How Tacoma Proves That Not All Adventure Games Need to be Action-Packed Affairs

It takes something special for a video game to explore the relationships between humans in such a succinct way, particularly if that game is itself fairly brief in nature.

For The Fullbright Company it’s become a norm though, with their Bioshock 2 DLC ‘Minerva’s Den’ and first major title Gone Home receiving critical acclaim in 2010 and 2014 respectively despite the ability to complete both in a single sitting.

Suffice to say, then, that their follow up – Tacoma – was keenly anticipated upon both its unveiling and subsequent release last summer.

Tacoma2Though it may not have hit the heady heights of its predecessor, Tacoma does a valiant job at once again at exploring the connections that make humans, well, human.

It should take just five hours for a player to complete the entire game – achievements and trophies included – but, considering its short-lived affair, it’s easy to be drawn into the survival of the six-person crew on board the Tacoma Lunar Transfer Station.

A key aspect of the gameplay is the ability to rewind time via the use of the game’s ARDware – an augmented reality device that allows Amy, the protagonist, to review past conversations and actions between the crew to determine what went wrong onboard the space station.

It’s from this that Amy is able to delve into both the story itself and the interactions between the crew, and helps each personality to be expressed so eloquently despite the shortness of the game’s run time.

In an adventure game with nothing in the way of first-person action to deal with, atmosphere, story and humanitarian elements are required to fill the gap and Fullbright have certainly capitalised on the last of that trio.

There are clear bonds between the Tacoma’s crew, and it’s hard not to will them on in their quest to a) get to the bottom of what happens to them, and b) to fight back against the fallout from the incident that puts them in grave danger.

Tacoma3

It’s a determination to survive, to find a solution to the problem and inquisitive mindset that helps you feel empathy towards the crew – foundations which are all laid as we learn more about them individually and collectively.

Rooting for those onboard becomes second nature all thanks to Fullbright’s ability to write and design characters that we eventually care for greatly, and proves again that not all adventure games need to be action-packed, blockbuster affairs.

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Who Won’t Die in Avengers: Infinity War?

It’s all been leading to this, or so Avengers: Infinity War’s tagline has suggested.

The culmination of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU) will see the Mad Titan Thanos take on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes when Infinity War is released this week, and many fans all over the globe on eagerly anticipating the third installment of the Avengers arc.

Lots are also crossing all of their digits in the hope that their favourite superhero won’t perish at Thanos’ hand, with the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the Vision.

Much has been written about who is expected to give their life to defend Earth, but what about those who should – and almost certainly will – survive to fight another day?

Let’s take a look at the contenders who are pretty much nailed on to take residence in the post-Infinity War MCU:

[NB: Potential spoilers follow on from this point!]


Black Panther

bpMarvel’s biggest money maker after it raked in more cash at the worldwide box office than the first Avengers film, Black Panther – aka King T’Challa – will definitely live.

Chadwick Boseman’s awesome portrayal of the King of fictional African nation Wakanda, and subsequent triumph of the overall film, means a sequel or two are destined to be on Marvel’s Phase 4 and 5 list.

One who should have no worries about making it through.


Spider Man

spidermanPlenty have become a fan of Holland’s Peter Parker in his two MCU outings to date but, judging by footage in one of the trailers, he could come up a cropper against Thanos.

Holland’s Spider Man, though, is another big hit for Marvel and has a six-film deal. Miles Morales’ iteration of the character won’t be too far away from hitting the big screen, but for now expect Spider Man to live to tell the tale.


Bucky Barnes

buckybarnesLabelled the ‘White Wolf’ after seemingly being cured of his Winter Soldier indoctrination at the end of Black Panther, Bucky Barnes should have a big role to play in Infinity War.

Actor Sebastian Stan penned a ludicrous nine-film contract when he signed on for the first Cap film, and has only featured in three flicks to date.

With Avengers 3 and 4 only taking him up to five, he’s a dead cert to make it out alive.


The Guardians of the Galaxy

guardiansYou could expect Marvel to finish off one of their cinematic original Guardians – Star Lord, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Gamora and Mantis – in Infinity War, but there’s not really a reason to do so.

