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  1. The first game of the new year, and it’s taken on more significance that it had prior to the Leicester game. That damp squib has raised (or re-raised) many questions. We are nowhere near as bad as an England test batting line-up but we did a passable impression of Joe Root’s hapless Ashes XI by shitting down our own leg. That needs to be eradicated, pronto, as we will be without 2 of our 3 best attackers for the best part of a month after this game. What do we need? Grit. Heart. Organisation. Strength. Tactical flexibility. Give no quarter. Offensive cohesion. Ability. Luck. I don’t ask for much. We had all of that in abundance in May 1986. A squad that had looked second best to Everton until around March was now in a position where they could reclaim the league title at the expense of their neighbours. And there was still an FA Cup final to come against Howard Kendall’s men. But first there was the small matter of seeing the job through against a Chelsea team led by John Hollins, and with the prolific Kerry Dixon up front. See it through we most certainly did. Whelan miscued a shot from the edge of the area. It bounced off a Chelsea player back to the Irishman, who leapt to flick the ball on. Skippy was in attendance, volleying the ball over the back of the Chelsea defence to The King. He chested the ball down and smacked it past the goalkeeper. Now that we had the lead, it didn’t matter what Everton did in their match (they and Lineker were swatting Southampton aside at the Boo Camp) as long as we held on. Joyous scenes greeted the final whistle, and it’s one of my abiding memories of watching footage of that era, seeing Kenny sitting in the dressing room afterwards just taking it all in. His first season as player-manager and he was about to deliver the club’s first league and cup double. Incidentally, I always found Stamford Bridge to be a weird ground as the used the areas behind the goals as a car park. Normally you’d only see a vehicle near the playing surface at cavernous concrete bowls behind the Iron Curtain, and it was usually a police van with an officer stationed beside it holding an AK-47 in one hand, and a leash affixed to a rabid Alsatian who was going mental at the supporters behind a fence in the other. The surprise box office hit at the beginning of May 1986 was a fictional (or maybe semi-biographical) story called Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, starring the legendary Richard Pryor. It’s about a young man trying to make it as a stand-up comedian while snorting and freebasing shitloads of Colombian marching powder and shagging hewwers. So real-life then. It even includes a scene where his character burns himself while freebasing, which is something that happened to Pryor himself. I hadn’t even heard of this film until researching for this themed series of match Ops, but I am very familiar with some of his stand-up and his acting career. He was a crazy bastard but one of the funniest people around. A lot of the jokes from Live In Concert would not fly in this PC-woke word we live in today, but they are still incredibly funny. That story about the Chinese restaurant will bring you to tears! This is our last game before our African contingent fly out to Cameroon for the AFCON. Money is the only reason for holding it every 2 years. Shit, when several influential people are pushing for an even bigger money spinner in the World Cup to be held every 2 years, of course the continental federations like CAF are going to push for more regular international competitions on their continent. Jurgen has already had his say on the matter. We need to be avoiding the sloppiness that has characterised our play in a number of games this season. We need to be effective in the middle of the park, attacking and defending. We also need to be more ruthless in the final third. We can do it. We know we can do it. We just have to go out there and do it. A result at Stamford Bridge has previously led to great things for us. Make it so again.
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