Part Fifteen - The Small Club
Everton celebrated getting a point in their 0-0 draw at Anfield in the same way we celebrated getting to the semi finals of the Champions League with the same result in 2005. Afterwards a rightly frustrated Rafa Benitez referred to small clubs in general coming to Anfield intent on defending, but the vitriolic reaction to his comments must have left him wondering whether or not he should hire a fleet of bodyguards.
The hysterical response of the Blues was unbelievable. Keith Wyness went on their official website demanding an apology and saying that Rafa was in a minority of one in thinking Everton were a small club. What one was that Keith, million or billion? He then said the comments had spoiled a magnificent derby. We’ll expect the DVD out soon then.
In the run up to and following this fixture Everton had reminded everybody just what a small club they were. Moyes and Arteta both said how they’d never met a Livepool fan as there weren't any on Merseyside, they all lived outside. Then Moyes whinged about the £100 million difference in transfer budget between the two teams before saying they were in our shadow but trying to compete. So if they admit to being in our shadow, aren’t they admitting to being a small club? I’m confused.
Mikel Arteta then expressed his frustration at not yet receiving an international all up, hinting that he'd have had one if he didn't play for Everton. Does this mean that Mikel is saying Everton are too small a club to provide players to the Spanish side then?
Even setting aside the derby they’ve always had to remind people how badly treated they are because of their small status, such as when they compiled the dossier of all the penalties Andy Johnson should have been given. When they were dumped out of the Champions League by Villareal, allegedly because of that redshite Collina being a part of some G-14 ‘Big Club’ conspiracy, Moyes said “we are disappointed to be out of the Champions League but we must not forget what an achievement it was to get there in the first place”. Achievement just to qualify for the qualifiers? I’d have thought Champions League qualification should be a pre-requisite of a big club.
Rafa’s comments were nowhere near as inflammatory as those made by Bill Shankly, who said there were two teams on Merseyside – Liverpool and Liverpool Reserves – and that he’d close the curtains if Everton were playing in his garden. He also phoned up Alan Ball when he signed for them and congratulated him on playing near a great side. But back in the 60s Everton laughed these comments off and saw it as part of the general banter between the two clubs.
This year though they reacted differently, simply because the truth hurts and Rafa’s words cut them to the bone. It also means that we are probably entering period of even greater bitterness than has gone one before.