PHIL NEVILLE has suffered a particularly embarrassing week since Everton slumped to the bottom of the Premier League and he believes the collective shame of such an alarming fall has been the shock to the system that finally enabled Everton to start their season after six aborted attempts.
The red faces on the blue half of Merseyside and the controlled, yet hardline, approach of manager David Moyes have been the contributing factors. If falling to the foot of the table hit the Goodison Park dressing room hard, Moyes hit them harder on the training ground for the entire week leading up to them lowering the colours of Birmingham City at St Andrew’s for the first time in just over a year.
There have been no complaints at cancelled days off or the double training sessions. They can at least shake away some of the extra fatigue during the international break and after relegating Liverpool into the bottom three for the first time since 1984 they can also contemplate the added incentive increasing the misery for their suffering neighbours when they return to league duty, at least free from some of the shame.
“To be bottom of the league for a club like Everton and for some of the players in that dressing room was embarrassing and shameful. I must admit it has been talked about every minute of every single day. We were bottom of the league and it was the kick up the backside we needed,” said Neville.
“The manager hit us hard on the training field and pushed those boundaries, pushed the limit. He pushed our mental strength. At this stage of the season you don’t normally get double sessions but we were bottom of the league and we needed to do something. The days off were cancelled.
“We have let ourselves down. We have let the fans down. They have been deflated these last couple of weeks and we have as well. I have not felt the fans turning against the manager. It has been difficult because people keep telling us Everton have their best squad in years.”
“It has been difficult because people keep telling us Everton have their best squad in years. We know where we want to be. Enough of the talking, let’s cut the rubbish out, let’s just play football.”
Neville will argue also that Everton have been doing just that since the opening day, but have simply not got the rewards their endeavours have deserved. For once they found fortune smiling on them. Roger Johnson’s own goal was the break they have been looking for since the opening day and Tim Cahill’s 100th English league goal leaves Birmingham manager Alex McLeish with problems and a legitimate gripe.
Getting booed off the field when you have not lost a Premier League game at home for over 12 months was certainly harder to swallow than losing that proud home record. “We have to take it on the chin, but I don’t think it was fair the fans should boo us for losing the game. It’s our first defeat in 13 months and I don’t think we should have been booed,” he said.
“Unfortunately it is the culture we are living in. Players are being paid big wages and the fans expect them to deliver. You can’t blame them, for that. We live in a society where there is more fickle behaviour than ever.”
If he wants the fans to deliver more backing and support, that is a fair request. He also needs £6m summer signing Nikola Zigic to step up to the plate after a miserable run from his side of 270 minutes at St Andrew’s without a league goal and just two wins in 17 games. There is collective responsibility, but the Serbian is one the fans are looking toward, to solve the problem and so is McLeish.
“Zigic has got to give us more. He is struggling to settle into the Premier League. He is struggling to adapt to the pace and physicality and we need the big man to step up. Players will argue they have not had many minutes, but we train every day and play matches on the training ground. These guys have got to show me.”
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