wayne Rooney for the season. Realistically, I only have hopes for the futures of Baines and Rooney but they’re both coming along an absolute treat.
First team time, then. Let’s have a look. Same as last year I’m going to show you my whole squad, which is now a whopping 26 players.
Petr Cech’s attributes continue to go from strength to strength, so he’s obviously still my boy between the sticks. Cech’s place isn’t guaranteed forever though, as young Colombian Julián Rivera had a really impressive season on loan at Bournemouth in the First Divison last year, conceding just 28 goals in 46 games as the Cherries won promotion. Rivera’s back on loan with them in the Premiership this season and I might have to make a decision if I’m still here in a year’s time. Rotting away in the stands are 2nd and 3rd choice goalies Steve Simonsen and Paul Gerrard, the latter of which has asked to leave twice a season since the save began, but my captain always batters him back into line. I do feel a bit sorry for him.
At right back, Maicon’s my starter with Abel Xavier backing him up. After an injury-hit first season in blue, I’m hoping Maicon kicks on this year.
At centre back, Rio Ferdinand and David Unsworth remain the crux of our back line, with Richard Dunne and David Weir both still happy to play 3rd and 4th fiddle respectively.
On the left, Maxwell’s now comfortably my first choice left back but Michael Ball is still a fine alternative. We also now have Moreno Torricelli, who will be providing cover for a whole host of positions, but mainly the 2 full back spots.
When fit, Frank Lampard and David Beckham will be providing the base of our attacks. They’ve formed a good partnership in the middle which I hope will pay dividends this season. Behind them as I’ve mentioned are Gennaro Gattuso, Richard Brown and David Batty.
On the right wing, as per usual, Pablo Aimar is the man. Fabián Zapata’s progress since he joined us has been fantastic though and I’m looking forward to seeing if he can rival the Argentinian one day. One thing I should mention about Aimar is that I’ve been fending off some bids for him this Summer. Despite him signing a new deal at the end of 2002, Barca, Bayern and Real Madrid have all been lowballing me with £25M offers and I doubt they’re finished yet. Pablo’s beginning to question his future, which is bad news.
Juan Roman Riquelme is my first choice left winger and Nicky Barmby is as able a deputy as ever. You might be noticing with these wingers that I’m training them all up to be able to play on either side, just for the added versatility. We also have Mustapha Riga as added wing cover as he’s already natural on both sides.
And up front, our ever dependable strike force of Tomasz Radzinski and Christian Vieri is backed up by new signing Craig Bellamy and old faithful Franny Jeffers.
So not including Rivera, who’s out on loan, that is 26 players, most of whom are comfortable in a number of positions. I’m probably digging our grave here, but injuries should not be a concern whatsoever this season. We have shit loads of quality, we have shit loads of depth and in my opinion we should be winning this league. “But what was that weird comment about if you’re here next year?” you ask. “And why is this episode called Now or Never?”
Well the thing is, I think this might be my last season commentating on this save and I think that for a number of reasons. Let’s start with the board expectations.
Our club culture is fine, we’re nailing all of those objectives. The thing is though, we are required to win the league this year. At time of writing, I’m quite shaken, yet cautiously optimistic after our failure last season. I genuinely don’t know if we have what it takes to see off United. They’re still favourites for the title. I’m 50/50 about Leeds to be honest. So yeah, if we don’t win the league there’s a very real possibility that I’ll be sacked. This seems mental if you’re comparing my Everton to the real world equivalent in 2003, but it is what it is. There’s also the problem of our finances.
At the start of the save, with a debt-free Everton, we were able to build our finances massively as we were paying average players pittance for wages and raking in TV money. Now though, we’ve turned back the other way. We have a really high quality squad and we’re paying the sort of wages that a really high quality squad expects to be paid. We slipped into the red for the first time right at the end of last season and as we currently have £20M in the bank and we’re spending over £1M per week on wages, I dare say we’ll do it a lot sooner this year.
The other problem is the age of some of our key players. Vieri is a global star but will turn 30 in a week. Radzinski is built for speed, but he’ll also be 30 later in the year. How long before his pace melts away? Unsworth and Barmby will both reach the same milestone this season. Some of these players are going to start to go downhill in the next year or two. This season might be our last chance to have everyone at their best. With our finances in such a sorry state, will we be able to replace them?
