Roberto Martinez has a young daughter and, though his world is very different to ours, some things remain the same. Small children can tire you out – physically and mentally. You struggle to concentrate, you forget things you really ought to remember, you get clumsy. It’s a joy that’s seen through bleary eyes and a fuzzy head. Sure you get through, but, for a few years, you’re short of your best as obligation stretches from day into night and on to day again. Cyril Connolly pithily put it thus: “There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.”
Everton’s pram in the hall is the Europa League, the mewling infant that demands attention when you really want to watch Pointless and eat chocolate. Roberto doesn’t see it that way – the more the merrier is his line when it comes to fixtures, but methinks he doth protest too much. The line – like the squad – is beginning to feel a little worn.
While the likes of Mark Noble can laugh off fatigue with ridiculous comparisons, the empirical evidence is rather more compelling. Two points were surrendered at home to Hull to join the three surrendered on Sunday at White Hart Lane. In the disappointing start to the campaign, three were given up at home to Crystal Palace and two each to Arsenal and Leicester City. That’s 12 points in total, 12 points that would see us third in the table, the kind of advance on last year’s fifth that fans had hoped for, if not expected.
Few sides concede no equalisers nor winners across 14 matches, so let’s hold on to less than half the points (Arsenal, Tottenham). Those five points retained would put us sixth (between West Ham and Swansea if it feels too far-fetched). As it is, we languish in 11th, closer to the Championship than the Champions League.
Okay, maybe fifth last season was an overachievement, but seventh should not be beyond a squad brimming with internationals. But if a dreary league season beckons, that pram in the hall has to house a bouncing baby Europa League trophy – with its passport to the Champions League, football’s Oxbridge education.
Let’s not be over-critical after this most disappointing few days, but let’s also understand that backpacking across Europe brings plenty of bills as well as memories.