Waddle inspires Royle unrest

 

AS THE realisation that his club's end of season bash could safely be pencilled in for some time next week enveloped him, the Everton chairman Peter Johnson was asked to publicly stand by his manager Joe Royle. Perhaps significantly, he did not see fit to grasp the opportunity.

"I shall take a rain check on that one," said the food hamper magnate with the dressing room full of damaged goods. "You won't get me on a vote of confidence," he added. "I looked around the stadium today and saw our supporters watching their team getting whipped by a side near the foot of the first division." Ominous words, indeed, from a hard nosed businessman who has always regarded failure - either individual or collective - as a demon which must be exorcised.

The metamorphosis of Royle the hero into Royle the villain has begun, a protest which while not irreversible is, clearly, well advanced. Everton had been courting absolute disaster for weeks and on, Saturday the two were found to be embracing enthusiastically like illicit lovers on the back seat of a car.

Strange but true, just 26 months after his appointment, just 20 months after he led his club to the FA Cup, Royle is now facing the real prospect of dismissal. What's more, those very players he lured to the north west with the promise of fat wage packets are actively helping him down the well worn path to an uncertain future.

So how precisely does a team of journeymen footballers marooned near the bottom of Division One set about humiliating one which boasts eight full internationals? Simple really. Give the ball, often and unapologetically, to your one truly outstanding individual - Chris Waddle - and then sit back, watch and enjoy. Waddle, 36 years old and as slow and ungainly as they come, was utterly magnificent as Bradford City swaggered arrogantly to a famous victory.

With Everton's dreary midfielders and cumbersome defenders permitting him the time and space in which to flourish, he held the conductor's baton all afternoon. His goal, the second of Bradford's - three in 10 second half minutes, was to provide a most knowledgable audience with, probably, one final memory of his delicious ability. His clipped shot over Southall and beneath the crossbar from in excess of 40 yards was exquisite in the extreme.

Fine strikes by John Dreyer and Robert Steiner either side of Waddle's brush with perfection were sufficient to steal Everton's fate. An own goal by Andrew O'Brien and Gary Speed's fortuitous last minute strike was much more than Everton deserved.