With a third film already slated for release in Phase 4 of the MCU, and with all of the Guardians’ actors and actresses signed on for a couple more films, there’s no reason to suspect they won’t survive and jet off to do some more galaxy defending.


Bruce Banner/The Hulk

brucebannerWith almost all of the original Avengers lineup’s contracts ending after Avengers 4, not many are expected to help usher in Phase 4 of the MCU.

One who should be in line to feature, however, is Mark Ruffalo. The actor has a six-film contract with Marvel and would have one film left to feature in post-Avengers 4, so he must surely fight on.


Hawkeye

hawkeyeHe’s nowhere to be seen in any of the Infinity War trailers, but directors Joe and Anthony Russo have claimed that all will be revealed about Jeremy Renner’s character during the movie.

Renner apparently has a Hawkeye standalone film in his Marvel contract too and, while it’s highly unlikely that’ll ever happen, the fact that it’s there gives leeway to him remaining part of the MCU moving forward.


War Machine & Falcon

wmfalconThe lieutenants of Iron Man and Captain America respectively, James Rhodes and Sam Wilson may be surprise inclusions on this list.

With neither being a full-scale Avenger, it could be easy for Marvel to kill them off without too much backlash – but spots may open up for them in the Avengers lineup after Infinity War.

If Tony Stark or Steve Rogers make it – extremely likely at this point – then the duo could be in line for the mantles of Iron Man or Cap, providing the latter isn’t given to Bucky Barnes.

Alternatively, they just remain as characters in the MCU to help aid the newcomers moving forward.


Ant-Man

antmanA bit of a given due to Ant-Man and the Wasp being the next Marvel film to be released.

Like Hawkeye he’s been absent from any Infinity War promotional material, but with the sequel to the first Ant-Man set to release in the summer it’s obvious that Scott Lang will feature in some capacity past Avengers 3.

It’s unclear where Ant-Man’s sequel lies in relation to Infinity War, but we can expect to see Paul Rudd play some part in Avengers 4.


Anybody else?

widowwitchQuite a lot of the main Avengers and supporting cast are up for the chopping block from Infinity War onwards with a number of A-listers’ contracts set to end after Avengers 4.

Who might be back after that? Black Widow – who may perish – could be brought back if a standalone movie is green-lit, Shuri and Okoye must be dead certs with Black Panther sequels in the works, Dr. Strange if a second film is quietly in the works and Scarlet Witch could be if she doesn’t lose it if/when Vision bites the dust.

Every other bit hitter though? It might be best to have a box of tissues at the ready.


Avengers: Infinity War opens in UK cinemas at midnight on Thursday 26th April

Opinion: Jessica Jones Should Be Applauded for Showing Why it’s ‘Okay Not to Be Okay’

There’s a lot to be said about the topics that Marvel’s and Netflix’s Jessica Jones forces the viewer to confront.

The objectification of women, rape, murder, invasion of privacy and addiction were all covered superbly during the TV show’s first season, and built upon during its 13-episode long season two run as well.

As much as the writing, acting and musical score have been lauded, it is the issues above that will have been debated for days and weeks on end – and anything that helps to raise such issues and get them in the public domain is good in whatever form of media it takes.

[SPOILER WARNING]: Spoilers for Jessica Jones Season Two may follow from this point onwards!

JJ2One theme that wasn’t truly touched upon – or, rather, was given a much broader and wider scope this time around – was something that has become its own hot topic in the real world with the rise of the #MeToo movement borne out of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Jessica Jones‘ portrayal of strong, confident and badass women has helped to bring feminism and equal rights regarding gender back to the forefront of conversations and, alongside the mass movements and demonstrations that have emerged in the past six months, should be applauded.

But what season two of Jessica Jones also shows is that, regardless of how strong or broad-shouldered or heroic someone appears, internal struggles are never too far away.

JJ3The characters in Jessica Jones all display their own insecurities and vulnerable sides throughout the show – male and female it should be noted – and those badges of self-doubt help to shape each individual and flesh out their personalities and ideologies.

Jessica – wonderfully portrayed by Krysten Ritter – fears letting anyone get close to her again after the death of her family. Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), meanwhile, rails against not being a superhero herself and longs to be ‘the good’ that she sees in Jessica, even if the latter doesn’t see it.

