EVERTON (Goodison Park)

Okay. okay. Indulge me, I had to sneak the 'old lady' in somewhere didn't I? Goodison Park, through my rose tinted specs, is simply the greatest ground in the league. You can shove your modern stadia, for atmosphere there is no better place to be when 'she' is in full battle cry.

For those of you who don't know, I am actually an Evertonian by birth and used to follow them religiously. I had had a season ticket for roughly 18 years (84-86, 87-91 and 94-06) and in the seasons I didn't have a season ticket,  I got to well over half the home games. I also used to follow them to at least a dozen away games per season.

I gave my season ticket up in 2006 when, to be honest, I simply began to lose interest in Premier League football (ironically as Everton's star began to rise again under David Moyes). By the this stage i'd given up on the away games and started groundhopping in earnest, now it was time to hop full time, so to speak. Don't get me wrong, Everton's result still has the power to dictate my mood regardless of my presence or not.

I can't completely cut the ties that bind and do try to get to a few games a season, now having the luxury of picking and choosing my games.  For the 2011/12 season I opted for the opening game against newly promoted Queens Park Rangers.

I have to confess I don't particularly like QPR having been traumatised by some drubbings at their hands in the early 1990's, when such luminaries as Bradley Allen, Andy Impey and, err, Les Ferdinand used to rip us apart with alarming regularity.

It had been a summer of discontent at Goodison, with the club financially on its arse and no new signings on display but, at the moment, no major departures, so at least that is a small crumb of comfort. Despite QPR being beaten by Bolton 4-0 the previous week, I still approached the game with some trepidation.

My worst fears were confirmed as QPR grabbed a 1-0 win with their only shot on target, Tommy Smith scoring on the half hour. In truth, Everton looked absolutely clueless when trying to break down a stubborn Rangers rearguard. Leighton Baines hit the crossbar from a free kick and Tim Cahill missed a header which he, given his track record, should really have buried. 

Otherwise it was pretty awful from the blues, the only bright moments coming from a 17 year old kid, Ross Barkley, making his full debut. QPR defended magnificently and throughly deserved their win. Everton, for some reason, always start sluggishly and i'm hoping that it is the case once again, however I believe it's going to be a long hard season.

Leighton Baines hits the crossbar with a free kick

The TV people hard at work on the gantry

The Park End

The Gwladys Street

Main Stand

Ross Barkley, the only bright spot on a dark day

David Moyes contemplates his next move

Saturday 20th August 2011
FA Premier League
Everton 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
Attendance: 35,008

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