So it’s now or never. This episode might end with us lifting 5 trophies, while the crowd chants “4 more years! 4 more years!”. It might end with us being mathematically eliminated as title contenders with 5 games to go and the board booting me out onto Stanley Park without a word of thanks. Whether it’s forced upon me or whether the story’s run it’s course by then, I don’t know if I’ll write about a 6th season. Let’s hope this one’s a good one, just in case.
Fuck me, I’ve written 1600 words. Let’s at least start the season, shall we?
1st September 2003
Good start, boys.
United, Everton and Sunderland have all come flying out of the traps. United have the superior goal difference, but it’s still all to play for.
As we finished 3rd last season, we had to come through a qualifying round to reach the Champions League Group Stage, but without meaning any disrespect to Beitar Jerusalem, that was a formality. We tore through them and we’ve yet to score fewer than 4 goals in a league game, including a very satisfying 4-1 win over Liverpool.
Pleasingly, Bellamy’s already got a couple of goals under his belt in the CL qualifying matches, but the real star of the show so far has been Christian Vieri, who’s scored a ridonculous 7 goals in 3 matches including hat tricks against Middlesborough and West Ham. Manchester United are interested in taking him from us, along with Radzinski and Aimar. In short, Fergie can jog right on. Aimar (who we’ve convinced to stay with us) has also had a great start, registering 1 goal and 5 assists in his 3 appearances, while I also want to give a shout out to Jeffers. I’ve given him some shit in recent seasons, but 2 goals and 3 assists in 4 appearances is not a bad start at all.
Honestly there’s not a lot else to tell you about at the minute. No more signings, although a few more kids went out on loan. I’ve also changed some squad numbers around – Tomasz Radzinski’s been wearing number 38 for 3 and a half years but he’s finally taken Campbell’s number 9, Riquelme’s worn 30 for 2 and a half years but also gets a first team squad number – 11. Ferdinand’s had a couple of niggly injuries, Dunne’s out for a month and Riquelme’s missed a couple of matches, but otherwise it’s been pretty smooth sailing so far. Hopefully that can continue on into the new year.
1st January 2004
“Woah! Back on top of the table, Man U and Leeds lagging behind, Vieri blitzing the league’s top goalscorer table… You must be made up!” You all cry in unison. On the contrary though this first half of the season has been so frustrating that I’m sat here with an actual real life stomach ache. The main reason for this has been the injuries. Oh God, the injuries.
It may not have seemed like it at the time, but up until now when we’ve been blighted by injuries, I’ve taken it on the chin. As I’ve said before, we press relentlessly and play at a breakneck pace, so of course as the season goes on we’ll pick up some muscle injuries through accumulated fatigue. The reason I’m crying into my gin tonight is because it’s fucking January and look at all those injuries!!
Craig Bellamy was the first real hammer blow. The damaged cruciates he suffered at the end of October could in theory end his season, although I hope not. Ball and Torricelli missed the majority of the first half of the season through this and that, we had niggles all over the shop but then just as it seemed as though we were through the worst of it, Xavier did his hip and is out until about March. Then a day later, Maicon broke his wrist and is probably also out until March. Thank fuck we’ve managed to get Torricelli fit again is all I’ll say.
But as we’re having yet another crisis at right back, I’ve brought this lad back from his loan spell in the Eredivisie and taken him off the transfer list as he’ll be providing us with cover for the next few months. Everyone, meet Tony. Tony, this is everyone.
Tony Hibbert has his flaws and at 22 years old he’s not exactly going to turn into a World beater, but as a 4th choice right back he’ll do just fine. I considered bringing Biggins back from his loan spell, but he could still do with the regular game time as his career still has some hope… Sorry, Tony. Hibbert’s actually also had injury woes this season but he should be back in full training in a couple of days.
