By Rodger Armstrong
On Wednesday evening when the Echo suggested that they had a big, “disappointing” interview with Lukaku ready to drop at 10:30, Royal Blue timelines went into meltdown, just for a change.
On closer inspection, once the full transcript of the interview was released, fans’ fume had all but abated. In fact the player seemed to be saying what many fans had been for some time. He had expected more quality signings in the past two windows, more worrying still he said “I don’t know what the Board’s plan is”. Moshiri’s wind of change has yet to blow through the Boardroom, but the time is surely nigh, as TheEsk and others have clearly noted.
The rest of the interview revealed an ambitious professional, desperate to improve and keep learning (as he said he is under Koeman) not a player looking to cause trouble and force a move away. This is not a selfish guy: “You cannot only be remembered by scoring goals, you want to be remembered by winning trophies”.
Echoing (no pun intended, Ed) Moshiri’s now famous Museum reference Rom said “Everton as a football club has a great history, right. But the future has to be written. You get me?” Something to add to the cladding, perhaps?
Nowhere in the interview did he say he wanted to leave. The media have of course spun it otherwise, they always will. To them we are still “plucky little Everton” punching above our weight, not the Senior club in the city with newly deep pockets and a burning desire and commitment to return to English football’s top table.
Fast forward to Saturday and, walking through the FanZone en route to the Winslow for the pre-match Magners with a belated Paddy’s day Jamieson chaser, the team is announced. Calvert-Lewin is in from the start; as Darren Griffiths goes through the team in number order we go straight from 8 Barkley to 17 Gana. Panic! Thankfully only momentary panic; Rom starts, relief personally too as he’s Captain of my Fantasy team, obviously.
We sit at the back of the Top Balcony, right above the half way line. Z Cars starts up, the crowd roar and Lukaku, as usual, is last man out, this time appearing to hang back a little further. Obviously nervous, unsure of the reaction he’ll get (pre-match talk of booing, really!!!). The teams are read out and, by the time we get to “10 Romelu Lukaku”, he’s stood on the edge of the centre circle, head bowed. The fans cheer and clap, Rom claps back, head still bowed. All together.
The first half was not Lukaku’s best, but there is no denying his sheer pitch presence, linking up well with DCL and Ross especially. The first to celebrate the opening goal in Royal Blue for his strike partner.
Second half was a different story; ball played in front of him he charges in on goal, unleashing a tracer that goes just over when he could have played in Calvert-Lewin. The perfectionist berates himself wildly. Then, after a glorious cross-field ball from Baines, another run and shot this time on target and well saved by Jakupovic.
Valencia enters the fray, after Hull see red and before you know it a one-two played with Rom, and it’s 2-0. We smell blood and Lukaku is onto it, harrying their full back whose loose clearance is collected by Baines. Lukaku turns conductor pointing for Baines to pass to Gana, on to Barry then Valencia: “Enner here” I am sure I heard him shout, and an assured left foot makes it 3-0. The first Everton player to score 20 League goals since a certain MOTD presenter in 1986.
Time still left to pounce on a weak back pass in the 4th added minute, step over, round the keeper and a right side foot into an empty net. He stands in front of the Gwladys St arms out wide, blows kisses clearly cherishing the moment, thanking the fans, at one with the fans.
The final whistle blows and Lukaku removes his shirt, runs back to the Gwladys and gives the prized memento to a young Blue.
Whatever others, principally the Sky Top 6 Media, say, Lukaku gets Everton; this week he may, after the much vaunted interview, finally have bonded with the vast majority of the fan base. Ice cool in front of goal, a massive presence on the pitch full of pace and power, he is an asset to build a team around.
Despite what you may have read or heard, Rom has not rejected the contract; negotiations are ongoing, the young man needs to protect himself if things don’t work out. I hope Moshiri takes personal control of these negotiations now, they are far too crucial to be entrusted to anyone else. The largest Everton shareholder is embraced by Evertonians, we should think of our main striker in the same light because
Romelu Lukaku is one of our own.