Sixy Talk – Everton

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It may be the festive season and we may be spending most of our time eating, drinking and being merry (well the first two anyway), but we still love you, our loyal readers enough to get out and about looking for clued up opposition fans to pester with daft questions about pies.  This time we sent Jimmy out for a chat with writer, fanzine editor and general good egg Mark O’Brien. 

Wigan Athletic – what do you really think of us?
I don’t want to patronise you but I always look out for your results and I’m happy whenever you win. My dad was mates with Joe Hinnigan when he played for Wigan and used to go and watch him play. I always remember him saying that Hinnigan had no idea he was being transferred to Sunderland until Gerald Sinstadt congratulated him on the move.

Obviously I know you f***ers as well and I’m a big fan of the Mudhutter, so that has some bearing on it too. That’s the thing being involved with fanzines, you end up meeting sound lads from other clubs and it makes it that much harder to hate them.

On a more general note, I know it’s a cliché but I think a lot of people do genuinely admire Roberto Martinez and what he has done at Wigan in terms of the football his sides play and just the fact that somehow, against the odds, his faith in his own methods always just about pays off in terms of Premier League survival. I think the fact that he seems like one of the genuinely decent fellas football has a massive bearing on how the club is perceived as well. Wigan were definitely a lot less likable when Paul ‘Dirk Diggler’ Jewell was in charge.

I’ve got that image from the cover of the Sunday People in my head now: the one with him wearing a black t-shirt and a contorted sex face, looking straight into the camera.

Everton still command a massive support in Wigan no doubt due to your 80’s success but does it rankle that your time in the modern game peaked just a few years before the serious money started rolling into the “EPL”? What does the average Evertonian think constitutes a good season for you nowadays? Do you still consider yourselves one of the “Big Five” or are sights set a bit more realistically?
Financially Everton are nowhere near being one of the top clubs any more. In terms of results we very rarely trouble the top five either and haven’t consistently for a long time. Everyone is aware of our great history and traditions but we are also aware that the landscape of the league has changed dramatically.

However, that said, there is also a bit of a misconception at times, especially when people criticise David Moyes for his lack of silverware, that Everton’s past before the advent of the Premier League consisted of nothing but unbroken glory. The truth is that our success has always been pretty cyclical – we have enjoyed brief periods of brilliance interspersed with long stretches of being fairly ordinary, or worse.

At the moment everyone at Everton knows, as they do at pretty much every club except perhaps Liverpool, because you know what they’re like, that the top spots in the league are well and truly stitched up by the sides who massively outspend the rest. It’s not even an issue for the majority of clubs any more – everyone just lets them get on with it.

Everton are competitive at the moment though, in that you go to the match no matter who we are playing and think we have a decent chance of getting a good result. I think for most people that’s enough, especially when it’s not always been the case, even under Moyes. Everyone loves it when we get into Europe as well, just for the chance to go on a good trip abroad. The club have cottoned on to the goodwill that’s generated when that happens too and Moyes himself has said that we are one of the few who seem to take the Europa League seriously when we get a chance.

I think if you go to the games those are the things that are most important. Whinging because we aren’t one of the league’s monsters of rock any more is probably more the preserve of the internet supporter.

I was highly impressed with Fellaini at our place and there’s been talk of him being linked with United. Do you share the same frustrations that Wigan fans do that your better players often get pilfered by the fatter cheque books or linked with a move away? Have you forgiven Wayne Rooney yet?
I’m not actually as sure as some people that anyone is going to offer £30 million or whatever is being quoted for Fellaini. Everton have finally found a position where he has prospered, more or less as an old-fashioned centre-forward, and I’m not sure that the teams who could afford that sort of fee would want to play that way. I always thought that was why Tim Cahill stayed for so long – everyone admired him but were never sure how they would accommodate him in a top team.

I try to be philosophical over players moving on, especially as the fact is Everton have become pretty adept at charging top dollar and using the money wisely to strengthen the squad. In fact, it’s the only way we actually generate any money for transfers now.

I also think it’s interesting how a lot of supporters consider every player who leaves their club a money-grabbing Judas but the ones who join are simply showing ambition and a desire to further their career. I just wish everyone would be a bit more grown up about it and accept that the players will generally go where the money is, just like everyone else, and that all the stuff they talk about around that, in terms of loyalty, etc. is bullshit.

You’ve had more new home ideas put in front of you than Sarah Beeny. Are you now staying put at Goodison or are there still plans to move in order to maximise matchday attendances, drive up corporate hospitality revenues to fund expansion and all that guff just to end up with a slightly bigger version of Leicester City’s Walkers Stadium? Is money still the stumbling block?
 We’re going nowhere. Everton have said that to acquire a new ground they require some ‘enabling’ factor, which more or less boils down to a retailer being involved and getting a load of free land off the council. That was the draw with Kirkby – I think the club knew it wasn’t ideal but reckoned that the pros did outweigh the cons and saw it as an opportunity that might not come around again.

In the end it was actually objections to the retail park that saw planning permission refused and killed the project dead in the water. And as things stand with the economy it seems unlikely that any other scheme is going to materialise in the foreseeable future.

After an action packed affair at our place earlier this season, how do you see the Boxing Day game going?
 We’ve been struggling a bit lately and drawing too many games, and without Fellaini or Kevin Mirallas we are going to find goals even harder to come by. If recent form is anything to go by then it will probably finish 1-1.

 Scousers have been known to call Wiganers pie heads as a preferred choice of insult, yet every row of shops in Liverpool has a Sayers on the end knocking out scouse pies by the dozen. This is a bit hypocritical surely? You do eat pies in Liverpool don’t you, and if so, how and what flavour?
 I’m a vegetarian so you are asking th

e wrong person, sorry.

Another one?  No wonder Latics generally come near the top of best pie charts, no-one ever eats them!  He might not partake in savoury pastry products, but Mark can be found with his fingers in several pies including the, never less than, excellent When Skies Are Grey fanzine, his This Is Not Football blog and in many good bookshops. 

You can follow him on twitter @M_OBrien71.

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