The Premier League is back and Liverpool are aiming to win the title at rivals Everton

There has been a three month gap but finally the Premier League in England has been given the green light to restart once again after the Coronavirus.

The virus has dissipated enough for life to feel like it is resuming again and although there will be many differences and procedures in place to how we left football back in March, many up and down the country will be happy to see football back again.

That will be underlined if you are a fan of Liverpool. The Reds were easily set to win their first league title since 1990, as they are 25 points clear at the top with just ten games left to play but the virus put the club in a bizarre position. There were talks of voiding the league completely. To their credit Liverpool as a club and the fans have remained calm and optimistic that their league title would not be taken from them. Even if you don’t support the club if it had happened one could have seen how cruel it would have been on them after their efforts this season.

The league is scheduled to return on June 17th when Manchester City play Arsenal. If City were to lose the game then Liverpool’s match that weekend would be one of the most viewed in English sporting history. Not only could it be the match where Liverpool secure the league title but it is against their rivals Everton and at Goodison Park. Just imagine how that could turn out?

Liverpool have been far superior to their neighbours this season though under Carlo Ancelotti Everton have really improved. But would be a fantastic match as Everton would do everything they could to delay Liverpool’s title, no one associated with the club would want to see Liverpool winning the title at Goodison Park.

Of course for Liverpool what a day it would be to win it at their rivals. It is a story after 30 years that you simply couldn’t have made up. Of course one major factor is that there will be no fans- this is something we can expect will be the norm in football until the early part of 2021 it seems.

A Liverpool victory could feel muted- just what does one do? Will the fans swarm the streets even though they have been told not to? That is a hard one, and only time will tell us what will happen.

If Liverpool fail to win the league at Everton, their next game is at home to Crystal Palace, a side managed by Roy Hodgson who of course is an ex Liverpool manager. No matter what happens as it has turned out the virus has only delayed the inevitable, something that football fans have known at least since the turn of the year, and that is Liverpool are going to be crowned 2020 league champions.

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Moise Kean’s future with Everton in doubt after he breaks lockdown rules

Some Premier League players have been good at something during the lockdown due to Coronavirus and that has been flouting the rules. The latest player to do so is Everton’s Moise Kean. The striker hosted a party at his Cheshire apartment which is of course against strict rules.

Everton were left stunned and surprised that Kean would break the rules and host a party and they had the following to say in a statement:

”Everton Football Club was appalled to learn of an incident in which a first-team player ignored Government guidance and club policy in relation to the coronavirus crisis. The Club has strongly expressed its disappointment to the player and made it clear that such actions are completely unacceptable. Everton has regularly stressed the importance of following all the Government guidelines including rules and advice for inside and outside of the home through a series of official communications to all staff members, including players. The amazing people in the NHS deserve the utmost respect for their hard work and sacrifice. The best way to show them respect is by doing everything we can to protect them.”

Those are strong words by the club and reports have suggested that Kean could be fined 2 weeks wages, around £106,000 depending who you believe. The club will hope that Kean will learn quickly and will understand that he is completely in the wrong.

Of course when such matters are raised to the surface it is easy to reflect on what the player has done on the pitch- which isn’t much. The £25m move from Juventus last summer was supposed  to reignite Everton and on the surface Kean’s transfer looked like a good one. He had forced his way into the Juventus team and scored a few goals with limited time.

Everton came in for Kean, in what appeared to be a solid buy for the club but the fact that no other major European team wanted his services and challenged Everton for his signature should have raised alarm bells. This season Kean has struggled and has scored just 1 goal from 26 games.

But perhaps the main worry isn’t his lack of goals but his overall body language. When his team doesn’t have the ball he looks dejected, he doesn’t track back and simply doesn’t look very interested at all. For a player who is earning £53,000 a week this is a shocking situation.

In light of Kean breaking the lockdown rules, one could presume that Everton would be better off trying to offload the player. The problem is that they will almost certainly lose their investment and could take a 50% hit. Or possibly the best is yet to come from Kean and current manager Carlo Ancelotti will try to get the best out of the player.

