Home and Away

Toffees sweeten trip for fan after game is called off

The Malaysian met the manager as Everton enhanced their image as a people's club, but things aren't going so well at Old Trafford

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 February, 2014, 10:42pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 February, 2014, 11:46pm

Curse the terrible English weather. We had planned to make the 1,046km round trip to Southampton's FA Cup fifth-round away clash against Sunderland today. But yet another gale approaches and troops are on the streets armed with sandbags and mops. The advice is stern: unless one has a personal hovercraft on which to ride the inland seas that have engulfed great swathes of England, all cross-country journeys this sporting weekend should be cancelled.

Football is vital, of course. But why risk life, limb and another soaking battling the elements only to make it through the turnstiles and be told the game is postponed? That's what happened to Everton fan Ric Wee this week.

Ric is a devoted Toffee and had travelled from his home in Malaysia to see for the first time his beloved team in action at the club's home, Goodison Park. He had scored a ticket for the midweek clash against Crystal Palace and a home win would have seen Everton gain ground on fifth-placed Tottenham.

Hats off to the big-hearted Toffees for showing their appreciation for a far-flung, sodden but otherwise loyal fan
Peter Simpson

Naturally excited despite the jet-lag, he arrived an hour before kick-off to soak up the atmosphere and savour every minute of the biggest day in his three decades following Everton.

He kept his family and friends updated about his pilgrimage with regular postings on Twitter, publishing the obligatory selfie of his beaming, chuffed good self, stood proudly among the terraces with the hallowed turf bristling with anticipation in the background.

"Finally, 30 years since supporting Everton, I will be watching EFC 'live' for first time," he posted gleefully.

Tropical Malaysia is not adverse to the odd cloud burst. But Wee did not count on the ghastly English weather to rain on his happy parade.

Up flashed on the giant screens around Goodison the game was postponed because another winter storm was causing havoc. Police ordered the game to be called off because of damage to buildings close to the ground.

Tweeting a picture of his match-day programme and ticket, Wee remained stoic. "Sadly Everton v Palace match called off due to bad weather. Dream to watch EFC play will continue to be on hold," he posted.

His tweets were, however, spotted by someone at the club and they sent out a search party and managed to reach him before he left the stadium.

Acknowledging his loyalty and disappointment, club officials escorted him to the dressing room where Wee was photographed enjoying a laugh with manager Roberto Martinez and left-back Leighton Baines. He also received a signed shirt from the England international. Hats off to the big-hearted Toffees for showing their appreciation for a far-flung, sodden but otherwise loyal fan.

There is no such warmth consoling Manchester United fans. They must feel as their entire season has been cancelled. The midweek goalless draw against Arsenal was so boring and bereft of the traditionally attacking football you had to pinch yourself to make sure you were not enduring a League Two mid-table affair between Morecambe and Accrington Stanley.

For the third time in consecutive league outings, United failed to win. Yet as manager David Moyes' team plugged hopelessly away against an equally disappointing Arsenal, United's arch rivals Liverpool were coming from behind to beat basement club Fulham and cement further their claim for an end-of-season top-four finish.

A reliable barometer of just how bad things have become at Old Trafford is to compare Moyes' leadership with that "other club down the road" managed by Brendan Rodgers.

Seventh-placed United are now 11 points behind fourth-placed Liverpool. Power appears to be seeping from the Manchester citadel and washed along with the excessive rainwater down the M62 motorway to the red half of Merseyside.

For the first time in 23 years Liverpool are leading United in the league at this stage of the campaign. You have to wind back to 1991 when Old Trafford trailed their Anfield rivals in mid-February

In the intervening years, United accelerated beyond Liverpool's record of 18 league titles and this time last year, Alex Ferguson was heading towards his final title.

United were 29 points ahead of Liverpool and went on to claim their 20th crown, much to the shame and humiliation of many on Merseyside. A year on, the change in fortune is stark. There's been a 40-point swing since mid-February 2013.

This confirms how far Liverpool have advanced with Rodgers at the helm and the speed of United's regression since Moyes took over.

For the first time in 19 years, a Champions League berth looks a highly unlikely prospect for United fans. Little wonder Manchester United chief executive Ed Woodward admitted this week the 2013/14 season "has been disappointing".

When asked what financial impact the loss of European football would have, he retorted by declaring United will spend their way back to the top come the end of this washed-out season.

United's owners, the Glazer family, have promised a war chest of £100 million to pay their way out of this disastrous first campaign without Ferguson. "We will move in the market in a way we haven't seen for in recent years," said Woodward.

Summer can't come soon enough for United fans, but whether the incumbent manager will enjoy his day in the sun clutching a fistful of dollars remains to be seen.

You wonder what Moyes wouldn't give to appear in the innocent selfies taken by fan Wee over at Goodison.