With Bellamy out, I’ve also recalled Wayne Rooney home earlier than I’d planned to. We’ve been making do with 15 year old Victor Anichebe as our 4th choice striker until now, but he’s just not ready and neither is James Vaughan. At 18 and with his attributes still rising rapidly, Rooney could be. He’s had a solid enough few months with Millwall, albeit scoring only 5 goals, and I have faith that he’ll do alright as a squad player.
Anyway, with that whole mess out of the way, we’ve actually had a really good season so far.
It’s still been a lottery against the top sides, although the top sides seem to have changed slightly this season. Leeds have fallen off pretty spectacularly while Arsenal have made a late-2023 surge into the title race. Man United are still in the running thanks to what was in my opinion an extremely lucky win over us at Goodison.
They kept us at bay by the skin of their teeth up to about the 60th minute, when Frank Lampard drilled in a half volley to make it 2-1 to the blues. At least that’s what I’d thought until it became clear that David Unsworth was stood in Mark Bosnich’s eyeline in an offside position. It remained 1-1 for about 30 seconds until United won a soft free kick on the edge of our box and Giggs curled it in. As I say, they were lucky. And as I say, I’m salty.
Against Arsenal, we gave as good as we got, but just couldn’t finish our chances like they could. 3-5 it ended and I put it down to an extremely rare off-day for Christian Vieri. I’m fed up of talking about the shitty parts of this season though so let’s move onto how much of a God Christian’s been in basically every other match.
I’ll remind you that we’ve just entered January and Christian Vieri has scored 30 goals in all competitions. 30!!! In 22 matches!! Well, he actually reached the milestone in 20 matches and he’s now having what constitutes as a goal drought in his obscene little world. 9 assists, too. No surprise then that he’s just won the World Golden Ball, Footballer of the Year and World Player of the Year awards, as well as a spot in the World Team of the Year alongside Lampard. It turns out my worries over him turning 30 were completely invalid after all.
Our first Champions League group looked tricky, but we got through it straightforwardly enough, even managing to take a point off Real as we qualified with 2 games to spare. They won the competition last year so I’m happy enough with 1-2 and 1-1 results against them.
That’s all I have for you for now. No transfers on the horizon, but my entire team is still being hounded by various global powerhouses so who knows.
1st February 2004
That was a big, juicy month on our quest for silverware.
Our first match of January was away at Elland Road in the league; the 1st of our 3 meetings with Leeds throughout the month. To be honest, Leeds were exactly the team that I’d rather not have faced if I could help it, as when the transfer window opened they splashed out £75M on Samuel Eto’o and Walter Samuel. The legendary centre back did bag a debut goal against us, but it was a mere consolation as we steamrolled the Yorkshiremen. In fact we won all of our league games this month, which is extremely pleasing considering that I played reserve teams in most of them to keep the big guns fit for our cup matches.
We were back at Elland Road a week after our league meeting for the first leg of our Worthington Cup Semi Final and to be fair, Leeds beat us fairly comfortably. They lead for most of the match and things got more tricky when Fabián Zapata went in 2 footed on his man and received his marching orders. We fought back, but were pegged back again by the dominant home side.
Days before the 2nd leg, we were back at Goodison to play a tough FA Cup 4th round tie against new title contenders Arsenal. They’d beaten us handily in the league in December, but this time, thanks to our rotation, we were slightly fitter and we were the dominant side. It was still an extremely nervy match, so much so that I was terrified of making any subs as I feared it would throw off our balance, but we came through it thanks to goals from Vieri and Jeffers, who now seem to be our best strikeforce. Radzinski’s had a disappointingly quiet season.
Then came the 2nd leg of the League Cup Semi and we brought Leeds back to ours for meeting number 4 of the season. Torricelli was suspended but luckily Maicon resumed full training on the day of the match and I hesitantly threw him right back in at the deep end. He did fine and we took an early lead through Aimar. For the bulk of the match both sides had chances but the game remained delicately poised, although we had the away goals advantage. When Nick Barmby struck a late 2nd though, I breathed a sigh of relief. We’ll be going to Wembley to face off against Manchester United to see if we can retain the Worthington Cup.