Even lawyer Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) sheds her tough exterior as she comes to terms with her amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) disease – going through the whole five stages of grief as she’s reduced to tears during one particularly emotional moment.

Marvel's Jessica JonesIt’s proof that even the hardiest of souls can be beset by negative thoughts and feelings, and shows that anyone, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, creed or race can be afflicted by uncertainty.

What does this tell us overall? That being strong and independent are perfectly sound qualities to possess. But, in equal measure, that it’s okay to take off the mask or break down the walls and allow people to be vulnerable. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of for letting others in and expressing emotion.

Jessica Jones does plenty right through its medium, but it is perhaps its willingness to bring these difficult discussions to the fore that stands it out from the crowd and makes it a must watch for any TV fanatic – no matter what your knowledge of comic book lore is.

Everton Football Manager 2018 Series: Episode 7

With 2017 fading into the sunset and 2018 showing itself in via the back door, there was little let up in the fixture list for Everton.

A daunting December had offered up a mixture of results and, whilst most were positive, we needed to bounce back from two expected losses against two elite sides.

Our first game of the New Year saw West Ham host us at that there London Stadium with the opportunity to put that Chelsea defeat behind us:

everton38Well stalemates are always likely, and neither side could break the other down in a even contest. I guess our upcoming FA Cup third round game would be the game to end our mini goal drought.

Fleetwood Town were the opposition we’d be facing on home soil and the prospect of a giant killing at Goodison Park didn’t bear thinking about:everton39It’s a good job we did a decent enough job to prevent that then. Sandro and Gylfi Sigurdsson bagged first-half goals to put us into the hat for the next round, though it would’ve been nice to score more.

But we must plow on, and another long trip down to the south coast is in order to face recently promoted Brighton at the Amex. We hadn’t been playing well but I still expected a win:everton40And a win is what we got, albeit in late fashion. They were the better side but, like any good Manchester United knock-off team, we grabbed the decisive goal to leg it back up the north west with three points in the bag.

Speaking of United, how about we host them next in the Premier League? I’d prefer not to either, but we might as well get the formality that is a loss to them out of the way:everton41I was joking, lads, we can end this run you know. Not this time around evidently as the Red Devils’ class told once more. We’ll find a way to beat you one day, Jose…

Croydon called next and the chance to move on swiftly from that Goodison defeat was in order. Would we reign supreme against royalty in the form of Crystal Palace (see what I did there? No? Oh blow you then…):everton42Hmph. I don’t know what was more baffling. That both of our goals were own goals from the same guy or that we drew because our nemesis Christian Benteke nabbed himself a brace. Curses and what have you.

No matter. A fourth round FA Cup encounter with Championship side Wolves would get us back to winning ways, even if it is at Molineux:everton43Double hmph. It seems we just can’t hold a lead of late and, even more annoyingly, they outplayed us for much of the contest. We’ll have to do the deeds at Goodison instead.

I’m not tempting fate by saying “Blah blah we’ll beat Spurs blah” as I’m starting to learn that not everything is rosy in our camp… but I remain hopeful. We’re at home after all and beat them in north London back in October. What could possibly go wrong?everton44That. That’s what could go wrong. Uuuuurrrggggh.

Everton Football Manager 2018 Series: Episode 6

There’s an old Christmas carol – ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ – which may have been an apt song of choice as Everton thundered into the month of December.

Some decent form in the Premier League and on the continent had set us up nicely as the halfway stage of the season approached fast, but whether we could maintain that moving forward would determine if it would be a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays for all involved.

A monster trip down to the south coast lay in store with Bournemouth the first team who had the chance to make us want to consume all of our advent calendar chocolate in one go:everton30We’ll stick to the ‘one piece a day’ principle then. An even contest punctuated by two classy goals from two of our more senior attackers did the deeds and had us dreaming of continental football next term.

But that would have to wait as our final Europa League group game was next in line. An away day in the Russian capital would determine if we’d finish top and have a good draw in the last-32:everton31Good lads! A very, very promising away display and top spot in Group C was ours despite the fitting wintry weather. It’s a good job we won for those 425 hardy fans who made the journey, wasn’t it?

