I’d rather be in Leeds or Leicester’s shoes than Everton’s on the final day – it would be disastrous if they go down
IT WILL be disastrous if Everton are relegated this weekend.
They are a huge club and it would be disastrous to try the drop for the first time in 72 years.
On paper they want to follow in the footsteps of Goodison boss Sean Dyche and face homely Bournemouth with a slight advantage over Leeds and Leicester on this final day.
But it won’t be that easy. If Everton let the Cherries play, they will dominate the ball and cause them a lot of problems and really hurt them.
I can imagine a scenario where Everton could either win comfortably – or lose comfortably, and then it’s all up in the air.
I know Dyche’s boys can afford not to win and still stay up there, but imagine you’re waiting for a draw and then Leicester score a late goal? heartbreaking.
That’s why, in a weird way, you almost want to follow in the footsteps of Leicester or Leeds. You know what to do – win – and then pray for a miracle.
When you know you can afford to win, lose, or tie, you can play with your wits. Do I really need to get involved in this tackle? Do I really have to go ahead and attack?
Of the three, I think Leicester’s game was a good one, against a West Ham side who are preparing for a European final and just want to get through injury-free.
Leeds undoubtedly have it the hardest. They need a flurry of goals and need to take the lead against Tottenham from the first minute.
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But imagine how hostile Goodison Park, Elland Road and King Power Stadium will be. The fans will be nervous. The players will be nervous.
You have to start well, otherwise it gets bad and then nine times out of ten it’s game over. Under such circumstances, few players rise to the challenge.
The worst thing you can do as a player in such situations is to think too much. It doesn’t just start with breakfast on the morning of the game.
It starts two days beforehand with thinking through each scenario and figuring out who on your team wants it and who’s on board and who’s not.
Whenever there’s a big game, the week before brings a different intensity. There are people who train two or three days before, like the game is full tempo, it’s brilliant.
There are also some who are nervous and get a little kick and rub their ankles or stretch their hamstrings a little more.
Then you start thinking, “He doesn’t feel like it. He’s going to collapse.”
It sounds strange, but not everyone who is fighting for their life is ready for it. There are fears and emotions.
You will want to play but not be the type to relegate the club because of a mistake or embarrass yourself.
It’s the overcomplication of things that makes the killer.
That’s what we did with Watford when we traveled to the Emirates on the final day of the 2019-2020 season to beat Arsenal and equal Aston Villa’s result at West Ham.
We were 3-0 down in the first 20 minutes. We came back to 3:2 and in hindsight probably should have won the game.
The difficulty for us was that due to the pandemic there was no audience and we could hear everything about what was happening in the other game from the bench.
Employees had it on their phones and shared it with others all the time. It was a bloodbath – you think “what if we get relegated?” added to the pressure to win.
It’s better just not to know. We were 3-2 and right after that there was a drinks break, 15 minutes before the end.
Instead of being in top form after just one goal and just coming out and playing the way we played, we thought, ‘Shit, we have to score straight away’ and left it open.
We had Hayden Mullins on the touchline as Nigel Pearson had just been sacked. I’m confident we would have stayed up had Nigel stayed in the squad but the club panicked.
That’s nothing against Hayden, he’s done really well given the madness behind the scenes.