I’ve been pretty annoyed with our FA Cup draws so far, although I guess it’s good to get some big hitters out of the way early. We’ve beaten Newcastle and Arsenal and West Ham are up next. They’re not to be underestimated as they’re battling for Europe and have ageing superstar Gabriel Batistuta banging in the goals up front. I’d have loved to get a lower league side in the 3rd or 4th round to take some pressure off the first team, but them’s the breaks.
We’ve tied Mustapha Riga and Nick Barmby to new deals that’ll keep them with us for another couple of years beyond the Summer but we are going to be saying goodbye to Leon Osman at the end of the season as he’s agreed a free transfer to Rangers. I guess we never really said hello to him actually, so… Never mind. If we hadn’t spent the bulk of this save towards the top of the table maybe he could’ve been a squad player for us, but we’ve just never needed him.
And I’ve made the decision that I’ll also be letting Davids Batty and Weir go in the Summer. Batty’s 35 and has done fine during the few appearances he’s made for us. Weir will be 34 in May and I think if I did carry this save on I’d be looking to splash out on another first team centre back to partner Rio Ferdinand, keeping Unsworth and Dunne as backup players.
Right, let’s get the rest of this tied up with a neat little bow.
29th May 2004
I have decided that this has indeed been the final episode of my journey through the early noughties database. A lot has happened since February, even more so than usual, so before I reveal how we did, I’d like to actually give you a play by play of the last 4 months, which I hope will explain my decision.
February was straightforward enough, for the most part. We did struggle to a draw at Middlesbrough, but won the rest of our matches leading up to the Worthington Cup Final comfortably. We did however have another major injury blow during the trip to Milan – Pablo Aimar had to come off with what turned out to be a torn groin muscle. I was pretty crestfallen, as I was really hoping for silverware and was now facing the prospect of my best creative player missing the rest of the season. I really feared the worst when Riquelme and Radzinski both had to come off during the following match against Bremen, but luckily their injuries turned out to be minor.
Then at the end of the month came the League Cup Final against Manchester United. United had not had as incredible a league season as they did last year, but nevertheless the match felt like we were going through the motions. We’ve played them so often during this save and no matter how much quality we bring in, they nearly always seem to have just enough to see us off. We put in a good performance, but United were just better, striking twice to send us home from Wembley defeated.
March went really, really well. Thanks to our 4 champions league wins in February, we had already qualified for the knockout stages, so I felt comfortable giving my reserve side a run out and… 2 more wins! Anichebe and Rooney were particularly impressive, scoring 2 and 3 goals in these matches respectively. We were still fighting off niggly injuries here and there while trying desperately to bring our right backs up to full fitness, but we did both successfully, winning every single match and coasting past both West Ham and Aston Villa to reach the FA Cup Semis.
I should have realised that everything was going a bit too smoothly, because what happened during the international break caught me completely off guard – While playing for Poland against Tunisia, Tomasz Radzinski was tackled awkwardly and picked up an injury. What kind of injury? Oh, just a damaged spine.
A damaged spine?!?! I didn’t even know that such a thing was in the pissing database! I don’t know if it’s specific to this particular database, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before. It sounds horrific! Anyway, Radzinski’s out until somewhere between the start of next season and Christmas. Goody.
April. Oh April. The beginning of April was the time that I knew for certain I wasn’t carrying on with this save. Our run of matches was absolutely stomach churning.
Starting with a crucial Premier League game against United. Thanks to our fixture congestion, Arsenal were 3 points ahead of us at the top of the league, United were 3 points behind us. We both had a game in hand on Arsenal and this was it. Either the Gunners would pull away from us and United in joint 2nd, or we’d climb up to joint 1st and go top on goal difference.
Thank fuck for that. I’ll talk more about Franny later, but he really made the difference at the most crucial time for us here. We moved back to the top of the pile.
With a tough run of games coming up, I sent the reserves out against bottom-of-the-table Stoke and we took the points easily. Then we immediately went back to Old Trafford for a Champions League Quarter Final first leg.
I was actually happy with this result. It wasn’t perfect, but we snatched a late away goal to put the pressure on United. Riquelme’s knock again turned out to be nothing serious too, so that was good news. To cleanse the palette, we went back to Goodison to prepare for the visit of our main title rivals.