With European football done and dusted until February, our league position could be handed a mighty boost heading into the New Year. First up was a home clash with West Brom:everton32You know, I’m starting to enjoy these winning runs. We were handed all three points by some laughable Baggies defending – two own goals, really? – before Cenk Tosun put the gloss on a routine win at Goodison but we’ll take it.

Could Watford do what West Brom couldn’t and halt the Blue juggernaut in its quest for a top four berth? Magic ‘8’ ball says ‘not likely’, and it was proven right:everton33Again, it wasn’t vintage but we were doing enough. Second half strikes from Nikola Vlasic and Davy Klaassen ensuring we continued our stunning form of late and even pushed us into the heady Champions League qualification spots.

Only three days had passed yet again before a visit to the Liberty Stadium to take on struggling Swansea. Could we finally make it two wins out of two on the road?everton34Yes. The answer, finally is yes. A lacklustre first 45 – how many times have we said that? – made way for a terrific second period that led to a late triumph thanks to young attacking duo Sandro and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. We were up to third. Bloody third, lads!

But not for long. After an easy run of fixtures we were sent to the Etihad to endure our toughest league test for some time. And it didn’t exactly pan out well:everton35We really did our best but Manchester City completely blew us away. In truth they should have won by more and our attacking forays were about as regular as a bus replacement service when the train strikes are on.

Still, the chance to bounce back against Middlesbrough at home came on Boxing Day and might prove to be a lovely belated Christmas present for us all:everton36That’ll do nicely. Tosun and Theo Walcott back among the goals, a clean sheet and putting that City result to bed was definitely needed.

Before we saw 2017 out we faced a daunting game against Chelsea.. We weren’t at the races against City but, on home soil, I suspected we’d give a better account of ourselves:everton37We certainly give it a good go, but ultimately Willian’s first-half strike proved to be the difference. Still, fourth in the standings and in the next round of the Europa League and Christmas had indeed come at the right time.

Everton Football Manager 2018 Series: Episode 5

After an outstanding October, the bitter winds of November could have heralded something of a downturn in Everton’s fortunes.

The wind was certainly behind us and, with a Merseyside derby win fresh in the minds, it was time to take advantage of our confidence levels and continue to perform above expectations.

A trip to Sparta Prague was first up as we looked to book passage to the next round of the Europa League:everton24And the disappointment of failing to hold a lead away from home continues. We weren’t bad as the stats show but, ultimately, a goal on the stroke of half-time for our Czech opponents did enough to throw us off our game. Qualification for the last-32 would have to wait.

A draw away from home is never particularly a bad result, especially on the continent. Or when compared to this absolutely out-of-nowhere scoreline as we travelled to face a Leicester side struggling in the Premier League:everton25Go on, laugh it up. I certainly did. Once I’d stopped crying into my coffee and resisted the urge to launch my laptop from my bedroom window.

I’m still at a loss to explain why we were so bad. We genuinely couldn’t handle Kelechi Iheanacho or Jamie Vardy. I’m still having nightmares about them now.

We couldn’t out-battle the Foxes, but maybe we’d have more look against the Magpies. They’re much more squishable, right?everton26Right. The perfect response after a drab first half with super-sub Cenk Tosun showing his class against a team we should be beating – and did beat – on home turf.

Back to Europe and another chance to throw our name in the hat for the last-32 stage. Rosenborg secured an unlikely draw in our first encounter but, with a strong team out there, I had every expectation of securing a vital victory to all-but-confirm our progression:everton27Bish, bash and bosh. A stunning display of attacking verve, unrelenting tempo and clinical finishing -let’s not talk about our lack of clean sheet again eh? – ensured we’d at least finish runners-up in the group.

And still the games come. Another journey away from Merseyside, and this time our team bus trundled up to surprise top flight package Stoke City, who were lying in fourth at the time. Could we ‘do a Spurs’ and secure a priceless three points?everton28This is starting to smart. They weren’t lethal but we were second best throughout the game and deserved to fall to defeat. It’s not as if we were resting players either. A return to the drawing board for our away tactics was long overdue.