As it stands Kean needs to realise how lucky he is. There will be hundreds of young kids in the local Everton area that could only dream of playing for the club, that may just lack some skills or just be unlucky. But are equipped with more passion and understanding of the club and football. Kean simply needs to wake up and realise playing for Everton in the Premier League is a huge opportunity that should not just be thrown away.

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Gabriel signing could determine how far Everton have come

Everton have emerged as the front runners to sign Brazilian defender Gabriel Magalhaes. The player is currently with Lille and has impressed the Premier League side who are willing to spend £30m to get his services for next season.

If Everton get the player simply known as Gabriel it would be seen as a major swoop, and they certainly look the favourites to secure his services at this time. One of the reasons that the transfer would be impressive is because both Arsenal and Chelsea have shown an interest. Not only are both clubs equipped with larger budgets, but because of recent successes they would also have more pulling power.

One has to remember that Everton have not won a major trophy since 1995 when they won the FA Cup. Some could see Chelsea and Arsenal in transition at this moment but both clubs are still powerful and can attract the very best players in Europe. The question is could Gabriel’s head be turned? Could Chelsea for example offer more wages, or a bigger transfer fee to Lille?

The good news for Everton is that they have Carlo Ancelotti as manager and no one can deny that he is amongst the very best managers in Europe his CV speaks for itself and that could mean everything in Everton persuading Gabriel to join and be coached by one of the greats.

However is £30m too much of a risk on Gabriel? The defender has only played 34 games for Lille since his move there in 2017, and one of those reasons is that he has been loaned out to Troyes and Dinamo Zagreb. Why would you loan out a player, if he is worth £30m to you?

Of course it could simply be that Gabriel has needed time to grow and adapt as a player and at 22 he is still young and learning. He hasn’t made the Brazilian national team yet but has played for the under 20 side. Also Gabriel would be able to link up with Richarlison, Everton’s Brazilian forward who has improved his game since joining Everton from Watford, that could also be a major plus.

The transfer though isn’t assured, as both Arsenal and Chelsea also have another trick up their sleeves, which is the pulling power of life in London and all that comes with it.

It will be interesting then to see if the Ancelotti effect has taken on some importance, as he looks like the only major ‘player’ in proceedings that could swing this deal Everton’s way.

If they do get their man, well done, but presently Gabriel seems a little unproven for the money being talked about.

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Premier League: Player of the Week: Richarlison

It was an odd week of Premier League football given that there were just 3 games. Originally the total was 4 but Manchester City and West Ham had to be postponed because of bad storms.

Most players did not play then, and most did not perform, there were only a couple of players that stood out in fact and one of those was Everton’s Richarlison.

The Brazilian has been a little hot and cold this season but it was truly significant, one suspects, that he scored last weekend as Everton beat Crystal Palace 3-1 at Goodison Park.

It was a goal that Richarlison needed and it is one that has also calmed down perhaps the stormy waters from last month. It was reported in January that Barcelona had shown interest to sign Richarlison for 100m euros and Everton had quickly rejected. What transpired was very important when manager Carlo Ancelotti said that the Brazilian is a big part of Everton’s future and to important to be sold. Everton had just turned down Barcelona, but their advancements could still have turned Richarlison’s head, not so. The Brazilian has been very committed to the club since then and has played some very good football, Though fans would have wanted a few more goals from him, well scoring against Palace went some way to rectifying that.

So far this season Richarlison has earned 38 points he is by far then in terms of fantasy rankings the most successful player at Everton this season and is 18 points ahead of Lucas Digne.

However as strikers go in the Premier League he is a little behind in 12th place, for example Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy, who is currently in 1st position has almost double the points of him.

From Richarlison’s 24 starts he has scored 9 goals and assisted in a further 3 meaning that he has contributed 12 goals to Everton’s season so far. The club have scored 34 goals so far and so Richarlison has been involved in 35% of the teams goals- so on reflection no wonder Ancelotti was so reluctant to see his player, plus Barcelona had come in very late on and Everton would not have had the time to replace anyway.

Richarlison can be brought into your team for 7.5m which seems like a great price and he has been overall a good success at Everton. Fans still believe he could score 5-10 more goals a season and that would certainly boost his standing. For now though he is certainly one of the more eye catching strikers in the Premier League.