Again, thank fuck. Unsworth gave away a penalty early on and Overmars opened the scoring. Then just a minute after Vieri levelled the scores, Overmars unlevelled them again. It took until the 85th minute, but eventually Vieri turned the thrusters on, burst down the left wing, cut inside and slipped the ball past Thomas Sørensen at his near post. I clutched the point to my chest and breathed another sigh of relief. If we could get past Anfield and barring any upsets against weaker teams, the league title should be ours.
Now let’s go play pissing United again. Fuck me sideways.
Alright, to be honest this one was a breath of fresh air. Despite the growing fatigue and constant threat of yet another season-ending injury, we’d been doing recovery sessions every day in training and it seemed to be paying off. We looked much fresher and actually dominated against an equally weary Red Devils side. We had Riquelme to thank really, as he crossed in for Beckham to head home our first, then met Lampard’s cross with a header of his own to score our second, then played a beautiful ball over the top for Franny to run onto and slide home to complete our 3-1 win.
With our place in the Champions League semi-final secured, it was time to head off to Wembley to play Leeds, because this month will never end. Bare in mind, this is 2 and a half weeks after that League match against United.
Frankly, I’m amazed that it took us until now to lose one of these huge matches. The manner of the loss though… It was one of them where all you can really do is laugh. We absolutely rained shots down on Dida’s goal, but he was swinging back and forth like Spider-Man to deny us time and time again, while Cech had the opposite sort of game. Oh well, brush it off. The FA Cup’s not what we’re here for anyway.
4 days later, it was time for our first Champions League Semi leg against Bayern.
I may as well bring this up now – I’ve seen it said in a few different places that English clubs are so overpowered in this database and I have to say I 100% agree. I mean, they’re usually overpowered anyway, but this is daft. How do we go through all this and then not even allow Bayern Munich a shot on target? It’s not like they don’t have good players either, they have the likes of Philipp Lahm, Markus Babbel, Emile Mpenza, Oliver Neuville… Oliver Kahn, for fucks sake. He’s arguably the best keeper in the world at this time.
We finished the month off with a narrow victory over West Ham in the league, in which we hit the woodwork 6 times. Thought I’d show this just for the ridiculousness of it. Crucially, Arsenal also drew with Newcastle at this point, while United’s form had seen them pretty much fall out of the title race, which was a massive weight off the shoulders. It meant we could afford at least a small slip up in the league.
So yeah, that was our April. I think it was around the 2nd match against United that I decided that my enjoyment of this save had fallen off into a pit.
May was slightly better. We started with a trip to Munich…
… Which was much more testing than the home leg, but we kept the home side at bay to win our place in the Champions League Final. Everything seemed to rest on our next match. If we could get a point away at Liverpool, the Premier League title should be ours. A League/Champions League double could actually be on.
And cometh the hour, cometh the Fran. I’m so happy that he’s redeemed himself for a quiet couple of years before I wrapped this save up. Arsenal were still just 2 points behind us after beating West Ham, but with only bottom-half teams to play in our final 4 games, we shouldn’t be dropping any points now.
Midweek, we beat Chelsea 1-0 at Goodison while Arsenal got battered 5-1 by Manchester United. The following weekend, we slaughtered Manchester City 3-0, also at Goodison, while the Gunners lost away at Liverpool. The title was ours.
And more good news, Pablo Aimar resumed full training in time for our 2 dead rubbers against Bournemouth and Sunderland! My plan was to give him the full 90 minutes in both to try to get him fit to face Barcelona in the Champions League Final and pray that he doesn’t pick up another injury in the process.
I gave the first team a well deserved week off for these games and played my fitness-starved second string for both games. We’d rotated a little bit throughout April, but most first teamers had played in all of those games. That’s every Wednesday and Saturday for 6 weeks straight. Rio Ferdinand was half dead.
We overcame relegated Bournemouth thanks to 2 goals from Pablo Aimar, which made me very happy, but then got put to the sword by a surprisingly ruthless Sunderland side and their Moroccan striker Salaheddine Bassir on the final day. I even brought some first teamers off the bench to try and salvage a point, but to no avail.