But that would have to wait as, a mere 72 hours later, Arsenal rolled into town. This would be a true test of our mettle. Beating the Gunners would surely send out a massive message to everyone else, despite our terrible record on the road:everton29What. The. Absolute. F*ck. Just take that screenshot. Take in all of its majesty, its awe and realism.

A quite amazing 25-minute hat-trick from Sandro blew the visitors away as we scored our first three main goalscoring opportunities and, in spite of the north Londoners’ valiant fightback – which did make me bite a few nails down to nothingness – a fourth for my Spanish hero and one for Gylfi Sigurdsson handed us the points.

A rollercoaster of a month brought to a close, it was time to draw breath before heading into the madness that was December. Though how much more crazy could it get? Wait, don’t answer that.

Everton Football Manager 2018 Series: Episode 4

October. The month of colourful leaf shedding, the sugar-laden holiday of Halloween and the time of year that I celebrate my birthday.

Would Everton, then, hand me a four-week celebration to savour or make me so mad that I spend it drunk and crying about why we’re so guff?

A visit to Wembley – the temporary home of Tottenham Hotspur – could show whether the latter would prove to be binge-drink inducing. I was expecting the worst:everton19In the words of Ron Burgundy: ‘By the beard of Zeus!’

I don’t know how they did it, or what I said, or what we collectively did, but somehow we were celebrating a first away victory in the Premier League at one of the best teams around.

Even more impressively the lads came from behind to win, with Cenk Tosun in particularly fine form as he nabbed another brace to continue his decent start. Hip hip and, dare I say it, hooray.

With that result in the bag, the FM gods would, by the powers of balance, decide to hand us a shock home defeat to newly-promoted Huddersfield off the back of that surprise triumph:everton20Huh. I guess they’d all been partying the night before and were too hungover to intervene.

The customary ‘rocket at half-time’ team talk at the interval thanks to an underwhelming first 45 performance and, the good lads that they are, elected to smash the Terriers and leave them with their tails very firmly tucked between their legs.

A home tie against Sparta Prague in the Europa League followed those two domestic clashes, and another win would do very nicely indeed:everton21It’s a relatively easy thing to state, but it’s pleasing to see us rack up three successive wins. It was a deserved victory and, coupled with our earlier results, had us sitting nicely in second place in our group.

A potentially tricky trip to Turf Moor to face Burnley was next up. Given how well we’d done against Spurs, had we finally turned a corner with regards to our away form?

In a word, no:everton22It was to be expected. We’re not the tallest team in the Premier League and, in Chris Wood, Burnley have a powerful striker who dines on whipped crosses into the box. That’s something to bear in mind for next time we play the Clarets.

Those are the kinds of matches that will put paid to our hopes of finishing as high as possible in the top flight and, with a Merseyside derby at Goodison Park fast approaching, those two dropped points could be something that bites us on the arse.

Could I become the first Everton boss in almost eight years to lead the Toffees to victory over them lot across the park? I guess there’s only one way to find out:everton23I’m not sure what’s more incredible. That we actually beat Liverpool, that ‘Mr Snake’ himself Mo Besic scored his first ever goal for us or that it proved to be the winning strike in a Merseyside derby.

Theo Walcott got us off to a storming finish inside 30 seconds – the best way to start any game, let alone against your rivals – and, while Daniel Sturridge’s late goal led to some squeaky bum time, Besic’s maiden Everton goal proved to be the difference.

I take it all back, Mo, play as many games as you damn well like from now on.

Unbeaten in five matches and fourth in the league standings, October seemed to finally be a turning point in our season.

Next time: Into the crunch domestically and continentally…

Everton Football Manager 2018 Series: Episode 3

The long summer days of August make way for Autumnal winds in September, or Fall if you’re of an American disposition.

There could be a hilarious joke about ‘falling’ down the league table here, given how wildly inconsistent we’ve been this season, but things have actually appeared to be looking up.

With the international break providing a much needed break for those not in action for their countries, a return to action against Manchester United was the perfect setting to get domestic proceedings back underway he said through gritted teeth:everton13And that, ladies and gents, is how frustrating we are on the road. Luke Shaw’s sending off just minutes after Anthony Martial’s opener gave us huge hope of actually winning a match outside Merseyside but, no, we fell further behind instead.

