By Ell Bretland
Bang. Bang. Bang.
Scrap for the badge, get at them, leave the boot in, push the game to the edge, win at all costs.
Let them know they’re in for the fight of their lives from the first to the last.
This is war. It’s the battle of the Mersey.
Another trip to Anfield and that is what we expect.
Blood, sweat and tears given for the royal blue shirt.
However, for too long, we have been meek, timid and hapless.
Terrified and overawed, the Toffees have an inferiority complex when it comes to facing Liverpool away from home.
Everton wave the white flag, already beaten before the short trip across Stanley Park has even begun.
The game is lost without a ball even being kicked. We know it. The players know it.
We’re easily intimidated and are left embarrassed as the devil’s club laugh harder and harder at the hoodoo that has been cast over us.
Like a school bully preying on his target, Liverpool know they will break us, they know we’ll sheepishly gift them three points like the cowering victim handing over his lunch money.
Seventeen-and-a-half years it’s been going on for. Seventeen-and-a-half years too long.
L D D D L L D L L D D L D L D L D L
That is Everton’s Anfield record since Super Kev Campbell (scored in a scramble, he knows where the f***ing net is) was the hero for us back in September 1999.
We need to see a W. We’re desperate to see a W.
This pathetic record needs to end on Saturday. Ronald Koeman and his fearless youngsters hold the power to rid us of this dark spell and change the mentality that is sadly ingrained into the football club.
David Moyes planted the seed of doubt into the Everton psyche and it has grown to overpower us.
It’s all in the head with Everton. As soon as those players cross that white line at Anfield, the four red stands close in and they shrink. You can see it on their faces. They look lost and helpless.
Moyes’ desire not to lose above all else allowed the fear factor to grow. Winning came second to avoiding defeat. He single-handedly shifted the mentality and we have suffered for years.
Lacking any faith in his players, it was damage limitation every time we went to Anfield. It was embarrassing.
Tim Cahill, able to punish teams from set-pieces with his giant leap, seemed our only hope; that was our only plan. We’d fight, granted. There was pride, sure. But we were devoid of any attacking intent and on a hiding to nothing.
A point at Anfield was seen as a great result for ‘plucky, little Everton’. In truth, we were never going to win there during the Scot’s time on Merseyside.
Positivity and optimism was seeping away by the year for our trips to the red side but, rather than put a halt to it, Roberto Martinez decided to pick up the half empty glass and create a horrible, ungodly mess.
There was no pride and there was no passion under Bobby. Everton were clueless and abject.
The entire fanbase was left disgusted and mortified by the sheer lack of effort and ability shown by the players during those TWO 4-0 hammerings.
The second defeat. Horrific. Shambolic. It was the stuff of nightmares.
Bryan Ovideo at right back and James McCarthy alongside Mo Besic in the centre of defence. It was wretched. Evertonians couldn’t bare to look at the horror unfolding before their eyes as wave after wave of Liverpool attacks swarmed all over on our goal.
It could have been a cricket scoreline and that performance in April 2016 in particular will forever be ingrained into the memory of all those unfortunate enough to be at Anfield that night.
Buoyant Reds’ joyfully singing our manager’s name while Jurgen Klopp guffawed at the ease of the win as Liverpool continued to pick away at the Everton carcass. Humiliating.
It is no surprise the Dogs of War boast our most successful period against Liverpool in the Premier League era. With Duncan Ferguson up front and Dave Watson at the back, they were nasty and brave. Battlers.
Forget the friendly rivalry nonsense, we may have red family and mates but as soon as that whistle goes, the will to conquer your rivals produces feelings bordering on hatred for many.
We want to see committed tackles and some of us don’t mind snide, underhand tactics to gain an advantage. We’d perhaps relish with great amusement a late winner from the hand, rather than the head, of our striker.
Ferguson launching Paul Ince to the ground in the late nineties may have been against the laws of the game (and land) as his emotions spilled over early on, but it set the tone. He was willing to fight for the shirt and the victory. Big Dunc knew what it meant and showed it.
Everton since, have been too nice. They have not been street-wise. We’ve rolled over and, while Moyes’ tactics made us look small and made us weak, Martinez’s carelessness turned us into a laughing stock.
However, now, our manager is not a loser. Koeman is a winner. He is a strong personality and a fiercely proud and forthright individual. He will not be embarrassed and will not tolerate players who are not up to the fight. He will want to win. Any way possible.
His job is to pick these players up and ensure they play with their chests out and heads held high.
Our longest-serving players, Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka, appear to be the main victims of the crisis in confidence we suffer at Anfield; the two most exposed to Moyes’ lack of belief.
Thus, it’s the youngsters, Tom Davies, Mason Holgate and Ademola Lookman, that may hold the key to our success. They won’t be daunted or full of angst. The fear which annually grips our club won’t register with them. They’ll play their football and play to win.
Davies will patrol the midfield with that swagger, he won’t be fazed and he’ll put himself about, make no mistake. Lookman can scare Liverpool for a change with his pace and direct running while Holgate will cut a cool and composed figure at the back.
Big responsibility for such young shoulders but their youthful exuberance can have a positive effect on the blue mindset.
As well, Romelu Lukaku, only 23, and Ross Barkley, the same age, give us a giant chance should they step up to the plate while Morgan Schneiderlin, immune to the negativity of past visits to Anfield, will be a bold presence able to dictate play should he be fit in time for the big kick-off. All three need to show and prove they are big-game players.
No way should an Everton team be scared or worried by a side that has finished between 6th and 8th for six of the last seven years. They’re a dangerous side but not a great side. They can be got at. They can be ruffled and beaten.
The first win, in order to destroy and extinguish that hold they have over us, is the most important.
This is a new era and therefore Saturday lunchtime is a game of great significance. We can finally be rid of the shackles that have held us back if we believe and play without fear. That is the message Koeman will be driving home. We have to believe.
Into these, Everton!