The English Premier League kicks off on Saturday, giving fans of English soccer the chance to get over their World Cup hangover. The race for the title should be intense. Neither Manchester United nor Chelsea seems likely to run away from the other, and Arsenal, big-spending Manchester City, or perhaps Liverpool could make it a three or four way race.
For Everton, it has been business as usual this summer, which means very little business. While the five clubs mentioned above plus Tottenham Hotspur (fourth place finishers last season) were strengthening their squads, we were unable to find the money to add anyone of consequence. The only new signing who, barring injuries, may play with some frequency is Jermaine Beckford, a free-transfer who plied his craft in England’s third tier league last year. Though he may prove useful, at age 26 Beckford is not even a prospect.
David Moyes had hoped to bring back Landon Donovan, a fan favorite who can’t stop raving about his loan-spell at Everton. But, as I feared, his World Cup performance priced him out of our reach, assuming it was ever realistic to think we could sign him. Perhaps we’ll be able to bring Donovan back on loan this winter, assuming the likes of Man. City don’t sign him.
The good news is that our squad looks strong even without additions. Unlike many an off-season, we weren’t successfully raided (though we may yet lose Steven Pienaar, our best player last season). Furthermore, our injured stars are healthy for now. If they stay that way, we could crack the top six (thus qualifying for Europe). In addition, since we won’t be burdened by European competition this year, perhaps the stars are aligned for winning a domestic Cup.
Lord knows, we are overdue for a trophy of some kind.
UPDATE: I found it interesting that Aston Villa, the EPL team most like Everton, lost its manager less than a week before the start of the season. Martin O’Neill, one of the best managers in Britain, resigned, apparently because he was told he would have to sell players before he could buy this year.
If Everton’s David Moyes considered this grounds for resignation, we would have lost him years ago. But our Davey seemingly is content to play the hand he’s dealt and make it a winning one. (I should add, though, that I don’t know what commitments, if any, Villa’s American owner may have made to O’Neill).
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