Matters were further compounded when Muhamed Besic received his own marching orders, because 10 vs 11 wasn’t annoying as it seemed  and, after yet another blast in the dressing room at half-time, an improved showing saw Davy Klaassen grab a consolation.

Not content with serving up a ‘early bath’ performance at Old Trafford, Besic had also elected to induce a changing room mutiny when he was dropped from our 25-man Europa League squad in favour of loan signing Daley Blind.

What? I didn’t mention that? Well, we’ve got Blind on loan for the season as Garbutt’s, well, garbage and Baines needs cover.

Despite being told it was necessary to cull a midfielder for much-needed defensive cover, the Bosnian threw a wobbly not unlike that of a child being denied its favourite bedtime story for the fifth night in succession.

Editor’s note: This is where that conversation with Besic would have gone if Tom had elected to, you know, print screen it before – well, this would spoil things now wouldn’t it?

Given that Besic wasn’t too influential in the dressing room, I was informed by my assistant that it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. He was wrong.

Editor’s note 2: And here. Sort it out Tom, for goodness sake!

With morale down among my stars and a revolt just two months into my reign, it wasn’t a surprise to see us stupidly throw away a 2-0 lead away to Rosenborg in our first Europa League group game days later:everton14Two late goals from Yann-Erik de Lanlay robbed us of all three points and Besic any opportunity to feature for us for a loooooong time to come. The dickhead.

Four games without a victory and a home encounter with recently-promoted Brighton offered a huge potential banana skin to us. How would we fare with almost everyone against me thanks to Besic-gate?everton15It was crap, we were crap, but a vital win was picked up thanks to Sandro’s solitary strike. Bless you, you wonderful Spaniard.

A tricky Carabao Cup home contest against Arsenal was thrown up three days later and, with injuries starting to mount and the games coming fast again, the chance to play some fringe players wasn’t to be passed up. Hopefully they could do the deed and send us into the fourth round:everton16Eh, there’s always next year. And at least Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored his first of the season…

One win in six. Ugh. But, with two more home matches to come against ‘easier’ opposition, we had a grand chance to get some positivity rolling. Crystal Palace were up first:

everton17

Keane as mustard! Hahaha…haha…ha.

Much like Brighton it wasn’t pretty, but Michael Keane’s first Everton goal proved to be the difference. Coupled with yet another home league clean sheet and we were looking good at home. If you forget that Arsenal loss. Ahem.

It was time to round September out with a Goodison meeting against Lokomotiv Moscow in the Europa League. We need a win here. Nothing else will do:everton18That’s more like it. Tosun and a Walcott brace – though it should have been a hat-trick – in a commanding display not seen since Norrkoping. Back-to-back wins again and things were looking rosy ahead of *gulp* an away trip to Spurs…

Next time: Obscene October has Evertonians dreaming of success?!

Everton Football Manager 2018 Series: Episode 2

It’s all come down to this. Pre-season preparations done and dusted, squad assessed, a couple of decent Europa League matches to get us to speed and the bread and butter of the season is ready to get underway.

The start of a new Premier League campaign is always a fun-filled romp of hopes and expectations either beginning in scintillating style or being dashed within 90 minutes of a new term.

You don’t need me to tell you, then, which one Everton chose to kick off the season with an away trip to Southampton:everton8Standard Everton. Just when you expect them to deliver and usher in a new dawn they go and toss your dreams aside like that time in secondary school when a teacher laughed at me for wanting to take up medicine. But I digress.

To be fair to the hosts, they completely deserved it. Two assists for Cedric setting up goals for Charlie Austin and Steven Davis, a display to forget for Leighton Baines’ stand in – in the form of Luke Garbutt – and a curious case of Wayne Rooney being played on the right wing. Yeah, I don’t why either.

What better way to brush aside that huge disappointment, then, with our Europa League Play-off round first leg clash with IFK Norrkoping:

everton9

Norr-koping chance of us throwing this one away, am I right?