So that was the league wrapped up. We didn’t break any records, but in the end we won by a surprisingly comfortable margin. Special thanks to Arsenal for collapsing spectacularly towards the end there.
And guess who was deemed fit to resume full training with a week to go before the Champions League Final? Only Craig bloody Bellamy. 7 months out and his attributes are looking surprisingly intact.
His match sharpness was absolutely awful, but I thought he’d be fine for a squad place in case my pre-season prediction came true and we did actually go to a penalty shootout. We had a friendly a week before the big game to make sure the first team weren’t getting rusty after their little break, then we headed over to Budapest.
The Champions League Final was a big one for me. I sort of wanted a close game to make it interesting, but then after this absolute slog of a season I also kind of wanted a big uncomplicated thrashing to finish us off in style. I desperately wanted to win, because I thought it would be a good way to finish this save and I absolutely didn’t want to lose and feel obligated to carry on in search of Champions League glory.
I had predicted seeing our old friend Nakata in the starting XI, which he was, but what I didn’t expect to see was Roque Santa Cruz leading the line for Barcelona ahead of the likes of Patrick Kluivert and Luis Enrique. A quick glance at the Paraguayan’s attributes made me very, very worried.
Nevertheless, the game was fairly even. I’d say we edged it but in terms of quality chances made, the 2 sides were about level. We were dealt a real killer blow just 24 minutes in though when Pablo Aimar had to be stretchered off with a particularly nasty looking injury. We’d got him match fit just in time for the big game but he didn’t even make it through half of it.
We brought on Jeffers, who I’d left out purely because he doesn’t tend to perform well in the big games and within 10 minutes we were ahead, with Lampard dribbling through Barce’s defences and teeing up Vieri, who slipped in goal number 45 of the season. Seriously.
5 minutes after half time we were pegged back when Unsworth tripped Hernan Crespo in the box and Rivaldo equalised from the spot. The scores stayed level until extra time.
With half an eye on potential penalties, I’d still only made 1 substitute to replace Aimar with Jeffers. Before extra time I made a 2nd, bringing on Nick Barmby for Fabián Zapata and swapping Riquelme over to the right. Zapata’s been excellent this season, especially since Aimar’s injury, but he’d had a quiet game and Nick was a way better penalty taker. Because these tournaments use modern day rules, I still had 2 substitutes remaining. I’d wait until the 120th minute before bringing on David Batty and Craig Bellamy to add to the penalty queue.
Except I didn’t have to. In the 116th minute, as my mouse cursor hovered over the “Quick Substitution” button, Franny Jeffers tore down the right wing, crossed to the near post and Vieri arrived to poke in goal number 46.
We’ve only gone and done it.
Poor Pablo. He managed to fit 3 and a quarter matches in between horrible injuries. Doesn’t affect us much though, so let’s finally talk about all the stuff we talk about at the end of the season.
My giddy Aunt, Christian Vieri, what are you? 46 goals and 13 assists in 51 appearances for us is obscene. I’ve seen some lethal strikers over the course of this save, but this takes the biscuit. He’s broken his own Premier League record of 29 set last season.
I won’t bang on about him too much because I want to do a final recap episode where I’ll go into a bit more detail for the nerds among us. Likewise for Franny Jeffers, who’s had a stellar season. Special shout outs on this list to 2 players who’ve improved massively over this season – Fabián Zapata has been excellent and scored 14 goals for us, while Wayne Rooney is finally looking like the Premier League striker he’s been threatening to be since that 2nd season. 10 goals for Wazza (Over just half a season) at 18 years old.
And the usual shout out to Pablo Aimar. Even in an injury-ravaged season, he’s managed the same amount of goals and 1 more assist than last season in 8 fewer appearances. Riquelme managed over twice as many assists as he’d managed in any of the previous 3 seasons, while David Beckham improved pretty well for both goals and assists.
So that’s it. We’ve had some amazing signings, some ridiculous matches, a healthy handful of major trophies and A LOT of goals. We brought through a few youth players and we never ever stopped fighting. This is more like the Everton I know… Obviously this is way, way better than the Everton I know, but you get my point. I’d call this save a success and I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey from scrappy lower mid-tablers to European Champions.
Cheers for reading,