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In December the talk at Everton was of survival now it is about European football

At the beginning of December it was very gloomy around Goodison Park in the midst of Marco Silva being sacked and Everton flirting with relegation. The prospect of the club being relegated for the first time in almost 70 years looked very real indeed. But the board acted and have done extremely well and now Everton have one of the best managers in world football.

The change was made by sacking Silva and whilst no one truly wishes the sack on any manager Silva’s time at Everton had been very average indeed. One could say he had 3 good months from 16, and true the club finished last season well enough but there were plenty of cracks in the club and it was amazing in the end that Silva lasted 4 months of the new season.

Naturally Duncan Ferguson stepped in as caretaker manager and whilst Ancelotti is now getting the plaudits, the roots of Everton’s upturn this season are from Ferguson. An ex-Everton player who garners respect from the players, the fans love him and Ferguson became an instant hit with them. The images of him celebrating with the ball boys when Everton scored against Chelsea and then beat them will live in the memory banks for Everton fans for some time.

Once Everton appointed Ancelotti so soon after, one could be forgiven for thinking that Everton were doing just fine with Ferguson, but the Scotsman even admitted that he wasn’t the one for the job long term and that the club had to bring in a world class manager and they did just that.

The first thing Ancelotti got right was to keep Ferguson on as his assistant- the Italian realised off the bat that Ferguson is adored at the club and is rightly a club legend, and that has really helped with Ancelotti’s smooth trajectory into the club. Plus being under Ancelotti will surely make Ferguson a better coach and he could well be managing the club he loves so dearly sometime in the future.

But Everton look a completely different side under Ancelotti. They are winning games again and have climbed 10 places to 7th now. The football isn’t always pretty and Ancelotti will have to let some players go and bring in some quality in the summer but the team are heading in the right direction. There has only been one low point and that was losing to Liverpool’s youngsters in the FA Cup.

At the weekend Everton sailed past Crystal Palace winning 3-1 and the club now have 36 points and are five clear of Arsenal who is their next opponent in a few weeks time.

Can Everton finish in a European position, that is the question now being asked. And for some they don’t mean the Europa League. Everton should be kicking themselves now for allowing Newcastle to come back to 2-2 after they were leading 2-0 the other week deep into injury time. Had that been a win Everton would be on 39 points and just two points shy of 4th place Chelsea.

There is an uphill task to get the Champions League of course with the likes of Tottenham, Manchester United and Sheffield United trying to push Chelsea out of the way. Inevitably it will be the team who gets the most consistent in the next few months who will get 4th place and by no means will it be Chelsea if they continue their inconsistent form.

But if Everton do reach the Europa League, what a turnaround of a season it would have been for the club, and it just goes to show how important it is getting the right manager in.

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Premier League: Game of the Weekend: Watford 2-3 Everton

To tell you the truth there has always been a bit of animosity between Watford and Everton. You could go all the way back to the 1984 FA Cup final when Everton beat Watford 2-0. As the final whistle went the Everton fans started singing ”I guess that’s why they call us the Blues”. This was in reference to Elton John who was part of the board of Watford- he is a long time fan, and his hit song- talk about a sucker punch.

Most recently the teams have clashed off the pitch twice. Firstly when Everton did everything in their power to secure the services of Marco Silva, the then Watford manager (look at how that turned out). Then once Silva had jumped ship he put in a bid for Watford striker Richarlison, and for £40m that was accepted, to say the fans were livid of Everton by now would be an understatement.

Led by club captain Troy Deeney there has been a determination and maybe a little menace behind the clubs action to go and beat Everton, and they have been successful in the last few seasons at doing that. This past weekend looked to be no different, as they cruised into a 2-0 lead, but there would be a sting in the tail for the Hornets.

Not only could this match be considered the game of the weekend in the Premier League, it was also the comeback of the weekend, although Brighton did very well at West Ham coming back from 3-1 down to draw 3-3.

Of all players nobody was expecting Watford defender Adam Masina to open the scoring, but then again this match would turn into a game of defenders. It was Masina’s first goal for the club in his 2 seasons at Vicarage Road. At 1-0 Watford were in control and then there was a crazy 5 minutes where the game swung from huge Watford advantage to no advantage at all.

