TROY DEENEY is renowned as the Premier League footballer least likely to mince his words.
And when asked about Marco Silva’s return to Watford as Everton boss tomorrow, the Hornets skipper left a fans’ forum in no doubt that he understands the red-letter significance of this fixture.
What might look like a low-key mid-table affair to the uninitiated is likely to be played out amid the most hostile atmosphere of any Premier League match this weekend.
Hell hath no fury like a group of football supporters scorned.
And Watford’s home is a Vicarage capable of putting on a fire-and-brimstone service.
So while asking Hornets supporters not to abuse Silva, the Reverend Deeney opined: “We’d prefer it if you left him alone … it’ll only motivate them more. Leave him alone, let us kick the s**t out of them.”
Deeney also added that “the people who work at Everton are fantastic. Not the manager”.
An old-school centre-forward, lethal in the air and with a black belt in physical combat, Deeney will be salivating at the prospect of Everton.
Aymeric Laporte’s headed opener for Manchester City at Goodison Park on Wednesday was the 12th goal Silva’s soft-centred Toffees have conceded from set-pieces this season – more than any other Premier League club.
So Deeney is the last man Everton will want steaming in at them this weekend.
Silva, still only 41 but already the manager of six different clubs, has often been very popular with his players, who enjoy his innovative training sessions and commitment to attacking football.
But you won’t meet many professional footballers who enjoy set-piece drills – and on the evidence of Everton’s defending, effective dead-ball sessions have been lacking under the Portuguese.
DAVE KIDD Everton were the ‘People’s Club’ but that’s now a byword for more-money-than-sense mediocrity
Silva’s preference for zonal marking is causing controversy. The truth is that set-piece defending can be good or awful whether zonal or man-to-man. Everton’s is just awful.
When asked about this following an improved performance in the 2-0 defeat by City, Silva reacted in prickly fashion and claimed that critics were too eager to be negative about Everton.
“Well you wanted the gig, old son,” as any Watford fan would tell him.
This is a manager whose head was turned by interest from Everton just three months into his first season in charge of Watford last term.
Silva was eventually sacked by the Hornets in January after a horrible run of one win in 11 matches and the Hertfordshire club were not shy in publicly claiming that ‘an unwarranted approach’ from Everton had been the ‘catalyst’ for the slump which led to his exit.
A ‘tapping up’ inquiry is still rumbling on – these cases tend to become hidden in long grass and pored over endlessly by expensive lawyers whenever football tries to pretend that tapping up doesn’t happen all the time.
Yet having finally landed the job he craved last summer, Silva is already fighting to keep hold of it – a vote of confidence having apparently been issued privately to him by the Goodison board, usually a precursor to a sacking.
Since the start of December, Everton have won three and lost eight in the Premier League and been bombed out of the FA Cup courtesy of an aerial pummelling from Millwall.
Such a run might not have received as much attention at Watford but with Everton’s bigger budget and higher expectations, Silva is operating with the thumb-screws on. And he doesn’t like it.
Little old Watford are a point ahead of his team, with a game in hand and in the last 16 of the Cup.
Win this grudge match and they look a far better bet than Everton to land the final Europa League spot.
This despite the Merseysiders having spent around £350million in the transfer market – plus £14.4m in compensation to previous managers Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce and their staffs – since Farhad Moshiri’s arrival three years ago.
The mess at Everton is certainly not all Silva’s fault – those three years have seen a bizarre scattergun approach to recruitment on and off the field.
Koeman, Big Sam, Wayne Rooney and Leicester’s title-winning chief scout Steve Walsh have all been hired then jettisoned, while ten players have been bought for in excess of £20m apiece since the summer of 2016.
The vast majority have flopped, with Everton suffering from chaos on the pitch and unrest in the dressing-room.
They are a club in desperate need of a long-term plan but whether Silva can provide one is another matter.
During a run of home fixtures which reads City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United, Silva’s men must pick up some points on the road if they are to avoid slipping into the Premier League’s nether regions.
If Everton’s players are determined for Silva to succeed then this is the match in which to prove it. Should a paranoid Silva believe that the media have our knives out for him, then he’d better wait for his reception at Vicarage Road to see what a vendetta truly looks like.
JORGINHO is a controversial figure at Chelsea – his ‘teacher’s pet’ status with Maurizio Sarri blamed for N’Golo Kante being shunted out of position and for the over-elaborate nature of the team’s passing style.
Yet when Chelsea visit Manchester City on Sunday, Pep Guardiola will still be viewing the Brazilian-born Italy international as the one that got away after City’s failure to beat Sarri to his signature.
When Fernandinho was absent through injury over Christmas, City lost back-to-back matches to Crystal Palace and Leicester, largely due to their lack of an specialist understudy in the deep-lying midfield role.
One club’s lightning rod, is another’s missing link.
AND so for the umpteenth time in recent season we must consider the question ‘Are Tottenham for real?’
Three straight Premier League wins, while Liverpool and Manchester City have faltered, means that Mauricio Pochettino’s men are certainly part of the title race in mathematical terms.
Yet with the move into the new stadium delayed again, Spurs are likely to be playing at least three more league fixtures at Wembley, if not all of their remaining seven home games.
Understandably, Spurs fans have become sick and tired of the national stadium and had pretty much given up on the place when their side drifted out of title contention.
Suddenly, they’re back in it – and so those supporters are going to have to start making Wembley feel like home again, starting against Leicester on Sunday.