LORRAINE Case is a passionate Everton fan. So passionate, in fact, that she once paid £1,000 for a limited edition purple club shirt at a charity auction.
The purple third kits were launched in the autumn of 2009 to support the Liverpool Unites anti-crime and anti-poverty campaign, so her generosity was in an excellent cause.
I mention Lorraine’s love of Everton because quite a few reporters in the press box at Goodison Park (OK, including me) were bemused that her nearest and dearest might choose to buy her, as a 40th birthday present, an advertising hoarding and match sponsorship for last night’s meeting with Fulham.
There it was, in front of the Bullens Road Stand, around 20 yards from the halfway line. “Happy 40th birthday Lorraine,” read the advert. She got a mention in the programme too, which revealed she was the main match sponsor, beside photographs of her posing with David Moyes, Phil Neville, Graham Sharp, Mikel Arteta and Phil Jagielka.
For someone who loves Everton that much, match sponsorship sounds like the ideal birthday present. And a pitchside advert certainly has a good deal more class about it than those badly-painted “Happy 50th birthday, Julie” banners made out of bedsheets that I often see displayed at busy roundabouts.
Still, the thing about love is that it can test your patience and your sanity to the limit. And 25 minutes into last night’s game, Lorraine could have been forgiven for wondering if someone had kept the receipt for her present.
A nothing game, between two teams going nowhere fast, had seen practically nothing in terms of incident. In other words, it looked exactly the sort of game that would end up being last on Match of the Day. And so it proved – although it did get better.
MOTD’s final match: Everton 2 Fulham 1
Commentator: John Roder
It wasn’t just Lorraine who was celebrating a landmark. So too was Moyes. Last Tuesday, Everton’s manager passed the ninth anniversary of his appointment at Goodison.
Of the current Premier and Football League managers, only Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Accrington’s John Coleman have been in their jobs longer. (I always feel Coleman gets overlooked in the long-serving manager lists, so I’m giving him a shout out.)
Moyes has achieved plenty in those nine years – a couple of memorable European runs, a top-four Premier League finish, an FA Cup final appearance – without managing to get his hands on a trophy. This season, which began with hope, has been something of a let-down. Embarrassing cup exits against lower-division opposition in Brentford and Reading have been coupled with a league campaign hamstrung by, well, hamstrings, among other injuries.
Mikel Arteta’s hamstring injury, suffered against Birmingham 11 days ago, has left Everton facing most of the season’s remainder without one of their main creative forces. Marouane Fellaini’s long-term absence has also hit hard. Moyes could be forgiven for frustration.
Still, at least his chairman isn’t putting up a statue of Michael Jackson outside the ground.
Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed’s decision that the best place for a six-foot sculpture of the late King Of Pop is outside Craven Cottage has not met with universal approval from Fulham’s fans. Jacko, who was a friend of Al Fayed, may have sold zillions of albums, but he was no Johnny Haynes.
However, the singer did turn up for a game against Wigan in April 1999, and the records show that Fulham won 2-0 that day. So perhaps Al Fayed could claim that Jacko is (was?) a lucky charm.
And Fulham could do with a lucky charm. Partly due to a ridiculous number of draws, they have failed to drag themselves away from a relegation battle which has sucked in around half of the Premier League. After last night’s defeat (their 18th in a row in the league at Goodison), they sit just three points above the relegation zone.
The worry for Fulham was that they looked like a side playing out the season – and if they carry on like that, they will drop back into trouble. Everton had built up a good spell of pressure by the time Seamus Coleman headed them in front nine minutes before half-time. Louis Saha, once of Fulham, doubled that lead from a free kick four minutes after the break.
Bobby Zamora, still feeling his way back in after break a leg five months ago, came on from Fulham with an hour gone. In front of the watching Fabio Capello, he made an immediate impact, setting up a goal for Clint Dempsey. Thrillingly for Lorraine, her advertising board could clearly be seen in the background on the TV replays.
That wasn’t anywhere near as bizarre as the close-up, late in the game, of a woman in the crowd with rollers in her hair. (There are many things you can’t take into a football ground these days, but rollers are fine, it would seem. I can only assume the woman was hot-footing it straight from Goodison for a hot date. I hope he was worth it, love.) The shot, shown as part of ESPN’s live coverage of the game, was sadly cut from the Match of the Day highlights.
There was, though, room for one more oddity in the post-match interviews. Fulham manager Mark Hughes, asked if his team might have got a draw, gave an answer that was almost drowned out by his mobile phone going off. Ever the pro, Hughes didn’t miss a beat, continuing to speak while reaching into his pocket to switch the phone off.
It wasn’t Hughes’ night. But Moyes seemed happy enough. I suspect Lorraine Case was too.
1. Fulham: 10 (2L: 5, 3L: 1)
2. Wigan: 8 (2L: 3, 3L: 2)
3. Stoke: 5 (2L: 6, 3L: 7)
4. Bolton: 5 (2L: 2, 3L: 4)
5. Everton: 4 (2L: 6, 3L: 4)
6. West Brom: 4 (2L: 6, 3L: 1)
7. Blackburn: 4 (2L: 3, 3L: 8)
8. Birmingham: 4 (2L: 2, 3L: 3)
9. Newcastle: 4 (2L: 1, 3L: 3)
10. West Ham: 3 (2L: 3, 3L: 4)
11. Wolves: 3 (2L: 1, 3L: 3)
12. Sunderland: 2 (2L: 6, 3L: 1)
13. Blackpool: 1 (2L: 4, 3L: 3)
14. Tottenham: 1 (2L: 4, 3L: 3)
15. Aston Villa: 1 (2L: 3, 3L: 3)
16. Manchester City: 1 (2L: 2, 3L: 2)
17. Chelsea: 0 (2L: 3, 3L: 1)
18=. Arsenal: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 2)
18=. Manchester United: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 2)
20. Liverpool: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
2L=On second last (Tottenham 0 West Ham 0)
3L=On third last (Stoke 4 Newcastle 0)
(Teams are awarded one point every time they appear last on Match of the Day. Teams level on points are separated by the number of times they are on second last, then by the number of times they are on third last. Teams still level at the end of the season will be separated by the drawing of lots at a glittering ceremony in
the New Forest Lapland, hosted by Sepp Blatter, Victor Mears, Henry Mears and a cardboard cut-out of Tony Gubba, with music from… well, with no music.)