When Robert Pereyra struck for the home side with three minutes to go of the first half to make it 2-0 the game looked finished. Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti was most upset. Pereyra had just scored his 3rd goal of the season and maybe his most important thus far.

But as Jimmy Greaves once said football is a funny old game and that sentence came to haunt Watford in the name of Yerry Mina, Everton’s defender who had only scored 1 goal for the club previously. Mina struck from a corner in the injury time of the first half, and literally seconds after scoring, he repeated his goal again! All of a sudden the teams went in at half time and the score was 2-2. Everton were jubilant and back in the game, Watford’s players walked off the pitch as if they were losing 3-0.

It’s interesting to note that in the 2nd half whilst the clubs had shared possession the home side had no further shots on goal. When Everton’s Fabian Delph was sent off for a second bookable offence with twenty minutes to go, it felt like the match was going to end in a draw. Certainly playing against ten men did not encourage the Hornets.

But there would be one final cruel twist for Watford, when in the 90th minute Theo Walcott struck the ball home and past the goalkeeper to give Everton all three points. The players were ecstatic as Watford’s ones fell to the ground.

Watford have been very good in the past two months yanking themselves out of bottom place. But they have slumped a little in their last three games and manager Nigel Pearson will have to make it crystal clear to the team that they can’t feel sorry for themselves, they are still very much in the relegation battle.

As for Everton the win moved them past Arsenal and into 9th. What a turnaround it has been for the club since Carlo Ancelotti arrived, from flirting with relegation to possibly finishing in the top half of the table, and what a game of football that was, well, unless you were a Watford fan.

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Everton have a clear future under Carlo Ancelotti

Of course Everton have denied reports that Barcelona came after Richarlison last week as the transfer window closed. The Spanish champions had reportedly bid 100m euros on the Brazilian which Everton had rejected immediately.

If it was true then the club would have spoken to club manager Carlo Ancelotti, and he was having none of it. He was asked in a press conference and it was very clear that Richarlison is not for sale. This will be refreshing news for a club like Everton who are so used to losing their best players. Ancelotti even stated that the current team can be built around the talents of the Brazilian and that he is here to stay. And so he should  be, by all accounts he only signed an extended contract in December which would see him at the club until 2024.

These are encouraging times for Everton. When Ancelotti arrived they were flirting with relegation, now they are above a team like Arsenal and in 9th place, form is good and Everton are getting the results.

This past weekend also showed great mental strength as the club came back from 2-0 down against Watford who are fighting relegation themselves to win 3-2 after a 90th minute Theo Walcott goal.

The atmosphere has really shifted at the club and there is a feel good momentum not seen since Roberto Martinez’s first season here and not as big since David Moyes first arrived on the scene almost 20 years ago. The fact that Everton have a name like Ancelotti in the dug out is still pinch yourself stuff from an Everton fans perspective. They might be seen in the same light as a team like West Ham, yet it is the Hammers living in the past having appointed Moyes who is now clearly past his best. Everton have moved on and they boast a better manager than a lot of clubs in the Premier League now, they decided to take that huge leap and whatever they are paying Ancelotti he is clearly worth it.

After disappointly going out of the FA Cup Everton’s season in effect ended, but it also feels like there is a new dawn for the club. What will be the clubs objective for the remainder of the season? Glancing at the league table they are just one win from 6th place and they could be aiming for a points total of 60. That could well ensure 6th and a possible Europa League place which would be a step in the right direction.

Also there was heartwarming news for the club who have confirmed that Andre Gomes will return after his horrific injury. He should be available for the clubs game away to Arsenal in three weeks time. There is a long road to go for both Gomes and Everton but at the moment things are certainly looking up.

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Three Things Napoli Should Do to Get Back on Track

Going into the new season, much was expected from Napoli under Carlo Ancelotti. Having added Kostas Manolas, Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Hirving Lozano among others, the partenopei were expected to make a Scudetto push after consecutive seasons as runners-up. However, nothing of the sort has taken place and Napoli are currently languishing below mid-table and have replaced Ancelotti with Gennaro Gattuso. Here are three things Napoli should consider to get back on track.

1) Squad revolution: Sell, sell, sell! 

