Champions League? We're having a laugh…

Last updated : 08 April 2008 By Les Roberts

I, for one, don't and am now looking nervously at Portsmouth and Villa and thinking we might not even hold on to fifth!

Now this could just be some good old fashioned Evertonian pessimism - it's been a while but it still feels like second nature - or it could be the fact that, despite the result, we were absolutely shocking against an absolutely shocking side on Sunday.

Before the Derby game I was telling anyone that would listen - which isn't many - that we'd struggle in this one and thoughts of 4-0 drubbings were way wide of the mark.

I even thought it feasible that we might even draw, but that was more down to the fact that the pressure was off Derby and teams tend to have an upturn in results once their fate has been decided.

Unfortunately, the reason we struggled was down to our own ineptitude on the day rather than a reinvigorated Rams side.

And I think everyone realized it was going to be one of those days when Yakubu missed that sitter down at the Street End.

But the alarming thing was that this sense of defeatism seemed to sweep through the players too as, probably Leon Osman apart, there was nothing there from any of them.

Mikel Arteta and Yakubu had possibly their worst games in Everton shirts and even Joleon Lescott didn't look as assured as usual at the back.

Maybe he felt that he was being played out of position at centre back!

But we need these players to get their heads together, we can't use the Fiorentina hangover excuse all season, and pull us all through the remaining five fixtures.

Now this article may seem a bit defeatist because we've hit our worst form of the season but we are struggling in games that, a couple of weeks ago, we'd have breezed through.

But, it's not all doom and gloom as David Moyes made a good point when he said after the defeat at Anfield that Liverpool have to keep looking over their shoulder at us just as we are at the teams directly below us.

And, after the win against Derby, the manager highlighted just how healthy a position we are in, saying: "We are optimistic that we are still in with a chance of doing it [finishing fourth]. We've got 60 points, we've won 18 games in the league with five to go so we are in a healthy position."

He added: "I think if we won at Birmingham [our next fixture] it gives us more points than I have had at Everton before."

But, Fiorentina aside, our level of performance since the 3-1 win over Portsmouth has not been good enough and our run in is now looking tough, particularly given Newcastle's upturn in fortunes.

And many attribute this to the manager, with the Dithering Dave brigade seemingly chomping at the bit to get on the phones or messageboards to tell everyone how he can't take us to the next level/is tactically inept/has got red hair and I actually do care*

*delete as applicable.

I get the feeling that these people can't wait for things to go tits up just so they can have a moan and tell everyone that they've been right all along and we've been overachieving for some time now.

For most, Everton's glory days were the mid eighties but you get the impression that these idiots were never happier than when we were fighting relegation in the disastrous decade that was the nineties.

It's true, the manager has made mistakes and it's inevitable that he will continue to do so, what manager doesn't?!

But the facts are that we have a small squad and I think that the loss of a player like Tim Cahill in addition to the losses of three out of four forwards for key games would constitute an injury crisis at any club.

And Steven Pienaar, potentially our player of the season, has also been in and out of the team over the last few games due to a combination of illness and injury.

The sale of James McFadden has also been used as a stick to beat Moyes with but the facts are that he was fifth choice striker in January and we were in no position to turn down a bid of £5.5 million for a bit part player.

But let's hope that that bit of business - and it was good business no matter what anyone says - doesn't come back to bite Moyes on Saturday!