Hat-trick heroics from Cenk Tosun and a maiden goal for talented winger Nikola Vlasic and the tie is as good as over. Supposing we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot a la Odd…

Only three days had passed – and that was something we may have to get used to – before we entertained former Blues boss David Moyes and his merry band of West Ham stars at Goodison Park. It seemed our home form would be key to enjoying a decent season, so it was imperative to get points on the board and truly put that sloppy Saints display to bed:everton10A laboured first-half performance gave way to a much improved second 45 showing after a rocket was shoved where the sun doesn’t shine, with Gylfi Sigurdsson’s first Blues strike and an own goal from Aaron Cresswell sealing a first league win of this gaffer’s reign.

There’s no let up in the number of fixtures, and no time to rest on our laurels, with an away trip to try and prevent Norrkoping from pulling off – stop sniggering at the back – a shock come from behind victory, however, but how did we fare given we’d lost our other two away games so far this campaign?everton11Hmm. It wasn’t vintage by any stretch, but Sandro’s goal just before half-time really put us in the driving seat before they nabbed a late consolation. I’m getting the feeling that our trips away from Goodison may become something of an issue.

Maybe it’s because I’m an Evertonian and I’ve been taught to expect the worst. Or just because we generally are guff on the road:

everton12Yep, it’s definitely an issue. Le sigh.

Next time: Ordering a main course of a rack of wins, and discontent in the changing room…

Everton Football Manager 2018 Series: Episode 1

Pre-season. The time of year when hopes and expectations are renewed among fans and players alike. Until the inevitable sorry start leads to pessimism, obviously.

With two Europa League qualifying rounds to navigate ahead of even booking our place in the group stages, the 2017/18 pre-season campaign was wrought with friendly encounters interspersed with those competitive fixtures – which is always nice when your team doesn’t have a clue how you expect them to play.

Thankfully, a few fitness-driven matches were to come before a showdown with Norwegian outfit Odd saw us perfectly primed to face off against even opposition. Shit joke, don’t care.

everton4

Look at that lovely green patch ended by that horrible red colour. I never liked red.

A drab defeat to Argentine Primera Division club Tigre being the only blot on an otherwise solid start, then. Time to take on Odd.

Thankfully, we were drawn at home for the second leg, so a lovely easy victory, with a couple of crucial away goals, would be the perfect way to start off my reign in L4 with my beloved Blues, wouldn’t it?

everton5

Club captain Phil Jagielka with his best Titus Brambell impression there, the utter pillock

You stupid bastards.

3-0 down after 47 minutes and I was raging. We hadn’t even been that bad and, like a Slaven Bilic West Ham side caught in European headlights, we were staring into the ‘third round exit’ abyss.

On came Ademola Lookman and Sandro who, presumably because Odd thought they’d done enough, gave us a sliver of hope of progression with a goal apiece to set up the return fixture nicely. The lads weren’t getting off that easily, however, and a stern telling off had them well aware of what was expected next time out.

A 4-0 friendly thumping of Hungarian team FC Ludogorets got us back on track before the return leg of our third qualifying round tie against Odd. Surely we couldn’t mess this up?

everton6.jpg

A sea of Blue as far as the eye can see

You’d be right, we didn’t. A pulverising display of attacking verve – not seen since my protein pancake mix was decimated by my Nutribullet last week – was much deserved and sent us into the next round, with a Sandro hat-trick and Theo Walcott goal on their home debuts doing the deeds.

It wasn’t all good news as Leighton Baines and Walcott both succumbed to ankle problems, but we were through. Huzzah and hooray!

Transfer wise, not much had happened by comparison. Jonjoe Kenny and Shani Tarashaj were packed off on loan to earn them regular minutes – the latter laughably suggesting he should have stayed and fought for a first-team place, bless ‘im – while Saint Etienne opted to give Oumar Niasse some regular football with the caveat that we’d haul him back here if our strikers ever became short of a leg or two.

everton7

Nice that Saint-Etienne decided to pay us Theo Walcott’s weekly wage for the privilege of temporarily taking Niasse

A slender 2-1 home win over Turkish side Akhmat set us up perfectly for an opening day trip to the south coast to face Southampton… or so I thought.

Next time: The proper season starts, and transfers galore! Maybe…