Most of the current Napoli side have been with the club for the greater part of the decade, and have experienced incredible highs and lows. For example: Winning 1-0 in a title decider against Juventus away from home, only to lose the following game to Fiorentina and squander their lead at the top. This undoubtedly remains in the psyche of most of their players.

After a rough start to the season, the club’s veterans turned against Ancelotti and demanded change from the upper hierarchy. Moreover, many of their ageing stars on expiring deals are asking for pay-rises due to their past exploits with the club. Exploits they probably won’t be able to recreate, if we’re being honest. Football works in cycles and one thing is clear: This cycle is over for Napoli and it’s time for a rebuild. Sell Insigne, Mertens, Hysaj and anyone in between. Out with the old and in with the new. That sounds equally exciting as it sounds scary.

2) Stick with Gattuso

This may seem like a stretch especially after the rough start to his tenure, losing four of his first five games, but Napoli would be wise to stay with Gattuso. With a full pre-season under his belt and an entire summer to sign players he wants, the former Milan tactician will have the weapons he needs to make a push for the title next season. In addition, most of his current players appear to have their heads elsewhere and could use a move away and start fresh.

While this season won’t amount to much, it will be a good opportunity for Gattuso to acclimate himself to his new surroundings and establish players he can count on. This will undoubtedly come in handy moving into the new season. In his final season at Milan, the World Cup winner almost got the rossoneri into the Champions League with a far worse roster. Given time and a roster upheaval, Gattuso will prove to be a good fit for Napoli.

3) Establish your core. 

Speaking of finding players to count on, Napoli’s top brass should use the rest of the season and evaluate their squad. Who is sellable and who is untouchable? After this year’s shocking performances, you can argue only Meret, Koulibaly, Di Lorenzo and the newcomers are off-limits. The rest should and arguably will be on the market for the right price. Fabian Ruiz, for example, has shown signs of brilliance but doesn’t look as implicated as he could be for the Napoli cause. Reports suggest Barcelona and Real Madrid are keeping tabs on the Spanish international and could present a bid upwards of 50M for the midfielder.

Another player’s future to consider is Lorenzo Insigne. While the diminutive playmaker is one of the last true bandiere in Italy, it may be time for a move away. After all, he did lead the mutiny against Ancelotti and hasn’t exactly performed on the pitch. As a result, the list of sellable players should far exceed the “untouchables.” In any case, Napoli’s season does present a silver lining: A unique opportunity to reboot and start a new cycle. Hopefully, for them, this one will be filled with silverware and that elusive Scudetto.

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FA CUP: Game of the weekend: Liverpool v Everton

Once the draw for the 3rd round of the FA Cup was made all attentions were drawn to the Merseyside derby which would pit Liverpool against old rivals Everton. Usually the cup draw which has no seeds can have some eye catching matches but the only real genuine one was this game.

Liverpool were installed as favourites and that came as no surprise given that they are leading the league by 13 points and haven’t lost a single league match in a year. Add to the fact that the game was drawn at Anfield and Everton seemed to have very little chance of winning the game. The Toffeemen have no wins at Anfield since 1999, a generation ago now.

Jurgen Klopp’s team have also been so dominant, Liverpool just simply win games and don’t stop this season and Everton seemed to have no chance in this match. That is until Klopp hinted that he would rest most of his senior players and opt to play the youngsters. Suddenly Everton had vested interest because the last time Klopp chose the youngsters was in the Carabao Cup last month when they lost to Aston Villa 4-0, suddenly there was hope, or that is supposed to be how the script would run.

However whilst Everton started brightly and exposed this young Liverpool side, Adrian in goal, he who once played for West Ham made some crucial saves. At half time it was 0-0 and the signs started to look predictable for Everton. Cast an eye to the bench of Liverpool who had both Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane ready to come on and work their magic. In the end neither player was needed.

Curtis Jones scored a peach of a goal curling the ball into the top corner to put Liverpool in front after sustained pressure and that continued even after the goal went in. The Liverpool reserves were now fully on top of this game against a proper Everton side and they weren’t about to give up a 20 year undefeated record here against their rivals. They were simply better and yet they shouldn’t have been. For Everton is it now something very psychological as to why they keep under performing against Liverpool, even their youngsters? True there were four fringe senior players on the field for the Reds, but this was all about youth.

Klopp did give a start to Divock Origi which was the right choice given that the player has an uncanny ability to score against Everton, he has downed the team with goals in the last two meetings.

The match ended 1-0 to Liverpool and Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti looked devastated, because this was a game that the club should have won. That’s the season over for Everton now whilst for their rivals it is just beginning, they could win a unique treble and go unbeaten in the league. Their grounds might be next to each other but their ambitions are light years apart.

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Carlo Ancelotti is not the manager Everton are looking for

Everton have been without a manager for two weeks after sacking Marco Silva once the club had dropped into the relegation zone. But no Everton fan could have predicted that the next man coming in would be Carlo Ancelotti- but is the Italian the right manager for Everton?

In Silva’s absence Duncan Ferguson a bona fide club legend stepped up and was given the care taker job. From the minute Ferguson took his position inevitably Everton have looked like a different team. Suddenly they are good enough to beat Chelsea, to draw away to Manchester United and to take Leicester to penalties in the Carabao Cup.

But enough of the players what about the Scotsman Ferguson who bleeds Everton blue blood- he loves the club and it shows. No one will forget his touchline joy with two ball boys when Everton scored against Chelsea- and went on to win the game 3-1. Against Manchester United in his 2nd game in charge he took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves, except it wasn’t sunny, it was windy and rainy. But that is Ferguson all over, he wants to involve himself in the game as much as he can without playing on the actual pitch. For any Everton fan it would have been a joy to witness the last few weeks of what has been a miserable season so far for the club.

In post match interviews Ferguson has sounded like a fan given the caretaker job- but underneath it all he is a professional and has so much pride having this chance to manage the club. However he has filled fans hearts they will know himself that the club are going through that honeymoon moment and sure enough the penny will drop and the club will go back to poor form. They need investment and they also need a manager with proven skills. Ferguson is building his up, and it seems only natural he will step aside for whoever comes in. That man seems to be Carlo Ancelotti.

Ancelotti has won over 15 major trophies as manager. He has won Champions Leagues with AC Milan and Real Madrid, countless league titles with Juventus and won the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich. He has of course coached in the Premier League and won the double for Chelsea. In short he would be massive for the club, and he is one of the best managers the game has witnessed in the last 20 years no doubt about it.

The problem is will Ancelotti and Everton be a good fit? Everywhere Ancelotti has gone he has already had world class players at his disposal and then a generous owner who has given him many millions. True Everton owner Farhad Moshiri does have some deep pockets, and Everton are one of the highest spending clubs in the league- but they have sold many players too to raise funds. It seems unlikely that Ancelotti will be given upwards of £200m in the summer- that is evidently what it will take to move Everton onto the next level.

In one sense Anceotti should be congratulated. He is taking a step down and a risk to go to a club like Everton who have flirted in recent seasons with the bottom half of the table. At the same time one wonders if Ancelotti’s best days are behind him? He was sacked as manager of Napoli after they lost distance in Serie A and his normal win rates of between 65-70% diminished to just 50% under Napoli.

Ancelotti will come into the club and should raise the standard, no doubt about that, but it may not last as long as one would hope. He needs to come in and understand the clubs philosophy, the players he has, the owners, the fans- this takes time and it could well be a difficult six months until the summer where he will have proper transfer funds. So would it not be better to stick with Ferguson until then at least? Or would it be better not to pay Ancelotti a kings ransom which he will surely get and look for a more hungrier, younger manager with a proven win rate?

Look at Arsenal a club in crisis who have reportedly lost interest in the highly experience Ancelotti for Mikel Arteta, who has no first team coaching experience but is being mentored by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.

In getting in Ancelotti and saying good bye so quickly to Ferguson it just seems that we were given some insight to a football free from the powers of money and Premier League marketing. Everton had taken a time travel machine but of positive vibes. Before you can say suited and booted they are back with a classy Italian in charge. Hopefully he will be able to understand the club and his job quick enough not to be picking up an early P45.

He deserves all of the plaudits and hopefully if Ancelotti is indeed appointed as manager he can really move the club up to the next level, one just wonders if this move is a smart one or a vanity one?

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